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Go Back   IceInSpace > Equipment > Eyepieces, Barlows and Filters

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  #1  
Old 23-02-2017, 11:40 AM
sil
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RVW - STC Astro-Multispectra Clip Filter for Nikon Full Frame

Mini review of the STC Astro-Multispectra Clip Filter for Nikon Full Frame DSLRs.

Product page.
Purchased from Cyclops Optics.
Price HKD1620 (approx AUD270)

First up Thanks to fellow member zardos123 for posting elsewhere bringing this product to my notice.


I'm not much of a reviewer but will give this a shot.

Gear used:
Nikon D800E DSLR, unmodified
Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens
Vanguard camera tripod.

Canon users have long had access to clip in filters for astrophotography but Nikon users have had to cope with light pollution and added postprocessing. As a result I've seen many people claim Nikons can't be used for astrophotography which has never been the case. Hopefully things are changing and Nikon users are getting an easier time of astrophotography.

My understanding for the lack of clip in filters for nikon (which may be false) are due to the extension of the rear of the lens from the mount ring which restrict available space inside the camera body for an additional item. So far this filter is only available for Full Frame nikons, not cropped sensor models, but its a start.

After zardos123 posted a link to a news post on this filter I just knew I had to have it. A stroke a few years ago left me barely able to walk and without the use of one arm so my existing gear is beyond me being able to use. So my visual astronomy and astrophotography options and capabilities were immediately restricted. As a result DSLR on tripod is pretty much the physical limit I can manage. So bear this in mind before flaming me about SBIGs, filter wheels and EQ6s. DSLR is how I work, it's not the best but its still a very capable method of astrophotography and shooting from tripod instead of a tracking mount imposes huge limits but I can overcome most of those with optimising my settings and processing workflow.

Anyway, once I found out about the existence of a clip in filter for Nikon (something I never thought would ever come about) I got in contact with Cyclops Optics. The filter was out of stock at that moment but they contacted me when it was back again and have been pleasant and easy to deal with all along. There were no problems with payment or delivery (about 10 days I think, didnt count). Email communications have been very pleasant and prompt, I can't fault their customer service and would confidently purchase from them again.

Sorry I don't have unboxing videos but they are boring. The filter itself is safe in a padded filter case inside a small product box with the single page installation instructions. This was wrapped in appropriate bubble wrap to protect it in transit. The product box showed no signs of crushing in transit, and even if it did the filter itself was well protected in its case.

The filter on inspection was clean, dust free and optically clear with a reflective tint from its surface coatings and a little loss of light transmission as expected, dont forget a filter BLOCKS light. The filter has a thin blackened metal frame maximising the filter area, reducing reflections and providing a nice stiff frame to handle.

Installation is easy even for a cripple like me. Remove your camera lens, use Live view or Mirror up to flip the mirror up out of the way. The filter though doesn't go deep down near the sensor, it just goes in flat at the top close to the mount ring. It sits snug and firm held in by friction not a "clip" so perhaps it should be called a drop in filter? There is no scraping or effort needed and absolutely no play in the fit. I could turn the camera body over and it stayed in place but I wouldn't be confident shaking it at that point.

For myself I don't use my D800E for photography anymore. Its dedicated to my astrophotography, so it stays on tripod with the 70-200mm ready to rock. I very rarely want to swap to another lens. And so far it seems there's no problem keeping the filter in place at all times. The mirror flipup doesn't touch the filter and there are no changes in camera sounds so I'm confident its safe for me to leave in place, as Cyclops Optics advised me it would be. But for other users I'd say take care when swapping lenses with the filter in place. Also I can't make any comments on having the filter in place during the day but I can imagine it will cool some warm colours but not all so lifelike colours wouldn't be achievable. No real point using it during the day for regular photography anyway but may be something creative to play with. My filter arrived yesterday arvo so I had limited time to devote to installing and testing. Weeknights have no spare time for astro for me but you know what its like when getting new gear and trying to sleep without having a play

So if you've made it this far without falling asleep you only want to know what it does. In simple terms its a light pollution filter, without effecting the natural colours of a shooting target. By blocking the ugly glow from street lights in urban areas you get a stronger contrast and signal in your shots reducing signal loss in removing the skyglow in post processing.

I ducked outside just after 9pm and the Southern Cross is in an easy position for me at the moment so thats what I shot, I tilted up too after I was happy I got Crux hoping to get some of the nebulosity in Carina. I took a couple of dozen subs and took my memory card upstairs to knock out some quick jpgs to show you guys. I picked out two images, one with Crux and another with the Eta Carinae Nebula NGC 3372(?) plus I dug out a comparable sub of Crux from a preview set I shot. This shows the light pollution present in all my subs previously, I'm not interested in wasting time on a swap of filter for a perfect "lab test" comparison. I shoot from one spot out front, after astronomical dark so light pollution should be identical for the purposes of this comparison and camera settings are similar too. So all three subs I dropped the raws into PixInsight and applied an autostretch to the histogram on each then saved to jpg, loaded to Photoshop to resize and apply the info text on the shots. No other adjustments, no stacking shots or noise reduction or anything. And of course individual autostretching means the stretch is different on each shot the results are so dramatic it show well the huge gain this filter respresents, its NOT a subtle effect that requires controlled conditions to compare.



