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astromole

Alternative to Philips SPC900NC

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Given the relative scarcity of the Philips 900NC webcam, and the often ludicrous prices paid on ebay for the ones that do bubble to the surface, I was wondering if there was an acceptable alternative. I would like to have a go at lunar and planetary imaging, but don't want to remortgage the house. Does anyone have any suggestions please?

Frank

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There are plenty of alternatives. Try:

Logitech QuickCam Pro 3000

Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000

Creative NX Ultra

Creative Live Ultra

3Com Home Connect

... and many others, not the least of which are some of the Philips ToUcam range, the Vesta range, and so on. If the only reason you want the cam is for planetary then the above are all ccd-based and may be a little OTT for your needs (see below). If you want to later modify the camera for long exposure then you will have to be a little more selective as the Sharp ccd tends to be a little more noisey than the Sony.

It should be pointed out here that one of the main reasons for the desirability of the ccd-based cameras is because they are more succeptible to the LE mod (a cmos chip will usually white-out from valid signal and noise together in maybe four seconds - not particularly long for DSO work!). For purely planetary it is nice to be able to over-ride auto settings, to get a decent frame rate, to get a decent noise-free image, and be able to save the avi in a sensible format... no reason why a cmos-based camera cannot do this. Especially the more recent range of cameras - and by recent I mean the last couple of years. I would say that if you can control it, and get an adapter or make one for it, then give it a go. You *will* be surprised. It may be that the colour balance is not what you expect given that webcams tend not to be set up for outside use but hey - convert to BW and you're good to go! And besides, if you can over-ride the auto settings then adjusting hue/saturation should be no problem.

Arthur

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I'm also thinking about getting one of these webcams, i managed to pick up a toucam fun 2 (only manages about 300px square, and focussing is impossible), how do i go about fitting the eyepiece adaptor to the camera, i know with the philips ones you can just screw out the lens and screw in the new adaptor. Is the process the same, and might i get away with using the same adaptor?

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The process will be the same, although some cmos cameras will have a larger thread for the lens - I have seen up to 20mm where the cameras above are only 12mm.

Arthur

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Thanks Arthur for a very helpful post. I'll definitely be dipping my toes in the imaging pond and am glad there is a range of suitable webcams

Frank

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I was under the impression that Celestron's Neximage uses the same chip as the toucams? You can certainly use it in RAW mode, if not for long exposures. I have one as it happens.

If DSO's are the preffered target though, I'd recommend a used 350D as a good option. They come cheap enough and can be modded, and produce great shots.

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Yes, the Neximage does use the 098 sensor, but webcams with the same chip tend to be cheaper. It costs a lot of money to print "Celestron" on a camera case it would appear...

Arthur

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... so from the above, let me try and add a little ccd info.

Logitech QuickCam Pro 3000 - ICX098AK

Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000 - ICX098AK, ICX098BQ, LZ24BP, etc.

Creative NX Ultra - ICX098 (either AK or BQ)

Creative Live Ultra - ICX098 (either AK or BQ)

3Com Home Connect - LZ24BP

Philips ToUcams

PCVC-740K (Pro) - ICX098BQ

PCVC-750K (Pro 3D) - ICX098BQ

PCVC-840K (Pro II) - ICX098BQ

SPC900NC - ICX098BQ

NexImage - ICX098BQ

As mentioned, the Sharp (LZn) will be slightly noisier than the Sony (ICXn) sensors, this is more likely to show up in a long exposure frame than in planetary images, and the longer the exposure the more the noise. It is not a whole lot of noise but is noticeable alongside a Sony-equipped camera image of the same exposure.

The list is not exhaustive, just indicative.

Arthur

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Maybe I need to drop this all into one post...

There are plenty of alternatives to the SPC900NC (what do you think we used five or six years ago?). Try:

Logitech QuickCam Pro 3000

Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000

Creative NX Ultra

Creative Live Ultra

3Com Home Connect

... and many others, not the least of which are some of the Philips ToUcam range, the Vesta range, and so on. If the only reason you want the cam is for planetary then the above are all ccd-based and may be a little OTT for your needs (see below). If you want to later modify the camera for long exposure then you will have to be a little more selective as the Sharp ccd tends to be a little more noisey than the Sony.

