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Budget OSC EAA camera advice needed.


Chris

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I would like to try some EAA with my 90mm f/5.5 Achro and Nexstar SE mount, however, I don't want to break the bank as I'm also slowly saving for a fancy scope and I'm only testing the water with EAA at this stage. With this in mind I've been looking at the following cameras:

http://www.altairastro.com/Altair-GPCAM-Colour-BASIC-Guide-Imaging-Camera.html

http://www.altairastro.com/Altair-GPCAMV2-IMX224-Colour-Guide-Planetary-Camera.html

https://www.firstlightoptics.com/zwo-cameras/zwo-asi120mc-usb-2-colour-camera.html

Or a used one of these if I can find one? https://www.firstlightoptics.com/guide-cameras/starlight-xpress-lodestar-c-colour-autoguider.html

 

I definitely want an OSC when it comes to near live viewing and captures. The gpcams have some free Altair software for capture which I'm still unsure if it's suitable for EAA or not? I've heard the latest version of Sharpcap does live stacking but the Lodestar has the more easy to use software, A new Lodestar is well out of pocket though and I'm not sure the chunky pixels would best suit the short focal length scope I'll be using.

I know my achro isn't the best but if I get really into it I'll look at more suitable scopes.

Any thoughts on these cameras or alternatives much appreciated :) 

 

 

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Yeah the more the merrier, please help me and Gus with this EAA business :) I gave up on AP with 3 young ones, it's impossible time wise! Anyway all I really want is a record of what I've seen, almost from a scientific point of view rather than super pretty pictures :)

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Chris - I have the two Altair cameras you mention and the 224 is more sensitive and probably the better option. No colour cam is going to be anywhere near as sensitive as a mono version though. Altair Capture is actually very nice and will also do live stacking, I;ve played around with it using just a CS-Mount lens (and an EOS lens) but not tried using a scope. You need a tracking mount if using a scope, I just used a fixed tripod with the small lenses.

ChrisH

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Thanks Chris :) That sounds pretty positive for the 224, and I'm happy to hear a thumbs up for the Altair software. I know about the Bayer reducing sensitivity from my AP days, but I know I wouldn't be happy with a mono only camera. I'd have to have a OSC first then get a Mono down the line to compliment it I reckon :grin:

The SE goto mount tracks pretty well, I'm hoping it will be ok for short exposures if I keep focal length short too :)

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I bought the GpcamV2 a few months ago, and to be honest the jury is still out on it for me.

I don't know if I still haven't got the settings like gain etc right, but I found the images from it really noisy/grainy and the amp glow is quite bad. I emailed Altair to ask if they're going to bring out a usb cooler for the V2, similar to what's out already for the first gpcam, they said yes ready to buy in 3 weeks.....it's now been a few months since that email exchange and it seems they've released a whole new Hypercam instead, which has a built in cooling fan.

I found Sharpcap better with the V2, the Altair software is basic, with no guide or instructions.

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14 hours ago, Dragon_Astro said:

I bought the GpcamV2 a few months ago, and to be honest the jury is still out on it for me.

I don't know if I still haven't got the settings like gain etc right, but I found the images from it really noisy/grainy and the amp glow is quite bad. I emailed Altair to ask if they're going to bring out a usb cooler for the V2, similar to what's out already for the first gpcam, they said yes ready to buy in 3 weeks.....it's now been a few months since that email exchange and it seems they've released a whole new Hypercam instead, which has a built in cooling fan.

I found Sharpcap better with the V2, the Altair software is basic, with no guide or instructions.

Ok, that throws a bit of doubt in there, although I guess I've got to be realistic with the budget I've set. I'll be honest, I was pretty much ready to hit the button on the 224 but it woudn't hurt to hold back and do a bit more research first.

Sorry to hear that you were let down by the cooling fan not coming out, can you rig up a PC fan instead to see if fan cooling actually helps?

I'll take a look at the hypercam although I'm not sure I'd wan't to dig that deep into my savings.

If you could go back to just before you bought the camera, would you have bought a different model instead? 

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18 hours ago, Chris Lock said:

A new Lodestar is well out of pocket though and I'm not sure the chunky pixels would best suit the short focal length scope I'll be using.

That's an interesting point, I think you could be right about the large pixels not working so well with the short FL, especially colour. I think you might be able to pick up a colour Lodestar for £200 if you put out a wanted ad, but I guess you need to compare the images produced by a colour Lodestar versus an asi120c with a setup like yours. I'll do some digging..... 

