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What camera to buy for observing DSO's?

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#26 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 01:02 PM

 

 

Regarding your question of build quality of the Lodestar, I believe it is excellent.  It is a compact 1.25" aluminum cylinder about three inches long with the USB and guide port connectors at the end.  There was a problem with the USB jack, but SX has fixed that.  You might want to consider a mono one as well as the color.  At about $600 each you could get both for the price of an Xterminator with cash to spare.  They both use the same sensor.  With mono you can get great views of emmision nebulae using a narrow band Ha filter.  My favorite viewing is of very large emmision nebulae like North America and Eta Carina using a simple 50mm mini guide scope.  Here an example:

 

attachicon.gifimage.jpg

Thank you Don and that is a very nice image with not a lot of time invested at 10 x 45 sec using Ha. I was considering a mono in the future to use an Ha filter and this looks very promising. Is the Lodestar a cooled camera or not being only a single USB cable? The built quality sounds good.

 

Neither the Lodestar nor Ultrastar are cooled.  To remove hot pixels you need to take dark frames at the exposure you are using.  The Starlight Live software applies the darks on the fly as you are viewing.  Paul Shears is presently working on a means to remove hot pixels without taking darks.

 

 

 

 

Regarding your question of build quality of the Lodestar, I believe it is excellent.  It is a compact 1.25" aluminum cylinder about three inches long with the USB and guide port connectors at the end.  There was a problem with the USB jack, but SX has fixed that.  You might want to consider a mono one as well as the color.  At about $600 each you could get both for the price of an Xterminator with cash to spare.  They both use the same sensor.  With mono you can get great views of emmision nebulae using a narrow band Ha filter.  My favorite viewing is of very large emmision nebulae like North America and Eta Carina using a simple 50mm mini guide scope.  Here an example:

 

attachicon.gifimage.jpg

Thank you Don and that is a very nice image with not a lot of time invested at 10 x 45 sec using Ha. I was considering a mono in the future to use an Ha filter and this looks very promising. Is the Lodestar a cooled camera or not being only a single USB cable? The built quality sounds good.

 

Neither the Lodestar nor Ultrastar are cooled.  To remove hot pixels you need to take dark frames at the exposure you are using.  The Starlight Live software applies the darks on the fly as you are viewing.  Paul Shears is presently working on a means to remove hot pixels without taking darks.

 

Okay thank you Don but none cooled is out for me because I want to keep it simple as possible. Taking dark's for me means I will have to physically cover my scope every time I change to a different exposure time which will happen a lot since DSO's will vary in brightness levels. I am not too worried about the hot or warm pixels but I do want to keep the dark current noise to a minimum since this is what takes away from seeing fine faint details. 



#27 ippiu

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 01:18 PM

You are exactly in the same my situation. You want exactly do eaa as i think about:simplest way, quickest, and with not too complications, most enjoyable.

 

After weeks of reading and searching (see also some my topics) my idea is:

For the ease of use, straight out of the box, with no need for darks,  good software combo, atik infinity (with its software )or ultrastar (starlightlive)

But if you want the best sensitivity, lowest read noise, short subs possible, go with asi224. But maybe too much amp glow. You can use it with sharpcap, firecapture and maybe astrolive.

 

This is what i understood during these weeks.

But other people here who use those cameras could help you much better than me..


Edited by ippiu, 06 January 2016 - 01:20 PM.


#28 Don Rudny

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 01:25 PM

 

Okay thank you Don but none cooled is out for me because I want to keep it simple as possible. Taking dark's for me means I will have to physically cover my scope every time I change to a different exposure time which will happen a lot since DSO's will vary in brightness levels. I am not too worried about the hot or warm pixels but I do want to keep the dark current noise to a minimum since this is what takes away from seeing fine faint details. 

 

Just for clarification, the darks only have to be taken once at the beginning of a session for different exposures. The master dark for each exposure can be saved to a file folder and restored as needed during the viewing session.  I usually do 5, 10, 15, 30 and 45 second darks before each session.  Paul's auto hot pixel removal will certainly be appreciated as temperature changes sometimes cause hot pixels to creep in.



#29 OleCuss

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 02:04 PM

Thank you very much OleCuss for bringing up the part to neglect the Hyperstar since I am very much considering selling my Hyperstar. I say this because it is a big hassle to switch compared to the rear-end style mounting of a SCT. I am planning on using  either my Celestron 6.3 or buy a Mallincam MFR-5 for even more focal reduction. This will bring my C11 down to about f/4 and I know a lot slower than my Hyperstar but way easier to setup since I am not getting any younger at 69 years old. This is another reason why I was considering a camera with 1" or less size sensor and it must be sensitive as top priority. I do not need the more then 1" size sensor since I find the majority of the object fit the FOV for sensors 1/2 to 1" diagonal with less headaches. I was also thinking of using my 80 mm refractor for those wide field in which I have seen many do on NSN with great results. 


 

 

** I am very confused now because I have never though of the Atik or ZWO cameras as video cameras? Sorry I still get the whole video thing as confusing or complicated. The ZWO 174 is nice but for my liking requires way too many stacks using several programs and I am trying to keep it simple. The Atik Infinity is very nice with it's excellent software but it still is no where near as sensitive as an Exterminator and this is my # 1 need for that as close to real live feeling as possible.

 

 

If you are using the Celestron 0.63x reducer then I'm going to be rather confused.

