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#1 ausastronomer

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 09:21 PM

Good evening all,

I have been a visual observer for 41 years and decided it was time to try my hand at some beginner level imaging. I do not have time to get heavily into this due to time constraints, which would affect my processing abilities. Consequently, I don't want to spend a fortune on high tech equipment because I will never have time to process images at this level.

My preliminary research suggests lunar / planetary imaging with a webcam might be a good way to get started. I currently have 3 premium quality truss dobsonians, a 10"/F5.3, a 14"/F4.5 and an 18"/F4.5. All 3 scopes have Feathertouch focusers and Servocat tracking. I have a Canon 400D with a T-ring adapter (which I've never used) but my readings suggest this isn't the ideal tool for lunar / planetary work. I also have a 2" 1.6X Antares Barlow, a 1.25" Televue 2.5X Powermate and a 1.25" Televue 1.8X Barlow. Can someone point me in the right direction with the following questions please?

1) What would be a good webcam to purchase and is that the best way for me to go?

2) What sort of adaptor do I need to fit it to the Telescope?

3) Am I correct in assuming that I will need a laptop, or similar, at the telescope to run the software which controls the webcam?

4) My Pentax XW eyepieces have a removable eye guard and are threaded underneath this with a thread designed to accept a camera adaptor, which I have to fit the Canon 400D. Is there any sort of adaptor which will enable me to use eyepiece projection with a webcam and is there any advantage/disadvantage of this?

5) What is the best way to focus the target and center it on the chip?

6) Anything else I should consider purchasing, or need to know to get started.

At the moment I just want to "dip my toes in the water" and have a play.

Thanks for your help.

#2 Jeff2011

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 10:09 PM

John,

With your scopes you should be able to get some great planetary pictures. If you currently do not have tracking, I do recommend you invest in an equatorial platform although it is not absolutely necessary. I am more into DSO AP, but do dabble in planetary. I have found that a webcam style camera does a better job than a DSLR with video mode. I bought a QHY5L-II as an auto guide camera, but I found out that it makes a great planetary camera as well. The camera is the size of a 1.25 eyepiece and fits into your eyepiece holder. Here is my Saturn taken on my humble 8 inch Dob.

http://www.cloudynig...5930532/page...

My camera is monochrome which makes it more sensitive. I could produce color pictures with it if I invested in LRGB filters. Although there is a color version of this camera, I think most serious imagers use mono with the filters.

Processing is fairly straight forward. You can stack the individual frames using registax or similar application.

The capture software that comes with the camera has focusing aids or you can see the image displayed on the laptop and focus based on what you see. I use a bahtinov mask to focus for DSO AP, but have not used it for planetary yet.

I think you will enjoy this type of AP. It takes me 6 or more hours to image DSO, but I can capture planetary in 30 minutes or less using the video camera. Processing is much quicker also.

#3 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 12:15 AM

1) What would be a good webcam to purchase and is that the best way for me to go?

2) What sort of adaptor do I need to fit it to the Telescope?

3) Am I correct in assuming that I will need a laptop, or similar, at the telescope to run the software which controls the webcam?

4) My Pentax XW eyepieces have a removable eye guard and are threaded underneath this with a thread designed to accept a camera adaptor, which I have to fit the Canon 400D. Is there any sort of adaptor which will enable me to use eyepiece projection with a webcam and is there any advantage/disadvantage of this?

5) What is the best way to focus the target and center it on the chip?

6) Anything else I should consider purchasing, or need to know to get started.


1) I would recommend one of these two cameras:

NexImage 5
https://www.astronom...r-system-ima...

ASI120MC
http://www.zwoptical...SI120/index.asp

The NexImage 5 works best around f/10 while the ASI120MC works best around f/20 so you will need a Powermate or Barlow.

2) You won't need any adapter. The cameras slip into the 1.25" eyepiece holder.

3) You will need a small PC at the scope. I use a cheap netbook I got from walmart.com and then copy the files onto my desktop for processing.

