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rwg

SharpCap - free Astro Webcam Capture Software

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Has anyone had problems with SharpCap2 with "Windows 8.1 Update" 64 bit? I'm sure it worked before M$ pushed the "Update"

I first tried 2.1.915 and it hangs as soon as it loads. I have severals cameras  - the builtin webcab, a few other webcams, SSAG, Atik, and ASI120MM (using either ASCOM or the ZWO drivers) but I can't even open the "Cameras" menu.

I've also tried 2.1.932 and it behaves the same.

The ASI120MM does work with other capture programs like the one ZWO supplies with it.

It might also be relevent that "Update" seems to have broken PHD2.

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Haven't seen any problems with SharpCap and Win 8.1 update (although the update does seem to break some other things like VMWare virtual networking)

Two quick suggestions for you...

1. Hold down the SHIFT key while starting SharpCap - this will cause the application log window to show during the startup, which might give some information about what is getting stuck - if you can, please send the log text to me by PM.

2. Hold down the CONTROL key while starting SharpCap - this stops SharpCap trying to open the most recently used camera automatically at Startup - mind you, it should only do this if it has shut down cleanly the previous time it was run, so really ought not be the issue.

Let me know if either of these help.

cheers,

Robin

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Hi all,

Firstly, I love Sharpcap so a massive thanks for continuing to update it :) Im after a bit of help. I finally got round to upgrading to V2.1 the other day and had my first chance to try it out with my QHY5 last night after reading it is now better supported. Firstly I get 2 options when connecting to the camera either "QHY5" or "CMOS QHY5" One gives me lots of options to tweak similar to when using my SPC900 and this is the one I was using but I could not get the exposure down enough. I had Jupiter on the screen but I could only achieve a white ball or a very bright ball with visible moons. I wondering if this is something im doing wrong because apart from this it all seemed to work so well. Gratefull for any help you can give :)

Edited by Nova

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Robin, single clicking the icon, holding Control and pressing Enter lets it start without hanging. Control-doubleclick doesn't start the program.

I did a repair of ASCOM 6.1 and now that is working for the ASI120MM, however when I try to exit it hangs.

Are you able supposed to be able to switch between any two cameras without restarting with the Control key? Once I've selected an ASCOM camera I have to kill Sharpcap2 with task manager to switch, but non-ASCOM ones seem to work.

Now I've got this far do you want the log if from using the shift key if it hangs at startup?

Andrew

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Hi Folks:

I was imaging Saturn last night and fiddling with the focus with the Sharpcap Bahtinov Mask on and found that it is a greatnew  tool.....not sure if I'm using it right though(?)  Would a zoomed image be better for using this?

Thank you

Roger

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Robin, single clicking the icon, holding Control and pressing Enter lets it start without hanging. Control-doubleclick doesn't start the program.

I did a repair of ASCOM 6.1 and now that is working for the ASI120MM, however when I try to exit it hangs.

Are you able supposed to be able to switch between any two cameras without restarting with the Control key? Once I've selected an ASCOM camera I have to kill Sharpcap2 with task manager to switch, but non-ASCOM ones seem to work.

Now I've got this far do you want the log if from using the shift key if it hangs at startup?

Andrew

Hi Andrew,

first off, I'd recommend not using the ASCOM camera option for accessing any camera except as a last resort (ie if that's the only way SharpCap will let you access the camera). Accessing a camera via ASCOM usually gives you only a very limited subset of the camera capabilities to adjust and typically leads to slow frame rates and large output files.

Basically the best options are usually at the top of the cameras menu in Sharpcap, with less functional options further down the list. So if you have an ASI120MM installed it could appear 3 times - once at the top under 'ASI Cameras', once under 'DirectShow Cameras' and once under 'ASCOM Cameras' - picking the top options means that you are accessing the camera via the ZWO sdk, which usually gives the best results (options like 12/16 bit mode available, raw mode, temperature readout, fine exposure control, etc).

