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abhoriel

DIY OSC CCD (cam86)

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I started a topic about the cam86 a few weeks ago, just to see if anyone else had made one. Its essentially a DIY OSC camera which uses a Sony ICX453AQ CCD (the same as that used in the QHY8 pro) ripped out of Nikon SLRs on a custom low-noise circuit (designed by Rome, one of our Ukrainian counterparts!) and with provisions for adding peltier cooling.

I've since started work on mine anyway, and the first stage (consisting of building the electronics of the camera itself) is now complete and it seems to be taking images ok... I'll test it more extensively (with some kind of lens I suppose) at some point. I had some very limited soldering experience with "through-the-hole" soldering, but not with surface mount stuff. This camera uses larger surface mount components, so its really not too daunting though. I bought some practice SMT PCBs on eBay (for around £1 each) to practise with first! I've even decided since that SMT soldering is much nicer than through-the-hole.. techniques such as drag-soldering which I used for most of the ICs are really very quick and simple.

Anyway, the costs of the build so far are:

  • Components including enclosure box (from Mouser mostly, with a couple from eBay!): £100
  • PCBs from Elecrow: £8.03 (I paid for 5 PCBs which is the minimum, but they sent me 7 anyway!)
  • Broken Nikon D40 SLR on eBay (to get the sensor): £25 
  • DMSO solvent to help with extracting the sensor: £8

I've attached some pictures at the bottom. The legs for some of the through-the-hole components that are poking through the PCB could do with a much closer trim - I'm still waiting for the cutters that I ordered from China to arrive! 

Further information on cam86 (in Russian, but google translate works well): http://astroccd.org/2016/10/cam86/

Also my previous topic, which has links to various websites and forums on this camera: 

 

The next thing I need to do is cut holes in the enclosure and build some kind of a nose piece for the camera. I'm not entirely sure how i'm going to do this as yet - any advice would be great! I have neither the ability nor the equipment to machine a nice piece. My current plan is to buy something like this https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Nikon-m42-adapter-UK-fast-delivery/202110844744?ssPageName=STRK%3AMEBIDX%3AIT&_trksid=p2057872.m2749.l2649 and then use a holesaw on my electric drill to cut the right sized hole in the enclosure and then push the "canon" side of the adapter into it. I'd then drill smaller screw holes in the adapter's flange and into the enclosure so that I can screw it on. I can then use an m42 to T2 adapter to connect it to my telescope. I've attached a picture of the aluminium enclosure for which the PCB has been designed anyway!

Later on, I'm going to add a peltier cooler - the cam86 PCB is designed for this and the peltier (along with temp and humidity sensors) can be controlled by the onboard microcontroller. I'm not sure if the little transistor is up to the task though, but I can replace that if it burns out I suppose! There's also the concern of frosting/condensation on the sensor due to it being cooled below the dew point. I'm either going to try to seal the box as best as I can (which will require the use of a glass window in the nose piece amongst other measures) and then use some kind of desiccant (or even purging it with argon, as some people have used) or use resistors/nichrome wire around the edge of the sensor glass to keep that a little warmer.. or some combination of the two!

Anyway, if anyone is interested in giving this a shot, I have spare PCBs and a few other spare bits and pieces which might be helpful. I'm happy to post them for free. The information regarding this camera is mostly in Russian (in the site I linked above). There is also lots of information scattered on various forums (I linked them in my last topic). If anyone is interested in building this, or want me to go into any details, let me know.

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Edited by abhoriel
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I've just finished going through a few of those Cam86 sites/threads and I am thinking of putting one together ... I would be using a Canon lens adapter version and using an 'L' lens, as I have no scope at the moment ... I am fine with Electronics & soldering, etc but I too have no mechanical machinery ...

But before I even think about doing a build I would love to see some examples of Astro shots, taken by people who have built it ... maybe I missed a link for example Astro Images? ... I can also wait until you post some of yours :) ...

Edited by AstroMadd

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2 hours ago, AstroMadd said:

I've just finished going through a few of those Cam86 sites/threads and I am thinking of putting one together ... I would be using a Canon lens adapter version and using an 'L' lens, as I have no scope at the moment ... I am fine with Electronics & soldering, etc but I too have no mechanical machinery ...