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Like I say I've probably not got the gain settings 100% right, so I wouldn't base your decision on that, but the amp glow is bad, that's one thing I'm not happy about.

i will try a pc fan on it, see if it makes a difference :)

if I could go back in time I wouldn't have sold my Atik 314 and end up having to buy a new fridge on the orders of the OH...anyway I digress lol

knowing what I know now I probably would've saved for a Lodestar.

forecast looks good for tonight so will hopefully have something to show you.

 

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4 hours ago, RobertI said:

That's an interesting point, I think you could be right about the large pixels not working so well with the short FL, especially colour. I think you might be able to pick up a colour Lodestar for £200 if you put out a wanted ad, but I guess you need to compare the images produced by a colour Lodestar versus an asi120c with a setup like yours. I'll do some digging..... 

Hi Robert, I've just had a look a 12Dstring to work out resolution, and my 500mm FL scope with a Lodester will give 3.5"/pixel which is a bit on the chunky side but not massively so, certaonly doable. This goes down to a very nice 1.6"/pixel with the GPcam and ASI120mc, so they do have resolution going for them as well as cost. Amp glow is an against, I can live with a bit of it as I used to image a lot with old Canon 300 and 350D's, but if it produces a big gradient then that would be bad. More research needed before I part with money :)

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46 minutes ago, Dragon_Astro said:

Like I say I've probably not got the gain settings 100% right, so I wouldn't base your decision on that, but the amp glow is bad, that's one thing I'm not happy about.

i will try a pc fan on it, see if it makes a difference :)

if I could go back in time I wouldn't have sold my Atik 314 and end up having to buy a new fridge on the orders of the OH...anyway I digress lol

knowing what I know now I probably would've saved for a Lodestar.

forecast looks good for tonight so will hopefully have something to show you.

 

I'll hold back on the GPcam or ASI120mc whilst a consider the Lodestar and others some more, thanks for your thoughts :)

I would love to know how bad the amp glow is, maybe after playing with the settings a bit and getting used to the camera a bit more you could post up a png? :) I'm not sure how long the exposures are you're using too? 

It would be very interesting indeed to see how a cooling fan effects amp glow and noise with these CMOS chipped cameras, that would be a 'cool' experiment to see if it's a worthwhile thing to do or not?

 

 

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On 10/4/2016 at 14:10, Chris Lock said:

A new Lodestar is well out of pocket though and I'm not sure the chunky pixels would best suit the short focal length scope I'll be using.

Chris,

I don't know how short of focal length you plan to use and I don't know your taste regarding chunkiness. So instead of giving recommendations or advice based on theory, I offer some examples. Then you can decide what is acceptable to you and what isn't.

Here is a capture with 14mm focal length optics and Lodestar. This is the shortest focal length I have personal experience with. (This is a rarely seen view of Barnard's Loop and friends, so I include the outlines of Orion for orientation.)

Orion_2016.4.2_20.38.27_qr_lab.jpg

You can find examples of captures with the Lodestar and optics with focal lengths of 24mm, 85mm and 135mm on this thread https://stargazerslounge.com/topic/265965-from-winter-towards-the-summer-along-the-milky-way/?page=1. There are further examples of captures with focal lengths between 85mm and 1000mm in this album https://stargazerslounge.com/gallery/album/3729-widefield-lodestar/. The titles of the images in the album always start with the focal lengths of the optics used. So if you sort the album by the image titles, you get them in the order of increasing focal lengths. The focal lengths are also always included in the annotations on the images themselves.

Most of the short focal length optics that I own are camera lenses. They are essentially achromats. A few of them, like the Nikkor 180mm, Nikkor 300mm and Samyang 135mm have an ED element. The others don't.

This doesn't give you advice on which camera to buy. But at least shows you in examples how chunky things get with the Lodestar in real life scenarios.

Clear Skies!  --Dom

 

 

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Hi Dom, thank you, there is nothing like actual images to base an opinion on :)  You've picked up Bernard's loop wonderfully there considering it's such a diffuse object.

I've spent some time looking through all your images looking carefully at resolution at different focal lengths (what a great collection by the way!). At below 180mm lots of the stars are starting to get fairly square, but the PN's and nebs you took at around 900mm are lovely and smooth, that helix neb is something else! I really liked your Rosette are 200mm too. I can pretty much conclude that at 500mm the lodestar will be absolutely fine so thank you for putting the question to rest :) 

 

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