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BEST Planetary Imaging Camera?

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#1 Mike Selz

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 10:33 PM

Hey guys..what's the best planetary imaging camera out there...in terms of resolution..sensitivity and whatknot. I just got a Toucam SPC900NC about a month ago...have taken some venus, saturn, jupitar, moon images..but I see guys taking images using Imaging Source DBK/DMK cameras and the resolution just blows me away, even though Im using a Nexstar 11. Maybe i just need to play with my webcam more and stack more frames and use photoshop a little more to get it just right...ill keep trying though..

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#2 WayneJ

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Posted 09 July 2010 - 10:58 PM

There's no "best" camera out there, but a good case can be made for the Flea3 from Point Grey research. It's $595 (but add on another $150 for their kit that includes a firewire interface card, cables, shipping, etc.)

The Flea3 has higher sensitivity than the DMK21 in longer wavelengths and is capable of higher framerates (80fps full-frame vs. 60 for the DMK). It's also a 12-bit camera, so it captures 12-bits of color/grayscale for each pixel, whereas the DMK only captures 8.

Also, the Flea3 uses something called "format 7" that allows you complete flexibility on framerate. The DMK only allows you to select from among 60, 30, 15 (and a few lower, I think) framerates. This can be very helpful, since you may not have enough signal for 60 fps, but much more than you need for 30.

Still, the DMK's are only $395+shipping, come with good software, and will produce very nice images. They also give you the option of a USB2.0 bus, instead of Firewire. If you're a mac user, it's no big deal, but for Windows users, Firewire is not supported as well and can be problematic -- also, the best software available for the Flea3 under Windows needs a fast (dual-core and fast hard drive) laptop to get maximum framerates.

You can't go wrong with a DMK, but if you want the "best", I think it's the Flea3. The other contender would be the Lumenera Skynyx 2.0m. I have that and the Flea3 and the Flea3 is superior, in my opinion (my skynyx is now a guidecam and the flea3 is taking the pictures). The skynyx is an excellent camera in every respect, but it's $1000 plus another $100 for the best capture software for it (it's from a third-party, as no capture software is supplied with the Lumenera, unlike the DMK that has very good software bundled with it).

This is not meant to be a definitive answer by any means. But I hope it helps.

regards,

Wayne

#3 Mike Selz

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 12:17 AM

This is extremely helpful..thanks wayne! It seems to be the general consensus based on what ive seen that the Imaging Source DMK's are the way to go...there seems to be a pretty good used market for them as well on here and astromart.

Question though..on the Imaging Source website..there are soooo many different cameras..and prices...is Mono significantly better than color? Do you necessarily need a color filter wheel or can u just use standard red/green/blue filters? What is the ideal Imaging Source camera? (for USB cable preference)...the DMK21?
thanks :)

#4 solshaker

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 09:48 AM

great post Wayne.

Mike, i would give the 900 a little more time. with an 11" scope you should get some great resolution and the 900 should put up some nice shots. jupiter season is in full swing and imo is much easier to cut your imaging teeth on than saturn or mars. when you learn the ins and outs of processing and can push that little cam to the max you will be much better prepared to make the next step up to an IS or flea. of course it is fun to just jump right in to the challenges sometimes.

im not sure what the best is in terms of the IS cameras, but mono with the different filters is a better way to capture. all the top dogs use them with great results.

#5 Sunspot

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 10:35 AM

I'm tending to agree with solshaker here. Some truly awesome images have been shot with the Toucam (the 900's granddaddy). With a C11 and amplification you can get some really nice images and can hone your processing skills so when you do move to the next camera, the learning curve won't be very steep.

Paul

#6 PiotrM

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 10:41 AM

More advanced camera helps in getting better results if you don't have perfect seeing. With mono DMK21 you can easily do L channels in IR which improves the image if standard color RGB isn't nice and sharp. New ICX618 cameras - Basler and PGR Flea 3 help even more as with higher sensitivity you can use even shorter exposures and freeze the seeing even more.