So on with the show, this image shows an older sub of Crux which clearly shows the ugly brown-orange skyglow I get here in Canberra from the street lights which is present in all my subs. Forgive the faint clouds.

http://astrob.in/284699/0/rawthumb/gallery/get.jpg


Followed by the same shot of Crux I took last night with the filter in place. Luckily no clouds. Apologies it was a little out of focus, I bumped my lens during filter install, which I try to keep at optimal infinity focus.

http://astrob.in/284698/0/rawthumb/gallery/get.jpg

Immediately you can see the skyglow has been effectively removed. There is still a green cast as you get with all DSLR shots and removing this in PixInsight the result is a flat neutral grey tone across the sub.


Here is Eta Carinae also with the filter, no older comparison shot this time.

http://astrob.in/284700/0/rawthumb/gallery/get.jpg

Not a spectacular photo but I usually take and stack several hundred subs and normally this nebulosity would be mostly lost to visual inspection in the skyglow but here its plainly there in shot in colour. Not bad for a 1.6 second exposure I feel.

An unexpected bonus is this particular direction for me has me shooting past a parking area light in a garden at my complex which often adds a noticeable gradient to the bottom right of my subs. Its a different bulb to the regular street lights but the filter seems to have also blocked it out for me.

As I can't stand and look upwards let alone bend down to my viewfinder overhead imaging is a matter of guesswork for me, the D800e does not have a flipout screen unfortunately. My best manual composition of shots is low to the horizon where skyglow is at its worst. So I envisage this filter will let me get more usable subs than I've been capable of. I look forward to taking a proper set to process but I can already tell colour calibration and gradient removal will be less lossy to my shots when processing and maybe give me a chance to bring out some of the fainter structures at my current limits. I don't see the loss of light a filter inherently does will have much if any impact to my camera settings, in fact I tended to bump up ISO to try to give me more signal to process with meaning i had tons of noise to process out. So this filter might allow me to drop ISO and still give me the same signal to process without as much noise.

For those of you using Nikon cameras on tracking mounts and bodies on telescopes this filter I'm confident in saying will give you spectacular performance

Due to my physical circumstances and desire to keep my existing Nikon investments from gathering dust there is little I can hope for in the way of upgrades to my astrophotography source subs. So trying this out was a no brainer for me and at under $300 a risk I was willing to take.

Initial inspection of my subs I couldnt see any tinting or chroma effects introduced by this filter. I don't have the skills to test the wavelengths blocked/transmitted by the claims of the product page but as an eyeball guide I'm happy it is close enough. I'll reiterate my earlier statement, I am under no illusion this is not the pinnacle of astrophotography nor even DSLR astrophotography and most people will move quickly beyond this stage but for me its a new high and hopefully for other starters wanting to improve their Nikon DSLR astrophotography they will see it as a cost effective upgrade. Or perhaps some new life to existing gear pros have but don't use. Then there are all the people who travel and want to get shots they can't from home, this will be an awesome addition to your travel set, the filter case is compact and filter is well protected inside that.


Conclusion

Wow!

Simply wow. This actually WILL improve your astrophotography. The price is reasonably, installation dead simple and Cyclops Optics a pleasure to do business with. Don't forget this filter is meant for Full Frame Nikons so if you have a cropped sensor unfortunately this is not an option for you. I don't know if someone is working on an option for cropped sensors and if you have a full frame not listed on the product page best to shoot them an email before ordering, just in case Nikon have modified a model that prevent the filter working (clip in filters are not usual for Nikon so no such thing as a standard fitting).



This review was prompted by my own enthusiasm of this product and not at the prompting of Cyclops Optics or anyone else. I purchased this filter in full myself, no "discount" or "review copies" from Cyclops Optics nor do I have any affiliation in any way with them beyond a first time customer. Not only has the product impressed me but so has their customer service, I've seen a few people posting questions online about trusting new Asian products or businesses so I just wanted to express my confidence in this product and this business. I hope others find this mini review helpful in their purchase decisions. And thanks yet again to zardos123 for posting about this product and taking my astrophotography to a new level.



-steve

Last edited by sil; 23-02-2017 at 12:03 PM. Reason: Image links acting weird in another browser.
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  #2  
Old 23-02-2017, 11:53 AM
sil
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Links to images if the review ones fail for you:
http://www.astrobin.com/full/284699/0/?nc=sil&real=
http://www.astrobin.com/full/284698/0/?nc=sil&real=
http://www.astrobin.com/full/284700/0/?nc=sil&real=
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  #3  
Old 23-02-2017, 12:26 PM
skysurfer's Avatar
skysurfer
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It appears that the mirror is not locked up as long the filter is installed ?