But before I even think about doing a build I would love to see some examples of Astro shots, taken by people who have built it ... maybe I missed a link for example Astro Images? ... I can also wait until you post some of yours :) ...

Most images are scattered around forums and therefore difficult to find, but here you go:

https://www.astrobin.com/gear/60809/cam86/

http://astroccd.org/gallery/ (this doesn't have any actual cam86 images, but loads of images from older 'cams' like cam83/cam85.. the cam86 is supposed to be an improvement on these anyway. note also that I would imagine that many of these weren't taken with cooling!)

http://jonathanedgecombe.com/

 

If you're thinking of starting the build in over a month or so, you can order some components (eg the CXD1267AN ... mouser doesnt have this) from China early. It costs a lot less and the slow delivery might be worth it.

 

Let me know if you have any questions about anything anyway!

Edited by abhoriel
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Thanks for the links, appreciate it ... and yes I shall be watching your progress ;) ...

Looking at some of the images ... wow ... but it was this one (Jonathan's Cam86 of Orion photo) that has just made me want to build it ... that's good enough reason for me ... not the fact that I've just seen how much an QHY8 Pro is :shocked:... Damn! ...

I think I'll start with getting a PCB board and populate it as I go ...

testshotfull.jpg

 

And be creating something similar to his lens setup

cam3.jpg

Edited by AstroMadd

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I can send you a PCB if you like!

 

M42 is a great target indeed. And of course, you can just go with lenses rather than a telescope. 

Edited by abhoriel

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Cool ... I would love a PCB ... thanks ... do you know what version it is, out of interest? ... and what documentation version(s) you have followed, to populate & build the unit? as I have got a few files, grabbed from the various Cam86 sites but best to be on the same hymn sheet, so to speak ...

I noticed someone used 2 x Cam86, one for guiding and imaging ... makes sense ...

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4 hours ago, AstroMadd said:

Cool ... I would love a PCB ... thanks ... do you know what version it is, out of interest? ... and what documentation version(s) you have followed, to populate & build the unit? as I have got a few files, grabbed from the various Cam86 sites but best to be on the same hymn sheet, so to speak ...

I noticed someone used 2 x Cam86, one for guiding and imaging ... makes sense ...

Yeah PM me your address and I'll send one. The schema I've used is that which is found here: http://astroccd.org/2016/10/cam86/

There are older versions on the Ukrainian forums, and there is an Iceinspace topic on the cam86 -- they have modified the schema and PCB somewhat I believe. I used a bill of materials for Mouser which I found on this page: https://www.diycam.fr/index.php/fr/9-all/construction/5-cam86-fournitures-part-i-la-carte  I think as far as the PCB is concerned, the list is generally complete (except for the CXD1267AN, and the optional DHT22), but some components weren't in stock on mouser (and would only be in stock after several months), so I had to substitute some components for equivalents (and get one or two that I didn't want to substitute on eBay). 

As for using a cam86 as a guider, you can by all means, but I don't think it plays to its strengths. Buying a second hand guider/planetary cam will probably be cheaper than building a cam86! The advantages of the cam86 (cooling, large sensor, low noise) aren't really important for guiders. And the cam86 will generally be larger/heavier and also requires external power (rather than being powered purely from USB like most guiders).

 

 

Edited by abhoriel
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Ok cool thanks, I will PM ... ahh yes I have that site's files in my folder ... as for the CXD1267AN yes China has them very cheap ... I'm one of the impatient types, so I would pay £11 for one in the UK ... but I will know more once I put my list together ... incidentally that chip is in a few webcams but maybe more hassle than it's worth ...

Re: Guide Cam ... yes I agree on the over kill, if used for a guide ... and yes a cheaper 2nd hand option would obviously be the way to go ... could try a webcam/camera lens MOD for that ... been playing with a few webcams with good results, using the following setups:

MICROSOFT LIFECAM VX-5000 WEBCAM - CANON f4 70-200mm LENS

20171106_094300.thumb.jpg.60b62617bc36f3b5985111c7955a91c0.jpg

 

MICROSOFT XBOX 360 WEBCAM - M42 HOYA f2.8 135mm LENS

20171025_151724.thumb.jpg.c25801a3494bee38ce87b0ca8cb82a65.jpg

 

I'm new to Astro Imaging but love experimenting ...