It's all about choices ;)

#7 Frostpaw

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 02:40 PM

How does the ICX618 Flea3 compare with the ICX618 Basler Ace?

From an imaging standpoint are they comparable?

The Basler Ace costs less than $500 USD, so I'm wondering why anyone would pay an additional $200 USD for the Flea3 at this point.

#8 PiotrM

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 03:05 PM

Does that price is for a shop in USA or a shop outside USA? (taxes and transport would kick in if that price is outside USA).

I've been testing Basler Ace and it does work well. The only issue was support in FireCapture but Torsten has his Ace and he is debugging the Ace support (I think current beta is rather stable compared to what I had).

#9 Asimov

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Posted 10 July 2010 - 06:08 PM

I think it depends a lot on the seeing in the area where you live. Obviously a camera that can do high frame rate captures would be best. In really good seeing though, even a cheap SPC900NC will produce great results.

Check this Jupiter image out by a friend of mine 2 apparitions ago. This from the bottom of the line Imaging source camera, the DFK in great seeing.

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#10 WayneJ

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 09:41 AM

As the seeing gets better, the differences in cameras becomes smaller. If you took the seeing out of the equation and moved the scope outside the atmosphere, you could take a lovely picture of a planet with a Kodak Instamatic (remembering what that is with its 120 format film is quite an age test).

When the seeing deteriorates to anything less than perfect, the higher framerate and monochrome cameras will far exceed the potential of webcames, OSC's, etc.

While the picture Asimov posted is nice, it's not very helpful unless posted with comparison to those taken with other cameras under similar condition.

Regards,

Wayne

#11 RedIrocZ-28

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 08:47 PM

I really think you should keep on with your 900 for a while. I have been using it for a long time and I am getting some fine images in my opinion. I would recommend getting some higher image scale, get into the f/25 range. I usually shoot about f/22 although the seeing would support f/30+ at times. When I got this image I wish I would have had a way to get above my current imaging scale.

Posted Image

The 900 is a fine beginner camera, you should really work on procedure and technique before taking the plunge on a $400+ camera.

Are you using any sort of barlow/image amplifier? Might I recommend a Celestron ultima 2x barlow?

Hope I have given another opinion that was helpful to you :)

#12 azure1961p

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Posted 11 July 2010 - 10:02 PM


With regard to "is black and white cam better than color"?

I really researched this out before I bought. I was continually told the DMK was more sensitive than its sibling the color DBK. The reasons are simple as the allocation of pixels for color must be "sacrificed" to produce RBG where as the DMK uses the whole array in one concerted shot without being divied up.

But it doesnt end there.

In reality, the DMK doesnt "blow away" the DBK, it merely edges it out but at a steep price...

In order to get the color filters to get the black and white cam to produce color images PLUS the device for the filters, brother you just about doubled the cost over the DBK. And no, you didnt double the image quality as a result. You slightly edged it out. Where youll see the dmk advantages over the dbk is fainter targets like saturn for example compared to Mars which is brighter. But it edges out the dbk, its not a two fold increase comenserate with the extra cost of the color rigged dmk. So how bad do you want that edge?

Then theres objects like jupiter which ive heard the argument made that the planet rotates fast enough that the seperate color filter images needed to make one color image can show blurring if the person isnt fast enough. I dont know if this holds water... i suppose it depends on how many frames are shot per filter.

I like the DBK because its so much less bother. Less money by half, and one dynamite performer. A lot of times i really need to study an image hard to see the diff between the two cameras. Oh - dont think for a minute youll be cool with black and white mars and jupiters, gets old real fast.

I couldnt justify the expense of the dmk with filters over the DBK... a lot of folks here disagree and are also content with no color filters...so there you go...

BBBUUUTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT....

Let me set you straight on the SPC900 and variants. They just dont compare with either DBK or DMK. The Imaging Source cams are in a whole other league over spc900's, toucams and the others. Believe me , you arent throwing 400 to 800 dollars into thin air for a latop face cam. The toucams are potent values for the money, but the rings of saturn record with artefacts and distortions, mars features look clumpy but for the price - its a hell of a bargain.