With my Canon 6D the mirror keeps flipped up which makes the optical finder useless as long the filter is installed. No big deal for my UHC-S filter, but the Halpha filter does not show anything when in live view, even when using the ED110. In the latter case only very bright stars like Alpha Centaur or Capella show up faintly.
Is this not the case with this Nikon clip-in ?
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  #4  
Old 23-02-2017, 01:15 PM
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Merlin66 (Ken)
Spectroscopy Wizard

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OT but that Cyclops Optics has some very interesting stuff on their website!!
TV and Tak etc.
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  #5  
Old 23-02-2017, 03:59 PM
JA
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Hello Sil,

What a great passionate review. I really enjoyed it Sorry to hear of your difficulties, and how it affects your imaging. You mentioned that imagining higher in the sky was difficult as the 800e doesn't have a flip out screen. You could use a small (tiny) 5 or 7inch monitor from the HDMI output of the 800e, now available for possibly $100-200. These work for HDMI out to an external recorder and should also be OK for monitoring live view, but best to check first. These often have arms to mount from your tripod. I think they are a great idea also because they increase the screen size to help focusing.

Best
JA
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  #6  
Old 23-02-2017, 04:05 PM
sil
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skysurfer View Post
It appears that the mirror is not locked up as long the filter is installed ?

With my Canon 6D the mirror keeps flipped up which makes the optical finder useless as long the filter is installed. No big deal for my UHC-S filter, but the Halpha filter does not show anything when in live view, even when using the ED110. In the latter case only very bright stars like Alpha Centaur or Capella show up faintly.
Is this not the case with this Nikon clip-in ?

Ok now i'm a little confused, I always assumed the clunk when taking a shot is the mirror flipping and there is no change in the sound my camera makes.

However when I got home from work I double checked Live view is not impeded but the viewfinder is blocked. I dont rely on it anyway and tend to keep its cover shuttered to avoid light leaks back into the optical train from behind camera.

And yes live view is dark for me anyway I rely on star hopping and a laser pointer held against the lens to guide me, then I check a test shot to see if I have the area I want in shot. As I cant see the nebulosity normally or faint comets on the camera I work out a bright nearby star I can place in a corner of the shot easily knowing the field of view contains my target object.

So thanks skysurfer; the optical viewfinder in the camera body IS blocked from use with this filter in place. Live View is uneffected substantially.
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  #7  
Old 23-02-2017, 04:21 PM
sil
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JA

Thanks for the response. I have looked at a screen for my nikon but its yet another thing to go wrong and expense i cant afford. I have a kickstarter gadget that gives me controls and live view on my phone but again with only one arm its not entirely practical for me and the stupid clipon phone holder arm I bought cant even hold itself up on the tripod leg.

Its a difficult situation, and I do have tons of great gear here gathering dust. So I try to find ways to enjoy my hobby with the gear I've got. If I had the money I may have been tempted to switch to a dedicated modded-Canon setup. I never thought a clip in filter would ever exist and I'm astounded at the improvement it makes without much sacrifice so I'm still on a bit of a high. Rain is forecast this weekend (sorry Canberra) but I look forward to reshooting the carina nebula while its in a good position for me.

Until now all my gains have been with my processing workflow, I'd thought hardware improvement not feasible for me, so just when you think the hobby is beyond you, you find a way.
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  #8  
Old 02-03-2017, 01:55 PM
AnakChan (Sean)
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Sil, I had a chance to play with this briefly in the CP+ show in Yokohama this past weekend (along with their upcoming narrowband drop-in filter I put in CN).

Although I played around with the drop-in filter only briefly, did you notice that it'll waste the next shot with a blank/black shot? I wasn't certain if it was me not using the drop-in filter properly but I was alternating 1 light frame with one dark frame.

Cheers.
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  #9  
Old 06-03-2017, 12:54 PM
sil
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Not really though Canberra has been cloudy in since I got it so I havnt had a chance for a proper shoot. I typically use LiveView (to lock up mirror) the low speed continous shooting mode with a cabled remote where I can lock the shutter button down and the camera reels off 100 shots, then I can reframe and repeat. I pop the lenscap on at the end for darks and do flats in the garage with one of Peter's lightboxes. So I would never alternate in the way you describe and I don't get any problems with using the filter (it will live permanently in the camera, not swapping in/out ever) beyond it obscures the optical viewfinder which I cant use anyway.

I'd be interested to see how the narrowband filter works out too. Finally some love for Nikon
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  #10  
Old 06-03-2017, 08:41 PM
AnakChan (Sean)
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Agreed. I guess it wasn't easy to find a way to have the clip filter for the Nikon design. If I get my hands on the narrowband I'll definitely share out my thoughts here.

Edit: Talked to folks in STC and it seems the narrowband clip filter is targeted for end of March.

Last edited by AnakChan; 07-03-2017 at 11:03 AM.
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