Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Webcam Astrophotography on the Mac

This topic has been archived. This means that you cannot reply to this topic.
14 replies to this topic

#1 asaint

asaint

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 2,094
  • Joined: 25 Apr 2003

Posted 16 April 2005 - 02:13 PM

Webcam Astrophotography on the Mac

#2 Paul Romero

Paul Romero

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1,356
  • Joined: 05 Apr 2005

Posted 17 April 2005 - 06:44 PM

Hi,

I am very enthusiastic about the future of Mac and astrophotography. There are software developers that know about the lack of webcam autoguiing for Celestron scopes and a Mac, too! In a way, one can surmise that it is cheaper to go with a Mac and a scope...ie. the less choices one has, the less one spends on mistakes.


Paul

#3 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*
  • -----

Posted 18 April 2005 - 07:50 AM

Very nice article.
I like the links.
Thanks

Mike

#4 rboe

rboe

    ISS

  • *****
  • Posts: 69,766
  • Joined: 16 Mar 2002

Posted 18 April 2005 - 09:44 PM

Thanks very much - about a year too late! :ohmy: But then again, about a year ago the choices I think were even slimmer. But after reading this article I may just have to try it some more.

Thank you!

#5 Astraforce Paul

Astraforce Paul

    Vanguard

  • *****
  • Posts: 2,173
  • Joined: 05 Apr 2005

Posted 19 April 2005 - 12:02 PM

Wonderful introduction, good coverage of key areas, filled with helpful advice.

Can't wait to try my hand at this...

#6 tim53

tim53

    James Webb Space Telescope

  • *****
  • Posts: 16,414
  • Joined: 17 Dec 2004

Posted 19 April 2005 - 12:36 PM

Best article on the subject to date... ...hm, maybe the only one? :shrug:

I tried Macam out on a 400Mhz iMac over the weekend, after downloading it.

I have three webcams. The first one I bought about 4 years ago is a 3Com HomeConnect PC webcam. Next, I bought an IBM PC Camera Pro at a good price at Fry's. Finally, I had to get a Phillips ToUcam Pro.

The 3Com camera appears to use the same chip as the Phillips ToUcam (though I think the Quickcam Astro website says differently - the chips are exacly the same physical size and resolution). On the PC, the 3com's software is the best of the three, having the most user-adjustable settings of the bunch. In Macam, however, the settings aren't as numerous, though it looks at a glance that it will work okay.

The IBM PC Camera Pro has a decent chip in it that seems reasonably sensitive to low light. I've used it on a few occasions on the PC, with limited success. I found the software for it is lousy, with only 3 light level settings and no exposure information given. Worse, it crashes my PC semi regularly. Also, the cable is permanently attached and is only about 6' long - just barely sufficient for testing on my Cass or refractor. I tried adding an extension USB cable, but the camera wouldn't work at all with one. Macam doesn't have any driver for this camera, which isn't much of a loss (unless you have one!), mainly due to the poor quality software.

The ToUcam is the best of the three webcams I own, but it wasn't a slam dunk. It's user settings aren't nearly as numerous as those for the 3com. But it's color rendering, compression, and speedy downloads, are better. Mind you, you CAN get comparable planetary images from the 3com, primarily because you can take exposures up to 1/4" in duration. But that requires really good seeing (desirable anyway) to make up for the slower downloads (at best about 1 to 4 frames/second in High and Medium quality settings, and comparable, about 10frames/second at the "high frame rate" setting, but with brutal compression of the individual frames).

But I was really disappointed when I tried to run the ToUcam on the iMac using the Macam drivers - it would only acquire images in 320x240 format. VGA was grayed out.

I also have an iSight camera at work. I've been thinking of trying it out on one of my scopes, but it has no removable lens and very little in the way of user adjustments to be made.

I think the way to go would be to find a non-iSight firewire camera and purchase the Astro IIDC software.

Now, if we could only get other scope/accessory manufacturers to acknowledge the scientific benefits of the Mac OS!

-Tim.

#7 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*
  • -----

Posted 20 April 2005 - 02:14 PM

Folks,

Thanks for the positive feedback! This article was fun to write, and even more fun to research.

Paul: Yes, I agree, things are getting better if you are an amateur astronomer and a Mac user. Seeing a Mac (and a Linux) version of AstroStack is one obvious manifestation of this. Jeff Terry's iCCD program (for Starlight Express CCD cameras) is another welcome arrival.

http://www.iccd.us/

Tim: I agree the results with Macam very enormously from camera to camera, but you cannot complain about the price. BTV Carbon and the IOXPerts driver software make a better combination, but at a price. If I already had a decent webcam, like one of the Vesta models, that this investment made sense, then certainly the money spent here is well spent. But otherwise, I'd always recommend either buying a webcam that has the Mac software in the box (like one of the Logitech ones) or opting for a FireWire webcam and the buying Astro IIDC.

If you need to convince someone that you can do webcam astrophotography on the Mac, check out this image by Alan Friedman, taken using a Mac and the Astro IIDC software:

http://www.buytelesc...id=5162&c=17165

A new Yahoo group worth visiting is the Astro IIDC one, which is Mac-centric (obviously) and has a small but rapidly growing gallery.

http://groups.yahoo....roup/Astro_IIDC

More general, but normally with an accent on CCD imaging, is the HubbleBoy list, also Mac-centric.

http://lists.topica....ists/hubble_boy

It would very cool to have someone do review of imaging from the Linux end of things. There seems to be quite a lot of amateurs who use Linux, but not that much pulling it all together.

Best wishes,

Neale

#8 sienarot

sienarot

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 710
  • Joined: 18 Oct 2003

Posted 20 April 2005 - 02:42 PM

Fantastic article! I'm pretty much in agreeance with Ron. I've been using my iBook for webcamming for about a year and a half, so I can understand the frustrations of looking for Mac astronomy software.

