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ausastronomer
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Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging
      #5937233 - 06/23/13 10:21 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.


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Jeff2011
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ausastronomer]
      #5937279 - 06/23/13 11:09 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.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/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.

Edited by Jeff2011 (06/23/13 11:21 PM)


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WarmWeatherGuy
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ausastronomer]
      #5937375 - 06/24/13 01:15 AM

Quote:


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.astronomics.com/celestron-neximage-5-5-megapixel-solar-system-ima...

ASI120MC
http://www.zwoptical.com/Eng/Cameras/ASI120/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


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Kendahl
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: Jeff2011]
      #5937383 - 06/24/13 01:20 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.


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ausastronomer
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: Kendahl]
      #5939879 - 06/25/13 02:22 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


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ohioalfa64
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ausastronomer]
      #5943871 - 06/27/13 09:54 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?

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WarmWeatherGuy
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ohioalfa64]
      #5943953 - 06/27/13 10:49 PM

Quote:

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.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/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.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/attachments/5931421-JS.JPG


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ohioalfa64
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Reged: 08/16/12

Loc: Ohio (NW)
Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: WarmWeatherGuy]
      #5944564 - 06/28/13 10:46 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?

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bunyon
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ohioalfa64]
      #5944894 - 06/28/13 02:31 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.


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bunyon
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: bunyon]
      #5944904 - 06/28/13 02:35 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.


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BKBrown
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ausastronomer]
      #5945015 - 06/28/13 03:24 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

Edited by BKBrown (06/28/13 05:53 PM)


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ohioalfa64
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: bunyon]
      #5945050 - 06/28/13 03:36 PM

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

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bunyon
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ohioalfa64]
      #5945097 - 06/28/13 03:59 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.

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Wmacky
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ohioalfa64]
      #5945131 - 06/28/13 04:26 PM

Quote:

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




Comes with everything needed


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WarmWeatherGuy
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ohioalfa64]
      #5945214 - 06/28/13 05:09 PM

Quote:

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.


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ohioalfa64
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: WarmWeatherGuy]
      #5945549 - 06/28/13 08:42 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?

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WarmWeatherGuy
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: ohioalfa64]
      #5945581 - 06/28/13 08:59 PM

Quote:

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.com/Eng/Cameras/ASI120/index.asp


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BKBrown
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging [Re: WarmWeatherGuy]
      #5945616 - 06/28/13 09:27 PM

Quote:

Quote:

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


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ohioalfa64
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: BKBrown]
      #5945685 - 06/28/13 10:03 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).

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Kokatha man
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Re: Visual observer wants to start webcam imaging new [Re: BKBrown]
      #5945707 - 06/28/13 10:13 PM

Quote:

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...

http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/5940555/page...


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