 

I think you indicated you are using an EdgeHD and I think that the 0.63x is a combination reducer/corrector which, if used with an EdgeHD would introduce aberration.  Is it possible you have the 0.7x reducer for the EdgeHD?

 

That said, if you are going to use a reducer with focal reduction in the 0.63x-0.7x range then you really do need one of the very sensitive cameras.  An Xterminator would be pretty cool and you'd have enough focal length to minimize the under-sampling from those relatively large pixels.  You'd also find that because you are going to pick up only the central part of the image circle that even if you have a reducer/corrector which introduces aberration near the edge of the image circle that it won't bother you because you aren't using that part of the field.

 

I'd be happy to use my AVS MkIV that way and I don't think you'd find the Mallincam cameras problematic (I don't like the amp-glow but it doesn't bother most).

 

But I'd also be considering using one of the cameras with an APS-C sized sensor.  At the Grand Canyon Star Party I saw a guy using a regular Atik for NRTV and it was doing pretty well in that mode - I don't remember what software he was using.

 

The Mallincam Universe in conjunction with its current software will reportedly rival what the Xtreme and Xterminator will do.  That would mean a nice wide FOV with essentially no loss of the resolution you would be getting with the video cameras.  It would, indeed, take a few integrations to get there - but it should be pretty spectacular.  Seriously, I used to do NRTV with an MCU using a 90mm refractor and a mild reducer (reduced focal ratio was 5.6) and I enjoyed it as NRTV without doing any stacking at all.  Your system would be a bit slower but not dramatically slower.

 

I'm not saying you should go the route of a sensor about the size of the APS-C, but it might be interesting to note that there are now multiple software packages which can stack on-the-fly and give you really good NRTV with DSLRs and conventional CCD cameras.  You are not at all limited to Mallincam, Atik, QHY, SBIG, etc.  You can do it with DSLRs and the like.  The only reason I'd even think about a full-frame sensor is because they generally have better SNR - but you would have vignetting with the reducers and more processing and other hassles - very reasonable not to want to deal with all that.

 

It is, BTW, getting more and more confusing to think about video cameras.  There are some people who do not consider anything but a camera putting out analog data in either PAL or NTSC as being video.  But there are many cameras considered to be video cameras which don't necessarily conform to those standards.  You can, of course, also use a still camera and stitch together individual frames to make a movie.  Then you have DSLRs which can do still photography or video photography (I think at least one will crop the sensor for video if so desired - no unwanted pixels!).  Then to make further confuse the issue is making a still image out of true video data.

 

Anyway, if you go with very aggressive focal reduction I'd likely stick with the video cameras in the more usual sense.  Those little sensors will fit the more constricted image circle the aggressive focal reducers will likely produce (I'm guessing since I've not seen anyone say how big image circles are).

 

That small sensor will be very usable with either the aggressive or the non-so-aggressive focal reduction and that is a plus.

 

For me the problem with a small sensor, the relatively large pixels, and the aggressive focal reduction is that the aggressive focal reduction means a short focal length and that means under-sampling in a small image and relatively poor stars.  That really wreaks havoc on globular clusters and things like the Ring Nebula.  With your scope and a 0.33x reducer you would have considerably more focal length so it won't be as bad for you as it was for me with that refractor and the MC Universe so it may not be enough to bother you.  Just because I'm not a fan of that situation doesn't mean you won't thoroughly enjoy it. . .


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#30 A. Viegas

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 02:32 PM

Hi DSO Viewer

I think given the parameters you have outlined that an older generation analogue video camera is a very good option for you.  However, as you just now thinking about jumping into this arena I would suggest you not purchase a Mallincam Exterminator as its almost $2,000 and maybe you will not like it as much as you think.  Maybe an alternative idea is to spend 10% of that and purchase one of the new revolution kits  or even the Mallincam Micro for less than $200.  This way you can do exactly the same workflow that you prefer - namely just plug in a cable and you are off observing and no need for stacking, software or any other added complications.    Then after a few months of using this low budget camera you can decide if indeed the next step is the Xterminator or maybe a newer camera that may be out by then.  EAA is rapidly advancing with many new camera offerings, and Mallincam is in the forefront of new products.  So I would not put it past Rock to come out with an even more sensitive and better camera than the Xterminator in the true video EAA arena in 2016.   Unless spending over $2000 on a new area of observing you have never done personally is something that is no big deal, then sure... but if instead it seems prudent to take a smaller more frugal step you cannot go wrong with one of the modified LN300 cameras being sold by many vendors.   As for sensitivity, using AGC these little cameras are very sensitive...  and while not as sensitive as the 828/9 chips in the Xterminator or X2s they are no slouches.    As for cooling, well its winter... so right now that is not really a big deal.    Again, if in 6 months you are hooked and decide to step up to a bigger better camera, the $200 investment is not a waste as many of us use those little cameras as video finders and for other purposes like guiding too.   

best of luck and welcome to EAA!

Al


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#31 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 03:18 PM

 

 

Okay thank you Don but none cooled is out for me because I want to keep it simple as possible. Taking dark's for me means I will have to physically cover my scope every time I change to a different exposure time which will happen a lot since DSO's will vary in brightness levels. I am not too worried about the hot or warm pixels but I do want to keep the dark current noise to a minimum since this is what takes away from seeing fine faint details. 

