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Going mono + heads up for cheapskates

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#1 zAmbonii

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 04:07 PM

Just put in an order for a mono camera. I'm not going to go full hog on the filter wheel and other stuff, but I ran across a deal that I couldn't pass up and would like to share with the rest of ya.

I have an ebay search that will throw me an rss feed update if anyone posts a sale/auction for anything related to TIS or Pt. Grey, just in case I can see a really good deal on stuff. Yesterday something interesting popped up and I jumped on it.

These guys apparently have a raft of Firefly MV mono cameras (752 x 480) for sale at the whopping price of.....$25. They replied to me yesterday that the shipping to the US would be about $8-9.

Piotr has tested the color and mono versions of the camera and I said "why not?" It looks to be good for some sunspot and lunar imaging and may give it a shot on Jupiter when it starts to get higher in the sky. I think it would good for trying out some more ISS transit captures....especially when I can capture at 60fps.

May give it a shot to see how it works for an autoguider for my deep space imaging. Looks like the shutter is limited to 1/2s max though. Might not have to ditch the DSI I if it doesn't work out.

From the ebay page, it looks like they may have like 400+ of them available. I'll let ya know how it goes when it arrives.

#2 PiotrM

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 04:43 PM

For that price... :) The only thing Firefly 0.3 lacks is high gain. For Sun or Moon it's not a problem, but for Saturn it's a big issue, and for Jupiter at higher f-ratios (~f/20) probably also.

But for that price you can start shooting mono luminance images. Orange visual filter for planets, orange/red visual for Moon and green/Solar Continuum/yellow 590 filter for white light Sun.

If you want a best possible, fully operational mono setup - get a different camera :)

#3 UmaDog

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 08:49 PM

Yes, let us know. I paid 10 times in the past, so I'm somewhat suspicious of this...

#4 MessiToM

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Posted 13 July 2012 - 11:25 PM

That IS tempting

#5 rgrossen

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 05:20 PM

Tempting for sure, but I don't see how it will mount to a scope. It looks different from the ones shown on the Point Grey web site.

Richard

#6 PiotrM

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 06:33 PM

They have a lens that has to be unscrewed. Also they seems to not have the C-mount thread so the 1,25" nosepiece adapter would have to be glued to the camera somehow :)

#7 zAmbonii

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Posted 14 July 2012 - 08:36 PM

Yea, I may have to be creative in mounting the camera. I was just poking around the Point Grey site and for their OEM stuff, they had boards that either had the microlens mount (like the one in the ebay sale) or a CS mount attached to the board.

While searching, I found someone who contacted Point Grey about getting a CS mount, but they wouldn't sell him one (this was in 2008). I have an old holder for a barlow that I may be able to attach to the outside of the case. We'll have to see how it goes when the camera arrives.

Who knows. It is possible that the threads for the microlens are the exact same threads that are on my SPC900NC that I have. In that case, I just can use the camera adapter I have for that on this camera.

#8 zAmbonii

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 11:25 AM

The camera came in yesterday and after getting everything installed, the camera reads as a FMVU-03MTM just as expected. Firefly MV mono camera. Also just as expected, the lens screws out (has the ir cut filter in the lens), and my nosepiece adapter for my spc900nc screwed directly into the threads the lens came out of.

Easiest mounting solution would be to get a Toucam adapter or SPC900nc adapter. The toucam adapter may be a little better because the extra length is not really needed. Just need to be a slight bit careful because of the narrow support when attached. That is not that much of a problem because the camera is so small and so light (the case is plastic). Was really surprised just how small and light the camera is.

BTW, anyone worried about the camera, it looks like it is "new old stock". The camera came in an unopened package and was most likely a custom batch (has a unique part number) that could not have been returned or resold by Point Grey.

Tried to do some testing, but there really wasn't much to test it on yesterday. The sun is nearly void of sunspots, and the moon is thin and bathed in daylight :). Tried to get some shots of the one sunspot but the seeing was not really good, and seeing only settled down during the last video I took with the FireflyMV. I also took a few videos with my SPC900nc to compare to, but it is really tough because to compare because the seeing was so sketchy.