4) No eyepiece projection. You need f/10 or f/20 (depending on the camera) and the Barlow / Powermate is the best way to get that.

5) A Bahtinov mask is the best way to focus. If your scope has a nice 7x50 finderscope with crosshairs that would be helpful. The field of view is incredibly small and finding the planet will be tricky.

6) Spend some time reading the posts on the Solar System Imaging & Processing forum.

I would watch some YouTube videos

Jupiter - NexImage 5 - Registax 6
http://youtu.be/5yUNMnIBOVM

and if that isn't too boring then watch this

Astrophotography FOV Calculation
http://youtu.be/LT841HZ9f84

#4 Kendahl

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 12:20 AM

Here are two possibilities.

For $100, Orion sells what they call their StarShoot Solar System Color Imaging Camera IV. When used with my 1,200 mm focal length Newtonian, image scale is 0.94 arc-seconds per pixel. Software to run the camera, store images and do some processing is included. To learn more, download the manual from Orion's web site. Last summer, I used version III to make a movie of the transit of Venus across the Sun. I have found some bugs with version III that I would hope have been fixed by now. One is that the frame rate must be set to 14.999 per second rather than exactly 15. Otherwise, it won't work at maximum resolution. The other is that, in video mode, it often generates duplicate or blank frames instead of new, independent ones. In single shot mode, which is much slower, all images are good.

You can also use your Canon 400D in video mode to make a movie. A program called Backyard EOS will run the camera and store the results. You would need some sort of image processing program to extract individual frames from the movie and stack them. A free program called Registax will do this for you.

Your Dobs will work for this kind of astrophotography. Because the targets are bright, the exposure time is only a fraction of a second. This means that slow drift and field rotation don't have time to blur the images. If the target isn't big enough, stick in a Barlow lens or, better yet, a PowerMate.

#5 ausastronomer

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Posted 25 June 2013 - 01:22 PM

Thanks for the help thus far.

I have done a little more reading and it sounds like the ASI120mc might be a good choice?

Cheers

#6 ohioalfa64

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 08:54 PM

I can't find a lot of supporters here for the Orion SSCI IV, especially at an accompanying site. Is there more support for the NexImage 5 which is twice the price? I want to use in a 12.5" Dob f/4 with Paracorr at f/4.5.i have a motorized tracking table. The problem I see is getting it focused while keeping this small image centered in eyepiece. I am not sure it would work on a Dob. That is the goal. The ZWO is nearly double priced again. Does it provide double performance, or just fail the same failings? It says it can be used as a guide scope too. Is this true?

#7 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 27 June 2013 - 09:49 PM

I can't find a lot of supporters here for the Orion SSCI IV, especially at an accompanying site. Is there more support for the NexImage 5 which is twice the price? I want to use in a 12.5" Dob f/4 with Paracorr at f/4.5.i have a motorized tracking table. The problem I see is getting it focused while keeping this small image centered in eyepiece. I am not sure it would work on a Dob. That is the goal. The ZWO is nearly double priced again. Does it provide double performance, or just fail the same failings? It says it can be used as a guide scope too. Is this true?


I left a comment on my experience with the SSCI IV here.

I said in that comment that it would not work at f/10 or f/25 on Saturn but I didn't know which. I later found that it was at f/25 that it wouldn't work. It will do Saturn at f/10. I also included a picture of Jupiter that I took with a C8 using the SSCI IV.

You can image planets with a DOB. Check this out.

http://www.cloudynig...5761165/page...


Here is a link to a picture of Jupiter and Saturn that I took with a NexStar 5SE and the NexImage 5. I don't think you can get anything this nice with the SSCI IV.

http://www.cloudynig.../5931421-JS.JPG

#8 ohioalfa64

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 09:46 AM

I am seriously considering the $200 Neximage 5 over the $100 SSCI IV. Does using a flip mirror diagonal help focusing here in a Newtonian? I could put a 1.25" wide angle eyepiece (Vixen 22mm) in my 12.4" dob and still have the webcam attached through the flip mirror. I probably would have to machine off some of the flip mirror tube to gain some back-focus. Does this work with these webcams or just cause vineting or other imaging problems? Is there some other problem I am not considering?

