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Flat-Man By Alnitak AstroSystems

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#1 DugDog

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 04:37 PM

Does anyone have one of these devices?
http://alnitakastro....ducts/flat-man/

Comments, suggestions, or alternative devices welcomed.

I have always struggled with my Flats and was hoping the Flat-Man might give a more consistent flat.

Thanks!

#2 Peds

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 05:12 PM

Dug, I have no experience with the Flat-Man, but you could always try constructing your own electro luminescent panel for a fraction of that cost. I've seen a number of posts here on CN on these and they've reported great results. I might make my own soon.

P.

#3 dsnope

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 05:31 PM

Just stuff an EL Panel into a $8 plastic picture frame and you're good to go. I drape an old black T-shirt (free) over the whole thing to keep stray light away from others.

#4 shwright50

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 05:49 PM

I have one and it works well. I use it with my Tak FSQ-106. The only 'issue' I've had involves a driver problem associated with my QSI 583ws; if the QSI is plugged into its USB port, and then the the FlatMan is plugged in, its not recognized. However, if the QSI is unplugged, and then the FlatMan is plugged in, the Alnitak software recognizes its presence and you can connect. Of course, this 'work around' only 'works' because you can now plug the QSI in and everything continues to function... This 'issue' seems reproducible, because I've seen a similar problem (with QSI) described on the Flat-Man yahoo group (and there is an ongoing effort to get new drivers...). For someone who wants to automate things, the need to fiddle about may be a deal breaker. However, given the fact that I have to attached the FlatMan to the front of the scope anyway, I don't mind, and it produces fine flats (for LRGB and Ha, SII, OIII).

Steve W

#5 alnitak

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 06:15 PM

Guys,

We are supposed to get a QSI camera to test our latest software revision, so QSI owners need have no fear. We'll be releasing a new version in a week or so.

Cheers,

Pete Kalajian
Alnitak Astrosystems
www.alnitakastro.com
pete@alnitakastro.com

#6 jmasin

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 09:08 PM

Dug, I have no experience with the Flat-Man, but you could always try constructing your own electro luminescent panel for a fraction of that cost. I've seen a number of posts here on CN on these and they've reported great results. I might make my own soon.

P.


I intend to go this route also. The product looks very nicely done, but ouch, > $500 for the size I need... I'd love to step up from t-shirts, but can't really afford this step.

#7 DugDog

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 11:22 PM

I have made my homemade version and I can't seem to get an even illuminated flat. Another challenge is going to my remote site and I must find a DC solution.

Yes, the price is a little high @ $299 for my size, but it might be worth it if I get a nice even illumination on my flats.

BTW, whats the difference between a "electro luminescent panel" vs "White LEDS"?

It's difficult to tell what the "Flat-Man" is made of. It seems too thin to be a series of LEDS...is this a "electro luminescent panel"? Where do you find this material for DIY?

The "Flat-Man" has no mechanical rheostat and the brightness is controlled with Software. Operating Systems come and go...the software may become obsolete and then you have no light control for the flat panel.

Another positive for the "Flat-Man" is the compact design, it's not bulky.

No Cyber Monday deals for the Flat-Man.

I was looking for feedback from buyers who purchased the Flat-Man.

#8 mikertx

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 10:28 AM

If you build your own make sure and use a panel with an available dimmer option. My latest flat panel uses an EL in a picture frame as mentioned but without a dimmer I have shutter shadow problems with Luminance flats because the exposure time is so short. I've resorted to stacking a couple of white lexan sheets in front for attenuation until I get around to a dimmer. I like the fact that Flat-Man is software dimmable, should make automation of flats much easier.

Mike

#9 John Wunderlin

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 10:33 AM

I had a problem with shutter shadow as well- I added a sheet of drawing paper to act as a diffuser so I can now expose for 1 second which solved my problem.

#10 pubquiz

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 08:04 PM

Hi All

Maybe this site will be of interest to you http://www.posterpoweruk.co.uk/

I have the A5 size sheet which is perfect for my C100

It comes with it's own power supply and is only £30 :)

I have fixed some 90 degree plastic angle strips to it which keeps it stiff.

I have found that using fast shutter speeds with it does cause banding.

This has been discussed in length in another thread but can be eliminated by taking 75-100 flats to make a master flat.

The banding seems to be an electromagnetic interference with my Canon 450D SLR....apparantly it doesn't happen on some other cameras....I am awaiting the arrival of an old used Starlight Xpress MX7-C so will try it on this when I get it.

Still a good source of uniform light though and a good price

Obviously would cost more to ship to you guys over the pond but may be worth you checking out....lots of different sizes available ...check out the website

Tom

#11 elbee

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 10:30 PM

i have the flat-man. use it every time to get perfect flats. support from alnitak is outstanding. yes, it's expensive, but i don't have the inclination to build my own -- and it is unlikely to be nearly as good.

i don't have a permanent setup so at the end of each imaging run (before dawn), i park the scope with the optical tube pointing to the zenith. lay the flatman on top, plug it into the battery and take the flats. i'm very pleased with it.

#12 Bitfodder

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 11:01 AM

I love my flip-flat on my FSQ-106N. Mainly because it's zero hassle and works as a remote dust cap. It works much better than the EL panel I built and it's controlled by CCDAutopilot.

I stacked 2 sheets of rosco ND filter and 1 sheet of red in front of the panel I built, and still was way to bright for my qsi 583wsg shutter.

