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Spaced Out

Sky Camera Recommendations Please

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Hi all

I’m thinking of setting up a simple north facing ‘sky camera’ in our garden to capture the night sky and particularly the aurora when it appears.

I have regularly used my DSLR for this, controlling it via wifi and taking shots every couple of minutes. Now I’m thinking of a more permanent set up for the roof of my mini obs, something along the lines of a weather sealed all sky cam.

I’ve read a few threads and websites regarding DIY all sky cameras and I’m happy to buy a few components to build something myself.  From what I’ve read it seems pretty straightforward.

I see that the ZWO range of cameras seem a popular choice for this purpose, I was just wondering which camera people would recommend ? I am thinking it needs to be a colour cam and my budget is probably going to be about £250, happy to go with used equipment.    

I am also wondering if anyone can recommend a good lens, ideally for under £100 ? Most of the things I’ve read so far have related to fisheyes with near 180 degrees view, this might be an option later but for now I’m thinking I need a wide angle lens to point northwards.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Edited by Spaced Out

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I think you may struggle to get a good (I presume DSLR) lens for under £100. As you suggested for the camera, you'd probably be looking at used lenses I would think, and even then I doubt (sadly) you'd find a top quality lens. 

Looking forward to other replies to prove me wrong here!

good luck

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4 minutes ago, Astrokev said:

I think you may struggle to get a good (I presume DSLR) lens for under £100. As you suggested for the camera, you'd probably be looking at used lenses I would think, and even then I doubt (sadly) you'd find a top quality lens. 

Looking forward to other replies to prove me wrong here!

good luck

Ah, OK thanks.

I was not thinking about using a DSLR lens tbh. Having just seen a few of these fairly cheap little fisheyes bunged onto a ZWO camera and used for all sky stuff I just presumed there would be something similar available but offering a wide angle rather than a full on 180 type fisheye.

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Ah ok. I'm no expert on that type of lens. I'm sure someone will be able to advise though 🙂

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Fingers crossed  eh !

I've got a couple of fast wide angle DLSR lenses for nightscapes but I'd rather keep them for that.

On searching the web for DIY all sky cams it seems some of the little fisheyes people use to fit these ZWO cameras aren't too expensive and produce reasonable results, just wondered if there was a wide angle option rather than the full fisheye.

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I think possibility a 150 degree lens might be included with some ZWO cameras. I'm not very good at working out coverage and calculating how much of the sky a lens and sensor combo gives.

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I have a ZWO 120MC-S which comes with a very wide angle lens which covers well over half the sky.  They cost £154 + P&P from FLO - about £160 total.  If you want to use it outdoors put it in a weatherproof enclosure with acrylic dome sealed on.  I can say that this little camera is very good.

I'm using that camera with a fisheye lens to cover very nearly full sky.  I'm working on it at this very moment and you might be interested in my Blog.

Edited by Gina
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The ASI 178MC works really well for all sky, although it's slightly more expensive than your stated budget. It's got a nice sensor area and great resolution. If you are lucky you might be able to get a second hand one. It comes with a basic all sky lens which is not too bad but there are better ones. I bought a second hand Fujinon HF1.8HB-L1 which is excellent but they are hard to find and it doesn't quite give a 180 degree view (which for me is no problem really, I actually prefer a 150 to 160 degree view as it uses the available sensor area much better - although you loose some of the horizon). There is a similar Fujinon lens with 1.4mm focal length which gives a full 180 degree view. You can see it in action here:

https://www.astropage.nl/weather/

 

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Yes, I have the 1.4mm FL Fujinon which I was using with the ASI 185MC until the latter got destroyed in a severe storm.  That was excellent.  These higher priced camera seem to go for a wider aspect ratio which is not what's wanted for an ASC.  That's why the 120 will be just about good enough with the Fujinon fish-eye lens to cover most of the sky as it has a 4:3 aspect ratio.

Edited by Gina
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That was a very helpful read as I had not considered the impact of aspect ratio and the imaging circle.

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17 hours ago, Gina said:

I have a ZWO 120MC-S which comes with a very wide angle lens which covers well over half the sky.  They cost £154 + P&P from FLO - about £160 total.  If you want to use it outdoors put it in a weatherproof enclosure with acrylic dome sealed on.  I can say that this little camera is very good.

I'm using that camera with a fisheye lens to cover very nearly full sky.  I'm working on it at this very moment and you might be interested in my Blog.

Thanks Gina, this is really helpful. I just looked on youtube at all sky time lapse clips using this camera, the quality seems pretty good with just the standard lens provided. Certainly looks like a good choice to get me started anyway. 👍

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My testing with the ZWO-120MC-S and it's bundled 150 degree lens

This is looking due east, through glass. The camera is propped against my office window. No cooling etc. I must dust off this project...one day

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With the recent update to this camera do you still need to be very careful not to over screw the lens and hit the sensor or is that only a concern if not using the provided lens?

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I built an allsky using Thomas's raspberry pi code and instructible here: https://github.com/thomasjacquin/allsky 

I'm using a ZWO ASI120MC, and after tweaking some of the camera settings, have visible milky way, color in pleiades, and a nice MP4 video at the end of every night.  Potentially, coupling this with the TekTite skies app, one could also do cloud cover detection and closing of a roof/shutter.

 

Dave

Thunder Creek Observatory
Bortle Class 3 
Stellarvue SVQ100 on Atlas Pro
QSI6120wsg-8 / Astrodon LRGB/NB

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