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First CCD camera choice

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#1 AddictedToAstro

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 04:17 PM

Well, here it is... yet another "which camera should I get" post. I apologize in advance if anyone is sick of these, but I'm really struggling.

I am the kind of person that researches the heck out of any big purchase like this, and spending up to $2k on a camera that can ONLY be used with my telescope is a BIG purchase for me. I'm used to spending $500 on a camera, on sale, for the whole family to use. From my research, I'm thinking of these three cameras:

SBIG 8300M
ATIK 314L+
ATIK 428EX

I found a QSI583ws used for $2500, but by the time I make a decision, it will likely be gone. Plus it's definitely over my $2k budget.

I'll be using a CCD camera primarily with my ED80T CF and CGEM mount. About 75% of my imaging will be from my suburban front yard, and the rest from a yellow/green zone dark site. My primary photographic interest is nebulas, being mostly interested in narrow-band imaging and leaving the images in b&w. Maybe color down the road when I get more experience and more money for a filter wheel. But for now, I'll leave color to my cheap & high resolution dslr.

So, from all the calculations of arcseconds per pixel and FOV, all three of those cameras seem a good fit for a wider field of view that I want. I'd love the SBIG because it has so many awesome reviews, has the widest FOV (because of the larger chip) and is a much higher resolution than both of the other options. The 314L+ gets fantastic reviews too and is by far the least expensive, but coming from DSLR, it just seems such a low resolution. And lastly, I like the 428 because it's higher resolution that the 314 and a great form-factor if I ever get into hyperstar imaging with my 9.25" SCT, but it's actually slightly more expensive than the SBIG. I know hyperstar cams are better as OSC, but my main interest is b&w nebula imaging. And f/2 wide field nebula imaging sounds amazing.

I seem to be focused on resolution, and I know that resolution isn't everything. But being able to make a print larger than a postcard would be desirable, if I chose to do so. I'm currently using BYEos for camera control, and not sure what I would use with a CCD, so that could play a role too.

Any opinions out there?

#2 turbo399

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:09 PM

I would like to suggest you consider the QHY9M monochrome CCD which has the same KAF8300 chip as the SBIG 8300M. For several reasons. First of all it offers superior cooling with a -50C below ambient, secondly it weighs in much lighter at just a touch over 1.1 pounds.
It also has a considerable price point, for $2,099.00 a 5 position filter wheel is included.

I have been using one now for over 2 years and it has never let me down.
Clear Skies
Terry Hancock

#3 mmalik

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 07:34 PM

I'm thinking of these three cameras:

SBIG 8300M
ATIK 314L+
ATIK 428EX


8300M bar none; not that simple though. Lot of choices in 8300M, read more here.... Thx

#4 rigel123

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 11:17 PM

Do you already have a guiding set up or do you need that as well? Just thinking of what else you might want to add to your purchases. Yep, the Atik is a great camera, and I have never owned one of the larger chip cameras so I won't chime in on which is the best.

#5 AddictedToAstro

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 09:38 AM

I would like to suggest you consider the QHY9M monochrome CCD which has the same KAF8300 chip as the SBIG 8300M. For several reasons. First of all it offers superior cooling with a -50C below ambient, secondly it weighs in much lighter at just a touch over 1.1 pounds.
It also has a considerable price point, for $2,099.00 a 5 position filter wheel is included.


Thanks for this recommendation Terry. Being a CCD newbie, does "regulated cooling" mean that it's set-point? Or is it just -50c from whatever ambient?


8300M bar none; not that simple though. Lot of choices in 8300M, read more here.... Thx


I'm really leaning this direction, but the price of the QHY9M is really temping, being the same as the base SBIG but including a filter wheel. I won't need a filter wheel for LRGB for a while, but it would be nice for when I get more narrowband filters.


Do you already have a guiding set up or do you need that as well? Just thinking of what else you might want to add to your purchases. Yep, the Atik is a great camera, and I have never owned one of the larger chip cameras so I won't chime in on which is the best.


Warren, I do have a guiding setup... SSAG with a 50mm guidescope, just like yours. You know, your astrobin is the main reason why the 314L+ is even in the running, because your images are so amazing, with many of them from the exact same OTA I have.

#6 Dr Benway

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 10:19 AM

I have been using the QHY9M since it was introduced with no problems. You won't find a better price with the filterwheel included.