It should be pointed out here that one of the main reasons for the desirability of the ccd-based cameras is because they are more succeptible to the LE mod (a cmos chip will usually white-out from valid signal and noise together in maybe four seconds - not particularly long for DSO work!). For purely planetary it is nice to be able to over-ride auto settings, to get a decent frame rate, to get a decent noise-free image, and be able to save the avi in a sensible format... no reason why a cmos-based camera cannot do this. Especially the more recent range of cameras - and by recent I mean the last couple of years. I would say that if you can control it, and get an adapter or make one for it, then give it a go. You *will* be surprised. It may be that the colour balance is not what you expect given that webcams tend not to be set up for outside use but hey - convert to BW and you're good to go! And besides, if you can over-ride the auto settings then adjusting hue/saturation should be no problem.

1.25" adapters will generally be M12x0.5mm - of the type freely available though check that the threaded part of the adapter will be long enough to fit your chosen webcam - some will be sitting deeper into the camera body than others. Try to make sure your adapter is threaded for filters since many webcams have the IR filter built into the lens and you will of course be removing this lens to fit your adapter. It is the IR cut filter that gives you proper colour balance and without it your colour images will be decidedly odd. Some CMOS-based cameras will needa different adapter - larger than M12 - simply because CMOS sensors are generally larger than CCD sensors... not because they have more pixels (though some do) but because CMOS chips are physically larger than CCD due to the extra electronics built into the chip.

Now on to which chips are in which webcams, (looking here at CCD-based cameras only), bear in mind that Sony CCD's tend to have less noise than the Sharp CCDs. Sony are prefixed ICX... while (here at least) the Sharp chips are LZ...

Logitech QuickCam Pro 3000 - ICX098AK

Logitech QuickCam Pro 4000 - ICX098AK, ICX098BQ, LZ24BP, etc.

Creative NX Ultra - ICX098 (either AK or BQ)

Creative Live Ultra - ICX098 (either AK or BQ)

3Com Home Connect - LZ24BP

Philips ToUcams

PCVC-740K (Pro) - ICX098BQ

PCVC-750K (Pro 3D) - ICX098BQ

PCVC-840K (Pro II) - ICX098BQ

SPC900NC - ICX098BQ

NexImage - ICX098BQ

As mentioned, the Sharp (LZn) will be slightly noisier than the Sony (ICXn) sensors, this is more likely to show up in a long exposure frame than in planetary images, and the longer the exposure the more the noise. It is not a whole lot of noise but is noticeable alongside a Sony-equipped camera image of the same exposure.

The list is not exhaustive, just indicative.

Finally - just how can you tell the difference between a Sony CCD and a Sharp CCD when the identification details are all on the bottom of the chip... facing the PCB? Well, sony chips look like there's a bit missing... sort of "toothless" shall we say? Best thing here is a picture - so here's a thousand words for you - on the left, ICX098AK, on the right, Sharp LZ24BP:

Chips.jpg

So that's about it really. There are many webcams out there, plenty with CCDs inside them now you know what to look for, and pretty much any that allow some control of the setting will to some extent be usable in a telescope. You may have to forego colour but that's a small price to pay for an imaging device you can get from Ebay for less than a couple of pounds.

Arthur

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Pleeeease tell me I've not just spent £15 on the wrong thing. I just received a Logitech Quickcam Pro 3000 and it looks like this.

The insides are nothing like any of the images from the SC1 mod websites. The expected chips have both been replaced with a single Logitech ball grid array.

post-17592-133877406898_thumb.jpg

post-17592-133877406899_thumb.jpg

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Well, sorry to have to tell you but that is not a pro, despite what the ad may have said. You will not be able to LE mod that camera I am afraid. This one is the 3000 Pro:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Logitech-QuickCam-Pro-3000_W0QQitemZ180423993966QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_Computing_ComputerComponents_Webcams?hash=item2a021baa6e

The price should have warned you but that's no excuse the for seller calling it a 3000 Pro when it isn't. I suspect they see the Pro models selling well and try to tag along.

