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A night with the Micro Four Thirds cameras

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#1 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:09 PM

I had the opportunity to demonstrate how I use Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds cameras for near real time viewing at our local Astronomy Days Event. I setup the Panasonic GH3 to wireless stream a real time live view to a smart phone.

I also showed images that I had taken with the modified Olympus E-PM2 in 1 minute or less.

There was so much interest in them that I decided to bring them out to our next club observing event on Friday. When I got there it was completely clouded over. You really couldn’t see Polaris at all so I didn’t bother setting everything up.

After about 1 hour the clouds broke all of a sudden and the dry air came swooping in. I setup in a hurry and started showing everyone how the GH3 can broadcast the live view to smart phones and tablets. That garnered a lot of interest.

However, the GH3 is not modified so things like the Horse Head and Rosette Nebula really are not visible in near real time. Therefore, I decided to break out the modified Olympus E-PM2. This camera shares essentially the same sensor as the Panasonic GH3 but I had Brent Oliver modify it to visible + Ha.

I started out comparing views of M42 with the modified and unmodified cameras. The GH3 gave a really good view of M42 in only 30 seconds at ISO 6400. However, the core was starting to blow out at that exposure level.

What was interesting was that the E-PM2 actually blew the sky out much more at that level. I think this is because Olympus doesn’t use much contrast in their standard color profiles. The GH3 is tuned to use a lot of contrast to darken the sky background.

The nice thing with the Olympus E-PM2 is that I could cut the exposure time in half and still get about the same exposure as the GH3 because the E-PM2 was modified.

The GH3 can output the live view via either wireless or high definition 1080p over HDMI. The Olympus E-PM2 is limited to only using 480i over rca cables for live view output. However, we have to keep the light pollution in check so I couldn’t use a monitor with either camera.

Instead I just use the small LCD screen on the back of the E-PM2 for viewing. It isn’t ideal but it does enable everyone to see amazing sites in near real time. I also like how I can use the Live Time function to display the exposure that the camera has accumulated so far in various intervals.

The live time function allows me to keep everyone’s attention even with longer exposures because they get to see what has accumulated every 15 seconds.

Overall it turned out to be one of the best evenings I have ever seen. Skies were clear but a little colder than some could stand. I had a line around my scope pretty much all night long. At one point I actually had to go back and show objects that we had already seen because we had simply been through the whole catalog already.

This was great preparation for my Messier Marathon+ attempt next month. I am going to attempt to stack the entire Messier catalog plus all of the popular named objects(Horse Head, Thors Helmut,…etc) in a single night. I will have to average 4 subs per object or less to complete it. However, I can do fewer 1 minute subs with the brighter objects.

Here are some sample out of camera JPGs from both cameras. Most of these were taken with a 1.25” Baader UHCs filter. Some of them are actually at ISO 12,800. The Olympus applies just enough noise reduction to those images to make them usable.

Enjoy!

Rosette Nebula ISO 12,800 50 Seconds UHC-S filter 800mm F4.0 Olympus E-PM2

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#2 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:11 PM

Rosette Nebula ISO 12,800 30 seconds

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#3 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:11 PM

Horse Head 40 Seconds ISO 12,800 UHC-S filter Olympus E-PM2

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#4 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:13 PM

Horse Head 1 Minute 7nm Ha Filter ISO 12,800

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#5 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:15 PM

Super Nova ISO 1600 1 minute in 2x lossless crop mode for an effective focal length of 1600mm.

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#6 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:17 PM

Olympus E-PM2 M42 13 Seconds ISO 6400 single exposure no HDR

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#7 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:18 PM

Panasonic GH3 30 Seconds ISO 6400 single exposure no HDR

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#8 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:21 PM

M42 and Running man Olympus E-PM2 30 seconds ISO 12,800 single exposure no HDR UHC-S Filter

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#9 ccs_hello

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 08:58 PM

Travis,

They are all beautiful.
Resolution is great and high S/N too.

