All my, very limited, experience photographing the moon has been through small telescopes with low resolution mono-chrome cameras. Limited in that I prefer deep space objects with large scopes at very high sensitivities...the moon is strictly off-limits with these scopes.

I have recently come into the possession of a Canon 20D with a Tamron 28-300 lens (what family members will give away can be astonishing) and would like to start taking moon shots with it. The tracking, exposing and processing I can handle but I almost no experience with DSLRs or the sensors they use. So my question(s)...

  • Some typical DSLR filters seem to be UV, IR block and polarizing. Are these pertinent ? Do they protect the sensor in some way ?

  • There are several "moon" filters on the market. Some appear to be neutral density filters...others I'm not so sure. What would be the benefit with these types ?

  • Are light pollution filters recommended ?...I will be on the edge of a large city.

  • Am I over thinking this and should just start shooting ?



3 Answers 3


I'd suggest trying without any filters to start.

A typical dslr sensor has a filter built in that blocks most ir and uv light. There are filters available that will do a better job, but you can probably do just fine without any additional filters.

A lens hood may be helpful to reduce stray light though.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I have to agree with chills42, I don't see any reason to shoot with a filter on the lens. \$\endgroup\$
    – Joanne C
    Commented Sep 6, 2010 at 3:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Good point about built in filters.... would have never crossed my mind...Cheers. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rusty
    Commented Sep 6, 2010 at 5:52

I took this picture of the moon with a DSLR last year. This photo was shot at 280mm with a Canon 70-200mm and a x1.4 extender (f/8, 1/8 s., ISO200, 100% crop out of 21MP). Not that sharp but that's how close I could get. No filter was used, only some minor white balance adjustment in post.

You could push your 300mm to 600mm with a 2x extender, and if you are not using a full-frame 35mm equiv then you are already multiplying by the x1.6 crop factor, that's almost 1000mm max in theory.

I wouldn't worry about filters, but I would try my best to be as stable as possible, especially at the long end of the zoom. A few tips:

  • use a solid tripod of course,
  • use a remote trigger if possible (either wireless, or a cable release), or even a timer to avoid vibrations,
  • enable mirror lockup to reduce vibration-induced motion blur during exposure.

alt text

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Ahhh...Mirror lockup....I suppose I should read the manual. Nice shot BTW. Thanks. \$\endgroup\$
    – Rusty
    Commented Sep 6, 2010 at 22:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ 1/8s exposure a bit too slow. Even though it doesn't look like the moon is moving, it really is moving really fast. I try to go for at least 1/200. I'll up the ISO since there isn't a whole lot of color to capture. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nelson
    Commented Oct 4, 2016 at 1:51

Mirror-lock is the key, especially if you are using a film camera with a long-lens... Film? What's film, I hear you ask? You HAVE to have a good quality tripod, too... You can also use a cheap, portable 'pocket' tripod to stabilise the front of the lens (if you can't lock the mirror on your kit), by simply resting the lens on it. Use monochrome, high ISO film, too. Green or yellow (physical!) filters used to be popular for lunar astronomy years ago, to improve the contrast. Red filters give a dramatic, 'Hammer Horror' effect.

  • \$\begingroup\$ DSLR means Digital => no film. Could you explain why you would use a colored filter with a DSLR ? \$\endgroup\$
    – Olivier
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 17:15

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