 

Just for clarification, the darks only have to be taken once at the beginning of a session for different exposures. The master dark for each exposure can be saved to a file folder and restored as needed during the viewing session.  I usually do 5, 10, 15, 30 and 45 second darks before each session.  Paul's auto hot pixel removal will certainly be appreciated as temperature changes sometimes cause hot pixels to creep in.

 

Thank you very much again Don but I do want to keep it as simple as possible and taking 5 sets of various exposure time dark frames (not sure if you take at least 3 subs each and median combine for a cleaner master) is the way I want to go since my time and amount of clear night is truly limited. Also if there is a dramatic shift in the temperature this can make your dark's inaccurate causing the reverse affect with more noise generated. As I mentioned previously, I want the cleanest image possible to *observe* and not for later post processing for pretty pictures.  



#32 MartinMeredith

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 03:33 PM

Although Don mentions taking 5 sets of darks, I'm not sure how many of the rest of us using Lodestar/Starlight Live do that. I must admit, I only ever take one set of darks at the start of the session, with an exposure based on skyglow (the more the glow, the lower the exposure). Most of the time I'm taking 15s darks these days, so it doesn't take long to run off a nice set -- not much longer than slewing over to the first target of the night, attaching the light shield, or other sundry tasks i.e. it doesn't eat into the observing session. And while nights with large temperature changes can lead to hot pixels (or dark pixels from inaccurate subtraction), they are rarely sufficiently numerous to both me.

 

Far more important for me is to get a decent overall image quality, which means tight round stars as well as nebulous nebulae. I find that even with a small sensor it is perfectly possible (with the right focal length matched to the sensor -- very important) to get reasonable looking globular clusters, for instance.

 

Martin


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#33 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 03:35 PM

 

Thank you very much OleCuss for bringing up the part to neglect the Hyperstar since I am very much considering selling my Hyperstar. I say this because it is a big hassle to switch compared to the rear-end style mounting of a SCT. I am planning on using  either my Celestron 6.3 or buy a Mallincam MFR-5 for even more focal reduction. This will bring my C11 down to about f/4 and I know a lot slower than my Hyperstar but way easier to setup since I am not getting any younger at 69 years old. This is another reason why I was considering a camera with 1" or less size sensor and it must be sensitive as top priority. I do not need the more then 1" size sensor since I find the majority of the object fit the FOV for sensors 1/2 to 1" diagonal with less headaches. I was also thinking of using my 80 mm refractor for those wide field in which I have seen many do on NSN with great results. 


 

 

** I am very confused now because I have never though of the Atik or ZWO cameras as video cameras? Sorry I still get the whole video thing as confusing or complicated. The ZWO 174 is nice but for my liking requires way too many stacks using several programs and I am trying to keep it simple. The Atik Infinity is very nice with it's excellent software but it still is no where near as sensitive as an Exterminator and this is my # 1 need for that as close to real live feeling as possible.

 

 

If you are using the Celestron 0.63x reducer then I'm going to be rather confused.

 

I think you indicated you are using an EdgeHD and I think that the 0.63x is a combination reducer/corrector which, if used with an EdgeHD would introduce aberration.  Is it possible you have the 0.7x reducer for the EdgeHD?

 

That said, if you are going to use a reducer with focal reduction in the 0.63x-0.7x range then you really do need one of the very sensitive cameras.  An Xterminator would be pretty cool and you'd have enough focal length to minimize the under-sampling from those relatively large pixels.  You'd also find that because you are going to pick up only the central part of the image circle that even if you have a reducer/corrector which introduces aberration near the edge of the image circle that it won't bother you because you aren't using that part of the field.

 

I'd be happy to use my AVS MkIV that way and I don't think you'd find the Mallincam cameras problematic (I don't like the amp-glow but it doesn't bother most).

 

But I'd also be considering using one of the cameras with an APS-C sized sensor.  At the Grand Canyon Star Party I saw a guy using a regular Atik for NRTV and it was doing pretty well in that mode - I don't remember what software he was using.

 

The Mallincam Universe in conjunction with its current software will reportedly rival what the Xtreme and Xterminator will do.  That would mean a nice wide FOV with essentially no loss of the resolution you would be getting with the video cameras.  It would, indeed, take a few integrations to get there - but it should be pretty spectacular.  Seriously, I used to do NRTV with an MCU using a 90mm refractor and a mild reducer (reduced focal ratio was 5.6) and I enjoyed it as NRTV without doing any stacking at all.  Your system would be a bit slower but not dramatically slower.

 

I'm not saying you should go the route of a sensor about the size of the APS-C, but it might be interesting to note that there are now multiple software packages which can stack on-the-fly and give you really good NRTV with DSLRs and conventional CCD cameras.  You are not at all limited to Mallincam, Atik, QHY, SBIG, etc.  You can do it with DSLRs and the like.  The only reason I'd even think about a full-frame sensor is because they generally have better SNR - but you would have vignetting with the reducers and more processing and other hassles - very reasonable not to want to deal with all that.

 

It is, BTW, getting more and more confusing to think about video cameras.  There are some people who do not consider anything but a camera putting out analog data in either PAL or NTSC as being video.  But there are many cameras considered to be video cameras which don't necessarily conform to those standards.  You can, of course, also use a still camera and stitch together individual frames to make a movie.  Then you have DSLRs which can do still photography or video photography (I think at least one will crop the sensor for video if so desired - no unwanted pixels!).  Then to make further confuse the issue is making a still image out of true video data.

