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Choosing a planetary and lunar imaging camera

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#1 JohnMcF

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 12:29 AM

Hi,

I’m just getting started in planetary and lunar imaging and would appreciate some advice on choosing a camera to use with my Celestron 8inch SCT. I know that the 8 inch is probably the minimum aperture worth considering but I thought I’d start out with that because it’s more suited to my current observing situation, is easy to set up and will probably get used more often than a larger scope.

Even though I’ve heard that the absolute best results are obtained using a monochrome camera with filters, I’ve decided to start out with a color camera first. If I really enjoy this type of imaging, then later I would consider a larger aperture scope and going to a monochrome camera. So, in doing some basic research, I’ve come up with 4 color cameras I could consider choosing from, and this is where I could use some help.

1. Celestron NexImage 5
2. Imaging Source – DFK21AU618.AS
3. Celestron/Imaging Source – SKYRIS 618C
4. Celestron/Imaging Source – SKYRIS 445C

Though the NexImage 5 seems like an economical camera to start with, I’ve seen a lot for sale in the astro classifieds. The DFK21 seems to be used by a lot of people, so am I correct in assuming that it would be a better starting place than the NexImage 5? I noticed that the Celestron SKYRIS is produced by Imaging Source, and that the 618C uses the same Sony ICX618AQA sensor as the DFK21. One advantage with the SKYRIS is that it’s USB 3.0.

The other SKYRIS is the 445C which uses the Sony ICX445AQA sensor. This sensor is slightly larger than the 618. What advantage would it have over the 618?

If anyone has any suggestions or opinions on which camera would be the best, I would be appreciate hearing them.

Thanks,

John

#2 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:07 AM

Hi,

I’m just getting started in planetary and lunar imaging and would appreciate some advice on choosing a camera to use with my Celestron 8inch SCT. I know that the 8 inch is probably the minimum aperture worth considering but I thought I’d start out with that because it’s more suited to my current observing situation, is easy to set up and will probably get used more often than a larger scope.


The 8" is big enough to get some impressive images. You might be interested in this thread:
Small bore challenge: Jupiter w/6" or less



Though the NexImage 5 seems like an economical camera to start with, I’ve seen a lot for sale in the astro classifieds. The DFK21 seems to be used by a lot of people, so am I correct in assuming that it would be a better starting place than the NexImage 5?


I have the NexImage 5 and the ASI120MC. I like the NexImage 5 because it has smaller pixels which make it more suited for planetary imaging, especially with an f/10 Cat. You don't need any Barlow / Powermate with the NI5 but you will want 2x to 2.5x with f/10 using the other cameras. People tend to shy away from the NI5 because it is less expensive. In the past less expensive meant not good enough, but not anymore. Also, less expensive means it is bought by most beginners. Beginners tend to make crummier images so you see crummy images taken with the NI5 and assume the camera is inferior. You need to look at the best images from each camera to see what they're capable of.

Celestron has found that people expect more expensive cameras to be better so they came out with the SKYRIS which cost more. That is their main feature, their high price tag (I am guessing here). The extra speed you get with USB 3 will rarely be used unless you're imaging the Moon or the Sun. The planets require exposure times long enough to slow down the possible frames per second that would require USB 3.

Go to Astrobin and search for "Jupiter NexImage 5" to see what is possible.

#3 Ferrodzam

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:49 AM

I agree with your solution of going with the Color camera. I use a monochrome but I have been doing this for a long time. Dont worry about the 8 inch. Lots of good images can be taken with this scope it is an excellent starter for planetary and an excellent visual scope.
I would vow for the ZWO Design cameras. They are the cameras of choice for the serious imagers today. Not expensive and very high end results. The ASI120MC might be your choice or the new and less expensive ASI034. Just check on the images I have a couple of images recently with my 8 Inch SCT you might want to see them in this forum:
http://www.cloudynig...6284796/page...
FR

#4 ToxMan

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 10:42 AM

DFK is a firewire connected camera. If you have USB ports, you may want to consider a DBK camera. I shoot mono with DMK and did so with 8" SCT for several years. Here is a link to my gallery, mostly shot with DMK31, 2x barlow on an 8"SCT: My Gallery This should help you see what is possible.

Paul

#5 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 10:53 AM

I would vow for the ZWO Design cameras. They are the cameras of choice for the serious imagers today. Not expensive and very high end results.


I just noticed that a ZWO camera is not on the OP's list. It should definitely be considered. It is possibly the most popular camera for planetary imaging if you go by the number of pictures on this forum, and the performance is up there with the rest of the cameras. The ZWO has the distinct advantage of also doubling as a guide camera if one should ever decide to get into long exposure DSO photography.

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

#6 PiotrM

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 12:16 PM

DFK is a firewire connected camera


DFK21AU is USB, DFK21AF is Firewire :) the last letter is the interface.

#7 gfeulner

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:32 PM

The Neximage 5 in my opinion is the best bang for the buck. I would like a little wider view for the moon but for the planets it can't be beat. Gerry

#8 JohnMcF

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:36 PM

Thanks to all of you for your recommendations. I really appreciate it.

I’ve also looked at all the images you provided links to and I’m blown away by the quality of what you all have been able to achieve. If I can eventually get results that are half as good, I’ll be happy!

I hadn’t considered the ZWO ASI120MC before and after looking at their website, I seems like it would be a great choice to get started with. I also noted Steve’s comments about the NexImage 5. That raises a question when comparing the NexImage 5 and the ASI120MC (which will probably show my lack of understanding of what camera specs are important!).