The Flea seems to be all the rage now and i like whats been published here, especially the comparison shots. If I had to answer the whats the best, Id lean heavily toward the Flea with my second choice a DMK followed by a DBK. Skynx i never researched.

I love the hell out of my DBK!!!

Pete

#13 Mike Selz

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 06:35 PM

Wow...so much information...couldnt thank you guys enough for all the help, im going to print this for my own records ;)...for my purposes the Imaging Source DBK seems like an ideal camera for me..although ill keep playing with my SPC900NC cam and keep refining my photoshop skills...here is a pic of jupitar I took the other night...with and without a barlow..which do u guys think looks preferential? I plan on getting into DSLR imaging soon but will eventually move up to the DBK soon if I can find a used one..

Also...my SPC900NC can record at up to 30 frames per sec..but i've seen ppl recommend 15-20 frames/sec..is it better to use the maximum framerate the cam can achieve?

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#14 Mike Selz

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 06:37 PM

and at F/20...

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#15 azure1961p

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 06:56 PM

Mike I like the smaller Jupiter. Theres a little color balance issues, but thats the nature of a color cam...any cam actually making a color image and its all adjustable.

The smaller Jupiter is actually a really nice image.


Please dont take it that I DONT like the SPC900 - LOL - I have 2. But, make no mistake, you lay out the money for a DBK or DMK...it is a leap.

I like that you got some of the moons in there too.

Pete

#16 Bird

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 07:38 PM

Mike, the SPC900 is a usb1.1 camera, ie it has a very low data rate. If you use a high fps then the images are highly compressed, this is why many people (including me) recommend you use the lowest speed possible on that camera to preserve as much of the image data as you can. The only speed that can send data uncompressed is 5fps.

In my view, the Flea3 icx618ala is the best planetary camera at present, but there's also the question of the right software, operating system, filters and wheel, costs $$ for all of this, so I guess the questions isn't really about the best camera but about the best planetary imaging solution, and this will depend entirely on your budget and how much time you want to spend on it...

cheers, Bird

#17 Mike Selz

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Posted 13 July 2010 - 08:52 PM

Sounds like the best "planetary solution" for me would be the DFK/DBK...is there any difference between the two? I read something about one of them not having an IR cutoff filter..or something like that...not sure what that means exactly...

The price of color filters is sooo expensive from what I just checked...the astronomik LRGB seem to be the best..but the $$$ really adds up! I thought you could just use planetary filters that cost $7 each and use red, green, and blue...evidently not LOL!!

#18 JonKristoffersen

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 03:09 AM

Mike, for the SPC900NC I would use 10 fps for bright targets like Mars and Jupiter, and 5 fps for Saturn. There will be some loss of quality at 10 fps, but is is outweighed by the higher number of frames you can capture at 10 fps.

Both the Saturn and Jupiter images seem way too orange on my screen. Take a look at Wayne's color calibrated Jupiter: http://www.cloudynig...5/o/all/fpart/1
I did a little reprocessing in Photoshop, the result is closer to the real colors of Jupiter I think. It is better to get the colors as close as possible during capture, rather than during post-processing.
F/20 is good focal ratio to use with this camera, provided the seeing is OK.
Jon

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#19 JonKristoffersen

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 03:31 AM

I did some more "scrutinizing" of your image :-), I hope you don't mind.
The red channel is overexposed which means details are irreversibly lost in the highlights. The blue and especially green channels are underexposed. I recommend you use a capture program that display the levels live. For Jupiter, I get nice colors if I adjust each channel to similar exposure, around 220 - 240. I believe WXAstrocapture (free) has an exposure meter: http://arnholm.org/a...wxAstroCapture/

There is a grid pattern in the image; not sure what is causing it. Did you do any resizing of the image during processing? Maybe from too high frame rate? Maybe from interference of radio signals (this happens to me near a communication tower).
Good luck, and clear skies!