 

Anyway, if you go with very aggressive focal reduction I'd likely stick with the video cameras in the more usual sense.  Those little sensors will fit the more constricted image circle the aggressive focal reducers will likely produce (I'm guessing since I've not seen anyone say how big image circles are).

 

That small sensor will be very usable with either the aggressive or the non-so-aggressive focal reduction and that is a plus.

 

For me the problem with a small sensor, the relatively large pixels, and the aggressive focal reduction is that the aggressive focal reduction means a short focal length and that means under-sampling in a small image and relatively poor stars.  That really wreaks havoc on globular clusters and things like the Ring Nebula.  With your scope and a 0.33x reducer you would have considerably more focal length so it won't be as bad for you as it was for me with that refractor and the MC Universe so it may not be enough to bother you.  Just because I'm not a fan of that situation doesn't mean you won't thoroughly enjoy it. . .

 

Thank you very much for taking the time to type out all of this very helpful useful information! I am sorry but I meant the focal reducer made for my C11 Edge which is a 0.7x. When I was mentioning a video camera and I am confused about how it is labelled I always thought that a video camera for astronomy purposes had to have an internal DSP doing most the processing before the data is being sent out (for just viewing on a monitor) with additional processing done if using a frame grabber & computer compared that those mentioned cameras Atik & ZWO that require a computer and software in order to do the processing once the data is downloaded? 

 

The MC Universe sounds like a very good choice or perhaps a modded Canon 7D Mark II as long as I do not have to crop out more then 25% of the FOV using both my C11 Edge @ f/7 or my Stellarvue 80 mm f/6 refractor or f/4.8 reduced (I have the 0.8x reducer/flattener).



#34 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 03:45 PM

Hi DSO Viewer

I think given the parameters you have outlined that an older generation analogue video camera is a very good option for you.  However, as you just now thinking about jumping into this arena I would suggest you not purchase a Mallincam Exterminator as its almost $2,000 and maybe you will not like it as much as you think.  Maybe an alternative idea is to spend 10% of that and purchase one of the new revolution kits  or even the Mallincam Micro for less than $200.  This way you can do exactly the same workflow that you prefer - namely just plug in a cable and you are off observing and no need for stacking, software or any other added complications.    Then after a few months of using this low budget camera you can decide if indeed the next step is the Xterminator or maybe a newer camera that may be out by then.  EAA is rapidly advancing with many new camera offerings, and Mallincam is in the forefront of new products.  So I would not put it past Rock to come out with an even more sensitive and better camera than the Xterminator in the true video EAA arena in 2016.   Unless spending over $2000 on a new area of observing you have never done personally is something that is no big deal, then sure... but if instead it seems prudent to take a smaller more frugal step you cannot go wrong with one of the modified LN300 cameras being sold by many vendors.   As for sensitivity, using AGC these little cameras are very sensitive...  and while not as sensitive as the 828/9 chips in the Xterminator or X2s they are no slouches.    As for cooling, well its winter... so right now that is not really a big deal.    Again, if in 6 months you are hooked and decide to step up to a bigger better camera, the $200 investment is not a waste as many of us use those little cameras as video finders and for other purposes like guiding too.   

best of luck and welcome to EAA!

Al

Thank you very much Al for the helpful advice. I guess I am impatient and when I feel like I am really going to enjoy something I go big and try to buy good quality. I am sure that if I do not like the Exterminator, I can always sell it at a little loss since I am sure these cameras hold their value for a bit. It is just from watching NSN that I have really enjoyed immensely the almost immediate results some have been able to obtain in such short duration's (Dwight was one of the broadcasters) with hardly any fuss as far as software goes which I believe he was using Miloslick. Al like everything in electronics you cannot keep up with it since it is constantly changing and I am not getting any younger :(  



#35 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 03:49 PM

Although Don mentions taking 5 sets of darks, I'm not sure how many of the rest of us using Lodestar/Starlight Live do that. I must admit, I only ever take one set of darks at the start of the session, with an exposure based on skyglow (the more the glow, the lower the exposure). Most of the time I'm taking 15s darks these days, so it doesn't take long to run off a nice set -- not much longer than slewing over to the first target of the night, attaching the light shield, or other sundry tasks i.e. it doesn't eat into the observing session. And while nights with large temperature changes can lead to hot pixels (or dark pixels from inaccurate subtraction), they are rarely sufficiently numerous to both me.

 

Far more important for me is to get a decent overall image quality, which means tight round stars as well as nebulous nebulae. I find that even with a small sensor it is perfectly possible (with the right focal length matched to the sensor -- very important) to get reasonable looking globular clusters, for instance.

 

Martin

That is very good to know thank you Martin. Does one have to use dark's with this camera for decent (meaning low noise good signal) in order to observe strictly not talking about imaging.  



