The Olympus E-M1II and backyard astrophotography

A lot of people are still waiting for their pre-ordered Olympus OM-D E-M1II cameras to arrive — in the meantime, a number of them asked to see some high-ISO photographs to judge the camera’s abilities in the realm of astrophotography.  After days of waiting, I finally got clear night skies where I live, so took some shots of the constellation Orion.  Please bear in mind that I live in the south Denver metro area, so have to deal with light pollution — here’s the view looking south toward Orion from my house (enough sky glow to silhouette bits of a telephone pole and two trees):

Orion at ISO 1600

For the above image, the EXIF is E-M1II,  12-40mm Pro lens @ 17mm, f/5.6, ISO 1600, 8.0 seconds.  This is a SOOC image, by the way — all I’ve done to it is RAW conversion and scaling (to fit my blog’s template) in Lightroom.

But I didn’t only take this one image — I took a series of them, all unguided (i.e., on a still tripod):

ISO 200, 60 seconds
ISO 400, 30 seconds
ISO 800, 15 seconds
ISO 1600, 8 seconds
ISO 3200, 4 seconds
ISO 6400, 2 seconds
ISO 12800, 1 second
ISO 25600, 0.5 second

In all cases, the lens was set at 17mm focal length and f/5.6 aperture, noise reduction was turned on in-camera, and again, Lightroom was used for RAW conversion but with no post-processing done.

For comparison’s sake, it helps to look at these images side-by-side and unscaled, at 100%.  So I cropped down to the “vertical” line of stars in the constellation, usually depicted as the hunter’s sword, for each of the images I took at different ISO values:

ISO images compared


Shots under ISO 3200 (4 second exposure) show the Earth’s motion via “smearing” of the star images, but there’s not much sensor noise in those frames.  As you can see, sensor noise really starts picking up around ISO 3200, but ISO 6400 at least should be usable with post-processing.  Not perfect, but quite an improvement from past OM-D bodies!