Usually, you should be able to switch between cameras in SharpCap by just picking a different one, but it gets a bit interesting where there are multiple ways to access the same camera. What happens is that each of the ways might depend on a DLL file with the same name (say ASICamera.dll) - the trouble is that there might be 3 different versions on the PC - one installed by SharpCap, one installed by the ASCOM driver and one installed by the DirectShow/WDM driver. Windows only allows you to load one copy of that code into the SharpCap.exe process, and the first one loaded is the one you get. If all 3 versions are slightly different then you can easily get a crash when trying to switch between 2 different ways of accessing the same camera. ZWO have fixed this issue for their latest SDK release, which is in the latest build of SharpCap, but it may still be a problem for the ASCOM camera.

cheers,

Robin

Edited by rwg

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Hi all,

Firstly, I love Sharpcap so a massive thanks for continuing to update it :) Im after a bit of help. I finally got round to upgrading to V2.1 the other day and had my first chance to try it out with my QHY5 last night after reading it is now better supported. Firstly I get 2 options when connecting to the camera either "QHY5" or "CMOS QHY5" One gives me lots of options to tweak similar to when using my SPC900 and this is the one I was using but I could not get the exposure down enough. I had Jupiter on the screen but I could only achieve a white ball or a very bright ball with visible moons. I wondering if this is something im doing wrong because apart from this it all seemed to work so well. Gratefull for any help you can give :)

Hi Nova,

see my reply to M1thr4nd1r - basically pick the camera option nearest the top of the list to get best results.

cheers,

Robin

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Hi Folks:

I was imaging Saturn last night and fiddling with the focus with the Sharpcap Bahtinov Mask on and found that it is a greatnew  tool.....not sure if I'm using it right though(?)  Would a zoomed image be better for using this?

Thank you

Roger

From the point of the code in SharpCap that detects the lines, it shouldn't make any difference if you zoomed the image or not. Might be nice for viewing the process for the end user though I guess.

cheers,

Robin

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Hi Nova,

see my reply to M1thr4nd1r - basically pick the camera option nearest the top of the list to get best results.

cheers,

Robin

Thanks Robin. This is the option I chose. Just seemed to btight even with the settings right down. Something that I have thought though. The QHY5 is a mono camera and I know colour was set to 255 and the saturation was up a bit. I didnt event think to turn these off/down being so used to using an SPC900. Could this of been the cause?

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Guys,

I tried for a couple of nights to get an image with my ASI120MC using Sharpcap and failed.


I need some advice from all of you. First of all, the camera captured images from Earth objects as you can see here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=stcy4q2qIZs


So it is confirmed to be working. I was able to capture a window at night from a building (using 0,14 exposure in a Maksutov 90mm), but no matter how hard I tried no image was formed from stars.


I wasn't able to test the camera with the Moon or some specific planets yet. Perhaps that was the problem, but I also tried with Saturn (which is not very bright), and the sky here is usually cloudy, plus there's light pollution... I get it.


But here's the thing...  unless I had very bad luck, there's something I don't understand about Sharpcap, Firecapture, etc.


If you adjust the focus from the telescope (and in this case I tried removing the diagonal (90) and it worked with the cammera attached in the optical tube) the image will be formed. Right. I also mixed some settings and exposure as I said was around 0,14.


However (and this is where everything fails) I have no idea what kinds of settings should be used, for example, to show the image from a star. Or any planet. The Moon I was told to use between 0,12 and 0,20ms.


The same about gain, gamma, etc.


Let's assume for a moment I need to use 0.45ms, gain 10, etc. for capturing Mars. And a 800x600 resolution.


Just need to point the telescope to that object in the sky, right?


I don't think it is working that way. I may be wrong, but the focus needs to be adjusted again, depending on the object. That was my impression. I didn't think that was necessary and a unique adjustment would fit for any object in the night sky.


If this is necessary, how can you do such a thing when the planet itself is moving so fast from the field of view of ASI that when you stop trying to guess which settings to use in Sharpcap or to adjust the focus, it won't be any good?


This is it. Maybe I got all wrong, but one thing got me really frustrated. The fact no adjustment is needed during the day, only at night. And it didn't work.


I sold this telescope and my next one is going to be a dobsonian with an aperture of 254mm. Are there any tutorials, links, whatever, with recommended settings for different objects that I should follow?


I was really hoping to capture anything with this camera. The problem is I wanted to be a capture that would record random things in the sky for a prolonged time, say, minutes. It could be from a planet I pointed, then from a star when the telescope is moved again... It doesn't work like that, does it?

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Hi Perene,

you've hit the steepest part of the Astrophotography learning curve - the 'I'm getting black images and I don't know if my focus is wrong or my telescope is pointing in the wrong direction or both' stage.

If you had the focus sorted you'd have a chance of finding objects and if you were sure you were pointing correctly you could sort the focus out, but how to get started when *both* are in doubt?

