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First experience - Mallincam Extreme

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#1 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 08:35 AM

Yes that is correct. I have gone to the "Dark Side", pun intended. I tested a Friend's Mallincam extreme last night.

He is taking delivery of a Meade 14" LX850 next week. Since he didn't have a scope yet we decided to hook up his Mallincam Extreme to my scope to try it out.

We had no experience with the Mallincam and the clouds were rolling in so we weren't sure how far we would get. I aligned my mount with my camera and took a couple of test shots for comparison. Then we hooked up the extreme and started playing with the settings.

We probably started with the wrong subject. I had the scope centered on the Horse Head but we hadn't set the focus with the Mallincam so we had trouble even finding a star much less finding that dark object.

We realized our mistake and slewed to Sirius. However, we had to stop that slew because we forgot about the Meridian flip. We settled on Rigel instead because doing the Meridian flip required us to move the computer, frame grabber, and cabling in the dark.

As soon as Rigel came into view we quickly got it in focus with the Mac program's "Focus mode" setting which appeared to give us just the right shutter duration for focusing.

Then we decided to slew to Orion and figure out the settings with a brighter object. I was totally shocked at how the Mallincam refreshes the screen. I knew that it integrated the object over time and showed the object getting progressively brighter. However, I was surprised to see that if we slewed away and back the object still had the same brightness that it had when we left. I don't know how it is remembering the brightness?

We tried all sorts of settings like Hyper mode for 3 minutes, Sense up mode at X128, and AGC on a manual setting of 8 and on Auto. None of them seemed to expose more than the picture below even after several minutes of integration. I know we were just not using the correct setting because I have seen much brighter exposures than what we were getting.

Can you all take a look at the image of the program below and let us know what settings would give us more exposure? I am not sure what program he was using so if there is a better way to control we are all ears.

We slewed back to the Horse Head after that but we still couldn't get the exposure high enough to see anything but stars. I know it was just our inexperience with the control program so any help with that is appreciated.

Overall we were very pleased with how far we got. The fact that we got the mount setup and aligned before testing the Mallincam helped a lot. I have had several friends try to learn Aligning, tracking, focusing, and centering with all new equipment in a single night and it makes it so much harder.

I really enjoyed the ultra narrow view of the Mallincam on my 800mm scope. The core looked fantastic. However, I warned my friend that his 14" 2800mm scope will give such a small field of view with the Mallincam that centering and finding objects will be difficult. He has a 5DMKII as well and I suggested using his 80mm APO with the Mallincam and the 5DMKII with the 14" will give him a much more forgiving field of view for learning the new equipment.

Overall I was impressed with the Mallincam. It is a very well crafted device that is extremely versatile. I hope to get to test it again after we figure out the settings.

Here is a picture of the settings panel from the program. How should we have set this up to get more exposure?

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#2 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 08:37 AM

Here is what we were seeing after 30 seconds of integration with the Mallincam.

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#3 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 08:39 AM

Here is what we saw after several minutes with the settings set to their max(AGC manual = 8, 180 seconds Hyper mode). With an F4.0 scope and no filters I was expecting to blow out the sky in a few seconds. Can anyone see what we were doing wrong?

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#4 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 08:41 AM

Here is what we saw in the Horse Head area. We were not sure if this was centered on it or not with this narrow a field of view.

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#5 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 08:52 AM

Here is what the Horse Head looked like through the same scope with my modified GF1 and ISO 800 for 3 minutes. This is an out of camera jpg just re-sized for CN. This is exactly what the screen shows.

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#6 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 08:59 AM

And here is a modified single exposure RAW file that is meant to show the field of view we were expecting with the Mallincam.

On a side note: I was very proud of my aligning for this image. This is 3 minutes unguided, with an 800mm scope, and I visually polar aligned with the polar scope only. At this point I had not used the all star align and this is a 23 pound scope on the little CG-5. :grin:

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#7 mclewis1

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 09:48 AM

Travis,

I'm not entirely sure what's happening because I don't use the Mac software but that first 30s shot of M42 is clearly not integrating for more than 2.1s.

I'm going to guess that you have some sort of a problem with the Sense UP/128x to Hyper mode switch.

Is the 3 minute settling time being adhered to as you move into Hyper mode? (the exposures beyond 2.1 seconds).

Is the serial connection on the control side working as it's supposed to? Can you reliably change the settings and see the results on the camera (toggling on and off the color bars for example)?

There should be a few folks around here who use that software, and if not asking on the Yahoo Mallincam group would be a good idea as well.

#8 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 09:54 AM

Travis,

I'm not entirely sure what's happening because I don't use the Mac software but that first 30s shot of M42 is clearly not integrating for more than 2.1s.

I'm going to guess that you have some sort of a problem with the Sense UP/128x to Hyper mode switch.

Is the 3 minute settling time being adhered to as you move into Hyper mode? (the exposures beyond 2.1 seconds).

Is the serial connection on the control side working as it's supposed to? Can you reliably change the settings and see the results on the camera (toggling on and off the color bars for example)?

There should be a few folks around here who use that software, and if not asking on the Yahoo Mallincam group would be a good idea as well.


Thanks. I am sure that it was just something wrong with how we were doing it. It appeared to adhere to the minutes changing. We watched it accumulate more light over about 3 minutes. It just didn't appear to adhere to the gain setting. It seemed like it was stuck to the lowest setting.

#9 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 09:57 AM

Here is a stack of 13 1 minute ISO 800 subs for comparison.

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#10 rmollise

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 11:18 AM

I don't know where you've gone wrong, but I can tell you what is happening: You do not have the hyper mode working; you are seeing 2-second integrations of M42. Even there, your screen contrast seems high. "Mess with the software; if you can't get it, head to the Mallincam Xtreme group on Yahoo..."

