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Atik Infinity Color Camera - Initial Impressions

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#1 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 01:54 PM

Atik Infinity color camera initial impressions

 

It is a great time to be interested in EEA. We have more integrated solutions than ever before and I hope this is only the beginning.

 

I have had the opportunity to play around with this camera for a few days. In my view with the Infinity Atik is trying to establish a new product segment which addresses a very real gap/need in the market. I choose to call it “Casual Astrophotography”. There are many of us who want a near real time imaging experience at the scope without sacrificing resolution/quality too much and/or dislike post processing.

 

This product also addresses a large segment of what we call EAA (I think this distinction is small as these segments are merging). There are many who do EAA and want results that look more like astrophotos rather than faint fuzzies. They are the target market. Others who practice EAA but prioritize speed over other factors will not be satisfied with the performance of this camera. But both these groups can and do overlap. Yours truly being a perfect example. On certain days you cannot pull me away from my mono camera (X2 or Ultrastar) but on other days when I crave color and views of nebulae and star clusters my goto camera is the ASI224 (and in the future potentially the Infinity).

 

Having done serious and casual imaging for many years I don’t think this camera will replace the high end cooled AP CCDs anytime soon for a number of reasons although there will be some cannibalization as there is a sub segment which prefers more instant results. My guess is that Atik did the math and they realized that the expansion of the user base from this product will more than make up for that (I think it will).

 

In the next few posts I will share my initial impressions of where the camera succeeds and where it falls short (there are some issues outstanding).

 

But in summary, I think the Infinity is the first integrated seamless EAA/Imaging user experience which addresses both the inexperienced user as well as an experienced imager looking for a more casual experience. The little details make a big difference and that is very true for the Infinity. Atik has really thought through the design and the hardware and software together deliver a very seamless experience with unparalleled ease of use (i.e. until Paul adds hot pixel removal to Starlight Live : ) ). The software is very stable and the performance is excellent. Unfortunately, you will not get this same user experience with the 414EX until Atik decides to support other cameras with the Infinity Software.

 

The downside for the group who prefers their EAA with a large dollop of speed is that the camera slower in image acquisition vs. what they are used to. Based on the few nights I spent with the camera, the image acquisition is definitely much slower than the Lodestar X2C and the ASI224 (the 224 being a more appropriate comparison due to the RGB matrix). I have been able to produce better results with the ASI224 with shorter total exposure time but with much more effort. More on this later.

 

If there is interest I can also try do a live youtube broadcast and take requests on trying out the features of the camera.


Edited by Astrojedi, 28 December 2015 - 05:06 PM.

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#2 kuba_mysluk

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 02:11 PM

Astrojedi
I will stay tuned, as Im sure this is matrix I need. Colour one and easy, even if w/o cooling. Im collecting the EUR fot it now.
To be honest Im still not sure: Infinity colour or 414 cooled colour and third party stacking software.

Thanks&cheers

Kuba

Edited by kuba_mysluk, 28 December 2015 - 02:11 PM.

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#3 KGoodwin

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 02:25 PM

Very interested to hear the full results of this!  :gotpopcorn:



#4 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 03:15 PM

The positives and development needs

 

