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Still hunting Mars - CMOS camera trials!

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#1 Kokatha man

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Posted 01 October 2012 - 11:53 PM

Hi everyone - we are still hunting Mars for that extended series of images from opposition down to "can't-image-it-anymore-point." :lol:

Jupiter is proving very elusive at our home latitude (33 degrees maximum elevation) re any sort of semi-decent seeing atm but we are soon heading North 20 degrees or so and hopefully we'll get some opportunities then..... :bow: :)

Meanwhile I have been testing a new planetary camera kindly sent to me by Sam from ZWOptical.....this is a cmos sensor-based unit featuring an Aptina MT9M034 chip with high QE, rolling shutter (no problems noticed so far) and variable resolutions from 1280x960 (30fps) down to 320x240 (130fps) from a 1.2Mpx, 1/3" & 3.75uM chip.

There is also a AR0130CS sensor unit that is being considered which might have a slight edge over the MT9M034..!

It operates via USB2 and it is somewhat simpler than the Expresscard with power and FW800 that I usually need to use with my Flea3.....

Sam has generously sent me a colour camera also (ASI 120MC) which uses the same sensor and specs but I have not had time so far to give that unit a run.....but both are very compact and professional-looking units.

I suppose that I should state that I have no commercial or other interests whatsoever in these products or company.....just an interest in trying out new/different imaging equipment!!! :grin:

We are still doing trials but it should be stated that the camera's operationality is going ahead in leaps and bounds.

On that score Torsten Edelmann (Mr. FireCapture! :)) has been fantastic reading through my (typically long-winded!!! :lol:) test appraisals and adding to his 2.2beta FireCapture builds to accomodate these cameras.....Sam also has been great with constant responses to my reports and changing driver files etc to get things optimal! :)

As a camera utilising DirectShow we now have, with the latest beta build of FireCapture, far greater control than ever before with these types of webcams: and we are on the verge of complete compatability - thanks once again Torsten! :waytogo: :waytogo: :waytogo:

So what's it like as a planetary imager?

At heart I'm a "nuts & bolts" person tbh.....I want to see what something can do, and I think with the results I've obtained so far the night before last with tiny Mars in seeing that was "fair" at best and 30 degrees elevation there is plenty of room for optimism with this camera! :)

I understand its' price will be super-competitive, so that in resolving a final issue to achieve complete compatability in FireCapture there should be another option available to us planetary imaging fanatics..! :)

Here is the Mars image from my C14: an rgb sequence taken over 8 mins 21 seconds (short for 4.83") at 130fps, best 2500 frames processed from AS!2, #1 & #2 wavelets (not linked) in R6, then AstraImage & CS4.

Image shown at capture and 150% & 200% with CalSky simulation - given what I've managed with the Flea3 at slightly larger diameters and similar or higher elevations I'm pretty impressed so far with these results.....

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#2 DesertRat

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 10:42 AM

Thanks Darryl for the Mars! You have an image of the south polar hood - we have'nt seen that feature in quite a while!

Looks like that cmos camera did pretty well. Still don't like the rolling shutter, but if you have that many frames to work with it seems to fair pretty well.

Cheers,
Glenn

#3 ToxMan

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 11:06 AM

I'm impressed.

#4 karlo

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 04:09 PM

still very sweet Darryl!! Keep em comin' for as long as you can !

#5 wenjha

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 09:19 PM

Thanks Darryl for your hardworking test and beautiful Mars

#6 BKBrown

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 10:04 PM

Terrific work Darryl! I will be following your tests of the new cams with interest, thanks for the update.

Clear Skies,
Brian :waytogo:

#7 Kokatha man

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 05:35 AM

Thank you Glenn, Paul, Karlo, Sam and Brian.....much appreciated! :)

#8 Kokatha man

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 06:01 AM

Thanks Darryl for the Mars! You have an image of the south polar hood - we have'nt seen that feature in quite a while!

Looks like that cmos camera did pretty well. Still don't like the rolling shutter, but if you have that many frames to work with it seems to fair pretty well.
Cheers,
Glenn


I caught "The Hood" back on July 21st but Mars was quite a bit larger (6") and nearly 13 degrees higher in better seeing Glenn.....I could only say "fair" re the seeing for the image above because I actually had to "guesstimate" focus - with such minimal features on display it's never easy with these facets of Mars but the seeing was so ordinary that the SP region was only fleetingly visible, and barely discernable re anything more than a darkish "rim" to that edge..... :shocked:

To me that gives this image (and camera) quite a bit more credibility for said conditions.....I appreciate your comments re rolling shutters (I actually gave a little frown when I first learnt this!) but I think that the downside possibilities aren't seeming to actually manifest themselves.....Torsten's review of the e2v Ruby CMOS sensor EV76C661 is one example, and I suspect fast frame videos where we are to all intents and purposes "freezing" the "foreground" images may be one explanation... :question:

I've changed the image I posted above on this thread because the first was a "quickie" (I just "rgb combined" the channels straight out of R6) but more importantly I was very rough with my selecting of the disk in CS4.

