Solar Eclipse 2017: Can taking a photo of an eclipse damage your smartphone?
Most Canadians will be treated to at least a partial eclipse of the sun today, and many of us may try to capture the celestial event on our smartphones for posterity.
But before you aim your phone skyward, here are a few things to know.
Will it damage my phone?
The answer, according to NASA, is probably not. Camera lenses on phones are typically tiny (two millimetres or so) and they don’t allow enough light through to really damage your device.
Most smartphone cameras are also equipped with ultraviolet-light filters that cut down on some of the visible light landing on the sensor, and they will automatically set very short exposure times.
“Nearly every photographer that comments on this issue says it is OK if you do it very briefly such as when you are taking a scenery photo and the sun is in the picture,” NASA’s guide states.
But there are exceptions. If you have a very new smartphone, for instance, it may include a larger and faster lens (f/1.7 to f/2.0) designed for better resolution. In those cases, taking a picture of the sun mid-eclipse (or really, at any time) could damage the phone.
The bigger risk, especially in Canada where we will not achieve eclipse totality, is to your eyes. Wearing protective glasses is an absolute must, even if you are only looking at the sun for a few seconds to focus your shot.
What about selfie mode?
There is no difference in terms of potential damage to your phone using selfie mode. Again, the chances of harming your device (or your eyes) by watching the eclipse over your shoulder in selfie mode are minimal.
You probably won’t get a clear view of the event in selfie mode, however, as the image resolution will be comparatively low.
Will I get a good picture on my phone?
Again, probably not. But there are ways to improve your chances for an Instagram-worthy snapshot that doesn’t just look like a bright blob.
NASA suggests setting up a tripod, first and foremost, to avoid shaky, blurry shots. Point the phone skyward, and stick a solar filter (you can use the lenses on your special eclipse viewing glasses for this) over the camera lens to keep the glare (or “blooming”) in your shot to a minimum and give you a clearer image of the eclipse.
WATCH: Solar eclipse viewing options
Canadians should keep that filter (and their protective glasses) on throughout the eclipse as we won’t see the sun completely blocked out. Then it’s simply a matter of opening your chosen camera app and snapping away.
Most phones give you the option of adjusting focus and exposure, so be sure to get familiar with those features before the eclipse begins. Using the digital zoom function is pretty “useless,” NASA warns, as it doesn’t actually enhance the resolution of the image.
Keep in mind, though, that the best images of this event will undoubtedly be taken using professional photography equipment, tripods and telescopes.
“Your most difficult challenge will be in managing your expectations,” NASA notes.
“Smartphones were never designed to do sun and moon photography. The standard lenses are very small, and provide hardly any resolution at all for even the largest objects in the sky like the sun and moon.”
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