The NexImage is quoted at 5MP with a pixel size of 2.2 microns, whereas the ASI120MC is only 1.2MP and a pixel size of 3.75 micron. Applying conventional photography logic, I would assume the NexImage would be capable of capturing finer detail. However, it can’t be as simple as this, otherwise everyone would be using the NexImage! The other difference between the two cameras that appears significant is that that the ASI120MC is capable of capturing at a much higher frame rate, especially at its highest resolution. Any clarification you can offer of the important of the resolution compared to frame rate would be helpful in making a final camera choice.

John

#9 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 01:58 PM

With an 8" scope Jupiter will end up being around 250 pixels across. It doesn't matter what camera you use. You can of course use different Barlow lenses and make it any size you want but the results won't be as good.

Read this to see why.

For the planets you usually use the smallest size (e.g. 640x480) as this gives you the fastest frame rate and it is big enough to fit the biggest planet. If you're going to do the Moon you might want to have a high frame rate AND a larger size image. In that case the comparison of frame rates of the larger sizes will matter to you.

The 5MP of the NexImage 5 only helps me to find the planet. Once I center it I drop down to 640x480 to make my little .avi movie. I can get 50 fps with the NI5 and would like to get maybe 70 or 80. For Saturn though there is no point in faster frame rates because the exposure needs to be much greater on Saturn.

Right now my lack of processing skills is my limiting factor. It will be a long time before I can benefit from the slight edge the more expensive cameras can give me. The NexImage 5 will give you a few years of practice and by then an even better camera will come along.

#10 Ferrodzam

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 06:34 PM

Faster frames rate is usually the idea. The Megapixels in advertising are really meaningless for planetary imaging.

#11 BKBrown

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 07:01 PM

Thanks to all of you for your recommendations. I really appreciate it.

I’ve also looked at all the images you provided links to and I’m blown away by the quality of what you all have been able to achieve. If I can eventually get results that are half as good, I’ll be happy!

I hadn’t considered the ZWO ASI120MC before and after looking at their website, I seems like it would be a great choice to get started with. I also noted Steve’s comments about the NexImage 5. That raises a question when comparing the NexImage 5 and the ASI120MC (which will probably show my lack of understanding of what camera specs are important!).

The NexImage is quoted at 5MP with a pixel size of 2.2 microns, whereas the ASI120MC is only 1.2MP and a pixel size of 3.75 micron. Applying conventional photography logic, I would assume the NexImage would be capable of capturing finer detail. However, it can’t be as simple as this, otherwise everyone would be using the NexImage! The other difference between the two cameras that appears significant is that that the ASI120MC is capable of capturing at a much higher frame rate, especially at its highest resolution. Any clarification you can offer of the important of the resolution compared to frame rate would be helpful in making a final camera choice.

John


An 8" SCT gives you a lot of bang for the buck and should be a great entry level scope (make sure you get dew protection if your area is susceptible), I shoot with scopes from 4" to 11" and all can get great lunar and planetary pix. I would like to chime in here and suggest either the ZWO120mc or the IS DBK21AU618, both are outstanding USB2 color cameras. I do not recommend getting an Imaging Source camera with the built in IR filter, go for the DBK series instead and pick up a Baader 1.25" UV/IR cut filter...it provides much better imaging outcomes. Both cameras are easy to use and supported by reliable image acquisition software, I have come to really like FireCapture, but the ICCapture provided with the Imaging Source cameras is also easy to use and quite acceptable. Color cameras are a great way to break in to planetary imaging; have fun and don't hesitate to come here and ask any questions you might have :grin:

Clear Skies,
Brian

#12 Kokatha man

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 08:46 PM

For Saturn though there is no point in faster frame rates because the exposure needs to be much greater on Saturn.


.....with respect this is quite incorrect: in actuality the "exposure" as measured by the histogram can be significantly lower in value compared to (say) Jupiter or even Mars - if you go to this thread http://www.cloudynig...5930729/page... where I first started using the ASI120MM at super-fast frame-rates (163fps r&g, 106fps for b - probably unimaginable for everyone at the time even though it was only 6 months ago) you can see the quality & resolution with low exposures.

R=45% G=47% B=39% is shown in the FireCapture logs in that thread and G was an anomaly in the text shown (normally around 40% like B)

Of course the C14 allows you to run faster and get whatever histo you wish more so than a smaller scope - but that has nothing to do with the fact that you can run with lower exposures/histograms on Saturn irrespective of scope size! :)

#13 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 11:12 PM

Thanks for the correction. I have never tried capturing at such high gains. I have been doing Saturn at 10 fps. I suspect my weak link is still my lack of experience in processing but it is nice to have another avenue to explore. Plus I still live in Florida which rarely has good sky conditions so I still have that to work on (i.e. moving to a dry desert).

#14 Kokatha man

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 11:43 PM

No problems Steve and I didn't intend the comments to be anything but what I said: Saturn really does seem to be the one planet that tolerates lower histo's.....but I'm no paragon here, when we were testing these cameras and Sam contemplated the faster frame-rate option I said to him I doubted it's effectiveness on Saturn or something along those lines...only to prove myself entirely wrong when I got the chance to test that aspect..! :rainbow: :lol:

#15 WarmWeatherGuy

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Posted 04 January 2014 - 11:51 PM

Yes, and you did it spectacularly. I love that we (or some of us) can get Hubble quality images of the planets when looking through the atmosphere. Kudos. Knowing it can be done helps us to keep trying. Your image:

Posted Image






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