#9 bunyon

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 01:31 PM

If you're going to spend $200, spend $100 more and get the asi120, either mono or color. It's a much better cam and will have much better resale.

I think you're over thinking center and focus. If you have a reticle eyepiece, center the planet and you'll be fine. If not, do your best to center in a high power eyepiece and you'll likely have it.

Focus on details on the planet. It usually works out better than focus on a star and moving back to planet. We're about to be planet less for awhile so learn on the moon.

Like you, I was visual only observer for a couple of decades before discovering how great solar system imaging is.

#10 bunyon

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 01:35 PM

Actually, you'll still have Saturn for awhile yet, being in the south. Envious.

I also meant to say, I use a dob and servocat.

#11 BKBrown

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 02:24 PM

I would strongly recommend blowing past the "entry level" cams from Celestron and Orion and going with the ASI120mc. It is a terrific performing color camera so no hassles with RGB filters and filter wheels. You just need the camera, a UV/IR cut filter (I suggest the Baader 1.25" model - it's better than the one that comes with the camera), and the TV 1.8x Barlow or 2.5x Powermate should be a nice start...you can experiment with higher power models later if you want. This camera is miles ahead of the Celestron/Orion models and for not a whole lot more. The image at the current "ASI120mc Saturn on 6/21/13" thread in this forum was taken with the ASI120mc and a C11 Edge. Good luck!

Clear Skies,
Brian

#12 ohioalfa64

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 02:36 PM

Does the ASI120MC require modification (removing lens and adding 1.25" barrel)? Or does it come as is?

#13 bunyon

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 02:59 PM

It comes with a screw out lens (which lets you use it as an all sky or general webcam) and a 1.25" barrel. It comes with everything you need.

#14 Wmacky

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 03:26 PM

Does the ASI120MC require modification (removing lens and adding 1.25" barrel)? Or does it come as is?


Comes with everything needed

#15 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 04:09 PM

I am seriously considering the $200 Neximage 5 over the $100 SSCI IV. Does using a flip mirror diagonal help focusing here in a Newtonian? I could put a 1.25" wide angle eyepiece (Vixen 22mm) in my 12.4" dob and still have the webcam attached through the flip mirror. I probably would have to machine off some of the flip mirror tube to gain some back-focus. Does this work with these webcams or just cause vineting or other imaging problems? Is there some other problem I am not considering?


Focusing is always critical in astrophotography. You can get perfect focus (on planets) most of the time just by looking at the computer screen. If you want to get perfect focus all the time you need the Bahtinov mask.

I don't think you need to worry about vignetting for planetary imaging. The chips are very tiny.

One of the hardest parts is placing the planet in the small field of view. I am in the process of getting a more expensive finderscope to try to solve this problem. A flip mirror may not help for focusing but it would probably help for finding the planet.

With a Bahtinov mask you focus on a star and then you have to find the planet with the tiny field of view that you get with the camera. With the flip mirror you would be able to center the planet in the eyepiece and then flip the mirror to the camera which was previously focused on a star.

I have not seen a flip mirror but I assume that when you flip the mirror it locks into place exactly where it was before, no closer and no farther away from the mirror stops.

There are three good choices:

$100 SSCI IV
$200 NexImage 5
$300 ASI120MC

If you plot quality versus cost you will see a bend in the line, I suspect. You get a bigger improvement when going from $100 to $200 than you get from going from $200 to $300. You have to keep adding $100 until the extra improvement doesn't seem to be worth $100.

I originally had the SSCI IV but didn't use it much because I was spending my time on DSI. When the NexImage 5 came out I got that and then sold the SSCI IV before I had a chance to see what all it could do. Now I am considering getting the ASI120MC. There is a more expensive option, the $450 Imaging Source camera but from what I've seen it is not any better than the $300 camera.

