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After several years of using my Canon Rebel T3 on and off, I've decided to upgrade my camera and start actually learning photography. My main interests are in landscapes and night/astrophotography. I've been reading lots of reviews about the brands that currently excel in these fields and see Nikon mentioned a lot. However, as I've been told, Canon lenses cannot mount onto Nikon bodies. Being a student, I don't have much money and having to buy new lenses on top of a camera body is something I wouldn't want to resort to.

Would it be better for me to jump ship to Nikon and start from there or should I continue with Canon and use the few lenses I already own?

marked as duplicate by Hueco, flolilo, xiota, mattdm, Romeo Ninov Mar 28 at 5:40

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    Do you understand what it is about your current body that limits your photography? If not, don't buy anything. – Philip Kendall Mar 27 at 7:31
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    See also What is GAS and how can I avoid it? – Tetsujin Mar 27 at 7:50
  • what are the special features you want for your new body? Do you really need them? You can learn a lot also with a Rebel T3 and can do very much with it when you know it. It is an entry level but it has a lot of capabilities. At first you should lern the camera basics on this camera (like the results of shutterspeed, fstop and iso) and only upgrade to a new camera if it really limits you. The camera does not make the good photos or the photographer, it can only help. – LuZel Mar 27 at 7:52
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    At least, don't buy anything that you can't afford to consider an experimental purchase without any expectations. – rackandboneman Mar 27 at 9:09
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    The grass isn't any greener on the other side. Switching to Nikon (or anything else) isn't going to help you learn photography. It will just mean you have spent a pile of money and have to learn a how to use a new camera. You have a perfectly good camera to learn on. Once you have some knowledge, you will be much more capable of determining what your needs are with respect to equipment. (The answer to that last one will likely be lenses, not camera). – Robin Mar 27 at 17:10
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Would it be better for me to jump ship to Nikon and start from there or should I continue with Canon and use the few lenses I already own?

You're putting the cart a bit before the horse.

It would be better for you to stay with your current camera and lenses while you start learning photography in ernest. There's nothing about the EOS Rebel T3 and the lenses typically used with it that would prevent you from improving your photographic skill and technique. In the process, you will discover which directions you want to go, and then you'll learn what you might need gearwise to get you there.

While there are specific types of lenses and, to a lesser extent, cameras, for specific photographic tasks, the areas of "landscape" and "astrophotography" are pretty broad. You wouldn't necessarily want the same lens for doing very wide angle star trail photos as you would for narrower angle deep sky objects.

So before you get your feet wet, stick with what you already have until you reach the point where you know what you need to do what you want to do.

For more, please see these questions and their answers here at Photography SE:

When should I upgrade my camera body?
How to know you've outgrown your equipment?
Does the camera matter?
the best way to improve image sharpness on Canon 700D
Should I upgrade my Canon body or lens for upcoming travel?
Should I buy a new DSLR or spend the money on a photography course with my point & shoot?

  • If you think you cannot believe this and need inspiration that you can do a lot with the Rebel T3: Peter Mckinnon made a quite big part of his career with a Canon Rebel (I think it was a T5) and damn he made nice pictures with it.... – LuZel Mar 27 at 8:05
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    Strongly agree with this answer. Having owned a T3, I find it to be an excellent little camera to learn photography on, and the only improvement I can think that may ease learning might be stepping up/over to a model that included dual dial controls - But even that would depend on the mindset of the photographer. The T3 isn't an amazing camera, but it is more than 'good enough for now'. - And that for now can last till you find something you feel you truly need to get specific shots. – TheLuckless Mar 27 at 15:34
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You can get a quality camera body from any vendor (it isn't necessary to switch systems). You'll find you can do quite a bit with the camera you already have and the best improvements will likely come from lens selection (and learning to process the data effectively).

Serious astrophotographers will often use a modified camera. Much of the deep-sky emission nebulae tend to glow in Hydrogen alpha (Hα) light. This is inside the visible spectrum but it's near the long-end of the spectrum and human eyes are not particularly sensitive to it. Photographers want photos that resemble what their eyes saw. Since human eyes are not particularly sensitive to these reds, they filter the camera sensor to block a considerably amount of that red light. At the Hα line (656nm), a traditional camera is filtering out about 75-80% of that light. A modified camera removes this filter and replaces it either with clear glass, or with a filter that doesn't block any visible spectrum light but does a hard cut-off at the near IR point at 700nm. This helps the camera collect 4-5x more light in those deep-sky emission nebulae. The modified camera is usually a used DSLR purchased at a bargain price (but still working) and then taken apart and modified. There are commercially produced cameras designed for astrophotography but most of these are not DSLRs (they are meant to be controlled via a computer ... and usually using a telescope.) If you were really wanting to invest in a new camera dedicated to astrophotography... that's what you would want.

