Red Hot Summer - Experiments with the Canon EOS Ra


Red Hot Summer - Experiments with the Canon EOS Ra

Canon Australia loaned me their new EOS Ra camera during our summer and between the smoke of the summer bushfires (how long ago does that seem now?) I was able to capture one deep sky image from my observatory, a timelapse sequence from the Gippsland Lakes and several panoramas close to home.

Despite the smoke, many red hydrogen nebula are visible in this timelapse video 'Red Hot Summer' from the Gippsland Lakes and central Victoria, while daytime footage of pyrocumulonimbus over the Gippsland Fires on 30th December 2019 shows that it is also possible to achieve reasonable colour balanced images during daytime as well. Music by Ryan Goodwin (thanks Bro!):

In February I was able to capture some panoramas close to home in central Victoria.

Operating the camera will be instantly familiar to any other Canon DSLR user, which is a good thing. The more compact mirrorless format is welcome although it certainly feels solid and even 'dense' - a lot packed into that smaller package. One little thing that tripped me up initially was the screen turning off automatically when your hand moves behind the viewfinder. It makes sense that the screen turns off when you are putting your eye up to the viewfinder, it just took me a few nights using the camera to understand why the screen was turning off - your hand moves behind the viewfinder surprisingly frequently when it's low down and pointing up at the sky.

The sensor performance was as good as any Canon DSLR I've used, and appears similar to the 5D Mark IV (although I did not conduct any serious quantitative testing). The foreground in these panoramas has been pushed very hard - conditions were completely dark for each of them. Of course, the red sensitivity is this camera's raison d'être. The large and small red nebulae scattered throughout these images make a surprising difference to the overall aeshetic and it will be hard to go back to shooting night sky scenes without them. This has been a throwback to the days of imaging with film when I was constantly chasing bright red nebula, and often also the more elusive loops of the large Vela supernova remnant at the top of the image below.

The only other feature of this camera that differs from the Canon EOS R that I am aware of is the increased 30x magnification in liveview, which proves very handy for focusing on the stars. Since this is presumably only a firmware feature it would be great to have it available on other DSLRs. 

I was keen to use this camera in my automated observatory, but was hampered by it being a new model. With no SDK released to developers, Maxim DL could not connect to the camera which meant I could only use the camera in manual operation. Since I'm also a little lazy (or just like my sleep when it's only dark late on summer nights), I couldn't stick around to refocus the scope. So this image is hampered a little by bushfire smoke and focus is softer than it would otherwise be. But this full-frame view (closer crop at top of blog post) reveals quite faint dusty regions around the Horsehead Nebula - not bad at all for DSLR imaging. Total exposure 11 hours, with 135 sub-exposures of 5 mins at ISO400. Processed in PixInsight.