Clear Skies!

ccs_hello

#10 jdbastro

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 09:09 PM

Gorgeous pics. Love that color.

So what's this 'Live Time Function'? Is this available on the Panny GH3 or only the Olympus?

Thanks.

#11 Dwight J

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 09:09 PM

Nice supernova capture in one minute. Try the one in M99 as well.

#12 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 09:33 PM

Nice supernova capture in one minute. Try the one in M99 as well.


Thanks. I definitely will.

#13 chasing photons

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 09:38 PM

Travis,

Very nice images! I'm glad that you are continuing to demonstrate the near real time observing capabilities of M 4/3 cameras. I am absorbing very useful information on CN concerning this topic thanks to you and other knowledgeable observers. I am leaning towards a 100mm+ ED refractor in the f/6 range that I hope I can use at f/4 or faster with the appropriate reducer. Using an M 4/3 camera and displaying images wirelessly on a tablet or to a monitor via HDMI, my goal is to get nice wide-field views in under 60 seconds. I would love to see more of your single sub and HDR images including some of the smaller DSOs to help me gain a sense of scale. Your fine images give me hope that I will be able to put together a near real time observing system that will meet my needs.

Do you have any initial thoughts on the potential capabilities of the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera for near real time observing?

#14 Chris A

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 10:28 PM

Very nice set of images captured in nice short durations. I really liked your M82 with the SN Travis and looking forward if you get to capture M99 and it's SN.

Chris

#15 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 05 February 2014 - 10:36 PM

Gorgeous pics. Love that color.

So what's this 'Live Time Function'? Is this available on the Panny GH3 or only the Olympus?

Thanks.


All Olympus cameras since the E-PM2 have had live bulb and live time. This feature is exactly what the Mallincam does. It allows you to set the refresh rate of the live view while the image is being captured. For instance if I take a 2 minute exposure I can have the camera refresh every 15 seconds and show me what it has captured so far.

The previous image will remain on the screen until the next frame updates.

There are some limitations to it though. ISO is limited to 1600 or less and the number of refreshes is limited to no more than 9 at ISO 1600. Therefore, you have to take the length of the exposure and divide it by 9 to determine what refresh rate to use.

#16 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 08:21 AM

The Panasonic GH4 will be announced tonight at midnight. It is essentially a GH3 with 4K @ 30 FPS video. It will cost a little less than $2000 in the US.

I am thinking about getting the GH4 and having Brent modify my GH3. Panasonic's live view is so much easier to use than Olympus's live view because Panasonic allows you to use longer shutter durations from live view.

I can actually see the deep space objects in the Panasonic camera's live view in near real time(8 seconds or less). I usually start out with the Panasonic camera on the scope for aligning because it is so easy with those cameras.

Since both cameras share the same mount I can switch back and forth without adjusting the focus. It would be nice to have a modified GH3 though. Then I could do wireless all the time and have the benefits of a modified camera.

Nothing beats the Olympus E-PM2 price wise though. Remember this is a $200 camera brand new. I paid more than that to have it modified.

#17 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 08:30 AM

Travis,

Very nice images! I'm glad that you are continuing to demonstrate the near real time observing capabilities of M 4/3 cameras. I am absorbing very useful information on CN concerning this topic thanks to you and other knowledgeable observers. I am leaning towards a 100mm+ ED refractor in the f/6 range that I hope I can use at f/4 or faster with the appropriate reducer. Using an M 4/3 camera and displaying images wirelessly on a tablet or to a monitor via HDMI, my goal is to get nice wide-field views in under 60 seconds. I would love to see more of your single sub and HDR images including some of the smaller DSOs to help me gain a sense of scale. Your fine images give me hope that I will be able to put together a near real time observing system that will meet my needs.

Do you have any initial thoughts on the potential capabilities of the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 camera for near real time observing?


The key to near real time observing is focal ratio. Using focal reducers is not that easy with larger chip cameras. That is why the Mallincam is desired. It really isn’t that much more sensitive than the interchangeable lens cameras that use the great Sony sensor. However, it can easily use very aggressive or even stacked focal reducers.

