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Adam J

New Mono CMOS camera from Starlight Xpress based on IMX304

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Posted (edited)

Just back from the Practical Astronomy Show and saw three prototype CMOS cameras from Starlight Xpress, the one that really attracted my attention used the SONY IMX304 chip with 3.45um pixels, 12.3mp, 1.1 inch, global shutter, 62% QE, 12bit A/D. It was visibly larger than a IMX183 sensor and the ICX694. They claim to have improved amp glow performance of the chip by altering the default clock speed and indicate ~2e read noise. The design of the camera body looked almost identical to their current Sony chip CCD cameras.

They indicated an expected cost  of about ~£2k

Personally I would have hoped for slightly cheaper if it is to appeal in comparison to the '1600' based cameras and it places it in competition with the SX-694 in terms of price and sensor size which may or may not be a bad thing as if it performs very well it could potentially be the death of ICX694 based cameras. If they could just bring the price down to the £1750 region then it would be extremely attractive.

I like their approach, the market is currently saturated with Panasonic based sensors like the Atik Horizon and the ASI1600mm pro not to mention the IMX183 cameras, did we really need another one? By offering a different product not yet released by other companies and skipping the Panasonic chip they are likely to get more traction in the CMOS market.

Time will tell.

Adam J

 

Edited by Adam J
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That's very interesting, though SX aren't known for inexpensive kit, their SX 46 16200 is the most expensive of the mainstream versions, leaving out the ruinously expensive FLI offerings.

Speaking of which, have you seen their Kepler 4040 cameras :eek:.

I'll keep an eye out for these. Waiting for @FLO to stock them :grin:.

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5 hours ago, DaveS said:

That's very interesting, though SX aren't known for inexpensive kit, their SX 46 16200 is the most expensive of the mainstream versions, leaving out the ruinously expensive FLI offerings.

Speaking of which, have you seen their Kepler 4040 cameras :eek:.

I'll keep an eye out for these. Waiting for @FLO to stock them :grin:

Problem for them is that others will make it cheaper if they price too high. 

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32 minutes ago, Adam J said:

Problem for them is that others will make it cheaper if they price too high. 

Which is why I'm going for the Atik 16200 rather than the SX 46. Pity if they price it too high.

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Just had a look on line for data sheets for that sensor, they all quote a maximum exposure of 30 seconds, which isn't much use for imaging unless SX can fix it.

Looking at SX Trius cameras, £2k is about par for the course.

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I would like to say in my experience that the extra cost of the SX kit is well worth it when things go wrong. The customer service they provide is some of the best I have come across. 

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Oh yes, agree. It's just that the extra cost pushed the SX46 out of my budget. Olly recons the Atik service is pretty good too.

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Posted (edited)
On 13/03/2019 at 10:20, spillage said:

I would like to say in my experience that the extra cost of the SX kit is well worth it when things go wrong. The customer service they provide is some of the best I have come across. 

Yes, but if you don't have the extra to spend the choice that leaves you is this: Am I going to get a dedicated camera or not bother getting one at all?

Edited by Adam J

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18 minutes ago, Adam J said:

Yes, but if you don't have the extra to spend the choice that leaves you is this: Am I going to get a dedicated camera or not bother getting one at all because SX have better customer service?

But as there are other cheaper options out there you do have a choice. I have purchased chinese gear and whilst it is good value for money if it goes wrong then you are looking at a long time without that bit of kit if it needs to go back to the manufacturer. As already mentioned Atik which seem to be cheaper than SX but a bit more then ZWO do have a good following and also provide good after sales service but as I have never used them I cannot comment personally.. I think you pay your money and take your chances. Nothing in this hobby is normally cheap and most or at least myself have had to save to buy the kit we want. Again all I can say is that SX in my experience have fallen over themselves to help and resolve any issue very quickly. 

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Changing the direction of this thread slightly, I was talking to the guy on the SX stand about the competition and he said that the Asi1600 cameras have dark frames subtracted on camera so the data that arrives on your laptop isn't actually RAW data but already has dark frame subtracted to limit the amp glow.

Can't find it mentioned anywhere on the web.

If true it seems a bit sneaky.