#36 Dwight J

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 04:18 PM

 

Hi DSO Viewer

I think given the parameters you have outlined that an older generation analogue video camera is a very good option for you.  However, as you just now thinking about jumping into this arena I would suggest you not purchase a Mallincam Exterminator as its almost $2,000 and maybe you will not like it as much as you think.  Maybe an alternative idea is to spend 10% of that and purchase one of the new revolution kits  or even the Mallincam Micro for less than $200.  This way you can do exactly the same workflow that you prefer - namely just plug in a cable and you are off observing and no need for stacking, software or any other added complications.    Then after a few months of using this low budget camera you can decide if indeed the next step is the Xterminator or maybe a newer camera that may be out by then.  EAA is rapidly advancing with many new camera offerings, and Mallincam is in the forefront of new products.  So I would not put it past Rock to come out with an even more sensitive and better camera than the Xterminator in the true video EAA arena in 2016.   Unless spending over $2000 on a new area of observing you have never done personally is something that is no big deal, then sure... but if instead it seems prudent to take a smaller more frugal step you cannot go wrong with one of the modified LN300 cameras being sold by many vendors.   As for sensitivity, using AGC these little cameras are very sensitive...  and while not as sensitive as the 828/9 chips in the Xterminator or X2s they are no slouches.    As for cooling, well its winter... so right now that is not really a big deal.    Again, if in 6 months you are hooked and decide to step up to a bigger better camera, the $200 investment is not a waste as many of us use those little cameras as video finders and for other purposes like guiding too.   

best of luck and welcome to EAA!

Al

Thank you very much Al for the helpful advice. I guess I am impatient and when I feel like I am really going to enjoy something I go big and try to buy good quality. I am sure that if I do not like the Exterminator, I can always sell it at a little loss since I am sure these cameras hold their value for a bit. It is just from watching NSN that I have really enjoyed immensely the almost immediate results some have been able to obtain in such short duration's (Dwight was one of the broadcasters) with hardly any fuss as far as software goes which I believe he was using Miloslick. Al like everything in electronics you cannot keep up with it since it is constantly changing and I am not getting any younger :(  

 

You are right on with the minimum of fuss getting jaw dropping views.  When I bought a Mallincam VSS a few years ago I was observing with it 5 minutes of plugging it in.  Our Astro club had bought an Extreme and I used it once and ordered a Mallincam the next morning.  We now have the picture up on a 65" TV which is amazing for viewing.  Just checked the price of the Exterminator and it is 1749 USD or 1599 without the cooling fans.  I do recommend the class "0" chip for $139.  Unless you live in a climate with warm nights (I don't) the extra for cooling fans may not be needed.  I use the 2" focuser adapter in the summer as it is a nice chunk of metal for  a heat sink.  I am a big fan of colour too and these cameras are sensitive enough that mono does not gain you much, if anything.  And hey, no dark frame library or taking necessary.  My routine is start computer and open Miloslick starting the 3 minute countdown, open dome, turn on mount and camera, slew to star to check focus, slew to object, go down to the warm room's computer which by this time has completed the 3 minute countdown to hyper mode, set exposure time, sit back and enjoy.  The image appears on a TV monitor in the dome, on the warm room computer monitor, and the 65" TV.  I use a wireless mouse and keyboard so I can be well situated for viewing the big screen.  At home I have the image on the computer monitor and TV as the TV image is just so good.  A CRT gives nice smooth colour while a LCD is sharper.  Easy to do a remote setup as you can virtually have as long a cable as you need.  I use a 40' Svideo but up to 150' is not out of the question.  Although some describe these cameras as old and outmoded, the newer cameras have some catching up to do to equal them.  They have been around long enough to have the kinks ironed out and Rock has not abandoned them nor will he.  It is the camera he uses most which does say something.  


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#37 MartinMeredith

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 04:43 PM

 

Although Don mentions taking 5 sets of darks, I'm not sure how many of the rest of us using Lodestar/Starlight Live do that. I must admit, I only ever take one set of darks at the start of the session, with an exposure based on skyglow (the more the glow, the lower the exposure). Most of the time I'm taking 15s darks these days, so it doesn't take long to run off a nice set -- not much longer than slewing over to the first target of the night, attaching the light shield, or other sundry tasks i.e. it doesn't eat into the observing session. And while nights with large temperature changes can lead to hot pixels (or dark pixels from inaccurate subtraction), they are rarely sufficiently numerous to both me.

 

Far more important for me is to get a decent overall image quality, which means tight round stars as well as nebulous nebulae. I find that even with a small sensor it is perfectly possible (with the right focal length matched to the sensor -- very important) to get reasonable looking globular clusters, for instance.

 

Martin

That is very good to know thank you Martin. Does one have to use dark's with this camera for decent (meaning low noise good signal) in order to observe strictly not talking about imaging.  

 

 

I always do use darks given how easy it is to do so in LodestarLive. Are they necessary for observing? Not really, except perhaps on hot nights. But one of the things I like to do is run long stacks on faint objects, and then any hot pixels become noticeable due to trailing. So I've got into the habit of taking darks as part of the routine. As I've said on another thread, I enjoy the enforced hiatus between doing boring techie things like alignment and focusing, and pleasurable things like on screen star-hopping, field identification, and pulling out faint obscure objects. Darks fill that gap and I use the time to anticipate the observing delights in store…. 

 

I fully appreciate what you're saying about wanting to get out and observe with no fuss and minimal wait time. So I took a look at my last observing session (sadly, as far back as November 30th) and found that in just under 3 hours I observed 

 

M74
IC 176
Abell 286 galaxy cluster
Whiting 1 (v faint globular)
NGC 168
NGC 936
NGC 247
VV 518
NGC 1015
Abell 370 galaxy cluster
M77
NGC 1073
M1 (in multispectral)

 

i.e. 13 objects, about 15 mins on each (in practice, I spent a long time on Abell 370 for various reasons). I used 30s subs, so views appeared almost immediately. There's a real variety of objects in that list, and I even had time to do some near real-time narrowband on the Crab. 

