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CCD camera for Planetary Imaging


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Hi folks! 

I'm quite new and I'm still getting used to visual observing but I've decided I would like a crack at planetary imaging. I've had a play about with trying to use my Canon 500D for this (which went terribly as the 500D has no option to adjust the settings for video mode). So I'm going to need a designated CCD camera for this which I am permitted to treat myself to provided the Mrs thinks the purchase is £200 - £300 cheaper than it actually is... (Shh). 

I'm hoping to use all of your knowledge for some advice on a good purchase! I've got a 9.25 Evolution and need a CCD for planetary imagining only. I know very little in relation to CCD cameras and I don't have the knowledge to understand the benefits and disadvantages of chip sizes and specs of specific models. 

I understand the advantages of a mono camera over colour however a colour is definitely my preference at this time. 

I was wondering if there's any colour cameras that come rated within the £400 - £650 price range? Unfortunately I do not have the funds at this time to go any higher so my budget is set at this. 

I was going to edge towards one of the Celestron Skyris models however the specs that differentiate each model mean very little to me. Is this a good call for planetary imaginig or is there something else I should be veering towards? 

Thanks in advance imagers :)

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The Atik 420L and 314L both come with colour or mono options to purchase. and are reasonably inexpensive compared to their more classy brothers and sisters. the leist expensive planatary camera atik has is the titan, but it is MONO and would require filters for LRGB photo processing

they can be found at FLO just need to click the sponsor banner at the top of the page

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The ZWO ASI120MC http://www.365astronomy.com/ZWO-ASI120MC-Colour-1-3-CMOS-USB2.0-Camera-with-Autoguider-Port.htmlor the QHY5L-II  http://www.modernastronomy.com/camerasPlanetary.html are very populat cameras. You might also need to purchase a good barlow or powermate lens to improve the scale of the image.ie http://www.telescopehouse.com/acatalog/TeleVue_Powermate_2_5x_1_25__.html

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Cannot see a good reason for the Celestron Skyris cameras.

None seem to go above a 30 second exposure, so any future use for DSO imaging is limited.

The 618 model is discontinued - from the Celestron web site.

None are cooled.

The max number of pixels seems to be 1.9Mp, which is reasonable.

To me the "problem" is that at the budget given you get a camera that is limited for future use and there is no cooling.

The Atik 420 and 320 are around £100 more then your top end but a greater potential.

As it is for planets why not a less costly CMOS webcam type systems like the ZWO's ?

I say this as there are not a lot of planets to actually image at present, you cannot image Mars and Jupiter has done a runner. :eek: :eek: :eek:

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Thanks for the top advice guys, always appreciated :) 

I'm assuming for the price I can get better spec cameras than the higher range Skyris models? I'll be honest, I've no idea what effect having cooling vs non-cooling cameras would have; To hazard a guess I'd think that cameras that are cooled are more suited to lower temperatures or have the same importance of cooling your scope before observing/imaging to get clearer/less turbulent images? Or am I missing something else?

I'd want to avoid the Titan purely because a colour camera would be my preference. However looking at the Atik 420L it's £100 above budget however it's marked down from £829 and if it's more suited to my needs I'm sure saving an extra £100 won't be a problem. 

The ZWOs look great value! Being honest I don't know the significance of CMOS in relation to planetary imaging. I have no desire to use a CCD for DSOs at a later date, I'd prefer to use DSLR for this purpose. If a CCD is capable of DSO then that's a bonus however will not influence my purchase. Thank-you for taking this into consideration though, you're a great bunch :)

And in regards to lack of planets, my primary aim is for a little practice prior to May 2016, I must admit I very much have Mars on my hit list, practice before hand is essential to me. (if I'm right in thinking it's next May - I'll have to have a check on Google so please don't quote me if I'm wrong haha!)

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from what i understand the cooler the chip the better the image.  if i remember right a hotter chip will have more noise in the image, I may be very very wrong as i am pretty distracted at the moment,

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If I read the title correctly you want to do planetary, if so then you do not want CCDs optimised for deep space imaging as the requirements are different. For planetary you need a webcam of some sort. Some people modify a normal webcam by removing the IR filter and stick a 1.25" adapter on the nose. This will do for starters and provided that you have a fast scope, about f5~F6 then it can work but sooner or later you want something better. There are a couple of cameras that have proven popular, ASI 120Mc, QHY 5Lii c and the Imaging Source DMK range. There are other options too such the Flea Grasshopper 3 range that use the larger Sony ICX range but these are considerably more expensive than the others by quite a large margin . Hope that this helps.

Regards,

A.G

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If cooling is required the QHY IMGOH has active cooling as part of the facility for limited DSO imaging. It uses the superb Sony ICX618 either in mono or Colour.

However , there is a question mark with regards to the compatibility of the drivers but otherwise it is a decent package @ £399.00.

A.G

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Thanks for the imput, I toyed with converting a webcam however I decided to set myself a budget and go for a dedicated camera for planetary imaging to both save myself the hassle and give myself a running start. I also toyed with the idea of going mono as I hear these are much more sensitive however in maximising observing and minimising processing times I quickly decided I'm pro-color. Plus I'm constantly fighting against UK weather! :( 

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of going down the mono+filter route in the future but as it stands I'm making my first steps up that steep learning curve! I think that's why i'm trying to separate planetary and DSO for the time being. My scope is F10 and without a EQ mount so planetary is only really in my reach for the time being. I've got a focal reducer and HEQ6 is on my hit list for the winter months :) I'll get there.... Eventually. 

(I'll have a look at the other recommendations now, thanks for the tips guys!)

