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ASI1600MC Cooled - Testing and Initial Impressions

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#1 Astrojedi

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 01:42 PM

Cooled ASI1600 MC Initial Impressions

 

I have been testing the new Cooled ASI1600 color camera from ZWO for EAA over the last few days. Sam sent me this camera a few weeks back but the weather has not been cooperating so it has taken longer than I wanted to post some images.

 

The first set of images I am posting today were taken with the cooling off. I will post more images with cooling on in the next few days along with additional thoughts.

 

I think it is to Sam and ZWO’s credit that they continue to push the boundaries with CMOS and with every new release it seems CMOS becomes a more viable alternative to CCDs.

 

The cooled version of the camera retails at $1080 and the non-cooled version at $799. ZWO currently has an early bird discount for both. http://astronomy-ima...-3-0/asi1600mc/

 

Key Takeaways:

 

In my view the camera is perfectly suited for wide field work. I enjoyed the sensor size much more than I thought I would for EAA but I think the real strength of this camera will be for imaging. Combined with a Hyperstar it should be a fantastic widefield imaging setup.

 

I was not able to compare the sensitivity directly to other cameras like the ASI224 as I was not able to run the camera at the same F ratio but it does seem very sensitive. One thing to keep in mind is that the camera I received had an IR cut window which impacted galaxy response but made the stars look sharp and colorful. Not sure if ZWO can do one without an IR cut filter.

 

In short, if you have always wanted a large format CCD for imaging but not had a few thousand dollars to spend, this is a fantastic buy.

 

Summary:

 

This sensor is large… really large by EAA standards. It is a 4/3rd format sensor with a 21mm diagonal. Here are the full specs: http://astronomy-ima...-3-0/asi1600mc/

 

Resolution: 4656x3520
Pixel Size: 3.75 x 3.75 Microns
Read Noise: 1.2e @ 30db gain
Cooling: 40-45 deg C below ambient

ADC: 12 bit

 

We are starting to see some of benefits of the manufacturing scale of CMOS. The fact that you can now get a nearly APS-C size sensor at sub $1000 prices is great.

 

I tested the camera with both SharpCap 2.8 and AstroLive USB beta 6. SharpCap’s stacking was slightly more robust than AstroLive but that is to be expected as AstroLive is still in beta.

 

Given the size of the sensor they key challenge was how to speed up the optical system for EAA. Hence most of these images have been taken at ~F7 on the Evolution C8 using x3 or x4 binning.

 

The camera does not seem to support hardware binning as I did not notice a sensitivity increase with binning (i.e. I did not see an increase in magnitude reach) but when using SharpCap I did notice that the image brightened quite a bit with binning selected (but again did not see any improvement in magnitude reach – so it seems the binning was happening in SW).

 

Edit: I did not notice any 'amp glow' even at high gain which is very promising. Also note that I did not use any darks for any of these captures.

 

All images taken with the cooled ASI1600MC on my Evolution C8 with the Celestron 6.3 reducer OR with the camera attached to a 50mm F2 lens (as noted).


Edited by Astrojedi, 05 April 2016 - 03:50 PM.

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#2 Astrojedi

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 01:54 PM

The first image is a 2x10s stack using AstroLive USB beta 6. Evo C8 @ F7. The sensor is so large that I still managed to fit the whole Orion Nebula into the frame.

ZWO ASI1600MC-Cool_20s_total_2x10s_300g_20160401202207224.jpg

And here is the screen grab from AstroLive USB. It shows a single unstacked 10s frame.

 

Clipboard02.jpg


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#3 Astrojedi

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 02:01 PM

M37 using SharpCap. Same setup as the earlier post.

 

M37 3.jpg


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#4 Astrojedi

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 02:09 PM

Super Widefield captures with a cheap 50mm F2 lens using the ASI1600MC. Lens and camera mounted on my iOptron Cube Pro mount.

 

Capella is in the center of the field. It is amazing that SharpCap stacked this field without complaining despite the fact that the tree is obstructing the view. The camera just cuts through the skyglow.

 

Capella 50mm 2.jpg


Edited by Astrojedi, 05 April 2016 - 02:10 PM.


#5 Astrojedi

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 02:16 PM

Widefield captures of the Auriga region using a 50mm lens and SharpCap. This has been taken from my red/white LP zone backyard. I have never visually seen the milky way from my location. In these captures you start to see a hint of the Milky Way. This is looking West just above the horizon. This area of the sky is an extremely light polluted white LP zone.

 

M37 50mm.jpg

 

And here is the annotated version. The JPG compression is really hurting the quality of the image but you should get a sense of what is possible.