For the videos I used a Celestron UV/IR cutoff filter. I am not that familiar with Flycap and Firecap so I was winging it with the settings. For the comparison image below, I took the video with FlyCap 60fps, lowest gain, and adjusted shutter to get the histogram about 50%. For the SPC900NC image, I took it at 15fps, and tried to get the histogram about the same place (I believe the shutter was 1/1000). Took 1000 frames and then stacked the best 150 frames for each. Applied the same wavelet setting in registax 5.1 (single alignment point on the sunspot). Used my C6-N + 2x barlow (f/10 ~1500mm) + Baader Astrosolar filter).

Question: why are the file sizes for FlyCap about 3x the size of the ones from FireCap?

One thing to note, it seems that the cameras may be selling pretty well that the people selling have now upped the price To $35 from $25, Shipping for me in the US was $8. This is the new URL

Here is the pic. FireflyMV on top, SPC900NC on bottom. No resizing, just rotation to line up the orientation.

Attached Files



#9 PiotrM

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 11:47 AM

It's cool that the webcam adapters fit in the lens thread.

For the histogram - if you can use settings that will give 80-90% of histogram fill.

#10 zAmbonii

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 12:08 PM

I'll have to do that the next time out. I have a tendency of choosing values for the moon and sun to make it look decent (worried about blowing out the stuff like the darker sunspots), but should just trust the histogram and can always adjust the dark points in post processing.

Having settings that makes the image look good on the screen aren't necessarily the best settings for a final image.

#11 ZielkeNightsky

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 12:11 PM

Great news - thanks for sharing your experience with this camera.

I've bought a couple myself - at that price I couldn't resist.
2 cameras for $50 + $9 for shipping - That could be the deal of the year.

I'm hoping I can use one for guiding - Need to get rid of the old Qcam5, it's not to stable any more.

#12 zAmbonii

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 12:18 PM

I was wondering about using it for guiding, but it looks like the max exposure length for the camera is only about 1/2 sec. The problem last night is that I couldn't figure out how to get Flycap or FireCap to give me the longer exposure lengths.

I haven't upgraded the firmware on the camera yet either. Just wanted to get a quick test in before I did anything like updating the firmware.

#13 PiotrM

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 12:23 PM

I'm hoping I can use one for guiding - Need to get rid of the old Qcam5, it's not to stable any more.


With additional Flycap1 it should be usable in PHD and alike, but also it would require a bright guide scope as it's limited in exposure time (0,5sec unless software can trigger its own exposure timing). I'm using Orion finder-guide-scope and QHY5 sees a lot of stars at 1 sec, so at 0,5 there should be also something for Firefly.

#14 ZielkeNightsky

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 12:39 PM

Hi again

Most of the time when I'm guiding I have no problems finding guide stars at 1/2 sec. with the Q5 - So I keep my fingers crossed.

#15 zAmbonii

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 01:06 PM

I'll give it a test with my 50mm finder the next clear night (may be a couple of days). I have my DSI-I color and SPC900NC to compare it to.

#16 Takashi

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 01:27 PM

Could you also post pictures of the camera (so we all can see how small it is?) :)

#17 zAmbonii

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 02:11 PM

Here ya go. Put some other things in the picture to give some size comparison. I have my webcam adapter attached to the camera in this pic (it is the one on the far left :) )

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#18 Takashi

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Posted 22 July 2012 - 02:14 PM

Wow that is really small! Looking forward to seeing more pictures from you. Then I will decide whether I should jump on this deal as well :-)

#19 tim53

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 12:00 PM

I've ordered two of these as well. Even at $35, that's less than 10 percent of the cost of a new one from Pt Grey. Thankfully, I got mine at the $25 price, too. They haven't arriven yet, though. Should be here in the next day or two, I expect.

