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Compact Camera Astrophotography: Panasonic FZ28

I recently got a superzoom compact camera (a Panasonic Lumix FZ28) for all-purpose, mostly casual photography. Since it's a compact with a fixed lens, it's not really possible to do conventional (e.g. prime focus) imaging with it. Additionally, like most compacts, it has a fairly small sensor, so getting it to work well in low-light conditions is a challenge (let's just say that I had to take a crash course in "Manual" mode, right from the start). Despite all this, it has worked surprisingly well for piggyback shots using my 100mm equatorially mounted refractor as a platform.

The large maximum zoom (18 x) helps a great deal. Many well-known deep-sky objects show significant detail at this magnification. Additionally, compared to many other superzoom compacts, the FZ-28 has a fairly wide aperture (f/4.4) at full zoom, which comes in very handy. Star clusters, in particular, turn out well: I routinely find 11th, and sometimes 12th, magnitude stars on medium-length exposures (around 15 seconds) at full zoom and low (100-200) ISO. This compares favorably with the view in the 100mm scope itself at low to medium power.

Here are some images that came out fairly well. In each case I cropped the most interesting portion a bit, shrank the image as a whole, and adjusted the brightness and contrast slightly.

This is the Orion Nebula at full zoom, using just the camera's own lens.

The Double Cluster in Perseus

The Moon (nice easy target -- no long exposures needed!)

The Pleiades

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