For this I usually pick the brightest object I can find (the moon is best, otherwise a bright star or planet). Get the telescope pointing in roughly the right place. Go for as short a focal length as possible (no barlow, etc) and as big a camera sensor as you have. Turn up the camera gain high, turn the exposure up to maybe 1s or so (we want to see dim, out of focus stars, but also want the update to be fairly quick). Pick the 'image boost' function in the SharpCap toolbar which will boost faint items. 

Work through the focus range fairly slowly watching the display - hopefully you will see your bright object appear at first out of focus, then be able to bring it in to focus. If it is a bit out-of-view then you will often see the unfocused image on the edge of the image, so can move it into view. This is all a lot easier with a goto/tracking mount, since at least the object will stay in view.

Other tricks are...

To get the telescope pointing at the object correctly, remove the camera and put an eyepiece in instead - center the object exactly in the eyepiece, then replace the camera.

To get the focus roughly right, remove the camera and hold a piece of paper behind the telescope eyepiece holder - if the object is anywhere in view and is bright enough you should be able to see a projected image as you move the paper forward/back. Once you have this, adjust the focus so that you get focus roughly at the distance that the camera sensor will be.

Above all, don't give up - once you have either the focus or the pointing correct the other should come fairly easily and then you will be up and running.

cheers,

Robin

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rwg, to be honest what I was trying to achieve with this (or any other camera/software) was to record images from the sky from DSOs or closer objects but at the same time didn't need to keep adjusting the telescope or software to concentrate all efforts in a single object.


Allow me to explain:


If I wanted to capture the Moon, that would be "easy". I would need to adjust a few things and after little time it would be captured.


But what if you point the camera/telescope to the Moon and let the recording continuously/for some time hoping another object can be detected by it? That means you don't care only about the Moon or the object you were able to find and record, but to record anything else including the Moon that happens to be in your field of view.


I was told this is impossible to do with any setting or camera.


For example, if the camera is pointed to a specific location from the night sky and it's forming a picture from the Moon, if Jupiter appears next the camera will not see anything because it's out of focus, you need to adjust the settings again...


But that's exactly what I was hoping to avoid because it defeats this very idea. I thought everything would work like a surveillance camera. 


For example, I might point a camera (even the ASI) to a top of a building and you may see birds flying in front of your camera.


If I let this recording go for, say, 2 hours, you might even see things you don't expect happening there. The camera could even move and record more things (not only a fixed spot from the building) and with no need to adjust anything.


I try to explain this idea but people never understand it. It would be like fishing.


And that was exactly what got me frustrated about this whole endeavour. The object is moving, I am not tracking it, I have adjusted the focus, the object is quickly gone, but the camera can't just keep recording and if anything else is in the sky it will not be captured at all.


Is that how it works? Am I missing something?

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This is true for much closer objects and much much closer objects.

But anything in the sky is basically focussed at infinity, be it the moon or another galaxy. There should be no need to change focus between different objects in the sky.

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Even if there's no need to keep re-adjusting the focus perhaps there's a need to adjust things like exposure, gain, etc. for each object. This prevents what I was trying to accomplish.

It was hard to show any image in the preview (not only from Sharpcap, but Firecapture too) from an illuminated building at night (maybe the telescope with its low aperture is responsible, maybe not).

I don't see how I could capture more than a single object in a short interval with that difficulty. And I don't see anyone doing what I suggested. All I see are captures from anything you can think of, not any recorded video that can show an object and minutes or seconds later, another, with the same level of detail.

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This is true for much closer objects and much much closer objects.

But anything in the sky is basically focussed at infinity, be it the moon or another galaxy. There should be no need to change focus between different objects in the sky.

As Chris say's there should be no need to change focus, however, you may well need to change exposure length and/or gain between different objects... deep space objects are very much less bright than terrestial objects... other than the moon... even large planets like Jupiter may need such changes made... compared to the moon.

Best regards.

Sandy. :grin:

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You need to adjust exposure settings for the object you're imaging. The security camera you refer to probably does that automatically just like a point-and-shoot camera does. In fact, any camera needs to do that, either automatically or manually.

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This is what I am facing here:

1) Point to an object manually. After seconds it will move from your field of view, so I need to point again. With the ASI120MC (or the Wide Angle 6mm) this is lot more problematic;

2) Guess which settings I need to insert in Sharpcap to form an image;

3) Guess if the focus is OK.

Assuming 2) and 3) are OK, the image is still not being displayed in the preview.

I was expecting an instant preview from anything the telescope was pointing at.