John

#7 AddictedToAstro

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:06 PM

Guys, I've been looking into the QHY9M since this morning, and I am finding almost all good things about it. Some have talked about how the engineering and build quality of the SBIG is so much better. But the engineering and build quality of an expensive Mercedes far surpasses a Chrysler Sebring, but we love our Sebring. There are a couple of negative comments about it here and there, but overwhelmingly the reaction is positive.

I've looked at images from the 8300M and they don't seem superior in any way to images from the QHY. Now, I know there's a LOT behind the scenes, but the end results are stunning from both cameras.

For $2100, it comes with a 5-position 2" filter wheel and the pixel size seems good for my setup... can't beat that. I'm pretty sure I'm heading this direction. Thanks Terry for the recommendation. Now I just have to wait for the tax return to arrive :(


BTW -- Terry, your work on your website is stunning!

#8 AddictedToAstro

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:09 PM

Wow, John, same thing... stunning images on your website! And I see you own both the QHY9M and STF-8300M. Since your comment was for the QHY and they have the same ccd, I assume you like it better?

Also, does the QHY have set point cooling or is it just based off ambient?

#9 orlyandico

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:21 PM

I expect the QHY has set point.

But the SBIG is really only about $400 more than the QHY, if you get the Xagyl filter wheel.

I have a QHY8 - one of the earliest models from QHY - and I am dissatisfied with it. But maybe my expectations are high.

I expect the 9 should have improvements over the 8 like addressing the pesky dewing of the front glass, maybe the CCD chamber is sealed? because on the 8 it's a PITA to get rid of dirt on the sensor.. OK my perceptions of QHY are colored by my unsatisfactory experience.

But in your shoes, QHY9M for $2000 vs STF-8300M + filter wheel for $2500, I know where I'd go. Also the QHY is MIC and the SBIG is made in the USA. Don't know if that counts for anything to you (it would to me, even if I'm not American!)

#10 buckeyestargazer

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 12:38 PM

I'll just throw in my :penny: :penny: here...
I think the recommendation of a QHY9 is a good one, but at that price point I would look into the Atik 383L+ as well. I have never used a QHY9, but I have used a QHY8 and was very impressed with it.

I have been using an Atik 383L for 3 years now (I had one of the first in the USA I believe). Currently you can buy a package with the camera, EFW2 9-position filter wheel and case for just over $2500. But here's the kicker, you can use 1.25" filters down to about f/5, which will save you a ton of money on filter prices vs. 2" for the QHY9. This was the determining factor for me in purchasing the Atik over the SBIG and QHY versions. The qhy9 does have a little better cooling (-50c vs. -40c for the Atik).

Here are my reasons for choosing the 383L+
1. Price
2. Ability to use 1.25" filters
3. 9 position filter wheel
4. Lowest published read noise of any KAF-8300 camera (But in reality this is debatable).

I've been very happy with my 383L and am just sharing my experience here. Either camera will be a great choice for you.

Now, if those Sony-chip cameras were a little larger and a little less expensive, I would gladly switch from the Kodak. Sony chips are much better, lower noise etc, but you pay a lot more too.

#11 andysea

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 03:10 PM

I had the Atik 383L+ OSC and color. They are good cameras but the ones that I had were extremely picky about power supply. If the voltage was close to 12V the camera generated noise and once I had to throw away an entire night of subs. I learned that I had to supply ~13.5 volts in order to keep the images clean. After that experience every time I used the 383 I was worried that I would have to discard all my subs.

#12 Dave Venne

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 04:01 PM

I image with an SBIG-8300M (my first CCD), and before I bought it I was doing similar wrestling. I had almost decided on the Atik314L+, but I had a hard time reconciling myself to the smaller chip size. Then a used SBIG came up for sale at a generous discount and I had my camera. That might be your best strategy: Patience and prowling the classifieds. If your patience wears thin, pick one of your candidates and buy it new. There are a great many CCDs that can give you good images. If you decide to change to another camera you can always sell yours and put the money toward the next purchase.

My sky is very light polluted as well. You can use the 8300M to put a lot of very nice H alpha data in your inventory for future use while you wait on the filter wheel.