I "clipped" the edge of Mars between 7&5 o'clock and although I haven't got it really right second time around I think it is much better and doesn't exhibit the rather odd shape, phase notwithstanding..! :grin:

I've found Mars in poor seeing (even around opposition) presents a lot of "flaring" around the peripheries and requires astute post-processing.....and the smaller the image you start with the more difficult it becomes, especially becuase enlarging the image in P/shop sufficiently almost inevitably creates a pixelated image to start with! :(

And I can now report that the last impediment to complete compatability with FireCapture is almost sorted out :grin: :jump: - the ability to change resolutions in the F/Capture main panel dialogue...thanks once again to Torsten - you are a champion bro! :waytogo: :waytogo: :waytogo:

For those not aware of what this entailed, it should be pointed out that the ZWOptical cameras are DirectShow devices.....in other words they utilise this Windows software like ordinary webcams: but they are much more sophisticated and Torsten has done a heck of a lot of alterations in his builds to allow these cameras to have the control we now have with them..... :)

I'll post a QE graph later and some further information and reports that I think might be interesting.....

#9 sfugardi

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 11:32 AM

Mo, awesome Mars image! Details and color look great. You must be the last one on the planet still imaging Mars. I see that you have also upgraded to the C14. Nice scope, it has been very popular on this forum. I need to start saving some ca$h and get one...

Regards,
Steve

#10 Kokatha man

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Posted 04 October 2012 - 08:37 PM

Thanks Steve. I'm as eager as anyone to shoot Jove but I just have to wait for the right time! :bow:

Actually I've had the C14 for well over a year now, but I kept the C11 and have plans for it in an outreach program for young Aboriginal kids, especially when it can all be organised properly...art is a big part of our culture, so you'll hardly recognise the old Celestron when its' exterior has been re-painted! :shocked: :)

I'm having a few glitches with Torsten's latest build which Sam isn't getting on his machine: and Emil has one of these cameras also and hopefully he'll be able to give his own reports sometime soon.....Torsten also when he gets his.

Another plug for Torsten - he's a champion!!!

He has also given me permission to use his graph of various QE's that he posted sometime ago when testing the EV76C661.....

It ended up with rather strange colours but at least I think the different graphs can be distinguished a bit better than in my first attempt :shocked: :lol: and I also included a colour bar for the visible light spectrum (actually a bit more either end than humans usually discern but that's neither here nor there.)

QE graphs are probably somewhere between giving the number of cylinders and the horsepower of an engine, not terribly revealing in themselves but they do provide some perspective between sensors: it does drop off noticeably in the infra-red, 430-630nM seems to be where it performs best. As previously stated, I am quite impressed with its trials on Mars - more than impressed enough to spend imaging opportunities when I could be using my Flea3.....so that's at least saying something from my own perspective... :question:

Hopefully with several people doing testing over the next few months we'll have a better idea of its stregths but personally I think it is well worth persisting with. :waytogo:

I'll post some more piks etc later...

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#11 claytonbigwood

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Posted 05 October 2012 - 07:19 PM

Very nice Darryl :waytogo: :waytogo:
Nice to see some results, and nice ones at that:)
Given the circumstances I can't wait to see some results under good conditions

#12 CPellier

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 05:31 AM

These are really excellent images, so far in the season !
The planet was exactly on northern fall equinox on sept. 30th. The springtime south polar cap is visible as well.

#13 Paco Yepes

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Posted 06 October 2012 - 05:28 PM

impressive

regards

#14 Kokatha man

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 04:46 AM

Thank you very much Rob, Christophe and Paco: I didn't realise the Autumn Equinox had arrived on Mars Christophe, thanks for pointing it out and getting me to research these issues a little more! :)

Here is a comparison between 2 images.....the 1st taken with the C14 & Flea3 mono on 21st July when Mars was 6" in diameter, 43° elevation and in clearly superior seeing to the 2nd where Mars was 4.83" & 30° elevation - ie, the image in this thread via the C14 & ASI 120MM mono camera.....

"Clearly superior seeing" most definitely by the much greater ease of focusing and onscreen image.....not to forget that the down-sized 6" image is sharpened further in comparison to the 4.83" image.

Again, I emphasize that this in no way can be seen as making any specific statement vis each camera's relative merits...but more an example of how much more immproved these cmos sensor cameras have become: I really look forward to getting some decent seeing for Jupiter to work them further...as well as Mars in similar seeing and with a more detailed face presented! :)

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#15 tjensen

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 07:13 AM

Very interesting Darryl. It looks like the camera stacks up well. It would be very interesting to see how it handles both bright Jupiter and dimmer Saturn. That is the only place that I can see an issue if you can only get those fast frame rates at 320x240.
Having said that, I'd be happy to test one for you too :)
Cheers mate

#16 Kokatha man

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Posted 07 October 2012 - 08:12 AM

Hi Tim - Sam originally sent me some very interesting Saturn images he took with the cam very early in its development, and also some very nice recent Jupiters with the ASI 120MC (the colour version which he's also sent me but I haven't had the time to try that unit out yet...)