 

Set that against 10-15 mins tweaking the collimation, aligning, focusing and taking darks (I don't count cool-down time) and it shows that initialisation doesn't have to get in the way of observing. This is all with a single USB cable setup and a single piece of software, so totally plug-and-play (although I'm a software person by training and profession, I actually dislike software/electronics/cables/disorder when it comes to just getting on with observing). 

 

Martin 


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#38 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 05:42 PM

 

 

Hi DSO Viewer

I think given the parameters you have outlined that an older generation analogue video camera is a very good option for you.  However, as you just now thinking about jumping into this arena I would suggest you not purchase a Mallincam Exterminator as its almost $2,000 and maybe you will not like it as much as you think.  Maybe an alternative idea is to spend 10% of that and purchase one of the new revolution kits  or even the Mallincam Micro for less than $200.  This way you can do exactly the same workflow that you prefer - namely just plug in a cable and you are off observing and no need for stacking, software or any other added complications.    Then after a few months of using this low budget camera you can decide if indeed the next step is the Xterminator or maybe a newer camera that may be out by then.  EAA is rapidly advancing with many new camera offerings, and Mallincam is in the forefront of new products.  So I would not put it past Rock to come out with an even more sensitive and better camera than the Xterminator in the true video EAA arena in 2016.   Unless spending over $2000 on a new area of observing you have never done personally is something that is no big deal, then sure... but if instead it seems prudent to take a smaller more frugal step you cannot go wrong with one of the modified LN300 cameras being sold by many vendors.   As for sensitivity, using AGC these little cameras are very sensitive...  and while not as sensitive as the 828/9 chips in the Xterminator or X2s they are no slouches.    As for cooling, well its winter... so right now that is not really a big deal.    Again, if in 6 months you are hooked and decide to step up to a bigger better camera, the $200 investment is not a waste as many of us use those little cameras as video finders and for other purposes like guiding too.   

best of luck and welcome to EAA!

Al

Thank you very much Al for the helpful advice. I guess I am impatient and when I feel like I am really going to enjoy something I go big and try to buy good quality. I am sure that if I do not like the Exterminator, I can always sell it at a little loss since I am sure these cameras hold their value for a bit. It is just from watching NSN that I have really enjoyed immensely the almost immediate results some have been able to obtain in such short duration's (Dwight was one of the broadcasters) with hardly any fuss as far as software goes which I believe he was using Miloslick. Al like everything in electronics you cannot keep up with it since it is constantly changing and I am not getting any younger :(  

 

You are right on with the minimum of fuss getting jaw dropping views.  When I bought a Mallincam VSS a few years ago I was observing with it 5 minutes of plugging it in.  Our Astro club had bought an Extreme and I used it once and ordered a Mallincam the next morning.  We now have the picture up on a 65" TV which is amazing for viewing.  Just checked the price of the Exterminator and it is 1749 USD or 1599 without the cooling fans.  I do recommend the class "0" chip for $139.  Unless you live in a climate with warm nights (I don't) the extra for cooling fans may not be needed.  I use the 2" focuser adapter in the summer as it is a nice chunk of metal for  a heat sink.  I am a big fan of colour too and these cameras are sensitive enough that mono does not gain you much, if anything.  And hey, no dark frame library or taking necessary.  My routine is start computer and open Miloslick starting the 3 minute countdown, open dome, turn on mount and camera, slew to star to check focus, slew to object, go down to the warm room's computer which by this time has completed the 3 minute countdown to hyper mode, set exposure time, sit back and enjoy.  The image appears on a TV monitor in the dome, on the warm room computer monitor, and the 65" TV.  I use a wireless mouse and keyboard so I can be well situated for viewing the big screen.  At home I have the image on the computer monitor and TV as the TV image is just so good.  A CRT gives nice smooth colour while a LCD is sharper.  Easy to do a remote setup as you can virtually have as long a cable as you need.  I use a 40' Svideo but up to 150' is not out of the question.  Although some describe these cameras as old and outmoded, the newer cameras have some catching up to do to equal them.  They have been around long enough to have the kinks ironed out and Rock has not abandoned them nor will he.  It is the camera he uses most which does say something.  

 

Thank you so much Dwight and it was one of your broadcast that caught my interest in perhaps buying an Exterminator. I live in California and the weather can vary but mostly warm. This is what I am looking for Simplicity while providing fast decent views!! IMHO, I feel that there is no such thing as an old camera because in electronics everything gets outdated too fast these day's. :grin:



#39 MJB87

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 05:42 PM

Couple of observations from someone who has both an Xterminator (not Exterminator, BTW) and an Xtreme X2 with the HAD sensor.

 

The cameras are fantastic if you are looking for real-time imagery.  (The image of Dumbbell in my avatar is from the Xterminator. Two stacked 15-second exposures with minimal processing.) The Mallincam Control (Miloslick) software works great but takes some getting used to.  It has ability to subtract darks and hot pixels on the fly and I like that.

 

Another good feature is the MFR-5A/B focal reducers that attach to the front of the camera. I use these in conjunction with my Celestron 0.7x FR to get down to about f/4 on my 14" EdgeHD. These two focal reducers seem to play well together.

 

One concern about Mallincam products is that they do not play well with TheSkyX, which I use to drive my mounts. I find it frustrating that the cameras don't have an ASCOM driver and there seems to be zero momentum toward building one,  It doesn't affect the ability to see imagery but I would like to use the camera with T Point for pointing model improvements.