Arthur

PS - try this one:

http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/Phillips-Grey-And-Maroon-Web-Cam_W0QQitemZ180421375974QQcmdZViewItemQQptZUK_Computing_ComputerComponents_Webcams?hash=item2a01f3b7e6

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Yep, ordered Logitech Quickcam PRO 3000 from a South American river and received Logitech Quickcam 3000 for business!!!!!

Order and invoice don't match up so it's going back.

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I'm interested in getting web camera for telescope fitting and one guy told me to look on this specific Philips model. As this camera is pretty old model, maybe there are some newer alternatives, up to 50$, just for testing before thinking about something better.

For example, I would like use it for demonstrating stars and planets for live view, so many people could see on computer screen, what is in telescope. Maybe, if possible, catch some perseid meteor shower fireballs, or create some long expo photos. So just for basic usage.

PS: I have tools and equipment, to make almost any camera fit in any telescope ocular spot. And sorry for my english language, trying my best.

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I'm interested in getting web camera for telescope fitting and one guy told me to look on this specific Philips model. As this camera is pretty old model, maybe there are some newer alternatives, up to 50$, just for testing before thinking about something better.

For example, I would like use it for demonstrating stars and planets for live view, so many people could see on computer screen, what is in telescope. Maybe, if possible, catch some perseid meteor shower fireballs, or create some long expo photos. So just for basic usage.

PS: I have tools and equipment, to make almost any camera fit in any telescope ocular spot. And sorry for my english language, trying my best.

There's a Logitech Pro 9000 on offer at the moment for £29.99

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just buy an spc880 and mod it yourself,it can be flashed into an spc900 in seconds using wcrmac and wcctrl....then get it modded for long exposure,i bought one from morgan computers for £14 and am now happily doing deep space imaging

https://www.morgancomputers.co.uk/product_detail/11781/Philips-Pre-flashed-SPC880-CCD-webcam-bundle/ if the bundle isnt available go for this 1 https://www.morgancomputers.co.uk/product_detail/10496/Philips-SPC880-webcam-Not-pre-flashed/

Edited by BertUK

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Got a toucam on ebay for 99p a few months ago. The seller got the spelling wrong and I was the only bidder. P&P was more expensive! Keep looking. Compared it to my Neximage results and nothing in it!

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I've been looking up all webcams listed above with a Sony chip. I'll be damned if I could find one for purchase in the UK in 2012! :) An Ebay is crazy expensive.

Can someone with up to date knowledge of the above suggest a webcam with:

1. A Sony CCD chip (lower noise)

2. That can be modded for long exposure

3. That fits an adapter to be attached to the telescope (I'm a horrible DIY guy).

Thanks!

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I've pretty much given up on buying cheap webcams and then finding out that they are useless (I still have a couple of 'Asda-cams' in my case). I'm not about to blow £1000 on a camera just yet (I only have a 200P), but I thought I'd go for something designed for the job.

I've been looking at these for planetary:

CMOS - http://www.opticstar.com/Run/Astronomy/Astro-Imagers-Opticstar.asp?p=0_10_0_50_87

CCD - http://www.opticstar.com/Run/Astronomy/Astro-Imagers-Opticstar.asp?p=0_10_0_50_101

Both are the same price (£149) yet the CMOS seems to be better specced and is suitable for guiding; I plan to ST4 mod at some point and one camera to do both jobs would be ideal.

My question is, is a CCD likely to be that much better still, given that the whole SPC900/Toucam thing was a few years back now?

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My question is, is a CCD likely to be that much better still, given that the whole SPC900/Toucam thing was a few years back now?

I'm not an expert, but since the good astro-photography professional cameras are CCD, I'm assuming a webcam with a CCD is a better option. :)

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