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AstroKane

ZWO ASI294MC Pro - A novices point of view

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Hi All - I thought I would throw this post together as I like many people spend hours trawling through forum posts when I am deciding to invest in a new Astro toy.

After following the well trodden path of DSLR imaging, spending some fabulous nights taking pictures of the night sky  you come to that split in the road.

A dedicated astro cam - OSC or mono!? 🤔

The respective camps will come together and argue this way and that about the good and bad of each - OSC useless under moonlight, mono you have to take calibration frames for each filter etc etc.

It can be quite daunting deciding which path to take and where to put your hard earned cash. I opted for the OSC in the form of the ZWO ASI294 MC pro. My reasons, at this stage in my journey I just really want an easy to set up and go experience. I have many years ahead of me enjoying imaging and trying all camera types.

As I have said I am a relative novice and with a 2 month old son and 20 month old daughter, evenings and time to myself is a luxury. Last weekend in the UK I was blessed with two clear nights and two sleeping children so I decided to dust off the scope and use the ZWO in anger, the first real time since I picked up camera. As the moon was 99.9% illuminated I didn't really have a plan or any high expectation of any decent outcomes. I image in bortle 8 skies to boot.

In the end, I spent a big part of the night imaging and going between a few targets and I was processing the images as soon as the image run finished. My images have been processed in PI and again, I am really new to that too. I was imaging through a SW ED80 on an AVX mount unguided at 60 second subs (you can see I am a newbie yeah!) 

So what did the ASI manage to produce:

I first picked out M33 and spent 1 hour on that

511262738_M33firsttest.thumb.jpg.9a045a0e03468017455fef4f2c7761f1.jpg

I then went to M45 and spent two hours on that

Autosave_ABE.thumb.jpg.ff6194e52410d305af063c767b9d9f02.jpg

and finally with dawn not too far away I spent 20 minutes on Orion

Autosave_ABE.thumb.jpg.c650d26be046b19c4386443462eaf3ef.jpg

I was really happy when the images were coming in. For me the ASI294 has proven a good investment, I have learnt a lot about imaging from it and I still have a very long way to go before I think I will out grow this camera. It has been a big learning curve from DSLR. I cannot wait to see the kind of image it can produce under new moon conditions, better calibration frames and processing.

I guess what I am trying to say is these images are not going to win awards, they are not going to be the best I have ever taken but they did really help me appreciate that in astro you have to set your own bar otherwise you can get lost in all the other data available. 

Hope this has helped anyone wanting to make the jump from DSLR to an Astro cam - happy to share any other info I have learnt from the transition.

Clear Skies

 

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Great shots with short integration times - from someone with a busy life in an urban sky - makes me think that an astro cam is the way to go.

 

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5 hours ago, steve k said:

Very nice images.. you should be well pleased with those..

Thank you - Yes, I really was.

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4 hours ago, philhilo said:

Great shots with short integration times - from someone with a busy life in an urban sky - makes me think that an astro cam is the way to go.

 

Thanks! I was using a canon 700D before I got the ZWO. It took me a while to get the hang of the new camera but I do think it is the way to go. A couple of major benefits right off the bat are that you can cool the camera and also create calibration libraries. Rather than for example shooting darks at the end of your session.

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I don't feel it is true to say OSC is useless under Moonlight skies, less effective yes. I took 6 subs the other night as a first test with my ASI 071 and the Moon was almost full, albeit some way from my M13 target

This was no calibration at all and no cooling, reasonable result I feel.

Autosave007.thumb.jpg.6a061158ad84cc0f384d26ebdeacd348.jpg

Alan

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I just thought I would throw in my 2 cents along with some images in the hopes that it might help someone who is sitting on the fence. 

I still have a long way to go, good calibration frames is the next task but I am loving the 294. For me learning how to use a dedicated astro cam via the OSC route has really been great. 

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8 minutes ago, AstroKane said:

I just thought I would throw in my 2 cents along with some images in the hopes that it might help someone who is sitting on the fence. 

I still have a long way to go, good calibration frames is the next task but I am loving the 294. For me learning how to use a dedicated astro cam via the OSC route has really been great. 

I think your M33 is really good, I'm having a lot of problems with cooling I think, the shot I posted here was uncooled, since I turned on the cooling my images have taken a nose dive.

Alan

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I do see where you are coming from and was in exactly that same position a few months back after spending my first year in AP with a DSLR.  And you are right in that there is no right and wrong and nobody can really help you make that final decision, except to lay out to pros and cons of each and let you weigh them up yourself.

In the end I opted for a mono. And don 't  get me wrong I love it and am progressing reasonably well with it (I already had the filter wheel 2nd hand anyway and some filters but to do the camera justice also laid out on some nice Badder filters LRGB and NB so an appreciable outlay for me anyway).

But I do think I may have been better to start with OSC and then progress to Mono. 

I do not think good results necessarily come any easier  (after all good results is a combination of so many things, good viewing, steady mount, good guiding and good processing) but because there are less steps involved (both in the imaging with different filters, flats with different filters and then pre processing all the different filtered images before finally stacking and post processing) there is less to go wrong and the results come quicker whether they are good or bad results. And it is the results I think that allow you to progress, even if the results are less than what you expect, so long as you learn from them and hopefully the next images are better then you feel a sense of achievement.  And after all any image of something we cannot see, is light years away above maybe haze and an atmosphere that distorts light is an achievement. What some members of this forum actually produce is more than that and that is what we all strive for. 

However, I think I would always have ended up with the mono, but would have been nice, especially in the UK where often imaging time is measured in hours rather than days due to weather to get some colour images relatively quickly.

Sorry for the ramble and it is just from a complete novice so it is only my opinion and thoughts not necessarily what it is like for everyone.