Good luck with whatever camera you choose,

Dave

#13 Konihlav

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 04:19 PM

if you are from EU or other non-US location, you should also look at:
http://www.gxccd.com...at=132&lang=409

:)

#14 buckeyestargazer

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 04:47 PM

I had the Atik 383L+ OSC and color. They are good cameras but the ones that I had were extremely picky about power supply. If the voltage was close to 12V the camera generated noise and once I had to throw away an entire night of subs. I learned that I had to supply ~13.5 volts in order to keep the images clean. After that experience every time I used the 383 I was worried that I would have to discard all my subs.


Yeah Andy I read that thread on the Atik forum with interest and made me wonder about my camera too. But I use the Atik AC power supply which gave a regulated output of 12v DC, and I didn't notice any difference between that AC 12v powersupply and a 13.8v DC power supply. But I believe others have reported what you experienced too, though I have not seen this myself.

#15 rigel123

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 06:39 PM

Warren, I do have a guiding setup... SSAG with a 50mm guidescope, just like yours. You know, your astrobin is the main reason why the 314L+ is even in the running, because your images are so amazing, with many of them from the exact same OTA I have.


Thank you for the kind comment! From the discussion I think you can go with any of the camera's suggested and you should be happy. I'm sure I'll eventually go with a larger format chip, but will probably stick with a Sony chip just for the convenience of not having to take and keep a library of darks. Not that it is that big a deal, but I think of myself as a casual/hobby imager and only have so much time on my hands for imaging!

#16 andysea

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 06:46 PM

Yes I see stunning images produced by Sony sensors. Not having to take darks is definitely a plus!
Does anyone know anything about the Sony ICX413AQ?

Andy

#17 AddictedToAstro

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 07:41 PM

I agree it being nice not having to deal with darks. But at the same time, with setpoint cooling I can set the camera on my desk, let it reach temp and take a bunch of darks overnight while I'm in bed or busy working. It's still dealing with darks, but easier than having to take them while imaging like I do now with my dslr.

Still haven't decided for sure though. I'm going to take Dane's suggestion and keep an eye on the used market to see what comes up. I'm not in a huge hurry, but super excited to get started. We'll see how long I hold out.

#18 andysea

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 08:02 PM

Yes that's what I do with my CCD. I just take darks at home. I standardized all my subs at -15C and I created a library of darks at various exposure lengths and binning combinations.

#19 orlyandico

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 08:54 PM

Andy, the ICX413AQ is an old, old OSC chip from Sony that was used in the Nikon D70s and the earliest prototype QHY8's.

But the production QHY8's ended up using the ICX453AQ which is the improved sensor in the Nikon D40x and D60.

Now in my experience the QHY8 is ok but not great - it's basically equivalent to modded and cooled DSLR - so I imagine the ICX413AQ is worse.

#20 hytham

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 10:31 PM

Looking at the QHY9M it states on their website that the 2" filter wheel with RGB filters are only included as a part of a special deal available until March of 2010.

#21 andysea

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 11:57 PM

Thanks Orly. I am wondering if there are any large format sony chips that are as good as the ICX694 or similar. I would love to have such a camera....if it was matched with outstanding electronics.

Andy

#22 orlyandico

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Posted 26 February 2013 - 11:59 PM

There isn't.. because the 694 is the largest mono chip that Sony makes.

All the new Sony DSLR sensors (IMX021, IMX071) are all CMOS now. The D200 is the most recent Nikon DSLR that is CCD.

As I mentioned in some other threads and perhaps above, the swankiest camera you can get today with the 694 is probably the Apogee Ascent A694. Unless FLI also has one.. (so far they have a 285 camera)

#23 andysea

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 12:11 AM

The Atik460 is pretty inexpensive tho.

#24 orlyandico

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 12:47 AM

2800. vs 3100 for the qhy22, and 3300 for the apogee.

i'll pay an extra 500 bucks for an apogee if i'm ever in the market. :)

#25 AddictedToAstro

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Posted 27 February 2013 - 12:47 AM

Looking at the QHY9M it states on their website that the 2" filter wheel with RGB filters are only included as a part of a special deal available until March of 2010.


Well, since that date has long since passed, I wonder if it's still going on or they just haven't changed the website. Worth a phone call to see. I actually didn't see that on the website though. Are you looking at www.astrofactors.com?






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