Edited by AstroMadd
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@abhoriel Great solder work on that PCB.

Looks like a fun project!

I'm curious, with the sensor being over a decade old, does it make practical sense to build something like this today, beyond for the fun of building your own camera?

Certainly, that is a great shot of M42, but I'd argue that similar results can be had from a modified Nikon D5300. Has anyone actually done a comparison to more modern CMOS sensors?

 

(having said all that, i've ordered a PCB from elecrow)

 

 

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3 hours ago, zfedoran said:

@abhoriel Great solder work on that PCB.

Looks like a fun project!

I'm curious, with the sensor being over a decade old, does it make practical sense to build something like this today, beyond for the fun of building your own camera?

Certainly, that is a great shot of M42, but I'd argue that similar results can be had from a modified Nikon D5300. Has anyone actually done a comparison to more modern CMOS sensors?

 

(having said all that, i've ordered a PCB from elecrow)

 

 

Good question! Well cameras like the QHY8pro use the same sensor, and are still worth a lot of money (new or on the second hand market).. Which is because you can still take excellent shots with the sensor. I'd say that you really need cooling for this project to be worthwhile. Otherwise, you should just astromod a DSLR instead. I'd say that M42 probably isn't the best target for comparison shots - its such a bright target that it doesn't need very long exposure times and wont benefit as much from cooling.. as you say, a DSLR should be able to take quite comparable shots. CCDs have more read noise than modern CMOS sensors, so they will be at a disadvantage on bright targets for which you take lots of shorter exposures. 

In general though I'm of the opinion that astrophotography will switch completely over to CMOS. I'd like to see a DIY CMOS camera using a modern CMOS sensor. In theory, it could be less hassle as you wouldn't have to worry about analogue-to-digital conversion (and its associated noise issues). 

 

If you need anything do ask. I do have spare PCBs I'm happy to send out (for free)

Edited by abhoriel
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What is your plan for ensuring that your sensor is not tilted?

I've heard that you might be able to use a laser pointer to bounce a beam off the sensor onto a wall while rotating the body of the camera. 

 

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I'm not sure, I was going to take test images to check orthogonality of the sensor. I'm going to use rubber washers under the circuit board to pad it out and allow it's tilt to be adjusted.

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@abhoriel, hi I tried to assemble the CAM84 and had some issues with it. I am very interessted on the new 86. What does the Atmel-processor do? Only cooling or also readout?

Do you still have some spare PCBs?

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On 28.11.2017 at 20:45, abhoriel said:

Good question! Well cameras like the QHY8pro use the same sensor, and are still worth a lot of money (new or on the second hand market).. Which is because you can still take excellent shots with the sensor. I'd say that you really need cooling for this project to be worthwhile. Otherwise, you should just astromod a DSLR instead. I'd say that M42 probably isn't the best target for comparison shots - its such a bright target that it doesn't need very long exposure times and wont benefit as much from cooling.. as you say, a DSLR should be able to take quite comparable shots. CCDs have more read noise than modern CMOS sensors, so they will be at a disadvantage on bright targets for which you take lots of shorter exposures. 

In general though I'm of the opinion that astrophotography will switch completely over to CMOS. I'd like to see a DIY CMOS camera using a modern CMOS sensor. In theory, it could be less hassle as you wouldn't have to worry about analogue-to-digital conversion (and its associated noise issues). 

 

If you need anything do ask. I do have spare PCBs I'm happy to send out (for free)

Do you still have some PCBs? I am very interested in the CAM86

Edited by Jakub

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Hi I'm a new member and have dabbled in LX modding of the spc900; I am excited to see this Cam86 project and would also like to get hold of one of your PCB for the project, any chance?

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Welcome to the forum Hendy, looking at @abhorielposts looks like last on 11th April, you may be advised to send a personal message from here. 