I was only able to capture a building close to mine, around 7 or 8 P.M. And that was because the light in that object was way too obvious.

This one used:
Frame Divisor=1
Resolution=640x480 (Bin 2x2)
Frame Rate (fps)=+Infinito
Colour Space=RGB24
Pan=0
Tilt=0
Exposure (s)=0,14
Brightness=0
Gamma=50
WhiteBalance=5000
Gain=51
Frame Divisor=1
Resolution=640x480 (Bin 2x2)
Frame Rate (fps)=+Infinito
Colour Space=RGB24
Pan=0
Tilt=0
Exposure (s)=0,016
Brightness=10
Gamma=51
WhiteBalance=5000
Gain=80
However, even in this case it was not generated an image right away. I believe there's some sort of delay when you are changing the settings. Anyway, you need to guess which settings are good to capture Saturn, for example.
I am inclined to believe this telescope and the seeing conditions are so bad that I can't see anything. I know we need to track objects, use an equatorial mount...
I got really frustrated that no image could be seen in the preview no matter which software I used. Perhaps stars cannot be seen using this camera or Saturn was way too bad and I should have tried the Moon, another planet with a better light, the sky needed to be superb, etc.
But how does the preview from Sharpcap or even Firecapture work? Is this going to show you in real time anything or not? Even if the object was moving away from my field of view and I could only capture for seconds, I could still quickly hit START CAPTURE.

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These are all problems we all have when we get started in astro photography. You just have to experiment with the settings and see what works best with your setup.

Try with the moon next. It is very bright and you should see some light even when it's not focussed.

What telescope are you using? It might be possible that you don't have enough inward or outward travel on your focuser to focus this camera to infinity. That would explain why you can see objects on the ground (much closer) but not in the sky (infinity).

A quick google image search shows what is possible with this camera. So keep trying ;)

https://www.google.co.uk/search?newwindow=1&safe=off&hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1920&bih=969&q=ASI120MC&oq=ASI120MC&gs_l=img.12..0l2j0i5j0i24l7.6564.25765.0.27078.2.2.0.0.0.0.133.207.1j1.2.0....0...1ac.1.44.img..0.2.203.qQ0WUYb3rnU

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I used a Maksutov 90mm, it has a focal lenght of a 1250mm focal length (f/13.8), plus I had the diagonal (90) removed and the camera inserted in its place.

I noticed (at least for Earth objects) it doesn't make any difference to insert this camera with or without the diagonal. Maybe that affected the capture, too?
I sold the telescope before could test on the Moon... which was not visible at the time. Plus we always have bad weather, always have clouds even if it's not raining.

I heard the ASI120MC is not suitable for DSOs, perhaps that also explains why Saturn could not be seen right away and a more expensive camera (for example: QHY12) needs to be used when capturing stars and fainter objects?
About the exposure, I didn't try with more than 1 second, in fact I used most of the time 0,12, 0,20, 0,40, 0,60 and lowered the gain...
That's why I told you the exact values need to be known for a specific object prior to try anything, since the object will vanish from the field of view with no tracking. And Sharpcap/others need to show instantly what could be captured in the preview so I could hit START CAPTURE (unless this delay is the software generating the image later for you). I adjusted the focus for the videos above but when I tried pointing the telescope to any star or Saturn, no luck seeing anything.

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Trying to capture a small fast moving object on a small field of view on a small ccd chip on an unguided mount sounds a bit masochistic to me, the sort of thing that could put you off astro imaging for life.

It's hard enough finding things in bino's with a large FOV.

Dave

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put you off astro imaging for life.

That already happened. Here's why:

- When you are fishing you don't know which fish will be catched by the hook. You might miss a big one, but after a while you will catch a fish.

You know that, right?

What you don't know is that in the next 5 minutes you will be catching a big fish.

Now assume for a moment the hook is the camera (ASI).

What you are saying is that I should use a hook that detects an specific fish is inside the water and follows it until it is caught.

Right, I can understand that... and prior to do anything you already know how to configure the hook. You even know what fish will be caught.

But what if... you were just fishing? And hoping to catch a fish you never saw it coming?

That means you don't need a hook that follows a fish. Even if you missed one, another will be right there for you to catch it.

To put it simple:

The ASI120MC or any other camera cannot be turned on, point to a random location in the sky, pass by a planet (or even miss it), after a while (because everything is moving) another object in the same night sky takes its place... and capture it anyway (I tried exactly this and only received a black screen from Sharpcap).