#11 James Cunningham

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 11:33 AM

What is the f number of the 800mm scope that you used to get the image? If it is above f5, you need to use a reducer to get shorter exposure times. Also, a 3 inch scope is not going to give you much of a view anyway. Most of your settings seem to be OK. I would have the AGC set anywhere from 4 to 6. The lower you can get your f number without distortion, the better.

#12 rmollise

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 01:34 PM

Actually, a 3-inch can do very well. What matters is f/ratio. But I believe his problem is exposure.

#13 Dwight J

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 01:40 PM

Looks like the contrast and brightness needed adjustment. The sky is too black. Another adjustment to check is the video filter black level as it may be set too high. You likely wouldn't need it enabled. Don't use a gain of more than 4 as this adds too much noise. With brightness set for whatever exposure time you are using the Horsehead should be visible in just a few seconds with 3 minutes hitting the background sky brightness.

#14 rmollise

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 02:13 PM

I often use a gain of 5 or 6. It may had some noise, but the beauty of the Mallincam is seeing incredible detail, not in pretty pictures. For that you want a DSLR. ;)

#15 mattflastro

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 02:42 PM

Looks like the contrast and brightness needed adjustment. The sky is too black. Another adjustment to check is the video filter black level as it may be set too high. You likely wouldn't need it enabled. Don't use a gain of more than 4 as this adds too much noise. With brightness set for whatever exposure time you are using the Horsehead should be visible in just a few seconds with 3 minutes hitting the background sky brightness.

Are these adjustments actually setting camera parameters, or video grabber parameters or actually computer software application processing parameters? In other words, if someone used the same camera without a computer, just straight to a monitor, would all these adjustments be available somehow thru whatever means ?

#16 rmollise

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 02:44 PM

Looks more to me like a display problem. However, he might try changing the gamma setting in the camera control program. Still, I don't think he's really in hyper mode from the look of the images...

#17 Dwight J

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 06:57 PM

The brightness and contrast adjustments are in the software. I don't have the software at home. If you are just using a monitor you use the brightness, contrast, saturation, etc of the monitor itself. As Rod suspects, you may have been in the default exposure of just a couple of seconds. Once you select hyper mode you have to wait 3 minutes before you can go for a longer exposure. There is a countdown display in Miloslick at the bottom center right of the window. You also should go out of hyper mode to change the gain which, of course, necessitates the 3 min wait again. For just observing I prefer using the wireless exposure controller and monitor for it's simplicity.

#18 ahopp

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Posted 10 February 2013 - 08:14 PM

I am the friend w/mallincam, it is an Xtreme Color Xview HAD. The program we were using is MallinCAM Controll ver. 1.3.4 by MiloSlick Scientific.

Dwight, you might be on the something with the three minute wait, we wondered about that. I have a TV, but, we did not get it out to test.

And, yes, I am sure the serial connection was working, when we made changes to the camera they were received successfully.

Thanks for all the great ideas, will try again soon...

Tony

#19 jimb1001

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 01:14 AM

Frankly, it looks like you forgot to send the settings to the camera, a mistake I've made many times.
If you don't send the settings you get the minimum exposure time.
Don't bother chasing any other solutions until you've verified this.

#20 mallin

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 06:07 AM

Travis,

Obviously the settings are wrong on the camera. All you need is a mere 1/2 second to see M 42 clearly. I would suggest you send me a private e mail for help or ask the question on the MallinCam Yahoo Groups. I would be happy to help you out.
mallincam@gmail.com

Thank you.
Regards,
Rock Mallin

#21 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 06:43 AM

Travis,

Obviously the settings are wrong on the camera. All you need is a mere 1/2 second to see M 42 clearly. I would suggest you send me a private e mail for help or ask the question on the MallinCam Yahoo Groups. I would be happy to help you out.
mallincam@gmail.com

Thank you.
Regards,
Rock Mallin


Thanks Rock. I am sure Tony(The owner of the Mallincam) will frequent there often. I think Dwight's answer was our issue. We weren't sure what the count down was and we had clouds rolling in so we never waited for it to hit zero. I am quite certain that it just never got into Hyper mode.

Great product by the way. We had a lot of fun with it even with the operator errors.

#22 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:34 AM

What is the f number of the 800mm scope that you used to get the image? If it is above f5, you need to use a reducer to get shorter exposure times. Also, a 3 inch scope is not going to give you much of a view anyway. Most of your settings seem to be OK. I would have the AGC set anywhere from 4 to 6. The lower you can get your f number without distortion, the better.


We used an 8 inch 800mm F4.0 scope. That should have been plenty fast enough if we had enabled Hyper mode properly.

#23 TomB36

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:36 AM

Don't forget to start the integration! After the 3 minute timer finishes, there is a button to the left of the word "Exposure" in the lower left of the screen. Once the 3 minute timer times out, this button will become "active". After you click that, you will see a new image when your integration timer completes.

Cheers
Tom (SoIN)

#24 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 09:40 AM

Don't forget to start the integration! After the 3 minute timer finishes, there is a button to the left of the word "Exposure" in the lower left of the screen. Once the 3 minute timer times out, this button will become "active". After you click that, you will see a new image when your integration timer completes.

Cheers
Tom (SoIN)


I wish we had researched this before we tried it. That would have made a huge difference. You live and you learn.

Why does it make you wait the 3 minutes? Also if you change a setting that timer resets right? That is a bummer. That makes switching exposure durations quite time consuming.

#25 ahopp

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Posted 11 February 2013 - 10:08 AM

I must say, it was still a fun experience, even with the default settings on the camera. Saw the orion nebula in a way I have not seen before.

Tony






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