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ASI120MM / what computer?

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#1 Space99

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 03:09 AM

Hi everyone,
the pro guys in this forum convinced me to get a ASI120MM camera,
but I desperate need to upgrade my computer to be able to handle the data.
Any suggestions what performance should I aim for with a moderate budget? Should I have a separate laptop for the data acquisition and a desktop for processing?

Thanks guys,
Mick.

#2 Gary BEAL

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 03:43 PM

Mick,
my experience with a PC with an AMD chip has been mixed to be honest.
With a DMK it baulked and gave me such grief that I sold the DMK. I tried an ASI 120MM, and it didn't fare too much better.
Right now I am running a Flea2 with firewire and it is singing along.
The PC for capture is a desktop quad core.
The ASI 120MM is a good camera and Sam is a great guy to deal with, perhaps see what he says, I found him to be very honest and forthcoming with his communications.
Gary

#3 edsplace

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 04:12 PM

I am using a HP laptop with dual core Intel Pentium chip 2.1Ghz, 4GB ram, and 250gig hard drive, USB 2. It seems to run everything at full speed I am getting fullpublished frame rates, writing all frames to disk during capture. So this camera does not seem to need much lifting power as this is a very, very modest setup by today's standards. While I had this camera only about 24 hours, I have been testing it for nearly every waking hour since it came in the door.

#4 Space99

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 07:08 PM

thanks guys,
I thinking of a "split" set-up
buying a modest laptop for portability and portable hard-drives, complemented by a more spec desktop for processing.

Mick

#5 wenjha

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 11:39 PM

Hi Mick
the most important thing is that its should be a intel computer. I found that all intel computers can use the full bandwidth of USB2.0 and ASI120MM can run to 30fps at full resolution without any problem.
when USB is fine then you need to consider CPU and harddisk.
if you want to use FC then with a CPU 2.0G and 2GRAM is suggested.Harddisk biger better. you may got 50-100G data one night :)

#6 wenjha

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Posted 04 December 2012 - 11:41 PM

Thanks Gary for your kind words
I am sorry about the AMD system

#7 Space99

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 12:09 AM

thanks Sam :)

#8 Gary BEAL

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Posted 05 December 2012 - 02:51 AM

A pleasure Sam, it is always good to have someone involved with the passion you have. Your product is great, it's just a shame my PC wasn't compatible. In retrospect I should have changed the PC, not the camera.
Gary

#9 edsplace

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 10:27 PM

A quick word on computer choice. In the past all the laptops I have purchased had a couple of USB host controllers. So 3 ports 2 controllers, 2 ports on one controller and a single USB port on its own controller. Just plug the camera into the single controller and you were good. This new one I have only has one host controller.... So if I use any other USB devices it takes bandwidth from the camera, slowing down the frame rate.

#10 Space99

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Posted 06 December 2012 - 11:52 PM

OK, thanks
how can I tell if a bunch of USB is on one or more host?

Mick

#11 edsplace

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Posted 07 December 2012 - 10:10 AM

If you have a running sample check device manager, you can then count the number of host controllers running. If you don't a quick check of specs on the internet should tell you.

#12 tim53

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 03:18 PM

Okay, so I've heard how fast these cameras can run. But how slow can they go?

For example, my flea cameras can take exposures up to 60 minutes long.

-Tim.

#13 zAmbonii

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Posted 08 December 2012 - 03:21 PM

Website says
Exposure Range: 64┬Ás-1000s

Ive ordered an ASI120MC, and I am hoping to use it as a guide camera. Will also try to to some short deep space stuff with it also. We'll see how it goes when it arrives.

#14 Space99

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 06:09 PM

I think I'm ready.... just after xmas so the prices are a bit better.
I try to avoid Win8 ... and I have to use the Laptop for processing as well to save money....
The one I find in my price range is Asus A54C-SX327V Notebook.... it's a Intel core3-2.2GHz with 4G ddr3 500Gb

Once I've got the Laptop, need to start from scratch re software...
So, what software I need to download for the ASI120MM camera, and to make RGB planetary pics?
Is it expensive software(s)?

Thanks everyone :)

Mick

#15 wenjha

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 10:41 PM

you need to download the driver and capture software like Sharpcap or Firecapture.
For Combining the RGB file I think MaxIm-DL does it well.
PS can do it too.

#16 Space99

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 11:05 PM

thanks Sam,
a "work-flow" chart for planetary beginners would be so nice
I'm sure many people would benefit from it. I personally feel a bit overwhelmed by the complexity of so may software and process... missed out a lot in the past, trying to catch up with learning.

tnx in advance :)

Mick

#17 wenjha

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:16 AM

Hi Mick
you are correct about the complexity of astronomy imaging.
but this is the same reason why we love it :)

#18 Mert

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:22 AM

Hey Mick,

For a couple of $$ you can add another 4Gb DDR module
to it.
Makes a lot of difference when running W7!!

#19 bunyon

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:52 AM

Mick, work-flow varies quite a bit, I think, imager to imager. Here is a quick, off the top of my head to avoid starting to work list of what I do:

1. Move scope from garage to yard, engage fans, several hours previous to imaging. It's best to set up on grass or dirt - but not concrete or asphalt. It's best to set up so that you'll not image over a bunch of houses (although, this is very difficult - I live in a neighborhood with other houses, drat it).