I use Astro IIDC and Macs for all my imaging these days (my windows-only cameras I run via VMWare Fusion and Windows 7 on the mac). Milton Aupperle says that Astro IIDC can run the camera up to 0.833 sec/frame, but the website says 8 seconds. That might be a misprint, though. I was planning on using one of these as a finder, and one as an autoguider, depending on how they perform. For autoguiding, Milton suggested binning 4x4 and shooting up to .833 sec exposures could allow guiding on 9th mag stars with an OAG on an 8" SCT.

When my cameras arrive, I'll experiment with imaging Saturn using the MV, compared to the flea2 color camera and Scropion mono cameras.

-Tim.

#20 PiotrM

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 12:09 PM

bin4 with big pixels may not be an efficient solution.

FMVU-03MT can go to only 512 ms according to PGR website.

#21 zAmbonii

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 03:40 PM

The larger chip version of the MV can do 8s, but the smaller chip version is only reported to do 512ms max.

Finally played around last night and was able to get the longer exposures and was able to get it to work in PHD guiding.

The trick to get it to work is to do two things.
1) download and install the FlyStream Driver
2) download and install FlyCapture 1.8 version of the software

It didn't work for me at least in using the 2.2 version of FlyCapture. Just make sure that you install 1.8 in a different directory from the 2.2 version.

With Flystream and Flycapture 1.8 installed, the camera would be recognized in programs like K3CCDTools and PHD guiding. You need to open up FC 1.8 and control the settings there. I was able to get a shutter speed up to the 0.833ms like Tim said...BUT there is a lot of constant background signal. Very noticeable at no gain, and very horrible looking at max gain. I should take an image to show how bad it is. It is making me wonder how well it would work as a guidescope. In PHD guiding I did a dark frame subtraction, but it really left holes all over the place.

Wanted to get out last night and do a comparison and see how it worked as a guidescope, but it took me a while to figure out how to get the long exposures and by the time I did, clouds had rolled in. I might have a chance to do so tonight.

BTW, the camera seems to get quite warm on the back case after running it for a while.

#22 tim53

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Posted 23 July 2012 - 11:27 PM

bin4 with big pixels may not be an efficient solution.


I'll see.

FMVU-03MT can go to only 512 ms according to PGR website.


Astro IIDC can run the Unibrain Fire-i cameras at about 1 second exposures even though the manufacturer doesn't say this is possible.

-Tim.

#23 zAmbonii

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 05:26 AM

Wanted to give you all an update on the camera. Just finished an all nighter testing various things (not any type of rigorous stuff like Piotr does, but just stuff to satisfy myself on several things

1) The camera is worth the money just for lunar images. I did a mosaic at prime focus with my C6-N with both my spc900nc and the Firefly MV and the MV just kicked the webcam's butt from here to Tycho. I'll post some pics of everything when I get things processed....may be in a couple of days, my day today is already taken for other stuff.

2) Guiding: Verdict is kinda out. Its not going to replace my DSI. Just not sensitive enough. It may equal or slightly surpass my SPC900NC in terms of picking up stars, but the stars are going to need to be relatively bright. Also I ran into a problem with PHD Guiding. High gain sucks on the camera so there are a lot of static hotish pixels, and the dark subraction in PHD doesn't quite work right. The MV doesnt easily have a way to set a fixed round FPS. The lowest FPS I have been able to obtain is like 1.151FPS. If you set PHD guiding to 1 FPS, then it captures a bunch of single frames, then 2 frames that isn't dark subtracted right, and causes problems.

3) Planetary = Meh Took some images of jupiter and venus and they are just *OK*. Ill go into it later.

need to get some sleep now....catch ya later.

#24 PiotrM

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 05:39 AM

Other first-light from this camera is on http://astropolis.pl...851#entry464851

#25 luukieboy2

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Posted 29 July 2012 - 09:16 AM

I'm interested to see how this one performs on Lunar, Solar and Planetary. After a SPC900NC, I was looking for a cheap step up, this could just be it. But does it also performs better on Planets like Jupiter then your SPC? And how much...

Looking forward to you pictures.






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