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STT-8300 First light report

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#1 Hilmi

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 03:52 AM

***WARNING, THIS ARTICLE SHOULD NOT BE USED TO JUDGE THE QUALITY OF THE PRODUCT, I AM ONE CUSTOMER AND THIS DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLE, MY PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE WITH SBIG WAS SO GOOD WHICH IS WHY I WENT FOR THIS CAMERA***
---Disclaimer: my camera is S/N 66 of the line; I was expecting problems from the beginning as this is not a mass produced product, they build them piece by piece and a suspect a big part of the work is done by hand---
OK, so I got my brand spanking new STT-8300 last Saturday just as I was traveling abroad for a week of work. I spent an entire week fiddling around with the hardware and seeing how things work. During that week, the first thing I noticed was the shoddy power connector. Any minor movement and the camera would lose power. This is a minor problem if you have convenient access to an SBIG dealership. For me, I have to pay several hundred dollars of shipping to get things resolved. I was advised on the Yahoo group that I should widen the split of the center pin of the power connector. How unfortunate, this is precisely the reason I normally pay a premium for American products, between this and my Losmandy mount, I wonder if there was much wisdom in my way of thinking. Next thing I noticed is that to use the built in OAG you need to use an STL thread. This was not mentioned anywhere in the marketing material, so you buy your camera and then after it ships to you, that’s when you find out and you have to go around shopping for the needed adapters. Also, it is not recommended that you use the camera with a T-thread adapter when using the OAG. This pretty much makes my Televue 60is a useless telescope as the field flatner comes with built in T-threads, which means I can never use the OAG effectively with this camera. You would think the marketing material would remember to advise you on such a point “before you make the purchase” not after.
So last night I started using the camera for the first time and I noticed some curious restrictions in the way MaximDL handles the camera. First of all, it assumes that the camera is using the same shutter for the main and guide chip. I don’t know if this is from the driver or MaximDL. If it is from the driver, then it is a silly idea. Sometimes you want to take advantage of the time you taking dark frames to other useful things, such as calibrating the guider.
Next thing I noticed is that I could never reach perfect focus on the OAG ( I am using my SCT @ F10 now as I am lacking the needed adapters to use it with my focal reducer). Every attempt at reach perfect focus leads to my hitting the hard stop.
After it was midnight, between battling the mount and battling the camera, I managed to get everything working to within reasonable tolerances. Guiding was a breeze and other than the difficulty of finding a guide star at F10 (which was made easier by my moonlite focuser’s ability to rotate), I set up an imaging sequence and went to bed. In the morning, I came back upstairs excited to see my 50 exposures which I was expecting. Guess what I found? After 4 exposures, I get some kind of filter wheel error :(

So first light was a frustrating and totally unpleasurable experience for me.

P.S. I can't seem to make autofocus work with this camera. I have no idea why. Worked fine with my previous camera. I suspect this is to do with the load carrying adjustment of my Moonlite and nothing to do with the camera itself.

#2 MattThomas

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 03:35 PM

Hilmi,

I am sorry about your dissatisfaction with the STT.

The locking power connector is one we have been using for years in cameras. At times, the center pin on the camera can become compressed and not make good contact with the power supply. There are various reasons why this can occur over the life of this power connector. Use a small screwdriver to spread the center pin on the camera slightly and you should get a significant improvement in the mating of the connector. This is a minor tradeoff with this locking power connector. In fact this is the same connector you have on your ST-402.

I am sorry that it was not clear about the 2.156" thread on the front of the guider cover. We can get you a t-thread plate for the front of the guider cover if you would like. It will vignette the guider, but you may be willing to accept the vignetting with your Televue 60mm telescope.

The separate shutters on the imager and the guider can be controlled independently – but this would have required significant changes across the entire platform from MaxIm/CCDSoft/etc. through the driver and in the camera. Changing this operation would have resulted in significant new development for Software Bisque, Diffraction Limited, and any other company that is controlling our cameras. So a conscious decision was made to make the STT shutters act as close as possible to our previous cameras. Yes, this means you cannot take dark frames and calibrate your guider at the same time. I am sorry that this is an important feature to you.

We tested the camera and guider on an SCT @ f/10 and had no trouble reaching focus. We will test it again to ensure something didn’t change. Are you certain you had the mirror adjusted properly? It is possible that your mirror was too far off axis and you were not able to correct for the field curvature on the SCT.

Finally, as to your filter wheel, this is certainly not good. Do you know what the filter wheel error was? Can you replicate the error? Is there any other information you can provide? What is the serial number of your filter wheel?

