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My son is in the US Navy. He wants me to figure out which compact camera would allow him to take pictures at night while at sea of the stars, and bio-luminescence. Unfortunately, while he can use a tripod the ship will still be moving. After a lot of research I still don't know if it is better that he just get a point and shoot that does 4k video? Or is it possible for a novice to still get a fairly good picture? If you have any camera recommendations that would be awesome! Needs to be small enough to stow in tight quarters. Thanks!

  • Just to clarify is for shooting while on a ship in the sea and at night ? – StephenG Jan 31 '18 at 1:30
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Your intuition is correct. The tripod will not help much since there will be movement, so you cannot use slow shutter-speed. That means that he will have to resort to high-ISO and a large aperture. The larger the sensor in the camera, the better the results will be. Small sensor cameras have too much noise to discern stars when shooting at high ISO. For this reason, something like a Sony RX1R II would be one of the better choices. It is relatively compact and weighs about a pound (including the lens obviously), a Fuji X100F is only a tiny bit lighter. While limited in availability, he can probably use a Ricoh GR II but it does not quite match the quality of the others, although it weighs half as much.

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    It probably should be mentioned that the Sony RX1R II - while fitting the bill of being compact and high quality - is an expensive choice! Especially for an admitted novice. – osullic Jan 30 '18 at 23:02
  • He might use a tripod with short shutter speeds if he stacks many images in post. – Aram Hăvărneanu Jan 31 '18 at 13:30
  • @AramHăvărneanu - That is possible but unlikely to be easy and require quite a lot of work. Instead a large-sensor camera really can take a single-shot of the stars in a fraction of a second since modern ones are quite clean at ISO 6400 and 12800. – Itai Feb 1 '18 at 16:26
  • a lot of people take pictures of the northern lights in norway from ships (Hurtigruten). They also manage it somehow, most likely with enough ISO and shutter speed not slower than a second. Always a good idea in such situation: Take enough fotos and delete the worst. – this.myself Feb 2 '18 at 10:17
  • The northern lights is different because they are moving anyway and it is the blur that is captured. To get stars though, you need pretty much zero movement, otherwise it smears and won't look like a star. – Itai Feb 2 '18 at 15:48
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in this case you might try "Gimbal" with tripod to reduce some amount of motion blur.

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    Yeah, those gimbal mounts really stow well in tight quarters. – Michael C Jan 31 '18 at 5:32
  • @Michael Clark + Codesigner - The ship likely has the Phalanx® Gimbal youtube.com/watch?v=Zsf38NYzo5Q that he can mount his camera to, steady shots even in rough seas. :) --- If he wants bio-luminescence he'll want an a7sII, it's compact enough for the 'envy factor' it provides. If he wants truly puny the RX100 V. Some gimbals are quite tiny but getting it sitting rock steady on a pitching ship (even with a tripod) seems quite hopeful. You're not going to get away with a small sensor and decent results at night. You might want to improve your answer. – Rob Jan 31 '18 at 9:09
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    I'm sure the Department of the Navy wouldn't mind at all disarming the Phalanx system for the entire vessel so that some SN or PO3 can take some cute photos of the stars or photoluminescence, right? – Michael C Jan 31 '18 at 9:13

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