I have to say that in the 3 weeks I've had the mono camera I've been mercilessly haranguing him and Torsten, both of whom have been magnificent with their updates - both to the camera driver by Sam and "builds" in FireCapture beta2.2 by Torsten....! :waytogo:

I've still got some problems with the operation of the largest resolution (1280x960) myself but the camera operates in numerous other resolutions from 800x640=50fps, 640x560=60fps, 640x480=70fps, 512x400=80fps, 480x320=100fps & 320x240=130fps.....more are planned for the immediate future and all the preceding are operating for me atm with FireCapture Build28.1, so you can see this is a camera with heaps of potential... :)

#17 wenjha

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 07:33 AM

Here is my jupiter shoot days before using ASI120MC Camera

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#18 MvZ

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 08:56 AM

Excellent Sam! Could you tell us a bit more about the recording settings you used for these images?

#19 wenjha

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 09:43 PM

Hi Emil
the image I took using this parameter:
Exposure (s)=0.033222
Gain=66
And the first one I took 5mins
the second one I took 3mins
both stacked by your AS!2
It seems AS!2 handle it great even the 5 mins video.

I also did a test to see which para should be the best.
It seems 20ms exp is the best one

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#20 wenjha

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 10:05 PM

but its a little different for ASI120MM
because it has more sensetivity
here is the R channel compare of ASI120MM

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#21 Kokatha man

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Posted 08 October 2012 - 10:30 PM

Very nice images Sam..! :waytogo:

I realise these were taken with the colour ASI 120MC camera, but I'd appreciate a bit more of your processing methods if you can provide them...

How many frames in each stack..?

Were all your 3 minute avi's processed the same way: ie, wavelet applications and denoising if you used Registax6..?

Where you say "Exposure 33 milliseconds" was that at 33fps..... and "Exposure 20 milliseconds" was that 50fps.

As you know I'm trying to pump up the fps/resolution combination, especially for Jupiter.....unfortunately this morning was no better because the seeing was terrible - I'll have to wait untill after we head North in just over a week!

But using my special optical fittings I was able to swap the ASI 120MM for the PGR Flea3 later in the morning - the Flea3 had an extension tube attached to try and make up for the big difference there is between its' 5.6uM pixel sizes and the ASI 120MM's 3.75uM..... the Flea3 image scale was still considerably smaller but both onscreen images were poor due to the seeing, which I think was a product of the elevation as well..! :(

I'd like to post (with your permission) one of the mono Saturns with your camera you sent me re the comparison to another 618 sensor camera.....it answers some of Tim's questions about dimmer Saturn..... :)

And before I can post you have included some samples of red channel images from the ASI 120MM mono camera - wish I was much further North right now....!

Same questions re stacksizes etc there also: as well, do 13ms, 21ms, 28ms & 50ms correspond to 80fps, 50fps, 36fps & 20fps (all approximately that is! :grin:)

Also, what are you setting the gamma value at..! :question:

Very nice images (all of them!) and I think they demonstrate, along with my RGB Mars in this thread and the mono Saturn red channel you sent me earlier that this camera has lots of potential! :)

I'm hoping Emil can get some of your Northern Hemisphere good seeing etc and can post some images soon! :)

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#22 wenjha

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Posted 09 October 2012 - 08:41 AM

Hi Darryl
the compare images all captured in 2 minutes and proceesed in the same way: AS!2 50% stacked and then R5 waveleted and at last USM and blue in PS.
I use small resolution 480X320 so can capture in fps like you said.
And I set the gamma as its default value which is 50 now.

Thanks for all your guy's testing.
especially Torsten's great help to compitable with FC.

#23 wenjha

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Posted 10 October 2012 - 08:47 PM

Jupiter again took by my friend here

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#24 Kokatha man

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 02:44 AM

A lovely Jupiter from your friend and his 10" dob there Sam..! :waytogo: :waytogo:

I prefer it with a dash of "Auto Colour" in CS4 but that is just my individual preference, it is a fine image from him!!! :cool:

Because this thread is really all about the planetary imaging capabilities of your cmos-sensor ASI 120MM/C planetray imaging cameras I'm happy to see more examples if they are available as I wait for my own "decent seeing" imaging possibilities.....I'll email you later to let you know in depth about my latest trials but you'll be happy to hear I am now getting closer to the expected frame rates with the large resolutions - some are the expected fps and only one resolution 800x800 is consistently delivering poorer-than-expected frame rates.....more in my email later tonight! :grin:

You and Emil were correct - for some reason there seems to be some sort of incompatibility/bottleneck between my laptop's usb3 port and the usb2 feed.....switching to a standard usb2 port on the laptop did the job - even the usb2 transponder for the cordless mouse doesn't like the usb3 port..! :shocked: :)

I've also been playing for the first time with the colour ASI 120MC camera.....more questions there also! :)

#25 Brian Albin

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Posted 11 October 2012 - 05:41 AM

Aptina says of their model MT9M021 sensor: The Global Shutter can stop action without the artifacts typically associated with conventional Rolling Shutter pixels.
Have you any thoughts on this?
They also offer a shutter called TrueSNAP.






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