Fortunately I am an astronomer who uses Windows, Mac OS X, AND Linux on a regular basis, so I am not bounded by software because of the operating system. I've been trying to compile a list of free/demo software available, including for Mac OS X and Linux:
http://www.spacegogg...te/software.php

#9 tim53

tim53

    James Webb Space Telescope

  • *****
  • Posts: 16,414
  • Joined: 17 Dec 2004

Posted 20 April 2005 - 03:24 PM

Neale:

Jeff Terry's iCCD program (for Starlight Express CCD cameras) is another welcome arrival.


Wow! I was unaware of this development! I bought a Starlight Xpress HX516 about 4 years ago specifically for the reasons stated on Terry's website - only I had to buy a PC to run it at the time. I would love to try the software out with it.

If you need to convince someone that you can do webcam astrophotography on the Mac, check out this image by Alan Friedman, taken using a Mac and the Astro IIDC software:


I've tended to try to stick with the Mac-compatible hardware when I could, with the exception of the HX5 and the ToUcam, where I went with what everyone was touting as "the best".

One of the problems I've had (and probably many others as well) has to do with the fact that, while it isn't expensive to buy any one or two of these software/hardware choices, deciding on which to buy isn't easy without examples to go by, and buying all of it would be expensive. The example Saturn image you linked is indeed remarkable, and makes me interested in investigating a firewire webcam in the near future.

However, I did a search for the firewire cameras that are compatible with Astro IIDC, and most are pretty unavailble new, or appear to be (though there are a few iBots and one APS Pyro camera on ebay today). Are these all similar enough not to matter which one buys?

Anyone have the chance to try any of the new SAC-Imaging cameras on a Mac? I'm particularly interested in the megapixel "webcam" SAC-4-2, which uses a CMOS chip.

I, too, work on multiple platforms (Mac OS X, Windows XP and 2000, Linux, Unix) at home and at work. I use Macs and PCs at home, though my favorites are the Macs. Ultimately, it would be nice to be able to run all my gizmos (Nexstar 9.25GPS, robofocus, webcams and HX516) on one computer, again, preferably a Mac, and particularly for remote observing/imaging. At home, it doesn't matter, and I have both a PC laptop and a G3 iMac on my desk running at the same time.

-Tim.

#10 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*
  • -----

Posted 20 April 2005 - 03:48 PM

Tim,

As well as iCCD, if you don't mind running OS 9, you also have the option of SkySight.

http://www.southerns...ight/index.html

This runs a long list of CCDs, though your HX516 is on their "in development" list. SBIG now have some OS X support of their cameras, and Equinox offers yet others. So, with CCDs there is some improvement in the field compared with a year or two back.

Cheers,

Neale

#11 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*
  • -----

Posted 20 April 2005 - 03:51 PM

Some info about the Saturn image. It was taken using a 10 inch Mak, using an Imaging Source 8 bit monochrome camera for the details, and then a Unibrain color Fire-I camera for the RGB data, merging everything together for an LRGB image.

Cheers,

Neale

#12 Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*

Guest_**DONOTDELETE**_*
  • -----

Posted 20 April 2005 - 03:56 PM

Tim,

Regarding which FireWire webcam is the best, I'd recommend joining the Astro IIDC Yahoo group and polling them. All these people are using Macs, FireWire webcams, and have some experience of imaging.

I've tested both the iBot and the Fire-i. Bottom line, they're both very good, but the iBot is infinitely easier to use because the lens screws out and a Steven Mogg adapter screws in. It returns nice images and seems to pick up colours on bright objects quite well. On the other hand, the Fire-i is defnitely more sensitive to low light, meaning you can use shorter exposures for focusing and still have nice shots.

I have a few images up on my web site, so you can get some idea of these two cameras at least by comparing some of these photos.

http://homepage.mac....hotography.html

Cheers,

Neale

#13 tim53

tim53

    James Webb Space Telescope

  • *****
  • Posts: 16,414
  • Joined: 17 Dec 2004

Posted 20 April 2005 - 04:36 PM

Neale:

I pretty much don't use OS 9 anymore. Too enamored with OS X! But I seem to have missed a lot in the last few years!

I once compiled some LRGB images of Mars (2001 apparition, if I remember correctly) using the HX5 for the luminance, and an Electrim color camera for the RGB. Man, that was a lot of work!

I have gotten good results with the webcams, primarily because even with the USB adapter for the HX5, it takes a few seconds to download an unbinned frame.

I signed up for the Astro IIDC group. Will post to it soon.

I would be interested in the best sensitivity to low light, given my druthers. Is the lens for the Fire-i non-removable? Or does it have some non-standard threads?

Would the board camera version be a viable option?

planetarily,
-Tim.
P.S. I posted a recent Saturn image, taken with the ToUcam on the 9.25, but using my PC, at http://photos.groups....src=gr&.view=t the seeing was good, but I hadn't yet collimated the scope, and when I did recently I found it to have been off enough to degrade the views of Jupiter

#14 tim53

tim53

    James Webb Space Telescope

  • *****
  • Posts: 16,414
  • Joined: 17 Dec 2004

Posted 21 April 2005 - 11:00 AM

Neale:

OT, but I checked out iCCD last night, and it doesn't appear to support the HX5. :(

-Tim.

#15 mikee

mikee

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1,280
  • Joined: 10 Jan 2005

Posted 24 April 2005 - 12:18 PM

Nice article. Unfortunately the ibot seems to be non-existent. The link from orangemicro.com to buy it from them takes you to this page:
http://www.shipitfor...p?SKU=O140 1283

Pretty bizzare. Anybody know what that's all about.

Mike


CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics