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Thread: Safe shooting into the sun?

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    Member DrEveready's Avatar
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    Safe shooting into the sun?

    Hi all. I just came across an article that has me questioning what I thought I knew about pointing my camera at the sun. I have read in several places that "the myth that your camera's sensor can be damaged by photographing directly into the sun is just that, a myth". This article provides evidence that this is not the case. http://www.the-digital-picture.com/N....aspx?News=304
    In summary, while testing a 600mm lens, this reviewer left the sun in frame for about a minute to be greeted by smoke and melted plastic inside his 1DS Markiii.
    One of my photographic interests is making time-lapse movies of sunsets and sunrises. Typically, this involves setting up the 650D on tripod, IS off, manual focus, f/8-11 (for DOF and sharpness), AV (aperture priority) mode, ISO100, and intervalometer set to shoot every 3-10 seconds (depending on the scene, light, etc) for anything from 1 - 4 hours.
    My concern is that when shooting sunrises, it is not unusual for the latest shots to involve the full sun being fully framed. Now obviously, since I'm shooting in AV mode, my shutter speed will be so fast that the light will only hit the sensor briefly and I'm not using 600mm lenses (typically 18-24 but occasionally longer) but is there a risk here? Many thanks for any advice.

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    Photo Bizarro nimrodisease's Avatar
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    I would think that your practical experience is evidence enough that you have nothing to worry about. The magnification of the sun's light (and heat) that would come through a 600mm lens is many times more than you will get through a 24mm lens. Also, even the author of that article said that the damage suffered was only aesthetic.
    My name is John.
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    Thanks John. I thought that was probably the case. It doesn't happen often but I could imagine times when I might want to zoom in to 250mm (=400mm on my 650d with APS-C sensor). Do you think its still safe at this length?

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    Unless your shooting super long exposures,I wouldn`t worry to much.
    Kev.
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    It occurs to me that perhaps it is not the sensor that is at risk so much as the shutter and surrounding plastic bits. I think I'll do some experimenting with my zoom at 250 pointing directly at the sun without camera attached! I'll start with melting ice-cream and work my way up to see just how much heat is generated at the lens' focal point (or whatever the correct term is).

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    A royal pain in the bum! arthurking83's Avatar
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    The questions is why would you shoot long exposure of a scene where the sun is the primary subject(and hence focus there)?

    The sun is so bright, that even stopped down, you're average exposure of it will be in the order of 1/6400s or longer .. most likely more.

    If the scenario is more landscape(ie. not 400mm or so) and hence more wideangle lens type , then the power of the sun through the lens and onto the sensor is not enough to damage it.

    A long long time ago, I tested my D70s, as it was notorious for producing an odd sensor related issue due to it's design.
    The easiest way to produce this odd behaviour was to shoot directly into the sun.
    (FWIW: the issue was about this camera's sensor bloom problem).

    The lens I used specifically for this test was the old slow 500mm f/8.
    I could just look through the vf of the D70s with the old mirror lens mounted, as the unique combination of a penatamirror(naturally darker view) plus the slow f/8 aperture of the lens.
    This allowed me a few seconds to focus(I used that term loosely here!!) .. which was basically set the lens to infinity, a hope that I can quickly focus manually to make the sun as sharp as I could.
    No damage to eye, except for that bright spot problem you get when looking at a bright light source.

    I wouldn't recommend you look directly at the sun even with a vf, unless you know you can dim it considerably. cameras hold the lens aperture wide open when mounted so it's hard to keep the lens properly stopped down for such testing.
    Neither camera, nor lens nor self have been damaged by this test done about 7 or 8 years ago.

    I have many images of landscapes with the sun in them, almost all of them at a very short focal length .. again, no damage, and to try to get a half decent exposure, all these shots would have at least 6 stops of filtration on the sun at least(I tend to work with grad filters a lot).

    Some of my last images shot of the sun(that I can remember) was with a 500mm lens(but this time with the D300).
    It should be noted that the suns power when near the horizon is much less than it is when more elevated too(the atmosphere cuts it power dramatically!).
    This one particular image was unique in another way, as it was during the long bushfire period we had here in Vic many years ago and the entire state was blanketed with a thick layer of smoke.
    My exposure on this 'sun touching the horizon' moment was 1/30 at f/8(ISO 100). Because of the thick smoke the sun is very red compared to it's usual golden colour on the horizon.

    A day after that shot, and in the areas directly affected by the fires, I took another image with the same camera/lens setup with smoke still hovering around the area, but more variable in it's texture than the previous shot, the correct exposure so that you can see the hard edge of the sun in the frame was 1/800s (f/8 ISO 100 again).
    I'm guesstimating that the smoke had reduced exposure by about 4 or 5 stops on this day.

    The smoke on the first image I speak about was just thick .. and you can see the hard edge of the suns actual disk.
    In the second image, the smoke was more swirly(thick in parts not as thick in others) so the entire disk can't be seen .. just a part of it.

    Overall, I think your camera will be fine with an exposure of the sun.
    Just be careful with looking through the vf(or use Liveview, or something) .. unless you are certain you can manually stop the lens down to an appropriate aperture.
    If you aren't sure what that last part means, just ask.
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    On a more general safety note, it is worth noting that the specialised full aperture solar filters used by amateur astronomers for viewing and/or photographing the Sun through telescopes, not only safely reduces the intensity of the visible solar spectrum but also the IR and UV components. So, if a filter only blocks out the visible spectrum but passes UV and IR wavelengths, these unfiltered IR and UV wavelengths can cause permanent damage to eyes.

    Cheers

    Dennis

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