6-8 Hour battery for star trails + stacking recommendations

NWPhoto21NWPhoto21 Posts: 13Member
edited April 2013 in Nikon DSLR cameras
Can any provide recommendations for a battery that lasts 6-8 hours so I can photograph star trails all night long on my D600?
I may be taking 500 or more shots at 30 seconds each.

I am especially interested in a battery that is relatively small and light weight and would rather have just one than a half dozen EN-EL15’s.

Also, what is the best stacking software program for stacking multiple night star images for producing star trails? Do any of the programs work with RAW images?


  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    You either have to have a half-dozen EN-EL15's or Nikon's EP-5B, EH-5B combination. There are 3rd party ones like:
    (I personally would stick with Nikon power accessories) you can also add a battery grip, but eventually you are going to want the external power supply. I run mine off of a small inverter connected to a car battery.
    The Li-ion batteries that Nikon uses are a pretty dense source of power. I don't think you are going to find anything smaller and lighter that gives more power.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,398Moderator

    How much drain on the car battery does the inverter produce? Is it plugged in to a "cigarette lighter" plug which is hot all the time or do you turn on the ignition or wire directly to the battery?
    Msmoto, mod
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    Doesn't seem to drain the battery any more than running the radio. I looked up the specs on the EH-5 (for my camera) and it outputs 40watts max; probably draws 100watts max. For the D4 the EH-6 outputs 68watts, draws probably 125watts max. I use a 140watt inverter that plugs into a cigarette lighter that is always hot. Something similar to this:
    During typical use, I bet it's less than 10watts, but now you've given me a project :-)

    When I'm far away from the car, I use a portable jump starter. These seem to last all night and then some:
  • ssj92ssj92 Posts: 23Member
    For software, I recommend DeepSkyStacker. It's free and does an excellent job. For star trails I used leave the shutter open for awhile (10-20 minutes). Here's an example of stacking with DeepSkyStacker. This was one of my first stacks from a few months ago so it isn't the best, but this is around 8 out of 10 stacked pictures (30 second exposures for a total of 4 minutes) and isn't a star trail. You should get an idea though. It was taken from my backyard with light pollution.

    D800, D50, M18XR2, i7 870, 16GB, TITAN
  • JohnJohn Posts: 134Member
    For software, I recommend DeepSkyStacker. It's free and does an excellent job. For star trails I used leave the shutter open for awhile (10-20 minutes). Here's an example of stacking with DeepSkyStacker. This was one of my first stacks from a few months ago so it isn't the best, but this is around 8 out of 10 stacked pictures (30 second exposures for a total of 4 minutes) and isn't a star trail. You should get an idea though. It was taken from my backyard with light pollution.

    Can you explain how to use that software and how to set up the camera for good results?
    (both for star trails as well as sharp starfields/nebulas)

  • ssj92ssj92 Posts: 23Member
    Well for the software, I recommend taking three types of pictures.
    Light Frames: The pictures themselves that you can of the sky.
    Dark Frames: Taking the picture with the lens cap on at the exact same setting as the light frames.
    Offset Frames: Same as dark frame except this time take the picture with the highest shutter speed possible.
    An example would be the pic I posted. It was 10 light frames. I would do about 5 dark frames and 5 bias frames. The dark and bias frames help with noise reduction and hot pixels. I didn't use them in that picture because I didn't know about it back then. You can youtube deepskystacker tutorials for a better explanation. The program is really almost automatic. The default settings all work real good. All you do is choose the pictures, then press stack or register and it pretty much does it for you.

    As for camera settings, first make sure you have a tripod. Second, it's a lot easier with a remote shutter release.

    For star trails, you can leave the shutter open and the earth's rotation will pretty much do the trails for you. Try this, do a 20 minute exposure with a 18-35mm lens(anywhere between there) with ISO 100 or 200 and at F9 or F11. It may be too dark or bright depending on your area, but in RAW format you should be able to fix that. For me multiple stacking for star trails are harder than just leaving the shutter open for awhile, I have yet to master it.

    For starscapes, you will need to take multiple exposures and stack them due to earth's rotation, otherwise the picture will become a star trail. I use the rule of 600. Basically 600 divided by the focal length is the amount of seconds you can take a picture without trailing. Example: My D800 with my 24mm F2.8 would be 600 divided by 24 = 25 seconds before trailing. So I can take 25 second multiple exposures before the stars start trailing.
    Example shot: 18mm, F3.5 ISO 800, 20 second exposure. Try that and see what you can get.

    If you have an equatorial mount, you can manually have the mount rotate to compensate for the earth's rotation or get a motor that will do it for you.

    As for nebula and galaxies, I haven't gotten there yet. I'm actually looking into buying a telescope so I can do planets, maybe some nebulae and maybe the Andromeda galaxy.