The Positives

  • I have to start with the fact that there is one single tab for the application and the user interface focuses on only the most essential controls. This is great for the less experienced user.
  • There are also auto settings for most adjustments which again makes the learning curve much smoother for newcomers.
  • But the feature I love the most is that I don’t need to take dark frames (and also that I don't need cooling to achieve that - I have used cooled CCDs in the past and they come with their own issues). I just start viewing/imaging right away and find that the freedom to change sub exposure time as required changes the user experience completely. It does truly feel like a “video astronomy” experience rather than an imaging experience.
  • The stacking is incredibly fast… almost instantaneous. The software is fast enough to stack 1s subframes in real time even in slightly busy star fields. I have not had a chance to try it out but I know that the just released Starlight Live v2.0 also has significant performance improvements so that gap should be less now.
  • The ‘Image Quality’ section continuously displays the FWHM of the image. I find this more useful than I thought I would. While stacking I can see the variance in seeing/tracking for various exposures and gives me insight into what is going on with the exposures. Also combined with a Bhatinov mask makes focus very accurate.
  • For all the above reasons this is an excellent camera for broadcasting. Minimum fiddling required and a truly integrated experience really help with ease of use. If you are doing broadcasting, are ok with 30-60s sub exposures I think this camera will fit the bill nicely. Although there is no compatibility with NSN yet.
  • The other thing I really like is the physical design. As my primary EAA setup is an Alt Az Evolution mount, the flat design of the camera makes it easier to clear the base (although I managed to clear the base with the Ultrastar Mono as well using T Threads at f3.3 but with only 3mm to spare!)
  • The camera also has T threads which make attaching to my optical chain and achieving the correct spacing much easier.

Room for improvement - I present these more as constructive criticism for a very nascent but excellent product and not as negatives.

  • Achieving color balance has proven to be a little challenging. The images appear “yellowish green’ even after using a LP filter. I live in a red zone and the camera is practically unusable without a LP filter (which is true for other color cameras as well). The v1.2 beta of the Infinity SW allows for manual color balance but the controls are not intuitive for someone new to Astro-photography. Even to me the terms offset and stretch for a color channel (while very straightforward in what they do) did not mean much until I was able to conceptually relate them to what I do in post processing.
  • You cannot specify the stacking approach. In Starlight Live I am able to specify the stacking method which is useful. For example when imaging galaxies or galaxy clusters on days with very bad skyglow I resort to very short exposure stacks 5-10s with my mono camera (no LP filter as it kills a large part of the signal from galaxies) and then sum them for maximum SNR. The results if the seeing and transparency are good rival my dark site results. Less of an issue for the color camera but something that would be very useful for the mono camera.
  • Information overlay (or lack of) when saving Images. Again this is a feature I like a lot in Starlight live which is the automatic labeling of images when you save with information like target name, exposure time, time and date. This is a simple fix but one which makes sharing a lot easier. Taking screenshots is not my preferred way for sharing captures.
  • The FWHM displayed for the image gets thrown off by bright galaxy cores e.g. for M31 it displays a FWHM of 100+ for a 30s exposure vs. 2-4 for an image of a starfield! This makes comparison harder to the previous object to ensure there is no degradation in focus. Also the number means less to the user overall. This is not a complicated fix (use a Gaussian filter and ignore outliers) but needs to be resolved.

Other

  • While it seems to me that the camera's custom circuitry is potentially manipulating gain to improve SNR the image acquisition is still slower vs. the other cameras EAA users are used to. My estimate is that it needs at least 1.5x the total exposure time of the ASI224 and LS X2C (This will more or less hold for the Ultrastar C as well). Also the image quality and subtle detail produced by the ASI224 is better (of course requires more effort and fiddling and I think this is exactly where the Infinity and Starlight Live (if you chose the Ultrastar C) user experience differentiate themselves).
  • Due to the higher read noise (still low compared to some other imaging CCDs) some objects will respond well to shorter exposures and some will require longer exposures. I would say 30s should be the baseline and you can vary it up or down from there as required (again this should hold true for the Ultrastar C as well). I will post some comparisons of the same object at different sub exposure times.
  • The Infinity needs a separate 12V/1A power supply. The Ultrastar cameras are powered via USB and use a frugal 200mA

Edited by Astrojedi, 29 December 2015 - 02:17 AM.

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#5 A. Viegas

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 03:34 PM

Very thoughtful explanation.  Thanks Hiten!

 

well...  now it seems we are getting many options for hardware but the software choices are becoming increasingly a major differentiation point...



#6 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:00 PM

Some images to start off... many more to follow. All images with Nexstar Evolution 8 @ f3.7, Orion LP filter and Atik Infinity taken from a red zone.

