I’m in the process of putting together my equipment for my annual trip up to Northern Norway to shoot the Northern Lights. This year it looks like it will be particularly cold with -28c to -32c forecast at the weekend. I was hoping to have a Canon C300 to take, but that has not materialised and although deliveries are supposed to start this month it looks like it might just be a few days too late. I wasn’t going to take an EX1 or my F3 as I wanted to concentrate on the C300 and Canon DSLR’s, but as the C300 isn’t ready I decided to check out the sensitivity of the F3 at extremes. By using S-Log plus +18db gain I can get 6400 ISO from the camera, but whats truly remarkable is how little noise there is even at this high gain. It’s sensitive enough to capture the Aurora at this level, if we get a very bright display, but for the more normal type of Aurora that we should get most nights it’s not quite sensitive enough. When I used the EX1 and EX3 to shoot the Aurora in the past I had to use +6db with a 32 or 64 frame slow shutter combined with 1 frame per second time-lapse. But the images start to get quite noisy like this and it’s not real time. Now the F3’s slow shutter only goes up to 8 frames but because the base sensitivity is higher, the F3 with +18db gain and 8 frame slow shutter is as sensitive as the EX1 at +6db with 64 frame slow shutter. The F3 is also dramatically quieter. In fact there appears to be no increase in noise using the slow shutter. So, no real need to use time-lapse so my footage will be real time (although with some 8 frame judder, which I can eliminate in post). I’m really excited about this!
As well as the F3 I’m taking a modified telescope tracking head for some time-lapse star tracking Aurora shots with a DSLR as well as a DSLR equipped with a WiFi card so I can set up a automated upload of photos to the web. You’ll be able to view those near live pictures on this page http://www.xdcam-user.com/northern-lights-live-2012/ along with video clips and expedition updates throughout the 12 days of the trip. So please come back and find out how I get on!