    I hope that helps a little bit, I wrote it in a hurry. I can rewrite or explain better later on today.
    D800, D50, M18XR2, i7 870, 16GB, TITAN
  • NWPhoto21NWPhoto21 Posts: 13Member
    I see that the portable jump starter mentioned above weighs 7 pounds. Since I will be backpacking
    this is not really an option. Are there any other small light weight batteries that can be adapted to
    the D600?
  • JohnJohn Posts: 134Member
    The problem is that lithium ion batteries, which are already used in the camera, are the best way of storing electrical power. (For our current technology level as a civilisation)
    A battery the has the power capacity of several camera batteries will also weigh a lot more.
    All the long exposure or timelaps setups I read about use big heavy batteries or an power supply such as a car or the power grid.
    But I hope that you find something that works.
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    There are two problems to solve. 1) Nikon cameras only use Nikon batteries (or 3rd party that are identical in size and power). There is no way to put a "bigger" battery into the camera. You can add a battery grip for about 2x the power, but there is nothing beyond that. 2) The only other way to power the camera is with what Nikon calls a "power connector" which is really a dummy battery with a DC lead that sneaks its way out of the battery compartment. Then you have to connect this to a power supply that converts AC 100-220 Volts to DC either 7 or 14 depending on your camera. This then requires a second DC/AC conversion if you want to bring power with you (Hence the inverter to battery connection)

    The EN-EL15 supplies 1900 mAh of juice at 7volts, or 13.3 Watt Hours (Wh) and weighs in at 57 grams

    Consider a portable battery pack like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Multi-voltage-Recorders-Lightning-Sensation-Blackberry/dp/B005NGKR54/ref=pd_sbs_misc_1

    With this unit you are looking at 3.7volts with 10000 mAh or 37 Wh and weighs in at 544 grams. You have 3 times the power but 10 times the weight. You have to connect a 12volt inverter to this power pack in order to run the power supply for the camera. (you will need to hack a connector to do this, and I'm not even sure how well it work work, and you will have losses from the double conversion).

    This being said, you could carry 10 EN-EL15 batteries for the weight of just one of these puppies, not including the power supply, inverter, and power connector you will also need. I wish there were a better answer. I've been considering trying to build a direct battery connection to the power connector in order to eliminate the DC/AC/DC conversion, but haven't had the free time to do that yet. Without the right specs, I suspect it would be pretty easy to zorch the camera.
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    The Vagabond Mini Lithium might work better with the Nikon adapter:


    It's a combination inverter & (detachable) battery. 3.5 lbs total weight and packs 130 Watt-hours.

    Note: standalone inverters are 2-5 lbs, so this unit is light considering that it's an inverter+battery. Plus you can carry a 2nd battery as well if needed.

    Downside: not cheap at $240. I'd give Paul Buff Inc. a call to see if this will work.
  • mattmatt Posts: 2Member
    edited April 2013
    I think external Flash Battery Pack for Flash Speedlite is needed. The recycle time of flash speedlite is shortened to less than half of the original, meantime double the spark quantity of the flash speedlite. *LINK REMOVED*
    Post edited by adamz on
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    edited April 2013
    @Ade, the unit you suggest would power the camera; the max output is 120watts. I like that it is an integrated inverter and battery. The OP (NWPhoto21) mentioned that the 7lb jump starter was too heavy for backpacking use, so this at 3.5lbs is likely too heavy as well. The 1lb charger I mentioned above is about the max I would want to carry into the wilderness. Actually what I was trying to convince @NWPhoto21 of is that a bunch of Nikon batteries is probably your best choice.
    Post edited by Ironheart on
  • NWPhoto21NWPhoto21 Posts: 13Member
    The problem with multiple batteries is that when one has to switch them out, when shooting star trails, the camera/tripod might be bumped.

    One mid-sized camcorder type battery might be perfect. Perhaps Nikon should make one.
  • INaINa Posts: 8Member
    Hi, the solution is much simple… One original EN-EL15 will last min. ~4 – 4.5h in ambient temperature above 15'C / 59'F. That’s my practical experience with my D800. The 4,5h total exposure time for star-trail with one original EN-EL15 battery is no problem. Same experience (~4,5h) I have with original EN-EL3e in D90.

    Acc. to CIPA standard the D600 has the same battery life (900 shots) as the D800, so you should be OK for 6-8 hours uninterrupted shooting time with use of a battery grip – two batteries.
    You will need to heat the batteries for lower temperatures.

    Short procedure for low temperatures (regards from Norway… ):
    1. Keep your main full charged battery warm in your pocket
    2. Connect remote release with intervalometer to your camera (to be able to capture longer exposure then 30s from camera in-build intervalometer)
    3. Make test shots, set required exposure values, set focus point etc. with some other battery
    4. Switch to MF (if not already)
    5. Fix focal ring to lens barrel with gaffer tape to protect your focus…
    6. Check the focus by test shot…
    7. Switch off automatic picture preview, noise reduction, exposure delay etc.
    9. Use air activated hand warmers on battery walls, with lower temp. (close to 0'C / 32'F or below) use one or two warmers on lens barrel as well.
    10. Wipe your lens with anti-fog cloth
    11. Wrap the camera (incl. lens) in warm scarf or two
    12. Use plastic wrap over the scarfs to keep humidity out of your equipment…

    The hand warmers (air activated) are optional for temp. below ~15'C (59'F), but required for temp. below 10'C (50'F), if you need to shoot without interruption as long as possible.
    Select the larger types, they last longer and can heat larger area. Test them before the photo-shoot, I have different experience with different manufactures (some are not really working…), so make sure you have one which will work.

    Hope this helps...
  • INaINa Posts: 8Member
    edited April 2013
    Just as a example. The star-trail is done only with one battery in ambient temperature approx. -3’C / 26.6’F. Battery compartment and lens heated by hand warmers.
    D800, Nikkor 16-35 at 19mm, f/4, ISO 160, 108 exposures x 150.3 s = 4h 30min 32s total exposure time
    Stacked manually in PS CS6


    Sorry, no luck with posting the photo, you need to copy the link to a new tab…
    Post edited by INa on
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