 

Transparency and seeing were very poor with a light layer of clouds hence I would wait for more images before making a judgement (Tue night is expected to be clear here so will do some comparison images)

 

M31 & M33. Both were at the Zenith when imaged.

 

M31 1x30s (some field rotation is present as it was the the zenith and I was using my Evo 8.

 

m31 1x30s.jpg

 

M31 13x15s (shorter exposure stack)

 

m31 13x15s.jpg


Edited by Astrojedi, 28 December 2015 - 04:41 PM.

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#7 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:09 PM

M33. First 2 images are when M33 was close to the Zenith. The last image with 45s subs is from a couple hours later when M33 was towards the west (which is heavily light polluted).

 

NOTE the different sub exposure times. On purpose for comparison. Also note the variability in color balance. The 45s version seems to better bring out the HII regions.

 

M33 26 x 15s

m33 26x15s.jpg

 

M33 10x30s

m33 10x30s.jpg

 

M33 8x45s

M33 8x45.jpg


Edited by Astrojedi, 28 December 2015 - 04:11 PM.

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#8 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:16 PM

Here is the Bubble Nebula 16x30s exposures

 

Bubble 16x30s.jpg

 


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#9 alphatripleplus

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:16 PM

Great review, Hiten. On the issue of "automatic" dark correction, it is worth noting I believe that Paul Shears is planning to add a similar feature in the next release (after 2.0) of Starlight Live. I am guessing that in a few months, several different software/camera combos will have a comparable feature -  this will be great for the end user with one less thing to think about!

 

Errol


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#10 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:21 PM

The Orion Nebula

 

A single 15s image

 

M42 1x15s.jpg

 

A stack of 11x10s images

 

M42 11x10s.jpg

 


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#11 ippiu

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:23 PM

Focal lenght of all images?



#12 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:23 PM

Thanks Al, Errol.

 

Yes, that is correct. Paul is working on hot pixel removal algorithm for Starlight live. Looking forward to it.


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#13 DarkRise

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:25 PM

Thanks Al, Errol.

 

Yes, that is correct. Paul is working on hot pixel removal algorithm for Starlight live. Looking forward to it.

What about an amp glow removal ?



#14 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:29 PM

NGC869 Perseus Double Cluster. 1x15s

 

NGC 869 1x15s.jpg

 


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#15 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:31 PM

Focal lenght of all images?

 

Evo 8 @ f3.7

 

 

Thanks Al, Errol.

 

Yes, that is correct. Paul is working on hot pixel removal algorithm for Starlight live. Looking forward to it.

What about an amp glow removal ?

 

 

The 825 sensors are pretty clean and have little or no 'amp glow'.


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#16 DarkRise

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:33 PM

 

Focal lenght of all images?

 

Evo 8 @ f3.7

 

 

Thanks Al, Errol.

 

Yes, that is correct. Paul is working on hot pixel removal algorithm for Starlight live. Looking forward to it.

What about an amp glow removal ?

 

 

The 825 sensors are pretty clean and have little or no 'amp glow'.

 

Do you think the Infinity color would work well with a 300mm f2.8 lens? I'm not sure if the image scale would be appropriate at around 4.4 arcsec/pix (big pixels and short focal lenght).


Edited by DarkRise, 28 December 2015 - 04:36 PM.


#17 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:35 PM

Last one for today... Here is an example of fixing the color balance manually using Infinity v1.2 Beta

 

NGC7814 with auto white balance adjustment

 

NGC 7814 6x15s.jpg

 

NGC7814 with manual white balance adjustment (overdid the Red a little bit but you get the idea)

 

NGC 7814 6x15s CB.jpg


Edited by Astrojedi, 28 December 2015 - 04:36 PM.

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#18 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:44 PM

 

 

Focal lenght of all images?

 

Evo 8 @ f3.7

 

 

Thanks Al, Errol.

 

Yes, that is correct. Paul is working on hot pixel removal algorithm for Starlight live. Looking forward to it.

What about an amp glow removal ?

 

 

The 825 sensors are pretty clean and have little or no 'amp glow'.