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Posted (edited)

 

On 13/03/2019 at 15:14, andyboy1970 said:

Changing the direction of this thread slightly, I was talking to the guy on the SX stand about the competition and he said that the Asi1600 cameras have dark frames subtracted on camera so the data that arrives on your laptop isn't actually RAW data but already has dark frame subtracted to limit the amp glow.

Can't find it mentioned anywhere on the web.

If true it seems a bit sneaky.

And exactly how does it derive this dark frame without someone covering the camera sensor up? Are we suggesting that the camera as dark frames stored for every temperature / gain / exposure length internally and applies it to the image....I dont think so. 

Also consider this, in comparisons between the Atik Horizon, QHY163m and ASI1600mm pro all three have been shown to have close to identical amp glow and dark current performance. Or are we saying that all three manufacturers are using the same technology 'sneaky' technique?...I don't think so. Hence I think we can conclude if something is going on then it is happening on the Panasonic chip and nothing to do with the camera manufacturer. 

Take a look:

http://www.astrosurf.com/buil/atik_vs_zwo/

The problem with off the cuff remarks and the internet is that before you know it everyone quotes everyone else and a rumor becomes an accepted fact.

Personally I don't care what my ASI1600mm pro does with calibration or does not do with calibration, it works and works well. My impression is that it is more sensitive than my friends 460ex while having a larger sensor at a cheaper price. 

None of this is relevant to the IMX304 camera being discussed, as I said I actually admire them for going in a slightly different direction. I live and work in the UK and want UK companies to make high quality competitive products. My advice above is simply that I think that they will make more money by reducing their per camera margins and selling more cameras as a result, it might even be worth selling at a slight loss to gain initial market penetration.

The ASI1600mm pro is undeniably hugely popular and they need to attract people away from that camera before then can sell their camera, they made a good start by offering a unique (for now) product, the slam dunk is if they can offer it at an attractive price taking into account the competitions product.  

Adam 

 

Edited by Adam J

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Posted (edited)
On 13/03/2019 at 14:38, spillage said:

But as there are other cheaper options out there you do have a choice. I have purchased chinese gear and whilst it is good value for money if it goes wrong then you are looking at a long time without that bit of kit if it needs to go back to the manufacturer. As already mentioned Atik which seem to be cheaper than SX but a bit more then ZWO do have a good following and also provide good after sales service but as I have never used them I cannot comment personally.. I think you pay your money and take your chances. Nothing in this hobby is normally cheap and most or at least myself have had to save to buy the kit we want. Again all I can say is that SX in my experience have fallen over themselves to help and resolve any issue very quickly. 

I dont get it, your signature says you own two ASI camera and a QHY camera? 

It sounds like you have had experience of SX falling over themselves to resolve your issues. I cant comment at all on ZWO customer service having had no issues....lots of people own them and I hear very few complaints. 

Adam

Edited by Adam J

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8 minutes ago, Adam J said:

The problem with off the cuff remarks and the internet is that before you know it everyone quotes everyone else and a false rumor becomes an accepted fact. My feeling is that the older manufacturers got cute napping by ASI introducing the ASI1600mm pro and that there are some sour grapes. Trashing the competition is a standard sales tactic that is used widely. 

Surely that's an off the cuff remark?

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Posted (edited)
On 13/03/2019 at 16:44, JeremyS said:

Surely that's an off the cuff remark?

No its an opinion not presented as fact. Hence me saying "my feeling is"

On the other hand:

"Asi1600 cameras have dark frames subtracted on camera so the data that arrives on your laptop isn't actually RAW data but already has dark frame subtracted to limit the amp glow."

Is a statement of supposed fact repeated here without supporting evidence. Although andyboy1970 does qualify it with "if true".

In any case clearly whatever they are doing with on camera calibration does not matter as the Panasonic sensor is a good performer as evidenced by results.

Adam 

Edited by Adam J

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43 minutes ago, Adam J said:

I dont get it

Sorry that was my poor editing. I own a couple of zwo cameras and SX filter wheels. One camera had to go back to China for over a month and the filter wheel got damaged (by me) and was resolved in under a week.  I think the story of zwo and the 1600 is well documented and they did a good job of getting a new product on the shelves first although I think they are now on version 3. I guess SX feel there is room and profit in the market for them and their followers.