 

M37 50mm - Annotated.jpg


Edited by Astrojedi, 05 April 2016 - 02:36 PM.


#6 TheRock

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 02:37 PM

...One thing to keep in mind is that the camera I received had an IR cut window which impacted galaxy response but made the stars look sharp and colorful. Not sure if ZWO can do one without an IR cut filter.

 

I was eyeing the ATIK Infinity until news broke of the ASI1600MC. Unfortunately the IR cut filter may be a deal breaker for me. Hopefully ZWO/Sam can remove or make this an optional feature.


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#7 Relativist

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 03:04 PM

By any chance can you use the same reduction as you have with the 224 and simply crop the center? This would help those of us that have scopes that are able to use reduction or already fast with larger image circles.



#8 A. Viegas

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 10:23 PM

Thanks for the first look Hiten! Have you tried just shooting unbinned at F7 and see what you can pull out of an u modified 30 or 60s frame at full resolution?

Al

#9 Astrojedi

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 10:24 PM

Curtis,

I can give that a go to test relative sensitivity. Will need to be cropped quite a bit.

 

Hiten


Edited by Astrojedi, 06 April 2016 - 07:50 PM.


#10 Astrojedi

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Posted 05 April 2016 - 11:44 PM

Thanks for the first look Hiten! Have you tried just shooting unbinned at F7 and see what you can pull out of an u modified 30 or 60s frame at full resolution?

Al

 

 

Al,

Based on some initial captures it seemed pretty similar but I will do a more formal compare.

 

Hiten



#11 OleCuss

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 08:31 AM

Pretty nice images considering you didn't do a lot of stacking and such.

 

I'm a little puzzled, however.  I'm seeing more pixellation in images than I expected to see from a camera with that many pixels.  Does that seem to be a binning/processing issue?

 

I'm also really wondering why they have an IR cut filter built in.

 

Otherwise?  Pretty impressive camera.  Definitely under consideration for getting one since I've got a C11 I'd like to Hyperstar and I've several other optical systems which should have a big enough image circle while having sufficiently fast optics for that sensor.



#12 Astrojedi

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 04:45 PM

I think what you are seeing is some graininess due to the slow focal ratio and limited subs. Keep in mind that most of the subs above are 8-10s at F7. So a pretty short total exposure time.


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#13 t_image

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 05:50 PM

Basic function questions for using it as an imaging camera (not EAA).

#1 do you think they actually have a mono version?Why would that version have IR block?

 

#2 Do you need AL/SC or can it operate as a still camera for imaging for single subs (FITS/RAW) that can be well processed later in PixInsight and the like?

Or is its native output send a video-like signal?

 

Thanks!



#14 A. Viegas

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 07:01 PM

Hi T_image

 

Yes, there is a mono version of the camera.  http://astronomy-ima...-3-0/asi1600mm/   and a cooled version as well.

 

I have asked the company this same question and I was told you can get the ASI 1600 mono without IR cut filter.  Hopefully this weekend at NEAF we can find out even more specific info.

 

Al



#15 Astrojedi

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 07:25 PM

Basic function questions for using it as an imaging camera (not EAA).

#1 do you think they actually have a mono version?Why would that version have IR block?

 

#2 Do you need AL/SC or can it operate as a still camera for imaging for single subs (FITS/RAW) that can be well processed later in PixInsight and the like?

Or is its native output send a video-like signal?

 

Thanks!

 

Output is FITs like a CCD.



#16 mclewis1

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 07:34 PM

That "pixellation" or graininess looks to me as pretty typical read noise that's more apparent in color cameras.

 

More signal (as Hiten said faster f ratio) and less gain will reduce it. Most folks will also increase the number of subs as well as the length of the subs ... although the effectiveness of really increasing the lengths of the subs will depend on the camera/sensor. Reducing sky background signal also helps so either adding filters effective for light pollution or shooting from a darker site will reduce that noise.

 

I've also noticed that if the bit depth is increased that this noise isn't as visible (once brightness/contrast and the histogram has been adjusted).

 

It's very interesting when you get to know a particular camera to balance the gain vs. exposure length (and now number of subs for stacking) for different sky conditions and targets in order to reduce the amount of noise in the image.


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#17 OleCuss

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 07:56 PM

The pixellation that I'm looking at is mostly in the M42 image and is in the stars themselves that I'm seeing it.  I don't think it is a read noise issue.

 

But the images are being done with minimal data and there is software binning.  I'm on a computer with a bigger screen at this time and as a person who is certainly not the ultimate authority on these issues I'm guessing that either more data or less binning would resolve what I'm looking at.