Cracking pictures with the ASI120MC, really impressive! I appreciate you sharing them, it really does help :) 

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Thanks for the imput, I toyed with converting a webcam however I decided to set myself a budget and go for a dedicated camera for planetary imaging to both save myself the hassle and give myself a running start. I also toyed with the idea of going mono as I hear these are much more sensitive however in maximising observing and minimising processing times I quickly decided I'm pro-color. Plus I'm constantly fighting against UK weather! :( 

Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of going down the mono+filter route in the future but as it stands I'm making my first steps up that steep learning curve! I think that's why i'm trying to separate planetary and DSO for the time being. My scope is F10 and without a EQ mount so planetary is only really in my reach for the time being. I've got a focal reducer and HEQ6 is on my hit list for the winter months :) I'll get there.... Eventually. 

(I'll have a look at the other recommendations now, thanks for the tips guys!)

Cracking pictures with the ASI120MC, really impressive! I appreciate you sharing them, it really does help :) 

ASI 120Mc is a great camera for a very reasonable price. I had both the 120 Mc and 120 Mm. I sold the 120Mc to one of members here on SGL as I do not do planetary any longer. I use the 120 Mm for guiding. As regards to your set up there is a problem. Unless you have a driven mount keeping the planet on the small sensor is next to impossible. For planetary you would preferably be imaging @ F25~F30 to achieve a decent image scale. Planets are bright but incredibly small and fast moving so keeping the planet centred on a chip of approx. 5x4mm is not easy even with a driven mount. Your budget is very high for a planetary camera, QHY5Lii c for example is less than £200.00 so you may want to see if your budget would stretch to something like a SW HEQ5 Pro or Celestron AVX. These will also set you up for DSO imaging for the future as it will surely come. Besides the Moon there are only Jupiter and Saturn that are available to amateur imagers annually and sooner or later you would want to attempt long exposure DSO imaging with a DSLR. 

A.G

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Yeah it seems an absolute bargain, I thought I'd have to spend upwards of £400 for even a half decent camera to be honest. Yeah it's the newer Celestron Evolution mount so it has tracking. I am however going to get a HEQ6 pro after I've been on holiday purely for DSO imaging. As much as I love my evo mount and tripod (believe me, I really do love it!) it's simply not geared towards DSO imaging without a wedge... And with £400 on a wedge I may as well save up and get more accuracy out of an EQ mount.

I've got a few months before buying a new mount to have a crack at planetary imaging with the setup I have now (weather permitting). With the ASI would a barlow be needed with an F10? I'm assuming ''absolutely yes'', I only ask as I've never actually needed to use my barlow once with my scope, however it's old and past its day and I will definitely need an upgrade. If the ZWO is ideal then the difference in budget will be invested in the televue power-mate. I've heard that televue are more or less 'the best of the best'. Although I was also contemplating the Hyperion barlow for use with the MKIII zoom. 
 

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Yeah it seems an absolute bargain, I thought I'd have to spend upwards of £400 for even a half decent camera to be honest. Yeah it's the newer Celestron Evolution mount so it has tracking. I am however going to get a HEQ6 pro after I've been on holiday purely for DSO imaging. As much as I love my evo mount and tripod (believe me, I really do love it!) it's simply not geared towards DSO imaging without a wedge... And with £400 on a wedge I may as well save up and get more accuracy out of an EQ mount.

I've got a few months before buying a new mount to have a crack at planetary imaging with the setup I have now (weather permitting). With the ASI would a barlow be needed with an F10? I'm assuming ''absolutely yes'', I only ask as I've never actually needed to use my barlow once with my scope, however it's old and past its day and I will definitely need an upgrade. If the ZWO is ideal then the difference in budget will be invested in the televue power-mate. I've heard that televue are more or less 'the best of the best'. Although I was also contemplating the Hyperion barlow for use with the MKIII zoom. 

Yes you do need a Barlow of some sort. I use a Televue powermate 2.5X and it is almost transparent optically speaking that is ,  but it is nearly 5 times the price of some of these so called ED Barlows. I also have a revelation 2.5X Barlow which is fair for the price that I paid for it but not a patch over the Televue. Good luck with your planetary imaging but be mindful that Jupiter is fast setting in the west now and Saturn is in less than ideal position. I have no experience of the Hyperion but I myself would stick with the Televue.

A.G

Edited by lensman57
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I wouldn't disagree with the suggestions of an ASI120MC or ASI174MC for planetary imaging.  The 120MC comes in two versions, USB2 and USB3 (called the 120MC-S) and the ASI174MC is USB3.  I think some people may favour the 174 over the 120, but I don't have experience with both so I can't comment from personal experience.

With any version of the 120MC you probably ideally want a focal ratio of around f/20-ish.  A bit either side is really no big deal.  As the focal length of your C9.25 will be shorter than the quoted 2032mm if you have your camera straight in the visual back, the Revelation Astro 2.5x barlow should work very nicely for that.  I used exactly that until I moved over to mono.

The larger pixel size of the 174MC pushes the ideal focal ratio up to somewhere in the region of f/30 to f/35.  I've not tried that with the C9.25, but when I used my 127 Mak for planetary imaging I used a combination of the same Revelation barlow and an extension between it and the camera to get the required focal length.  In that respect barlows might perhaps be considered to give a little more flexibility than powermates.

However...

For new planetary imagers in the northern hemisphere now is probably not the greatest time to start.  Saturn is low in the sky and is not going to be a great target for a few years.  Jupiter is heading towards conjunction in a couple of months and not a great target right now either.  For those reasons I might be inclined to hold off and see what happens with ZWO's new camera, the ASI224MC.  On paper at least it looks like it could be an excellent choice if you're after a colour planetary camera and should be available (according to ZWO, at least) before Jupiter becomes a serious target again.

James

Edited by JamesF
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