Did you ever try to take a picture of our sun? This year will be an exceptional opportunity to try solar photography. Because the next solar event will be a total eclipse, sweeping across the continental United States from Oregon to Georgia on August 21th 2017. In this article I will show you what is possible with just a Fuji camera, a lens and a bit of preparation.
Solar photography with your Fuji X series camera
I recently bought the Fuji teleconverter XF2X TC WR and paired it with my Fuji XF 100-400mm zoom lens. I just wanted to know what I might expect from this combination. Connecting this teleconverter with the Fuji lens results in a focal length of 200-800 mm with an aperture of F9-11. I must admit, that I will hardly ever need a whopping 800mm of focal length in my everyday jobs. Especially the light loss limits the useful fields of application for this combo. But that’s only my personal opinion considering my type of photography.
When I was experimenting with this setup on my roof terrace here in Vienna, I quickly ran out of worthwile objects to take pictures from. So a new idea came to my mind. Why not try to do some solar photography with the Fuji X-Pro 2?
Photographing our sun is easy. But you should be aware that pointing a zoom lens at it will focus a lot of heat on your cameras sensor. Looking at the sun with a mirrorless camera will still not harm your eye, since the light is detected by the sensor and you only see an image of it in the digital viewfinder. Nevertheless it will damage your camera, just imagine what happened when you pointed a magnifying glass on ants as a kid?
One more warning: Be careful when you look at the sun with a classic DSLR! Because in a DSLR the image is reflected by the mirror through the pentaprism and the light directly hits your eye! Just a short unprotected glimpse through the viewfinder will damage your eye permanently!
How to prepare your Fuji camera for imaging our sun
In order to reduce the amount of energy entering the camera, you might think of using some neutral density filters to reduce the amount of light at the front lens. But I can tell you that you will need more than one ND filter for sure, and this solution will not make you satisfied at all.
I tried to use a set of Haida Slim Pro II Digital MC ND filters and ended up with the ND1000x & ND64x & ND8x in front of the lens. Naturally the results were disappointing, with a lot of reflections and loss of details.
That’s why I bought the AstroSolar filter film on Amazon and made a sun shield from a piece of paperboard I had at home. The solar film is very thin and the visual edition is made especially for safe sun spotting. And the AstroSolar filter film is CE certified, tested and may be used for solar photography with your DSLR or telescope without additional safety measures.
The manufacturer Baader recommends to put the film as close to the front lens as possible. That is to keep the air volume between the foil and the lens as small as possible. I put the foil in front of the Fuji lens hood and on the lens itself without the attached hood. But since I could not see any difference in image quality, I kept using it with the lens hood.
What you might expect from this setup
The results are fantastic, keeping in mind that this are done with an ordinary zoom lens. Prepare yourself to see some sun spots and even some activities on the surface of the sun!
But don’t expect to get NASA-like images with visible details of the boiling gases, solar flares etc. Those images are usually taken taken with extremely narrow banded filters like H-alpha, which only lets through the light at 656,3 nm wavelength. You would have to invest several thousand dollars to get this type of images.
Viewing the sun in visible light with an ordinary camera and the solar film attached will hardly allow you to view the red flames on the surface of our sun. Since the sun is so bright in the visible spectrum it simply outshines those details.
But spotting the sun with your existing Fuji equipment can still be exciting. And it is definitely a lot of fun to observe the changing sun spots from day to day. I am still waiting for the opportunity to catch a plane passing directly in front of the sun. That would be a great image!
1. A piece of solid paperboard / letter size
2. A printer
3. This PDF with the drawing of the parts you will have to cut out
4. AstroSolar Safety Film from Amazon
5. Scissors and all purpose adhesive glue
See the image gallery bellow for a complete walkthrough.