I can finally do a full imaging session from my basement after a year of DIY attempts at flats.

Was the cash painful? I got over it when I remembered how much my various Takahashi adapters cost...and they don't open, close and dim all on bus power integrated in the software I use.

#13 elbee

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Posted 02 December 2010 - 10:44 PM

it's controlled by CCDAutopilot.


i forgot to mention that one... i just started with ccdautopilot (life changer!!) and it controls the flatman, too. i don't even have it hooked up when i do the imaging run, but i show up at dawn, place the flatman on the vertical pointing scope, hit 'take flats now'. it controls the brightness of the EL panel light and duration of the exposures for each filter to maintain a specified target ADU. i go back inside for 30min while it runs through LRGB and Ha filters. very sweet combination. that has real value to me. (especially when it's 12F like it was two mornings ago.:-)

#14 DugDog

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 12:12 AM

I have been looking at the raw materials for a DIY EL panel, it looks like it would cost close to $100.

Then factor in the "DOH" factor in most DIY projects...
Then Additional tooling resources...
Then factor in your labor...which is always high in your first DIY design.

I'm seriously thinking about ordering a Flat-Man...or hint around the house I need it for a Christmas present! :waytogo:

#15 Mark Sibole

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 10:36 PM

To expensive for me when a tee shirt flat works just fine for me

#16 DugDog

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 10:58 PM

Well, I convinced everyone I needed one for Christmas. I ordered a flat-man, the $299 version. I image with Refractors and this will fit all of my refractors. I will plan on making adapters to fit over the dew shields for each refractor's diameter.

I'll post my reviews here...but it maybe after Christmas before I get back! :rockon:

#17 DugDog

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Posted 03 December 2010 - 11:12 PM

To expensive for me when a tee shirt flat works just fine for me


My attempts at an LED Flat box with a T-Shirt look like this...
I can see the weave of the T-Shirt in my example. My hope is the Flat-Man will improve my flats.

Attached Files



#18 elbee

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Posted 04 December 2010 - 03:34 AM

you can look forward to this with the Flat-man. each flat has mean ADU of 25,000.

Attached Files



#19 DugDog

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 11:25 AM

It's been awhile since I was able to report back on my Flat-Man.

First, all of the instructions clearly say "Update" your FTDI drivers, I didn't, and my first outing had problems. So if you buy a Flat-Man, Update Your FTDI drivers! I thought my FTDI drivers were good enough, not true!

On to my results. I always wondered how everyone I saw had these really cool looking flats. Here is what I found, it makes a difference which program you use!

If you open your flats in Maxim, the screen display shows a harsh break between the light and darker areas:
Posted Image
The above image was from my home-made light box.

Now, let's open the SAME flat in Nebulosity:
Posted Image
Now that looks more like the flats I've seen posted!

Ok, now the Flat-Man results:
Posted Image

On the surface the Home-Made vs the Flat-Man doesn't look too different...as long as you open in Nebulosity! :foreheadslap:


However, if you really dig into the fine details of the comparison, you'll see the Flat-Man is more consistent.
Posted Image
Posted Image

:waytogo:

#20 jmasin

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 11:31 AM

good to see, thanks for following up with this post.

Flats have sort of been the bane of my AP existence lately... My 8" newt has significant slight falloff and flats are essential for an even field. I've been experimenting with many configurations.

I'm not quite ready to drop > $500 on this though...

#21 DugDog

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 11:49 AM

All of my telescopes are small refractors so the $300 model works for me.

Another thing I like about the Flat-Man vs my Home-Made Light box, you can control the Flat-Man from your Laptop. I don't have the "Flap-Version" Flat-Man.

The real treat comes when you can set your flats to the same exposure settings. If you have LRGB, then this is a huge time saver. Simply adjust the brightness in the Flat-Man. Record the Brightness Level and then you can repeat the EXACT exposure and Brightness Levels each time!

#22 DeanS

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 12:15 PM

What is the surface material of these? I would want to get the larger Flatman to go to 13" and these must sit over the scope.

Is this material easy to mar or scratch? Would ruin it with a mark I imagine, much like my EL panel as on it now :(

My scopes are run thru USB hubs, and I would not want to take a chance that the new drivers might mess anything up. Plus one of my laptops is older USB1 so this might not work anyways.

My question is can it work with a small netbook and XP? this way I could use it with on anything regardless of computer.

#23 DugDog

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 03:27 PM

Hi Dean,

The surface is plastic cover, I don't think it will scratch too easily if properly stored. I keep the Flat-man in the box it came in. It's a good way to store it. Just as you wouldn't want your telescope rolling around in your tool box, you surely don't want to expose the flat-man to sharp objects.

Updating my perfectly running system was my concern...that's why I ignored the instructions to update the FTDI drivers. But after I updated the drivers all worked well.

You surely could run the Flat-Man off another simple laptop. I'm running the Flat-Man on a XP laptop.

#24 bill w

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Posted 13 March 2011 - 09:12 PM

If you open your flats in Maxim, the screen display shows a harsh break between the light and darker areas:

if you set the screen stretch in maxim to "range", it will likely look like the others. it's a fairly powerful, but counter-intuitive way of viewing images. i think there's a tutorial on the cyanogen/maxim main page.

#25 DeanS

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Posted 14 March 2011 - 11:48 AM

I just took the plunge and ordered one. Was hoping they might be at NEAF and offer a special but they are not attending.

Will post my results later on.

Thanks for starting this thread...and costing me $500 ;)






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