#16 ohioalfa64

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 07:42 PM

Does the ASI120MC really attract dust particles to the chip as others have mentioned and does the camera now come with a protective cover beneath the M42 lens cover? Is is cover an option that must be ordered separately, like the IR filter is?

#17 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 07:59 PM

Does the ASI120MC really attract dust particles to the chip as others have mentioned and does the camera now come with a protective cover beneath the M42 lens cover? Is is cover an option that must be ordered separately, like the IR filter is?


It appears that the new ones now have a cover AND an ST4 port and cable for autoguiding.

http://www.zwoptical...SI120/index.asp

#18 BKBrown

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 08:27 PM

I am seriously considering the $200 Neximage 5 over the $100 SSCI IV. Does using a flip mirror diagonal help focusing here in a Newtonian? I could put a 1.25" wide angle eyepiece (Vixen 22mm) in my 12.4" dob and still have the webcam attached through the flip mirror. I probably would have to machine off some of the flip mirror tube to gain some back-focus. Does this work with these webcams or just cause vineting or other imaging problems? Is there some other problem I am not considering?


Focusing is always critical in astrophotography. You can get perfect focus (on planets) most of the time just by looking at the computer screen. If you want to get perfect focus all the time you need the Bahtinov mask.

I don't think you need to worry about vignetting for planetary imaging. The chips are very tiny.

One of the hardest parts is placing the planet in the small field of view. I am in the process of getting a more expensive finderscope to try to solve this problem. A flip mirror may not help for focusing but it would probably help for finding the planet.

With a Bahtinov mask you focus on a star and then you have to find the planet with the tiny field of view that you get with the camera. With the flip mirror you would be able to center the planet in the eyepiece and then flip the mirror to the camera which was previously focused on a star.

I have not seen a flip mirror but I assume that when you flip the mirror it locks into place exactly where it was before, no closer and no farther away from the mirror stops.

There are three good choices:

$100 SSCI IV
$200 NexImage 5
$300 ASI120MC

If you plot quality versus cost you will see a bend in the line, I suspect. You get a bigger improvement when going from $100 to $200 than you get from going from $200 to $300. You have to keep adding $100 until the extra improvement doesn't seem to be worth $100.

I originally had the SSCI IV but didn't use it much because I was spending my time on DSI. When the NexImage 5 came out I got that and then sold the SSCI IV before I had a chance to see what all it could do. Now I am considering getting the ASI120MC. There is a more expensive option, the $450 Imaging Source camera but from what I've seen it is not any better than the $300 camera.


There's some good feedback there Steve, but I have to disagree with you on one major point: there is an enormous difference in quality between what the ASI120mm/mc will produce and what the NextImage 5 will give you. The Celestron offering is not in the same league as the ZWO cams with their superior electronics, outrageous 100+ fps frame rates, and all-around performance; and the Orion StarShoot cameras are even further behind the power curve (that's where I started, and I jumped off that ship very quickly). I guess those "starter" cameras are a cheaper way to get into the game if your primary consideration is to get the least expensive camera you possibly can to get under way, but it doesn't take long to discover their considerable limitations. If you have to use a lap top already, it is well worth the extra cost to step up to the ASI120 cams. Just cruise the forum here and see how many high quality images are being taken by guys with these ZWO cameras compared to those taken with the Celestron/Orion imagers...

Clear Skies,
Brian

#19 ohioalfa64

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 09:03 PM

Mr. BK Brown is a good salesman. I ordered the ASI120MC tonight after his comments. However, I think you are both wrong about the free protective cover/dust shield for the chip. Only the postage is free. The covers cost $20. IR-cut for color and clear for mono. I bought it anyway with the camera at AliExpress. What do I do about imaging capture and processing software? Rely on the ZWO software download or cd? Or, is there something I should be using ( I immediately think MaximDL again).