 

Do you think the Infinity color would work well with a 300mm f2.8 lens? I'm not sure if the image scale would be appropriate at around 4.4 arcsec/pix (big pixels and short focal lenght).

 

 

Should be ok. I have done wide field with my Ultrastar mono at 200mm FL. Keep in mind that the 2"/pixel is only a guide and not set in stone.


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#19 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:52 PM

Ok one more... : ) Forgot these... H Alpha using the Infinity Color...

 

IC 405 Flaming Star 9x45s

 

IC405 HA 9x45.jpg

 

Rosette 7x45s

 

Rosette2 HA 7x45.jpg


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#20 DarkRise

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 04:58 PM

Do you see any improvement(other than noise reduction) in term of brightness/details between the first image captured and the last one being stacked  ? Do you think you could post couple of single frames? 



#21 Astrojedi

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 05:12 PM

Do you see any improvement(other than noise reduction) in term of brightness/details between the first image captured and the last one being stacked  ? Do you think you could post couple of single frames? 

 

Yes, there is a difference. The detail definitely builds (as long as your sub exposure is long enough to overcome read noise). Here is a comparison.

 

M33 at 10x15s

m33 10x15s.jpg

 

M33 at 26x15s (same image as the prior post)

m33 26x15s.jpg


Edited by Astrojedi, 28 December 2015 - 07:09 PM.

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#22 Dwight J

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 05:41 PM

I like your category of "casual astrophotography".  These types of cameras make imaging easy and certainly a great way for one to get into imaging.  Some of the results of stacking short exposures (1 sec) in large numbers beats the seeing and results in some high resolution images as it beats the seeing, when the sharpest images are selected for stacking.  I dare say that some of these results exceed what dedicated Astro CCD cameras and expensive mounts are obtaining.  In that they can be used for EAA is a bonus and they are easier to use for this than a dedicated CCD camera.  


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#23 A. Viegas

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 06:20 PM

Software is going to increasingly become the key differentiator as more camera offerings use the same sensors...  Consider the icx828/9 and the lodestar x2 vs. the MCX DSc or Xterminator... The infinity vs the ultrastar with icx825 and even the new crop of imx224 and imx174 cameras...   Mallincam said a few days ago it will be offering new cameras with icx825 and imx174 sensors.  So this space is going to become increasingly competitive.    Software !  Software ! Software !     This is going to become super important.     Experienced users may get comparable results using multiple programs runninng simultaneously like sharpcap and astrotoaster ...   But a clean interface and single use solution like Atik is trying with the infinity is a big plus.   LL seems to be in the pole position albeit only for Lodestar cameras :undecided:  AstroLive is soon to roll out a new offering with enhanced control for zwo cameras.  Miloslick seems to be missing the boat here with no new update for camera control outside of e old mallincam analogue cameras.   And freeware from fire capture and sharpcap are also rapidly adapting toward EAA...

 

C'mon software jocks!  Game on!  :grin:


Edited by A. Viegas, 28 December 2015 - 06:21 PM.

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#24 Don Rudny

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 07:32 PM

Hi Al,

 

maybe be I misunderstood you, but Lodestar Live is now called Starlight Live and works with all the SX cams.  It competes with the Atik Infinity when used with the Ultrastar.  I have an Ultrastar C now and will be posting results and impressions soon, similar to Hiten with the Infinity.

 

Paul has just released Starlight Live v2.0 and it can be found on a thread I just started today in the EAA forum.

 

Don

 

Just had a thought that you might have meant SX cameras instead of Lodestar cameras.


Edited by Don Rudny, 28 December 2015 - 07:34 PM.

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#25 Roberti

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Posted 28 December 2015 - 07:48 PM

Hiten, what a fantastic post, thank you for taking the time to share your experiences and views of this camera and software. I am seriously looking at the Ultrastar or Infinity so am watching closely. 

 

One question, with the larger chip, the vignetting becomes more apparent, do you feel the need for some 'flats' type functionality in the software?

 

Rob


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