 

I'd note that I essentially consider this to be nitpicking from my perspective.  I'm not at all likely to use that camera at F/7 for anything remotely like NRTV.  If I use it at F/7 or higher I'll likely be doing longer exposures without binning.

 

If I were to use that camera for NRTV I'd expect to be using optics I have with focal ratios in the range of 1.5-5.  That means I'd not need such aggressive binning and I'd bet the problem would not be very evident at all.

 

Even with the little bit of pixellation and with minimal data that M42 is still a very worthy image in an NRTV sense and not too bad in general.  So far I'm really liking this camera.



#18 mclewis1

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Posted 06 April 2016 - 08:55 PM

With a closer look I see the pixellation in the stars (sorry about that). Reminds me of what was seen with the Mallincam SkyRaider DSc cameras (with it's 829 sensor). I'd guess it's the binning too. 

 

If "binning 3" is a 3 x 3 binning then the horizontal resolution of 4656 becomes something just over 500 for each color - and under the right conditions that should be visible (like what we are seeing).



#19 Alex Parker

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 01:30 AM

If there is really going to be a mono version of this beast, cooled, without IR cut filter, I am intrigued.  $1000 for a cooled sensor that size is pretty slick when you consider what the options are for mono imagers.  I might even be willing to fool with some Windhose software to try and do EAA with it, although more likely it would be an AP camera.  Hopefully Nebulosity will be able to run it in the near future...

 

Has anyone seen absolute QE curves for the mono version of the sensor?

 

Thanks

 

Alex


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#20 StarMike8SE

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 12:05 PM

I like the sensor size and larger FOV.  Hiten, how much better is the image quality compared to the Infinity?  The built in IR filter concerns me though



#21 A. Viegas

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 01:25 PM

 

 

Has anyone seen absolute QE curves for the mono version of the sensor?

 

Thanks

 

Alex

Hi Alex

According to Sam, the owner of ZWO, the QE for the 1600 is around 60% -- he said there is no official release on this and it if difficult to test, so its a best guess...   fwiw

 

Al



#22 Astrojedi

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 01:30 PM

Mike,

 

I have not done a direct comparison. The main difference is the 12 bit ADC on the ASI1600 vs the 16 bit ADC on the Infinity.

 

The 16 bit ADC produces better faint detail (very important for scientific/astronomical applications not so much for security applications).

 

Using a higher gain and shorter exposures one can compensate for the loss of information and improve imaging efficiency but requires change in ingrained habits from using CCDs for so many years (which I was also guilty of). 

 

Overall I think the FoV and the low cost of this sensor will offer a very compelling value proposition with the Hyperstar. But note that since I have not really tired it with the Hyperstar this is more conjecture on my part.

 

Hiten


Edited by Astrojedi, 08 April 2016 - 01:34 AM.

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#23 TheRock

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 02:04 PM

Hi T_image

 

Yes, there is a mono version of the camera.  http://astronomy-ima...-3-0/asi1600mm/   and a cooled version as well.

 

I have asked the company this same question and I was told you can get the ASI 1600 mono without IR cut filter.  Hopefully this weekend at NEAF we can find out even more specific info.

 

Al

 

Al, did they say the ASI1600 mono and color can be purchased without the IR cut filter?



#24 A. Viegas

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Posted 07 April 2016 - 02:33 PM

Hi Richard

I asked Sam the IR-cut question over email, last week.  His reply suggested you can get the ASI1600 mono without the IR or that you can remove it yourself.  He is now at NEAF, and hopefully I can get the direct answer when I talk to him this weekend.

 

if anyone is at NEAIC, they can ask him today or tomorrow.

Al


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#25 DonBoy

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Posted 08 April 2016 - 01:30 PM

From a post titled 'ASI 290MC/MM yet another new camera from ZWO!'

 

Posted Today, 01:48 PM

DonBoy, on 08 Apr 2016 - 12:18 PM, said:

    Checking Sony's spec sheets and their new way of evaluating sensitivity it appears that the 290 is almost half the sensitivity of the 224 and also picture quality at low illumination.

    

    

 

Thanks for this.

 

Is possible to have a similar comparison with the new asi 1600 sensor??? Just to understand better the sensor specification.

 

Because if the 1600 sensor is almost tha same as olympus em10, em1 and em5, i had for years these cameras and the sensitivity is not good for deepsky... I tried many times to take photo, as with lenses and skytracker, and with c8 reduced to f5....

It seems that the Olympus EM5 has similar capabilities as what I've seen from Canon midrange DSLRs like the T3i.   Checkout this post:

http://www.cloudynig...-3#entry6675567

 

We'll have to wait and see what a fast large aperture scope can do with the ASI1600 to keep exposure times down.  




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