#20 Kokatha man

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 09:13 PM

Focusing is always critical in astrophotography. You can get perfect focus (on planets) most of the time just by looking at the computer screen. If you want to get perfect focus all the time you need the Bahtinov mask.

There are three good choices:

$100 SSCI IV
$200 NexImage 5
$300 ASI120MC

If you plot quality versus cost you will see a bend in the line, I suspect. You get a bigger improvement when going from $100 to $200 than you get from going from $200 to $300. You have to keep adding $100 until the extra improvement doesn't seem to be worth $100.


I normally don't comment upon threads where the inquirer is trying to ascertain a good entry level camera, reasoning that there are plenty of folks who can provide that sort of information.....and perhaps be able to empathise more with certain aspects of this than I might.....

However, a couple of things said are quite misleading: no "serious" planetary imager I know of uses Bahtinov masks to achieve focus - in fact, it's actually quite the opposite to what I've quoted above.....and as for any comparisons between the first two cameras and the ASI ones, quite simply there isn't: Pat and I take our planetary imaging very seriously and abandoned the PGR Flea3 mono almost a year ago now for the ASI camera.....and many others have since done so also.

We utilise the mono ASI120MM but colour cameras do achieve very good results and numerous ASI120MC users here will testify to this fact (not forgetting the QSY range using similar sensors) but any comments I make on the colour camera (which I do own as well as the mono, courtesy of Sam's generosity way back when :) ) should be seen in the context of my comments to Wmacky in his current thread... :lol:

http://www.cloudynig...5940555/page...

#21 BKBrown

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 09:29 PM

Mr. BK Brown is a good salesman. I ordered the ASI120MC tonight after his comments. However, I think you are both wrong about the free protective cover/dust shield for the chip. Only the postage is free. The covers cost $20. IR-cut for color and clear for mono. I bought it anyway with the camera at AliExpress. What do I do about imaging capture and processing software? Rely on the ZWO software download or cd? Or, is there something I should be using ( I immediately think MaximDL again).


Gosh, and I don't even get a commission :grin: Glad you placed the order, I don't think you will be disappointed in the least. But, ummm, one thing...I didn't say anything about the new little cover widgy; the ZWO cams have been shipping with a UV/IR filter as part of the standard kit, mine certainly had one. And while serviceable, it is not IMHO up to the standard of the Baader 1.25" UV/IR cut filter I use with my color cams. As for software, the enclosed CD has FireCapture - the preferred capture software. You probably also want to download Autostakkert (AS!2) if you don't have a stacking application. Hope this helps!
On another note: Steve, Darryl is dead on about the Bahtinov mask - I can''t think of any planetary imager I know who uses one. If the seeing is so bad that you can't draw focus on your target, it's probably a good night to go catch up on your reading.

Clear Skies,
Brian

#22 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 09:33 PM

There's some good feedback there Steve, but I have to disagree with you on one major point: there is an enormous difference in quality between what the ASI120mm/mc will produce and what the NextImage 5 will give you. The Celestron offering is not in the same league as the ZWO cams with their superior electronics, outrageous 100+ fps frame rates, and all-around performance; and the Orion StarShoot cameras are even further behind the power curve (that's where I started, and I jumped off that ship very quickly). I guess those "starter" cameras are a cheaper way to get into the game if your primary consideration is to get the least expensive camera you possibly can to get under way, but it doesn't take long to discover their considerable limitations. If you have to use a lap top already, it is well worth the extra cost to step up to the ASI120 cams. Just cruise the forum here and see how many high quality images are being taken by guys with these ZWO cameras compared to those taken with the Celestron/Orion imagers...

Clear Skies,
Brian


#1 StarShoot webcam
#2 NexImage 5 webcam
#3 ASI120 webcam

I'd say we agree more than disagree. I agree that #3 is better than #2 which is better than #1. I agree that #3 is sufficiently better than #2 for me to upgrade from #2 to #3. If I was buying one from scratch it would be even easier for me to choose #3.

