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I have tried taking photographs of the night sky using a tripod with the following portable cameras / cell phones in manual and automatic modes:

  1. Canon Powershot SX230HS
  2. Sony DSC-TX10
  3. Sony DSC-TX30
  4. Samsung Galaxy S6
  5. Amazon Fire Phone
  6. LG Volt

What I did with the above equipment was to point the camera at the sky, zoom all the way out, open the aperture all the way, and set the ISO to 800. I would then experiment with different exposure lengths, trying to get the best signal to noise ratio. After learning that it didn't work at ISO 800, I tried some other ISO values. Again, I didn't get any good results. The noise always outweighed the signal.

I then tried auto mode on all the equipment, and the results were always just a random pattern of grain.

In everything I tried, the signal to noise ratio was far too low to get any results that resemble the night sky. The one thing I didn't try was low ISO values.

Using lower-end equipment like the above, is it possible to take photographs of the night sky and capture images of the starscape?

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You can get surprisingly interesting photos with less noise by stacking a series of photos. Free software such as StarStaX, as well as Photoshop using Star Trail Action make this easier.

With low end cameras, you should still be able to get images of brighter objects, such as Jupiter and the Galilean satellites or the Pleiades cluster.

BTW, low-light location and cool temperatures are helpful.

  • Thank you Moishe. Do you recommend cool temperatures because cool air holds less water than warm air? – RockPaperLizard Sep 13 '18 at 3:04
  • For two reasons: heat affects sensor noise, as well as being associated with haze. Film cameras that would work in really cold weather also benefitted, as there's less reciprocity failure. See arstechnica.com/gadgets/2016/10/… – DrMoishe Pippik Sep 13 '18 at 14:37

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