Jon

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#20 PiotrM

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 04:38 AM

Currently I would list them like so:
Webcam -> QHY5v/oterh QHY5 <-> DMK21/D*K -> PGR Flea 3 / Basler Ace

QHY5v is very close or equal to DMK21 while costs much less. The Imaging Source cameras "just work" and provide a lot of planetary power. However camera performance depends on seeing - if you usually have very good seeing even a webcam will produce spectacular results.

In my case DMK21 with RGB and IR filters (for IR-RGB) works very well. I don't have usually very good seeing so IR luminance is a must and it enchances the image noticably. ICX098 in DMK21 works quite good at f/20 in IR (needs resonably good seeing and bright IR target like Jupiter). At f/28 it lacks sensitivity for IR luminance - needs 1/16-1/23 sec exposures for Jupiter. At those exposures camera noise degrades the image at max gain. ICX618 gives about 3x boost in red/IR so it's a lot that helps freeze the seeing and limit camera noise - so I'm intrested in camera with such CCD - to be able to do very good planetary images more often.

QHY is also working on IMG0S with ICX204AL and IMG0L with ICX098BL - 14/8 bit image, cooled -30 below ambient, ST-4 port and good prices... but old CCD sensors. Cooled TIS D*K cameras and nothing more. I hope they will release something more than that (cooled ICX618 would be a killer).

#21 tim53

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 03:22 PM

I was going to suggest shopping for a new old stock Pt Grey flea or scorpion camera on ebay, but currently there aren't any showing when I search.

One of my favorite previous planetary cameras (I use it as a finder with a C-mount lens now) is a color flea 640x480 camera with a 1/3" sony CCD with 7.4 micron pixels. There were a couple of these on ebay recently, but I don't see any currently, as I said above.

-Tim.

#22 Mike Selz

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 03:50 PM

I did some more "scrutinizing" of your image :-), I hope you don't mind.
The red channel is overexposed which means details are irreversibly lost in the highlights. The blue and especially green channels are underexposed. I recommend you use a capture program that display the levels live. For Jupiter, I get nice colors if I adjust each channel to similar exposure, around 220 - 240. I believe WXAstrocapture (free) has an exposure meter: http://arnholm.org/a...wxAstroCapture/

There is a grid pattern in the image; not sure what is causing it. Did you do any resizing of the image during processing? Maybe from too high frame rate? Maybe from interference of radio signals (this happens to me near a communication tower).
Good luck, and clear skies!

Jon



Thanks for the feedback Jon...the true color edit of my jupitar looks great! When i adjusted the color balence more towards cyan (as opposed to red)..it came out closer to yours. And yes...I actually did this at 30 FPS..although it seems I probably lost some data by going at such a high frame rate..so ill try 5-10 FPS in the future with this cam. Didnt do any resizing. I actually do use WxAstroCapture..in the future ill try color correcting before processing..appreciate the tip! ;)

#23 Mike Selz

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 04:00 PM

Oh jon btw...i was having trouble getting it color corrected to the extent you did..how exactly did you get it so nice..just by going to image...adjustments..color balence and then moving the curser closer to cyan (rather than red)? thanks :)

#24 JonKristoffersen

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Posted 14 July 2010 - 05:01 PM

It's all done in Levels:
In Photoshop 8:
First I cropped the edges off your image, because there is a thin bright line all around.
Then go to Levels, click Options, select Enhance per channel contrast, and snap to neutral midtone, press OK. That will get you 90 % of the way with Jupiter. Or you can adjust manually each channel's levels to your liking. Slide the white point of blue and green down to the right end of the histogram. Then slide the blackpoint of blue a little up to get rid of the blue background. That's all.

OK, I also aligned the channels to each other. The blue channel image is about 1-2 pixels below the red channel.
Oh, and other planets don't usually get a natural color by exposing all channels equal, that's just Jupiter.

10 fps is definitely the way to go with Jupiter; I get much better results than with 5 fps. Saturn is the other way; use 5 fps and do looong captures to get lots of frames.






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