The only thing we might disagree on is the word enormous. Like all things you get diminishing returns as you pay more and more. Some people are happy with a $30 stereo and other people won't be happy with anything cheaper than a $2000 stereo.

If you plot quality versus #1, #2, and #3 the line continues to go up going all the way across. I'm saying the slope between #2 and #3 is less than the slope between #1 and #2 although they both slope up. Quality is subjective. Depending on what you mean by the word enormous you might be saying that the slope is greater between #2 and #3.

I have attached an image of Jupiter taken with #1, #2, and #3. Obviously this is not a fair comparison because each was taken with a different telescope in different parts of the world with different skills. Still, this is what I see when I look at the images on CN.

The top Jupiter is #1 and I took that myself. You can read more about that image here:
http://www.cloudynig...d=beginners&...

The middle Jupiter was taken with camera #2 and a 10" Newtonian from this post:
http://www.cloudynig...5609957/page...
and I brightened up the image and fixed the color.

The bottom Jupiter was taken with camera #3 and a C8 from this post:
http://www.cloudynig...5687916/page...

Clearly the pictures continue to get progressively better as you go down the column. Each of the cameras could do better given the right conditions and effort. If you think it is unfair that the middle picture was taken with a 10" scope and the other two were taken with a 8" scope then here are some pictures taken with camera #2 and a 5" scope:
http://www.cloudynig...d=Imaging&am...

There are more crummy picture on CN taken with the NexImage 5 because there are more beginners using that camera. If you compare the best from both cameras (#2 and #3) the difference is less.

Someone with a NexStar 5SE might not want to spend the extra $100 for a slightly better image. Here are some pictures I took with my C5.
http://www.cloudynig.../5931421-JS.JPG
If all I had was the C5 I wouldn't be upgrading to #3.

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#23 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 09:38 PM

Mr. BK Brown is a good salesman. I ordered the ASI120MC tonight after his comments. However, I think you are both wrong about the free protective cover/dust shield for the chip. Only the postage is free. The covers cost $20. IR-cut for color and clear for mono. I bought it anyway with the camera at AliExpress. What do I do about imaging capture and processing software? Rely on the ZWO software download or cd? Or, is there something I should be using ( I immediately think MaximDL again).


The ad was confusing to me. It might be that the covers (IR and clear) come with the camera. The $20 is if you want to buy an extra one. You might end up with two.

#24 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 28 June 2013 - 09:45 PM

Steve, Darryl is dead on about the Bahtinov mask - I can''t think of any planetary imager I know who uses one. If the seeing is so bad that you can't draw focus on your target, it's probably a good night to go catch up on your reading.

Clear Skies,
Brian


I found the Bahtinov mask necessary for DSI and continued using it when doing planets. I focus the planet by looking on the screen and then slew to a star to see if the Bahtinov mask will help. 8 or 9 times out of 10 the focus is already perfect and no change in focus needs to be made. You may be right that those few times I didn't get it right the seeing conditions were terrible. I live in Florida, so terrible is in the median of conditions (i.e. more than half the time things are terrible).
:tonofbricks:

#25 ToxMan

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Posted 29 June 2013 - 09:40 AM

I'll throw in my 2 cents...

Since I'm shooting monochrome, a planet's surface detail has been sufficient for focusing. Although advertised as parfocal, none of my filters focus exactly the same. So, I'm focusing telescope at each filter change. Obviously, a mask would be ridiculous, having to slew to a star and back to the planet with filter changes. Too cumbersome and time-consuming. To acheive the best focus, collimating the entire imaging train will give the best results. Thierry Legault has demonstrated this nicely at his web page. Link: Collimation by T. Legault

As for cameras...let me remind folks, Damian Peach captured some astounding images lately with the Flea 3. There are many good cameras. And, we all know that seeing is king when it comes to imaging. Why else do some of the best imagers travel to other locales? If seeing is bad, "the best camera in the world" makes no difference.

My advice: spend all the money you want! But, you must be very diligent to details for set-up and collimation to be ready for your best seeing conditions.






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