There is no question that getting new equipment running properly on the first night is always a challenge. Stick with it and I think you will be running smoothly in no time. Feel free to contact me here, or contact our technical support email directly with any further questions.

Thank you.

#3 pfile

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Posted 16 November 2012 - 04:42 PM

hi, as you know i also have one of these cameras/filter wheel combos. i am seeing similar filter wheel errors, though the errors are apparently mostly ignored by Equinox Image. i have not yet had an imaging plan fail due to filter wheel errors.

the conclusion seemed to be that the OSX-side drivers are not as up-to-date as the windows drivers, but maybe there is more driver work to do on both platforms, or perhaps some updates to Maxim are necessary.

i wonder if one thing that could be added to the driver would be the ability to open the guider shutter and leave it open. inbetween imager exposures the guide camera is (correctly, of course) opening and closing its shutter on ever guide camera frame. but i wonder if this puts un-necessary wear and tear on the guider shutter mechanism.

#4 jerryyyyy

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 01:19 AM

Hi Hilmi,

Could comment- I posted also on Yahoo. I think I was the second unit shipped... bleeding edge of technology.

1. I have no problems with the power, but have all the cords tied down to prevent shake. It would be a big pain shipping from Qatar. If you have it hooked up and powered on, and you touch the plug, does it go out? You should be able to verify where the loose connection is.

2. There are known issues with the filters, just discussed. These are non-existant for me now that I have all the firmware updates... can image all night. There is one error that persists, will not image starting a new series on the same filter it rests on. Need to move it before you start. Bottom line, make sure you have all the updates using their updater (carefully).

3. On the guiding, I am guiding with a C8 and no focal reducer, i.e. f10 and 2032mm fl. Mount is a standard Atlas. The stars are not perfectly round in the OAG, but there are many and they are OK if binned and I update every 3-4 sec. I do think this could be an issue as I have not quite tweaked the guiding to what I had with PhD (Currently using Maxim). I am reserving judgement here.

4. PS I screwed up by selecting the wrong filter wheel in the settings... I believe it is the Standard one... reread the instructions... this cost me a lot of time.

#5 Hilmi

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 06:56 AM

OK, I would like to re-iterate that my experience is not representative. I was just venting some steam and I did not intend to put the manufacturer in a bad light. Managed to get things working again last night, I had not fiddled with the power connector, but it seemed to have worked fine for a full night of imaging. I also did not face the filter wheel error again. This leads me to suspect it is triggered by the power connector loosing power, since it seems that the camera never lost power last night, that would explain why I did not get any filter wheel errors.

I had not seen the post about moving the OAG pick of mirror further in before I tried the camera last night, and therefore did not get the chance to try that advice.

Matt,

Don't get me wrong, I am not dissatisfied with the camera, I am just frustrated with a less than stellar first light. After a full week of practice in a controlled environment, I thought I would just screw on the adapter, balance the mount and go trigger happy with photos, you can imagine my frustration when things didn't work out that way. My only true complaints which I would have is that you should clearly mark the need for an STL style connector for full performance in the marketing material, this will help people make other equipment choices, such as what other adapters to add to their shopping basket. (I did notice it later in the drawings of the filter wheel, but it wouldn't hurt to just flat out say it in the specs. My second complaint would be that power connector issue occurred so often that it should have been spotted at the QC stage, unless something happened during shipping and the connector was damaged at that time.

The workmanship on the body of the camera is a work of art, the cooling performance is outstanding and the case the camera came in was a joy. I won't talk about image quality as I am not qualified to assess this and the 8300 chips have been around for a while, I will say one thing though. I just managed to take an exposure yesterday and compared it to my ST402me, and although the old camera was far more sensitive, the low level of noise on this camera is unbelievable. My images are so clean compared to my old camera. If I could change one thing in the design of the camera I would have attempted to find quieter fans as the ones installed sound like a 747 in my observatory. I guess if I wanted to enjoy a quiet night in the observatory I would have to use water cooling.

#6 alpal

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 07:55 AM

Hi Hilmi,
I don't know anyone who had a trouble free first night with a new camera.
There is always going to be something to iron out.

Good luck with it as I'm sure you'll get to the bottom of any problems.

#7 jerryyyyy

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 10:32 AM

Hilma, you moved along a lot faster than I did.

Make sure about the drivers (the .dll files) AND the firmware updates. There are two parts.

Also, get some of those little plastic cable ties. Once I had the USB and power cables seated I put a little slack in the cables and then tied them down twice along that grey handles on the back of the camera. This way no matter what the camera does at night there is no pull on the attachments.

