24.10.2007: Handymania

Jean-Luc Dighaye

Taking candid snapshots with very simple cameras can be fun - this is the principle of Lomography. Amateur astronomers using rudimentary digital cameras manage to take great lunar and planetary images. But, further down the quality ladder, what can be done with a cell phone (called a Handy in Germany)? Here a few examples of 'Handymania' images, taken with a Sony Ericsson cell phone comprising a diminutive, yet rather capable, Cybershot camera.

Since the lens is only a 5.2mm f/2.8 semi-wideangle, the Moon hardly shows detail (the digital zoom merely magnifies the pixels). Putting a cell phone behind binoculars yields scenes with a modest level of lunar detail and usable foreground [upper left]. Spotting scopes definitely reveal craters [upper right], and small telescopes like an ETX90 show more of them [below].

It takes a well-corrected telescope, fine seeing and a steady hand to capture details on Mars - working in sport mode helps, also for preventing overexposure [upper left]. Under turbulent skies, planets like Saturn are just recognisable [upper right]. Individual frames of video sequences could be stacked for increased resolution, as it is done with a webcam. In the long exposure, reduced vibration mode, fainter stars are recorded, like the Trapezium with a hint of the Orion Nebula [lower left]. At higher magnification, bright double stars like Albireo [lower centre right] can be imaged; at even higher magnification, close double stars like Castor show the effects of diffraction, aberrations and turbulence [far right].