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Any recommendations?


Binzauk
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Hi All

 

Being new to Astrophotography I wonder if anyone could give me their recommendations on which imaging software to buy? This is the software to do the Astrophotography actions such as calibration and integration. With an interest in 'normal' photography, I already have Lightroom and Photoshop, both on subscription and the latest versions, to do the final editing (if need be), but they are not good for Astrophotography.

I have had a good look around to see what software is out there and for myself, and with being a Mac user and unless anyone can suggest others, it seems to be one of three to go for: Nebulosity 4.0, Astro Pixel Processor or PixInsight. Here are my first thoughts about each software (I have no connection or affiliation to any of the software companies):

Nebulosity - I have downloaded the trial version of this and currently learning how to use it. I find that the quality of preview photo, when selecting your image for aligning and stacking is poor quality compared to the original images and, although it appears easy to carry out aligning you cannot see or further process your final stacked photo unless you buy the full version. This is the cheapest of the three, but at $95 (about £72) it's still a considerable amount to spend.

Astro Pixel Processor - I like the layout and initial usability of this software, although after reading reviews and viewing tutorials, it does not appear to be the easiest to master. Any thoughts on this? It comes in two purchasing formats; a 'Renter' option at $60 (£46), that is a 12 month subscription or an 'Owner' option at $150 (£115). There is also a full version 30 day trial, which I will be investigating.

PixInsight - Looks a good screen layout and appears to be fairly easy to use for us Newbies, but at 230 Euro (£205) it is a huge outlay if it does not work how I want it to. There is a great 45 day trial period for the full version, which again I will be taking up and see how I get on.

 

I am sure different people may prefer different products and at the end of the day (or trial periods) I will have to decide for myself. I will be taking up all the software developers offers of a trial where applicable, but would just appreciate some opinions from anyone who has 'hands-on' experience of maybe using all three pieces of software, or what do other Mac users use.

 

Thanks in advance

Stephen

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All I use is PS occasionally lightroom but you will need something to calibrate align and stack....I use Maxim DL and Deepsky stacker but Im unsure if these are available for the mac. DSS is amazing for a free bit of software.

Although Pixinsight is designed for the imager and is a fantastic bit of software I've never felt the need to buy it as there is not a lot you cant already do with PS

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Yep, it's just the aligning bit as I'm pretty competent with editing in PS . I can manually align in PS and I have done so for a couple of frames, but the time this would take over a large number of frames would not be enjoyable. Auto-align in PS does not work for what are mainly detail-less frames, with an error message reporting of at least a 40% overlap being required to auto-align (tried all sorts to get around this message - any ideas anyone?). I do not run a Windows emulator on my Mac and I am reluctant to do so to be honest, as I would rather just buy software for my operating system. 

It's a shame DSS is not available for MAC.

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You can run DSS on a Mac by wrapping it in what's called a Wineskin.

Not sure if it still works with the latest MacOS though but I have used it in the past on earlier versions of OSX.

Here are some links.

http://blog.tom-goetz.org/2013/01/running-deepskystacker-for-windows-on.html

DSS Set up

https://download.cnet.com/DeepSkyStacker/3000-12511_4-10584534.html

Wineskin

http://wineskin.urgesoftware.com/tiki-index.php?page=Downloads

 

Hope this helps.

 

I would hold off forking out lots of cash on the paid for apps until you have tried the free ones first.

If you are hooked then IMHO Pixinsight can do everything most people want  (and more) but it does have a fairly steep learning curve to get the best out of it.

Edited by wornish
correction
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8 hours ago, peter shah said:

Although Pixinsight is designed for the imager and is a fantastic bit of software I've never felt the need to buy it as there is not a lot you cant already do with PS

1

Sorry Peter, this isn't true. Pixinsight has loads of routines, and tools, and the most effective calibration, stacking, drizzling and cosmetic correction algorithms available, all designed exclusively for astrophotography and constantly developed and updated. I still use PS as I enjoy using layers, but I wouldn't be without Pixinsight these days. Glad I bought it a few years ago when it was a bit cheaper though :)

Oh, and you do need a powerful PC for it :p

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50 minutes ago, Tim said:

Sorry Peter, this isn't true. Pixinsight has loads of routines, and tools, and the most effective calibration, stacking, drizzling and cosmetic correction algorithms available, all designed exclusively for astrophotography and constantly developed and updated. I still use PS as I enjoy using layers, but I wouldn't be without Pixinsight these days. Glad I bought it a few years ago when it was a bit cheaper though :)

Oh, and you do need a powerful PC for it :p

Thats not what im saying Tim It is very powerful bit of software and has lots of tools, that Im not disputing ..... I have never seen the need to use it myself, I feel PS has all I need to do the job.

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Of the titles that you have mentioned, I have direct experience of both PhotoShop (PS) and PixInsight (PI). Until recently, I used to calibrate, align and stack exclusively with MaxIm DL which I still use for image capture but I now prefer to use PI for calibration, alignment cosmetic correction (hot pixel reduction) and stacking as in my experience it is even better than the excellent MaxIm DL. However, I then move on to PS for the rest of the processing as I love the layers features and the instant response of the various processes. With regard to cost, I have yet to find a way of doing AP on a low budget!! ? I believe that you will require more than one title to do all that is required.

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If you are into this hobby deep enough and long enough, I think you will end up buying more than one. I have moved up the spend scale from free offerings to Startools, to APP, each have their own pluses and minuses IMHO, Startools does not do calibration and stacking, but has a wide range of intuitive processing tools, APP is superb at calibration, stacking and mosaics, and can do processing also. I will probably purchase PI at some point, when I have time to do it justice.

However, taking Peter's comment about not needing PI, I believe the key to really good final images is the quality of the subs you take. Using first class data,  I think  any of the packages will give you a 'Oh wow' result.

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