2. Double check all the cables (to computer, Servo Cat, Argo Navis, focuser, etc.) are secure and connected properly.

3. Collimate as carefully as possible (I have a truss-Dob and simply moving it from the garage to the yard throws it off - if you have an SCT it may well need less collimating (but longer cooling)). But careful and accurate collimation is essential as most learn the hard way (I know I did).

4. Acquire planet in the eyepiece. Use a reticle eyepiece to first center without a Barlow. Then I add whatever Barlow I'm going to use and double check centering with the reticle. A lot of folks find the planet with the camera. In fact, many collimate with the camera (which is undoubtedly the "best" way to do it, though sort of a pain with my system.)

5. Attach camera and filter wheel.

6. Bring up FireCapture. Hope that I still see the planet in the frame. Usually, I do. Rough focus.

7. Run through each channel I plan to use finding settings at which the histogram is between 60-80% (for Jupiter, lower for Saturn).

8. Focus carefully (and re-focus as needed).

9. Begin acquiring. I typically acquire 40s per Red and Blue, then 60s for blue. I've gone shorter and gone longer (60s per R and G, 80s blue). There is debate about how long is too long. Some is personal preference. But, as a general rule, the longer you run, the more rotational drift you get. (all the numbers above are for Jupiter). If you have a fast camera, you can get away with shorter avis. If you have a slow camera, the rotational blurring is probably a necessary price to pay for lower noise in the final image. If you shoot at shorter focal lengths, you can go longer. Don't be afraid to play with it (that goes for every aspect - use mediocre or bad nights to play with settings so that you have a good routine when the great seeing comes).

10. Break down. I can usually just wheel the scope into the garage and pack everything away later. An observatory would be nice but would need to be in my front yard.

----

11. Align and stack each avi in AutoStakkert!2. How many frames you will stack depends on how good the seeing was, how many frames you collected, etc. At the gain settings I use with the Flea3, I try to stack around 2000 frames per channel - corresponds to 40-60% of the frames, depending on what focal length I used and which channel. Again, how many frames and where you set alignpoints is something to play around a lot with.

12. Sharpen each stacked tif. I usually use Registax 6 and have a "stock" wavelet setting. But I try to play with that some - some tifs can take more and others less. I know a lot of people use deconvolution in AstraImage. You'll find that most images, while looking largely the same in total, bear a good deal of personal character.

13. Look at all the tifs and select the "good ones".

(Note: 14-15a are optional. If you don't do RGB, skip. If you don't want to bother with derotation, skip).

14. Make image measurements in WinJupos of the good ones.

15. Derotate and stack the R,G and B channels in WinJupos. Again, I run 40s R and G, then 60s B. Derotated and stacked the total span of time is about 3 minutes.

15a. Occasionally, I make an image measurement for the RGB from 15 and then derotate and stack several RGBs that are within 5-20 minutes of each other. This often works very well.

16. Take the stacked RGB into Photoshop, adjust levels, curves, denoise, high pass filter, etc. until the image looks best (to me). Again, play with it.

17. Occasionally I will go back to an image and re-align/stack in AS!2 more carefully or with different numbers of frames. I typically only do this if I think the final image came out worse than I expected from the video or channels.

18. Post to CN and ALPO.


You should play around as much as possible with all of that. I wouldn't take anyone's method and apply it unthinkingly but, if you are to do so, there are better folks than me. But that is, I think, pretty close to what everyone does, although details will vary considerably. But, like I say, the important thing is to experiment and try new things. Each setup is different, each night is different, etc.

Also, while it looks on paper fairly complicated, once you get the routine down, it isn't all that bad. An evening moves pretty smoothly once you start acquiring. And the processing is unbreakable, assuming you don't throw the raw data away. Can't tell you how many "final" images I've tossed in the bin. But you just start over with the avi and all is well. Good luck.

#20 MvZ

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 12:49 PM

I second Merts suggestion. Having a lot of RAM certainly helps. Especially AutoStakkert!2 does very well when it has enough memory available. Now AS!2 is only a 32-bit application, but it can use a full 4 gigabyte on it's own. And apart from that, windows can also buffer a file from your harddisk in ram memory (which will speed up many stages of processing in AS!2 if it couldn't buffer the file on its own). If you 'only' have four gigabytes in your system, then AS!2 will likely never be able to use more than about 2.5 GB (windows eats up the rest). So having 8 GB is certainly not overkill.

It also makes you system more responsive overall. I can easily do capturing with FireCapture AND quickly processing in AS!2 and Photoshop to see what the recordings look like, without dropping frames. RAM memory is also relatively cheap.

Below you'll find a small graph showing the performance of AS!2 using relatively few alignment points, under several conditions (and for version 2.1.0.5 and a beta 2.2.0.4). The recording was one of Saturn, about 2 GB in size, containing 6085 frames. I also simulated a low ram condition, where there was not enough memory available for AS!2 (or windows) to buffer a recording.

Attached Files



#21 Space99

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 03:10 PM

Oh, lovely thanks guys!!

I just learned yesterday that to find a laptop with WIN7 and not W8 is difficult, but not impossible .
Still hunting...
Hardware related question, if I use external HD on the laptop and dumping the data, the USB port is shared with the camera true the hub. Would this slow it down a bit?
Or some laptop has USB3 for the HD and USB2 for the cam.

Thanks for the advice and the work-flow Paul :)

Cheers,
Mick.






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