 

MJB


Edited by MJB87, 06 January 2016 - 05:58 PM.


#40 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 05:43 PM

 

 

Although Don mentions taking 5 sets of darks, I'm not sure how many of the rest of us using Lodestar/Starlight Live do that. I must admit, I only ever take one set of darks at the start of the session, with an exposure based on skyglow (the more the glow, the lower the exposure). Most of the time I'm taking 15s darks these days, so it doesn't take long to run off a nice set -- not much longer than slewing over to the first target of the night, attaching the light shield, or other sundry tasks i.e. it doesn't eat into the observing session. And while nights with large temperature changes can lead to hot pixels (or dark pixels from inaccurate subtraction), they are rarely sufficiently numerous to both me.

 

Far more important for me is to get a decent overall image quality, which means tight round stars as well as nebulous nebulae. I find that even with a small sensor it is perfectly possible (with the right focal length matched to the sensor -- very important) to get reasonable looking globular clusters, for instance.

 

Martin

That is very good to know thank you Martin. Does one have to use dark's with this camera for decent (meaning low noise good signal) in order to observe strictly not talking about imaging.  

 

 

I always do use darks given how easy it is to do so in LodestarLive. Are they necessary for observing? Not really, except perhaps on hot nights. But one of the things I like to do is run long stacks on faint objects, and then any hot pixels become noticeable due to trailing. So I've got into the habit of taking darks as part of the routine. As I've said on another thread, I enjoy the enforced hiatus between doing boring techie things like alignment and focusing, and pleasurable things like on screen star-hopping, field identification, and pulling out faint obscure objects. Darks fill that gap and I use the time to anticipate the observing delights in store…. 

 

I fully appreciate what you're saying about wanting to get out and observe with no fuss and minimal wait time. So I took a look at my last observing session (sadly, as far back as November 30th) and found that in just under 3 hours I observed 

 

M74
IC 176
Abell 286 galaxy cluster
Whiting 1 (v faint globular)
NGC 168
NGC 936
NGC 247
VV 518
NGC 1015
Abell 370 galaxy cluster
M77
NGC 1073
M1 (in multispectral)

 

i.e. 13 objects, about 15 mins on each (in practice, I spent a long time on Abell 370 for various reasons). I used 30s subs, so views appeared almost immediately. There's a real variety of objects in that list, and I even had time to do some near real-time narrowband on the Crab. 

 

Set that against 10-15 mins tweaking the collimation, aligning, focusing and taking darks (I don't count cool-down time) and it shows that initialisation doesn't have to get in the way of observing. This is all with a single USB cable setup and a single piece of software, so totally plug-and-play (although I'm a software person by training and profession, I actually dislike software/electronics/cables/disorder when it comes to just getting on with observing). 

 

Martin 

 

Okay that is great to know Martin and I must say that you had a great observing session with very little fuss. Thank you!



#41 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 06:21 PM

Couple of observations from someone who has both an Xterminator (not Exterminator, BTW) and an Xtreme X2 with the HAD sensor.

 

The cameras are fantastic if you are looking for real-time imagery.  (The image of Dumbbell in my avatar is from the Xterminator. Two stacked 15-second exposures with minimal processing.) The Mallincam Control (Miloslick) software works great but takes some getting used to.  It has ability to subtract darks and hot pixels on the fly and I like that.

 

Another good feature is the MFR-5A/B focal reducers that attach to the front of the camera. I use these in conjunction with my Celestron 0.7x FR to get down to about f/4 on my 14" EdgeHD. These two focal reducers seem to play well together.

 

One concern about Mallincam products is that they do not play well with TheSkyX, which I use to drive my mounts. I find it frustrating that the cameras don't have an ASCOM driver and there seems to be zero momentum toward building one,  It doesn't affect the ability to see imagery but I would like to use the camera with T Point for pointing model improvements.

 

MJB

Thank you MJB for the fantastic feedback and for correcting my mistake calling the camera Exterminator rather than Xterminator (I believe I should out of respect use the right name spelling as I am from old school). I do have TheSkyX and love it with my AP1200 mount but for now I am not too worried (I have a permanent set-up) about T-Point even though it is a very useful tool. I guess if there is never going to be a release of an ASCOM driver for the Xterminator then I can always easily slip a guide camera (thinking about a future QHY5 Mono autoguider or something similar) into my observing scope and run a T-Point followed by replacing the guider with the Xterminator. You made a good valid point and perhaps there maybe a future ASCOM driver?



#42 Dwight J

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 07:50 PM

I use SkySafari to control the mount.  I use Park4 and resume from it each time.  The mount is well polar aligned and the pointing is good enough to put the object on the chip, often centered, even after a meridian flip.  TPoint really isn't necessary.  I have Maxpoint at my home observatory but I don't use it as my mount points well with a one star alignment.  You can use TheSky to control the mount and an AP1200 will do the rest without additional layers of complexity.  There is no need to guide it either.  I can routinely stack two 120 sec integrations, and given the tiny chip and long focal length, even at F3, quite a feat.  If I don't broadcast I typically don't stack.  Smoothing can be done via Miloslick or I view the "raw" camera output on the TV.  My pursuit isn't getting pretty pictures but a pleasing viewable image quickly.  I love galaxy hopping with this setup as the image scale matches many galaxies well.  