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, spillage said:

Sorry that was my poor editing. I own a couple of zwo cameras and SX filter wheels. One camera had to go back to China for over a month and the filter wheel got damaged (by me) and was resolved in under a week.  I think the story of zwo and the 1600 is well documented and they did a good job of getting a new product on the shelves first although I think they are now on version 3. I guess SX feel there is room and profit in the market for them and their followers.

Fair enough. The only thing that made me raise an eyebrow in that was the concept that a camera manufacturer has "followers" lol.  I have no loyalties its all about the product and the price for me. 

Edited by Adam J

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I've found SX to be very good at resolving problems, I've had my Trius 694 back to them twice, once to re-flush the sensor chamber, and again to remove some dust that had got on the sensor.

It's just that when I did the sums the Atik / EFW3 combination worked out significantly cheaper than the route I would have taken with the SX46 and std filter wheel, the Maxi-wheel being even more out of budget. I have no doubt that the SX46 is a better camera, and it was with some regret that I didn't go down that route.

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Posted (edited)

I guess I was hoping for more comments / analysis of the potential of a IMX304 camera when I started this thread, but it seems to have slipped into a comparison of different manufacturers customer service. Possibly the least interesting aspect of choosing a camera. 

Edited by Adam J

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45 minutes ago, Adam J said:

The trashing the competition remark is presented as fact....because it is just true and relates to everything from cars to washing machines.

It might be "just true" in general terms, but surely doesn't apply in all cases. Perhaps not even in this case. Or perhaps it's just another "off the cuff" remark..........?

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OK, getting back on course, does anyone have better data sheets than I could find? All the ones I saw were from machine-vision camera manufacturers, and quoted maximum exposure times of 30 seconds, as I mentioned above, which isn't going to be of much use for astro-imaging.

Do you know if SX has been able to get round this obvious design flaw?

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Posted (edited)

 

15 minutes ago, DaveS said:

OK, getting back on course, does anyone have better data sheets than I could find? All the ones I saw were from machine-vision camera manufacturers, and quoted maximum exposure times of 30 seconds, as I mentioned above, which isn't going to be of much use for astro-imaging.

Do you know if SX has been able to get round this obvious design flaw?

Yes, you are correct....only just seen that. I hope that they have found a way to extend that as if it cant go over 30 seconds then that has two implications. 

1) Whats the point in cooling it?

2) Who on earth is going to pay £2k for a cooled planetary camera? and if its for microscopy then why bring it to an astronomy show. 

When I talked with them I made it clear our discussion was in the context of DSO imaging. 

Maybe it has a trigger mode that is not quoted for?

Maybe its so low noise they dont think it will need more than 30 second exposures. 

Interesting though!

Adam 

Edited by Adam J

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1 hour ago, Adam J said:

No its an opinion not presented as fact. Hence me saying "my feeling is".

The trashing the competition remark is presented as fact....because it is just true and relates to everything from cars to washing machines. 

On the other hand:

"Asi1600 cameras have dark frames subtracted on camera so the data that arrives on your laptop isn't actually RAW data but already has dark frame subtracted to limit the amp glow."

Is a statement of supposed fact, made by SX and now repeated here without supporting evidence. Although andyboy1970 does qualify it with "if true" and hence its not him that I am accusing of making off the cuff remarks its SX.

In any case clearly whatever they are doing with on camera calibration does not matter as the Panasonic sensor is a good performer as evidenced by results. I suspect this is just SX trying to muddy the water to their advantage. Nothing wrong with that, its there job to sell their camera, but lets not fall for it hey??

Adam 

I did get suspicious when he went on to further poo on their product by saying a downside of CMOS cameras was the large amounts of data created.

I found this odd when he was showing SX's 3 pre-production CMOS cameras.

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30 minutes ago, andyboy1970 said:

I did get suspicious when he went on to further poo on their product by saying a downside of CMOS cameras was the large amounts of data created.

I found this odd when he was showing SX's 3 pre-production CMOS cameras.

Shorter subs are both a downside and an advantage, I dont like 15min subs getting ruined by as gust of wind.

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One advantage of DDM mounts, they can correct wind gusts before they register on the sensor. I really don't want to be stacking dozens of 12mp subs. Much prefer 600 sec subs.

But I'm prepared to wait and see before passing judgment.

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Lots of subs was a disadvantage when we were all running 32-bit Windows XP on Pentium Processors...

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