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I'd not seen this thread before.  Very inventive :)

James

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Here's the ice in space topic - got time ?  Brendon at it again................... links in the first post to other sites........  well it's a holiday weekend and what's 45 plus pages between friends   :happy6::happy6::happy6:

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Bit of a late reply to this post, but I did eventually build two of these cameras. One of which might get debayered one of these days but still needs an enclosure.

Anyways, I feel that perhaps these images might help inspire someone else to try this out as well. Honestly, I did not know much about soldering SMD components before this, so if I can do it you'll be fine too. Also, I used a number of ZWO accessory parts to help me adapt the aluminum enclosure to the threads on my telescope. No lathe needed, you only really need a soldering iron and a decent drill.

Cheers.

 

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Nice, looks very good. Did you have any problems with condensation? What did you use for the mount and cold finger? 

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What a great project. And the images look great too.

Yes, I am posting here for personal reference :) I may try this one myself.

Thanks for sharing.

Dave.

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6 hours ago, abhoriel said:

Nice, looks very good. Did you have any problems with condensation? What did you use for the mount and cold finger? 

No issues with condensation yet. I do live in a humid environment too so not sure how I haven't had issues with it. I have verified the sensor does get cold using a laser temperature gauge.

I think it might have something to do with the cold finger being a large plate, I'm assuming the humidity gets sucked up in the form of ice crystals on the plate. I haven't even put any descant material in the camera.

One thing that might help is that i did put in an IR filter to help seal things off. Obviously it isn't air tight but should keep new moisture out once it forms on the cold finger. The filter wasn't hard to add, again, just straight up ZWO products.

1828396908_ScreenShot2019-02-24at9_09_12AM.jpg.e4b8a55f55e36833b2363f679b27d7c7.jpg

In case anyone is curious:

https://astronomy-imaging-camera.com/product/zwo-2-inch-ir-cut-filter

https://astronomy-imaging-camera.com/product/new-eos-t2-adapter

https://astronomy-imaging-camera.com/product/t2-tilter

(big thanks to Jonathan E. for providing images of his build that ended up inspiring mine)

Edited by zfedoran

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6 hours ago, abhoriel said:

What did you use for the mount and cold finger? 

I ended up using black hot glue to secure the edges of the peltier cooler to the edges of the enclosure. Its easy to work with, melts at a slightly higher temperature than the normal stuff but is still easy enough to remove if needed. I didn't want to use epoxy as it is way less forgiving.

What isn't shown is that there is a square 40x40mm hole for the heatsink to go through the enclosure. The peltier module fits nicely into a ~1mm recess where the enclosure is actually slightly higher than the back of the heatsink. The glue is primarily used to ensure no light leaks through but isn't really necessary as it is a tight fit. Also, I did have concerns that the glue might melt, but it turns out the gap is just large enough that the hot side of the peiltier does not even sit high enough to touch the glue.

The Noctua NH-L9i heatsink/fan was a good choice as it is super easy to mount to the enclosure. It is overkill but works well.

1400744021_NoctuaNH-L9i.thumb.jpg.36b0fa08ed92d3bb7f6f719cdd3ca15f.jpg

 

The cold finger itself is stuck on pretty well from just the thermal paste, i did secure it very slightly before closing things up with 2 small dabs of glue on two corners (to be clear, no glue sits between the heatsink/peltier/sensor, only thermal paste). If I were to redo this, I'd 3d print something to hold the finger in place. However, id still use the black hot glue around the edges of the peltier as it seals pretty tight and does not let light through.

 

Just a few more things, I did need to move some of the through hole components underneath the board as the enclosure got a bit too tight with the external ports where I wanted them. Also, the tiny connector that leads to the USB port is super fragile, be careful with it. Also, it might be a good idea to either move the entire power management system outside the camera body (with a full redesign), it adds a bit of heat to something you're trying to cool down. If redesigning the PCB is not your thing, I'd simply move DD12 and DD13 through hole components off the board and attach them to the enclosure, then connect them to the board using wires.

1374156881_ScreenShot2019-02-23at11_32_52PM.thumb.jpg.e73969bb9b26e7b5f10c0272249279ec.jpg

 

Edited by zfedoran
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Goodmorning everyone! very interesting project !! any of you still have an unused cam86 pcb? have there been other evolutions since cam86?
 
thank you!
 
Giuseppe
 
 

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