#43 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 08:50 PM

I use SkySafari to control the mount.  I use Park4 and resume from it each time.  The mount is well polar aligned and the pointing is good enough to put the object on the chip, often centered, even after a meridian flip.  TPoint really isn't necessary.  I have Maxpoint at my home observatory but I don't use it as my mount points well with a one star alignment.  You can use TheSky to control the mount and an AP1200 will do the rest without additional layers of complexity.  There is no need to guide it either.  I can routinely stack two 120 sec integrations, and given the tiny chip and long focal length, even at F3, quite a feat.  If I don't broadcast I typically don't stack.  Smoothing can be done via Miloslick or I view the "raw" camera output on the TV.  My pursuit isn't getting pretty pictures but a pleasing viewable image quickly.  I love galaxy hopping with this setup as the image scale matches many galaxies well.  

Thank you again Dwight and this is how I see it also by keeping it a simple as possible since this to me is what EAA is all about and observe not image. You have been a lot of help in making my decision and I am very excited to get an Xterminator with a class 0 sensor.



#44 OleCuss

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 09:05 PM

I'm not too sure you needed all that much help.  You were pretty jazzed about the Xterminator in your first post and you are pretty jazzed about it now.

 

Fun thread but I'm not sure all of it has really made sense to me.  But I know I have deficiencies. . .



#45 CA Curtis 17

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 09:24 PM

MJB,

 

Nice to know that the MFR5 and  Celestron 0.7FR worked well on your 14" Edge.  I assumed it wouldn't so did not even try it.  Now I will.  Guess it depends upon the chip size.

 

I too wish my Xtreme would work with The SkyX so I could not only do an auto T-Point, but also let it plate solve.

 

Regards,

Curtis



#46 Dwight J

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Posted 06 January 2016 - 11:42 PM

MJB,

 

Nice to know that the MFR5 and  Celestron 0.7FR worked well on your 14" Edge.  I assumed it wouldn't so did not even try it.  Now I will.  Guess it depends upon the chip size.

 

I too wish my Xtreme would work with The SkyX so I could not only do an auto T-Point, but also let it plate solve.

 

Regards,

Curtis

If you do want to improve your pointing while using your Extreme Curtis, try Maxpoint.  I believe it has a 30 day free trial.  Maxpoint does work with TheSky5 & 6 and likely X as well.  For wireless use with an iPad look at the Astromist app.  You can add alignment stars - as many as you want IIRC.  I have it too but SkySafari works for me.  



#47 ccs_hello

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Posted 07 January 2016 - 12:34 AM

I felt quite encouraged that OP's rather broad/open-ended question 

has not generated different "fashions" debate.  It is a good sign.

 

All I can offer here is please be patient and read many threads in this forum to understand the pros and cons.

Just like reading a Consumer Report review article, there will be multi-dimensional attrributes.  A person can

then pick and choose based on the most important criteria most pertinent to his (current) situations.

 

Good luck and welcome.

 

Clear Skies!

 

ccs_hello



#48 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 07 January 2016 - 09:13 AM

I'm not too sure you needed all that much help.  You were pretty jazzed about the Xterminator in your first post and you are pretty jazzed about it now.

 

Fun thread but I'm not sure all of it has really made sense to me.  But I know I have deficiencies. . .

OleCuss, It is not that I am jazzed up about the Xterminator, it is just that after hearing posts here and esp. watching several broadcasts on NSN (which nothing beats actually seeing the camera in action) I feel that this camera suits my needs/wants. Thank you though for the help!


Edited by DSO_Viewer, 07 January 2016 - 09:16 AM.


#49 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 07 January 2016 - 09:15 AM

I felt quite encouraged that OP's rather broad/open-ended question 

has not generated different "fashions" debate.  It is a good sign.

 

All I can offer here is please be patient and read many threads in this forum to understand the pros and cons.

Just like reading a Consumer Report review article, there will be multi-dimensional attrributes.  A person can

then pick and choose based on the most important criteria most pertinent to his (current) situations.

 

Good luck and welcome.

 

Clear Skies!

 

ccs_hello

Thank you very much ccs_hello for the support I really appreciated it! 



#50 Richard Whalen

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Posted 07 January 2016 - 12:23 PM

I like Don would recommend a Lodestar, best bang for the buck. If money is no object, I would be looking at a cooled Atik. Better resolution than the Lodestar X2 and Mallincams mentioned. Some of the best images I've seen on NSN were using one with a 7" apo.

 

Now if you have an observatory where you can leave it set up, the extra wires in a video cam won't be as big an issue other than routing them and replacing them when they go bad. DrDave in SA does amazing video with his Mallincams, seems one of the few to get round stars with them.

 

The biggest factor is what you want to look at verses sampling/ fov. Also if you want to use it more as a eyepiece for visual use or actually save images (imaging). If visual I would go for the most sensitive chip/software that gives round stars, if imaging I would go for resolution and fov at the expense of sensitivity. Which camera you choose will depend on your setup etc. There is no one camera that does it all in every scope. I have 4 camera's from 4 different manufacturers, no one is perfect for everything. I have not used the Ultrastar so can't comment on it other than I am not rushing out to buy one as I'm happy with the X2 Lodestar as a eyepiece that does decent imaging on DSO's. For planetary I really like my ZWO, and my AVS depending on which scope I'm using it in. For pure imaging I like my DSLR, Canon 450d modified in my 10" VRC-T at F8. Good luck on making your choice, you have lot's of options....


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