PS I am going to try the reducer when the clouds clear here (Sunday) and see what that does for my guiding. The 2032mm fl is too narrow anyway. I did not want to use the FR until I was sure the images coming out of the camera were clean, and as you point out they are.

PPS I have been running it at -20. This seems to be only 20-30% of the capacity. I wonder how clean the images would look at -30... but I have all my darks at -20 and hate to start over... you might run some tests before you go into production....

Good luck!

#8 Hilmi

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 11:03 AM

Jery,

I updated both the drivers and the firmware first thing before the camera was even hooked up to the telescope.

Now I have found that the filter wheel error's are not related to the power. I have had the following errors (6, 35, 100) out of MaximDL. And looking at the error code description from the MaximDL website doesnt tell you much.

I am finding guiding at 2000mm focal length challenging. Yesterday I got reasonably good performance guiding on the Horse head nebula, today I can't seem to make the guiding behave on M74

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#9 pfile

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 12:02 PM

i am running at -30C with relative ease (40-50% cooling power, depending on ambient.) one night i pushed it down to -40 just to see if it could make it. the ambient temp was 10C. it took a while and got down to -39.8C and i decided to back off to -30C again.

the only issue i've had with the camera (aside from the power thing) is attempting to use flats that are too short. i got a very weird gradient in my calibrated subs, but i think that's to be expected. i've used a darker t-shirt and with 4 second L flats, everything seems fine.

the following image is messed up due to the flats problem, and my telescope is out of collimation, but i was pretty happy about the SNR especially in this very light-polluted location.

Posted Image

#10 jerryyyyy

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 02:44 PM

Hilmi, your stars look better than mine.... I think we are pushing it guiding at 2000mm... imagine how small the changes are that it tries to track. If I just watch the star in the Maxim DL guide window I can just see the atmospheric affect it.

This is my first effort at narrow band filtering with a telescope:

Posted Image

I have also been working on M74... it is just sitting there... and as pfile notes... flats are a pain. With my DSLR I could get short flats and they were fine. Here I could not get 2 second ones and there is again some funny interaction with the camera and the filter wheel. SBIG explained it to me and it was again rocket science. Bottom line is I am not happy with my flats either. :tonofbricks:

The suggested a plugin for Maxim DL that I am trying: Sky Flats Assistant. I have been using Sky Flats and they are good only part of the 15 or so minutes it takes to collect 20x8 filters. Supposedly this plug-in will adjust exposure length to get the right ADU (more rocket science).

I could not get my T-shirt to work.... too white???!!!

#11 Peter in Reno

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 02:53 PM

Remember that your camera has a mechanical shutter and if you take too short exposure for flats, you will see shadows caused by mechanical shutter. I have read that you may need to expose longer until you no longer see shadow on your flats but you will also need to dim the light box so the flats will not be over exposed. If you use T-shirt method, add more layers of T-shirts.

Peter

#12 pfile

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 03:03 PM

yep, that's what's going on. the type of shutter SBIG uses is more amenable to short-ish flats than an iris-type shutter. but with my 'normal' flat setup i had to be way down at 200mS and that's just way too short. DSLRs are designed for really short exposures, but these cameras not as much.

#13 jerryyyyy

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Posted 17 November 2012 - 08:42 PM

Remember that your camera has a mechanical shutter and if you take too short exposure for flats, you will see shadows caused by mechanical shutter. I have read that you may need to expose longer until you no longer see shadow on your flats but you will also need to dim the light box so the flats will not be over exposed. If you use T-shirt method, add more layers of T-shirts.

Peter


You are correct on all this, we need a FAQ addendum to their manual.... I have not lost hope, given what I have invested here....

#14 Hilmi

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 04:36 AM

I took successful flats using my EL panel with Ha filter, I have not yet tried it with the other filters which allow in more light.

Pfile, I'd say you are getting along very well with your own camera.

Jery,

My tracking is worse than yours on last nights attempt, but that has nothing to do with the camera, it is MaximDL and the mount.

#15 jerryyyyy

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 10:54 AM

I think I will have clear skys tonight and will work on the tracking. May I suggest the Helix for a good target for the filters. I am now working on Mel 15, which is a lot tougher.

I am going to try to fine tune the focus and other setting on the guide camera... I want to make sure I am at the limit of what I can get out of the guide camera to optimize the tracking. With the 2000mm FL I am pretty sure I am into watching the atmospherics, but I want to be sure.

If I can take some images from the guide camera using Maxim, I'll post them.