You need to adjust the settings for each object. You need to follow each object, use an equatorial mount... I get it.

Forget about following a specific object and pretend you want to discover an unknown object in the sky.

If it is unknown you cannot know is there. Right?

"But if you don't know it's there how can you capture anything?"

That COULD HAPPEN (pay attention now, this is very important) if the camera was recording continuously any objects it could encounter. And forming a correct image. Showing the results in real time in the preview.

I understood the concept of tracking an object. For example, if I wanted to capture Mars, I would use the configuration you are suggesting. And point to Mars.

But what I wanted was to "probe" the sky and record a video.

Perhaps another camera can be more suitable for me?

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People that discover things such as comets generally scan the sky with large bin's, they also have an in depth knowledge of the sky and know instinctively if something looks different. Or they use computerised searches to compare images, if you don't know whats up there how will you know i'ts new ? 

I still think you had the focusing wrong, pity you couldn't use the Moon as it really is the best thing to start with as even out of frame and well out of focus you can home in on it. You also need a finder scope aligned with the main scope.

I have a Minitron video camera but I can't sweep around the sky and watch it on screen, I only get a picture if I stop moving or at least move very slowly.  

If you decide to have another go buy a wide field refractor and an EQ mount even if it's only hand driven, best to learn to walk before you run.

Dave

Edited by Davey-T

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Once you have the focus sorted, you will see things with the ASI120MM/MC, provided you get the right exposure for the object.

A comet or faint star at the edge of naked eye visibility (magnitude 6) is 100 times fainter than a first magnitide star. That first magnitude star is 100 times fainter than Venus at its brightest. Venus is 10000 times fainter than the full moon (although most of that is due to the moon being bigger). Even forgetting the moon, we are looking at a factor of 10000 change in brightness between an edge-of-visibility star and Venus - that's an exposure change from 1ms to 10s.

This explains why what you are trying to do isn't working well - and it doesn't really matter what camera you have - if you want to see faint stars you will need an exposure in the seconds or 10s of seconds. When you hit on a bright star or a planet that exposure needs to drop down to milliseconds (or a few 10s of milliseconds) to keep the object from being washed out. It's hard to get focus, pointing, exposure and all the other requirements for Astrophotography right at the same time - to be honest, the fact that it *is* hard to do is probably why most of us here want to do it.

cheers,

Robin

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I tried multiple times to point the telescope only using the red dot finder right above the object. From what I could see, seconds later the object would appear in the field of view and before I keep pointing the telescope multiple times and only getting a black screen I need to figure out what are the correct values for exposure, gain, gamma, etc.

Let's assume I already inserted the correct values for Saturn. Then you are saying (correct me if I am wrong) when the telescope (even if it's not tracking at all and there's no equatorial mount) will send a "signal" to Sharpcap, Firecapture, etc. and in the instant preview you will see Saturn (or whatever object you are pointing) and will be able to hit START CAPTURE even if the recording lasts 5 seconds.

If you are saying this then I believe I inserted the incorrect values. I didn't try several seconds for fear my PC would freeze. My first impression was that it was either not working or there was some delay instead of an instant preview. I was puzzled by the fact I only got an image from the nearest building.

I was going to purchase a collapsible dobsonian with an aperture of at least 203 or 254 (1200 focal length) in the hope that, even if I didn't buy the GO-TO model or use an equatorial mount, by using the red-dot finder and pointing to the right place Sharpcap/others would give me an instant preview from the object.

But I have to admit, without knowing the correct data to insert in the software for each object it is going to be pointless to keep adjusting manually the telescope even with the help from the red-dot finder. I was very [removed word] to not find the correct settings for each object and for my telescope model (Maksutov 90).

I realize there's a need to track an object, but would any capture be possible (forget about the Moon or Earth objects) this way?

And about the focus, if it is seeing the Moon properly, then when I point to any other object, whether is a star or another planet, there would be no need to re-adjust the focus, right? At least when using the telescope itself you don't need to do it.

Please don't say there is...

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Agreed once focused on the Moon then Jupiter etc should be in focus, however exposure times will be different, theoretically if you can get Jupiter to drift across the view with the scope stationary and video it, you may be able to stack the resulting frames.

You would probably be better of with a perfectly aligned finder scope to ensure you're looking in the right spot.

Can't be much help with Sharpcap etc as I've never used them. I video Planeta with a DSLR  at around 60 frames a second.

Dave

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