While remotely controlling a powerful telescope and viewing the results on your computer screen - as promised by the Gloria project - certainly has its appeal, it doesn't quite match the sense of personal gratification gained from snapping a digital image of a distant nebula with a camera mounted to your own telescope. Standard digital SLR cameras can provide impressive results but Canon has announced the release of an optimized version of its prothusiast level EOS 60D that's been specifically re-tuned for astro-photographers.

Canon's EOS 60Da represents a significant performance upgrade to Canon's first attempt at optimizing a digital SLR camera for capturing stunning images and video of the night sky, 2005's EOS 20Da. An 18 megapixel APS-C (22.3 x 14.9 mm) CMOS sensor with RGB primary color filters more than doubles its predecessor's pixel count, the powerful DIGIC 4 Image Processor caters for full resolution continuous shooting at up to 5.3 frames per second and the ISO6400 sensitivity can be boosted to ISO12800 for the kind of low light shooting you'd expect the camera to be used for.

The 5.69 x 4.17 x 3.09-inch (144.5 x 105.8 x 78.6mm) camera also benefits from a tilting 3-inch, 1,040,000 dot resolution Clear View LCD screen and eye-level pentaprism viewfinder, intelligent nine-point autofocus system, is compatible with Canon's EF and EF-S lenses and can be mounted to a telescope via a third party T-ring adapter. The camera's Live View mode features a Silent Shooting mode that's said to eliminate vibration caused by the shutter, it's capable of capturing either RAW or JPEG images, or both formats simultaneously, and it can also record full 1080p HD video at either 30, 25 or 24 frames per second (with 720p shooting available at up to 60 frames per second).

It's the inclusion of an enhanced infrared filter and a low-noise sensor that really sets it apart from the model on which it is based, however. The new astrophotography version is said to have three times the hydrogen-alpha light sensitivity of its EOS 60D DSLR camera, resulting in a claimed 20% higher transmittance of the Hα wavelength for crisp, clear photos of red hydrogen emission nebulae.

The 60Da comes supplied with an AVC-DC400ST Stereo AV Video Cable for onward display of the heavenly image on a TV screen, and is also packaged with an AC adapter for wall outlet power during long exposure shots and Canon's RA-E3 Remote Controller Adapter for compatibility with the company's (optional) TC-80N3 Timer Remote Controller.

The Canon EOS 60Da is expected to ship this month through specialist dealers for a body-only estimated retail price of US$1,499.

Source: Canon