Cheers

#16 Hilmi

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 12:01 PM

The camera does it's part in the tracking, usually it's the mount. I just did some investigation and I found some burs on my worm gear, so I swapped the DEC & RA gears and now I am getting good guiding. This took me months to figure out.

I guess today I will see how the camera works out of the clouds clear up.

#17 jerryyyyy

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 01:54 PM

I lucked out with a good Atlas out of the box. Unfortunately it is clouding up in California, so not sure what I will get tonight. Good luck.

#18 Roy Salisbury

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 02:58 PM

I've had my camera on order for about 3 weeks now and hope to have it in about 3 more weeks. I am a bit worried about the STL thread requirement. From my understanding, it comes with an STL to 2" nose piece. Is this not true? Do I need to get the proper adapter?

If I need to get one, I will probable just get the Moonlite focuser adapter with STL threads. That way it will screw directly into the draw tube threads for a snug fit. Then I just have to worry about the rotation. But, I will no longer be able to use my field flattener as it only has T-Threads. I will need to find a replacement for my AT106 or hope that things work ok without it.

As for the focuser not working correctly. I found the last time that I was swapping out part on my setup, that if the focuser was sideways or upside down, then I could not get it to maintain focus. When I rotated it back to level it worked fine. So I must have been slipping due to the weight.

I have also ordered a separate power cable for my Paramount MX so I can run the power through the mount ... hopefully it does not have the same issues as the stock power adapter.

I am beginning to wonder however if I should have got the self guiding FW or not. The lack of field flatteners that fon't use T-Threads is hard to find (if not impossible).

Roy

#19 MattThomas

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 04:30 PM

From my understanding, it comes with an STL to 2" nose piece.


Roy,

This is correct. It does come with an STL to 2" nose piece.

Thank you,

#20 Roy Salisbury

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Posted 18 November 2012 - 06:32 PM

Thanks for confirming that Matt. I think I will still get the moonlite m68 to STL locking adaptor. That way it is a nice snug fit. I have also found the TS 2.5" field flattner that should work with my AT106. Just may have to have some special adapters made for the connections.

Roy

#21 jerryyyyy

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Posted 19 November 2012 - 10:30 AM

Hello,

For Hilmi, here is how I have the cables tied down... the extra grey cable is just in case the heavy sucker slides out and wants to take a fall...

PS This is where I got my connector for the C8... they seem to have everything:

ASTRO PHYSICS INC
11250 FOREST HILLS RD
MACHESNEY PARK, IL 61115
(815)282-1513

Cheers

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#22 Hilmi

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Posted 20 November 2012 - 02:13 AM

Thank you for the cable guiding picture, it sure is useful to see how others are doing things.

#23 jerryyyyy

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Posted 24 November 2012 - 03:33 PM

Hilmi, can I send you a couple FITS images and see if you are getting the same ADU values? I am having trouble getting flats right?

#24 Chuck Faranda

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Posted 20 April 2013 - 09:33 PM

Where is the Maxim plugin for the STT-8300 and self guiding CFW that will allow RBI preflashing, and have a selection for the CFW? The plugin should also expose the preflash modes so automation software like CCDAP can use it to flash for bias, darks, lights and flats but allow focus and plate solving to use the fast readout mode without the flash.

CCDOPS has a check box for flashing without details of user setable iterations and times. PRIMITIVE implementation in my opinion.

Had I know this was absent I would not have bought an SBIG :foreheadslap:

#25 Hilmi

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Posted 21 April 2013 - 12:34 AM

With regards to the plug in for supporting the camera's features:
-SBIG say it would require big changes in MaximDL to make the extra features work from inside MaximDL
-MaximDL say it the responsibility of the camera manufacturers to make ti work
-SBIG yahoo group was very responsive
-MaximDL yahoo group regularly ignore questions that they do not want to answer. I have posted multiple questions about this in the MaximDL group and not so much as a polite response to tell me that it is SBIG's job to do it. I have also had the same experience with other questions I have asked on that group. I once posted a question about support for the Canon7D in MaximDL before I renewed my license. I basically wanted to know if I should spend the money on MaximDL renewal or just go for BYEOS. It took weeks till somebody responded to tell me they have had support for the camera for a full year now. Why does it take weeks to answer such a simple question?


My conclusion, the lack of a plug in is due to both SBIG and MaximDL team. It is in the interest of both parties to support the functionality, especially considering the popularity of the SBIG cameras in general. You would think MaximDL development team would have incentive to support such large user base, but then again, what do you expect, they still do not support dual core processors even after so many years on the market. Because of this, you can't even do simple multi-tasking inside the app without causing something else to completely freeze till you finish your current task.






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