Hopefully for you OSC is the right choice and those images certainly looks that way 🙂 

Steve

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Great start with your 294MC Pro. I too have one and only recently so I'm learning too. One thing I will say when your processing with PI and 'Image Calibration' - uncheck the master dark: calibration and optimization boxes as they will cause headaches with amp glow showing through. Been there, got the Tee shirt!

The 294 does respond well to short sub lengths (lots of them) and as you say the cooling and dark libraries help immensely when processing.

I've previously imaged with a mono camera and filters - not tried the 294 with narrowband pass filters yet.

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22 hours ago, alan potts said:

I think your M33 is really good, I'm having a lot of problems with cooling I think, the shot I posted here was uncooled, since I turned on the cooling my images have taken a nose dive.

Alan

I have read that the 294 struggles when it is cooled right the way down  - uneven cooling against the sensor. I have so far only brought it down to 0 so cannot comment. I plan to run my winter images at -15 at most. I have also read that pushing exposure time too long can again bring up issues. That isn't a problem for me as I have so far primarily imaged unguided at 60's but only plan to run guided images at 180  - I am using an AVX.

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21 hours ago, teoria_del_big_bang said:

I do see where you are coming from and was in exactly that same position a few months back after spending my first year in AP with a DSLR.  And you are right in that there is no right and wrong and nobody can really help you make that final decision, except to lay out to pros and cons of each and let you weigh them up yourself.

In the end I opted for a mono. And don 't  get me wrong I love it and am progressing reasonably well with it (I already had the filter wheel 2nd hand anyway and some filters but to do the camera justice also laid out on some nice Badder filters LRGB and NB so an appreciable outlay for me anyway).

But I do think I may have been better to start with OSC and then progress to Mono. 

I do not think good results necessarily come any easier  (after all good results is a combination of so many things, good viewing, steady mount, good guiding and good processing) but because there are less steps involved (both in the imaging with different filters, flats with different filters and then pre processing all the different filtered images before finally stacking and post processing) there is less to go wrong and the results come quicker whether they are good or bad results. And it is the results I think that allow you to progress, even if the results are less than what you expect, so long as you learn from them and hopefully the next images are better then you feel a sense of achievement.  And after all any image of something we cannot see, is light years away above maybe haze and an atmosphere that distorts light is an achievement. What some members of this forum actually produce is more than that and that is what we all strive for. 

However, I think I would always have ended up with the mono, but would have been nice, especially in the UK where often imaging time is measured in hours rather than days due to weather to get some colour images relatively quickly.

Sorry for the ramble and it is just from a complete novice so it is only my opinion and thoughts not necessarily what it is like for everyone.

Hopefully for you OSC is the right choice and those images certainly looks that way 🙂 

Steve

Not a ramble at all - I was really leaning toward Mono. Ultimately, OSC just suited my ability and expectations. As you say it is nice to have a recognisable image at the end of the night. They are not award winners by any means but if you look at my very first images compared to the newer ones it like I've hired Hubble 😂

I am planning to upgrade my mount in 2020 and once that is up and running I would most probably look to include a mono cam and filters. I think to jump straight into that would have been a bridge too far for me.

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21 hours ago, fwm891 said:

Great start with your 294MC Pro. I too have one and only recently so I'm learning too. One thing I will say when your processing with PI and 'Image Calibration' - uncheck the master dark: calibration and optimization boxes as they will cause headaches with amp glow showing through. Been there, got the Tee shirt!

The 294 does respond well to short sub lengths (lots of them) and as you say the cooling and dark libraries help immensely when processing.

I've previously imaged with a mono camera and filters - not tried the 294 with narrowband pass filters yet.

Cheers Frances - I have read your threads on the 294! A main reason I went for the 294 was that at the time I was imaging unguided at 60s subs - the 294 seemed to perform well at this, with tracking I wouldn't push much past 180. I am used to stacking hundreds of subs (I recently discovered the Blink function in PI - AMAZING).

My dark library is ok, my flats and dark flats are useless, I suspect when I get good flats a re-run of the data will come out nicer. We have poor weather this week so I wanted to spend time on calibration data, I just need the kids to give me a free evening 😃

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32 minutes ago, AstroKane said:

I have read that the 294 struggles when it is cooled right the way down  - uneven cooling against the sensor. I have so far only brought it down to 0 so cannot comment. I plan to run my winter images at -15 at most. I have also read that pushing exposure time too long can again bring up issues. That isn't a problem for me as I have so far primarily imaged unguided at 60's but only plan to run guided images at 180  - I am using an AVX.

I am running 240secs but could go longer with the sky around me. I have had very bad focus issues since I went to below zero which I don't believe is me. OK anyone can make a mistake but when so intent on good work as I was the other night, I find it very hard to believe I made the same bad focus 6-7 times in a 2 hour period. The image I posted above was taken at ambient temperature, so about 15-16c that night and in my books it looks decent, considering I paid no attention to it, it was a test.

Alan

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33 minutes ago, AstroKane said:

Not a ramble at all - I was really leaning toward Mono. Ultimately, OSC just suited my ability and expectations. As you say it is nice to have a recognisable image at the end of the night. They are not award winners by any means but if you look at my very first images compared to the newer ones it like I've hired Hubble 😂

I am planning to upgrade my mount in 2020 and once that is up and running I would most probably look to include a mono cam and filters. I think to jump straight into that would have been a bridge too far for me.

I think a sensible route and logical progression. As I said I think I should have also gone this route. It need not be any more expensive really as you can sell your OSC on if need be loosing little money in the process although I would think often you will be tempted to keep it for those quick grab sessions where it looks like clowds are lurking just around the corner 🙂 

Steve

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