The thing is that a very small chip allows you to use a very aggressive focal reducer. Even though M4/3s is smaller than APS-C and full frame it really isn’t small enough to use an aggressive focal reducer.

My stance is that you should get the fastest native focal ratio scope you can afford. For me that was the AT8IN @ F4.0. I have never been able to get acceptable results with M4/3s and a focal reducer on the AT8IN even though I also have the coma corrector.

A really great light weight setup would be an AT6IN on a smaller GEM mount with the Panasonic GH3. I like the Panasonic cameras better than Olympus because you can do long shutter durations in live view. That is huge. The Olympus Live Time feature is great as well but I prefer the constant preview function the GH3 offers.

There is a huge price difference though. The GH3 price will drop to about $700-$800 tonight after the GH4 is announced. The E-PM2 is roughly $200.

The new E-M10 camera will be the exact same as the E-PM2 is for AP. They both have the same sensor. The E-PM2 is a lot cheaper though.

#18 Relativist

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 11:58 AM

Is there a chance the G3 will drop in price?

#19 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 03:31 PM

Is there a chance the G3 will drop in price?


The GH3 price will plummet once the GH4 hits the shelves. Probably by May or June we will see the GH4 readily available. A used GH3 will probably end up somewhere around $500-$600 like the GH2 was when I sold mine. The GH3 is between $800-$1000 new right now. Probably $800 used.

#20 telfish

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 03:39 PM

Where can you buy an Olympus E-PM2 for $200. Most places seem to be in the 350 to 380 range.

Terry

#21 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 05:00 PM

Where can you buy an Olympus E-PM2 for $200. Most places seem to be in the 350 to 380 range.

Terry


$350-$380 is typically with the 2 lens kit. The telephoto zoom is easy to sell for $90-$100 and then you can get a similar price for the shorter zoom as well. I sold my telephoto because I have a Panasonic lens that covers that range. I kept the short zoom though. It is actually a half decent lens.

#22 jdbastro

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 05:49 PM

The Panasonic GH4 will be announced tonight at midnight. It is essentially a GH3 with 4K @ 30 FPS video. It will cost a little less than $2000 in the US.


Do you have any expectation regarding low light sensitivity difference between the new GH4 and GH3? Given similar pixel pitch (16 MP sensors on both cameras), I wonder how much Panasonic could improve low light sensitivity relative to the GH3.

I guess you can tell us once you've played with the GH4. Yes?

Thanks.

#23 mpgxsvcd

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 08:37 PM

The Panasonic GH4 will be announced tonight at midnight. It is essentially a GH3 with 4K @ 30 FPS video. It will cost a little less than $2000 in the US.


Do you have any expectation regarding low light sensitivity difference between the new GH4 and GH3? Given similar pixel pitch (16 MP sensors on both cameras), I wonder how much Panasonic could improve low light sensitivity relative to the GH3.

I guess you can tell us once you've played with the GH4. Yes?

Thanks.


Both the GH3 and GH4 will share the same sensor. However, the GH4 will have extensive cooling that the GH3 doesn't have. I am not sure if that is just passive cooling(Vents) or if it is active cooling(fans or liquid cooling). The GH3 only goes up to ISO 6400 in video. Not sure what the GH4 will go up to.

#24 ccs_hello

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 10:35 PM

RE: focal reducer to be used for Micro FourThirds

Travis,

I ran a bino lens based FR design and push for 0.5x.
It turns out that 76% of the image area is still fully-illuminated by on-axis light.
This is a new news since you most likely will not see completely dark surrounding (looking thru a straw) but partially illuminated in the peripheral.

Clear Skies!

ccs_hello

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#25 Relativist

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Posted 06 February 2014 - 10:54 PM

Travis,

Any other micro4/3 cameras out there worth considering? I too am a Panasonic fan, but I know some of the other companies like Samsung haven't been standing still either.


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