There are quite a few different types of astrophotography. I tend to do long exposure imaging of specific deep-sky objects with camera attached to a tracking mount (and often through a telescope).

Often when I see this type of question, the type of photography being referenced involves using a stationary (non-tracking) tripod to shoot an image of a scene with a sky full of stars above (often using the Milky Way above a landscape).

If this is the type of astrophotography you want, then the important piece of gear is the lens ... not so much the camera body (although there can be advantages to some camera bodies).

The Milky Way is not particularly bright. Images you have probably seen featuring the Milky Way are enhanced to improve the contrast (the histogram is "stretched" to bring out more detail). Learning how to post-process the image data is a big part of this type of photography.

The main challenge is that the Earth is rotating from West to East at about 15 arc-seconds per second. This means that a long-exposure image may not have pin-point stars, but may instead have elongated stars due to the rotation of Earth.

The formulas for determine how long you can expose without noticing elongation of stars always involve knowing the focal length of the lens as well as the size of the camera sensor.

The simplest formula is the 500 rule.

500 Rule

This rule was created for cameras using 35mm film. A single frame would measure 36mm x 24mm (the name "35mm" refers to the entire width of the film ... including the sprocket holes used to advance the film inside the camera ... not just the exposed area.) A digital camera with a full frame sensor would also measure 36mm x 24mm.

The rule says that you can divide 500 by the focal length of the lens to arrive at the number of seconds you can expose without noticing elongation of stars.

If you have an APS-C sensor (such as your T3) then you have to divide 500 by the crop-factor (1.6 for Canon APS-C, 1.5 for Nikon & Sony APS-C). 500 ÷ 1.6 = 312.5

Assume using a typical 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 standard zoom (the lens that is commonly included with a camera + lens kit) at the 55mm end. This would work out to 312.5 ÷ 55 = 5.7 seconds (not very long). Also the lens is limited to f/5.6 as the widest possible aperture at the 55mm end.

On the other hand, if you use the 18mm end, then it works out to 312.5 ÷ 18 = 17.4 seconds (3x longer) and you also get to use f/3.5 (1.3 stops brighter or 266% more light). 3x longer with 1.3x brighter = nearly 8x more total light (much better).

You can see where this is going... shorter focal length lenses with lower focal ratios give you an advantage when shooting night-sky scenes such as Milky Way shots. If you have money to invest ... this is where you'd want to invest.

Sigma makes a 14mm f/1.8 lens. It's about $1600 so I realize this is probably out of the question given your being a student with not a lot of money to spare. But I mention it because this would collect roughly 4x more light than an f/3.5 lens ... and you can stretch the exposure to 22 seconds (about 20% longer exposure).

Perhaps more realistic for budget is the Rokinon lenses which are completely manual. Those lenses are a few hundred dollars. They are completely manual (even the aperture is controlled via a manual aperture ring on the lens barrel). Some of these are fairly popular among Milky Way photographers. I do not own one but have read that it isn't uncommon to encounter a copy with 'de-centered' optics. This would mean that you'd don't get symmetric focus across the field... one side might be focused and the other side might be soft. If you choose to go with such a lens, test the focus symmetry carefully to make sure you don't have a bad copy while you are still able to exchange it without a hassle.

I should mention (for completeness) that there are other formulas for coming up with exposure duration such as the NPF formula. The 500 rule isn't the only rule.

Tracking Heads

I did mention tracking mounts earlier. These remove the time-constraints and allow you to shoot much longer exposures.

The idea is that as the Earth spins from West-to-East on it's axis, the tracking mount is angled so that it's axis of rotation is parallel to Earth's axis of rotation. The mount rotates from East-to-West at the same speed. This effectively cancels the movement so that stars remain stationary in your camera frame and you can take much longer exposures and still have pin-point sharp stars.

The two major vendors for these are iOptron and Sky Watcher. Both companies actually make two tracking heads. They each have a higher-end tracking head that is a bit beefier and can handle more weight than their lower-end tracking head. Prices range from about $300 to about $400 dollars depending which version you select and which accessories you include.

Another advantage of these heads is that you can use much longer focal length lenses to get longer detail shots of deep-sky regions.

Sky Watcher makes the Star Adventurer head and the Star Adventurer Mini head. iOptron makes the Sky Tracker head and the Sky Guider Pro head.

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