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Has the $1200 large chipped ASI 1600 made existing modestly priced CCDs obsolete?

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#26 bobzeq25

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 09:58 AM

 If you really think that ZWO will take over the astronomy camera business, because of this new camera - then you are a bit star struck with ZWO.

 

I really don't see what all the hoopla is all about

I don't think they'll take over the market.  But they may be the first out with a good CMOS DSO camera.  The "hoopla" is a $1200 camera with specs that match, and in some cases exceed, cameras costing much more.  That's a new price point for a new entry level DSO (I think we're going to have to come up with a term other than "CCD") camera.  Especially one with a respectably sized chip.

 

Personally I wouldn't rush out to get one, although I'm very glad there are those who will, including some fine imagers.  And, if I was in the market for my very first DSO camera, and had less than infinite money <grin>, I'd wait a few months for the reports to come in, before spending thousands on a CCD.

 

Look, I just asked the question.  I see no deal breakers in any of the responses.  We'll just have to see.

 

If it succeeds, naturally other manufacturers will make similar products, looking to carve out their own niche with features.  The bottom line is that this is nothing but good news for the community.

 

To those who worry that something this cheap just can't be good.  I own a ZWO ASI120MM, and an Atik 460EXM.  Both have worked well, the build quality seems similar.  Atik is not high end, but they're well regarded.  This is not rocket science, it's a chip, an interface, and a cooler.


Edited by bobzeq25, 03 May 2016 - 10:07 AM.

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#27 CharlesW

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 10:41 AM

I think the original question was, "Can anyone come up with reasons to recommend 8300s or 694s to new imagers any more?" New Imagers. I wouldn't really recommend bleeding edge technology to anyone new at anything. New imagers need equipment that is proven to work. Then when they've developed knowledge in the field and want to take precious imaging time to try out something new, more power to them. At least then they might have the skill set necessary to overcome obstacles. 

 

Would I tell one of the venerable imagers here to try something like the 1600? Sure. It would help to prove or disprove the camera in the real world. Would I tell a beginner? Not yet. 



#28 WesC

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 11:06 AM

This is no different than the Chinese mount makers. Mounts are simple mechanically. But it's hard and expensive to make one that has extremely high performance. 

 

Everyone predicted that the chinese would be able to make AP and bisque quality mounts for half the cost.... Which is naive and laughable. There is no magic to it. In order to make mounts that good it takes money and experience and very high QC. IOptron found this out the hard way with the CEM-120... Which is why it was scrapped. 

 

Its no different with cameras.

 

Electronics that have light leaking on to the sensor, limited exposure times, high power requirements, unstable cooling.... These are what make a camera inexpensive. Anyone can mill a fancy aluminum enclosure. Not everyone can build a low noise, low heat, low power electronics package with full featured, rock solid software that integrates well with popular imaging tools.

Not everyone can build high end filter wheels without tilt, decentering, lots of thickness and weight. Not everyone can make really thin, high quality OAGs.

 

That stuff all costs money. There's no magic to it. 

 

ZWO makes some cool stuff for the money. But they don't compare at all to QSI, FLI, SX or SBiG. 

 

Once they do, the cost will be the same. CCD, CMOS... Doesn't matter. 


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#29 Thirteen

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 11:10 AM


There are some strong opinions on this topic. I've been imaging with a ZWO cooled CMOS camera (ASI174MM-Cool) for 6 months now and can say its well put together, well thought out, and just works night after night. IMX174 sensor itself has a few shortcomings and a few strong points.

I think the results are excellent and expect the same from the ASI1600. I'm actually very surprised that all the astro camera manufacturers are letting ZWO charge ahead without any competition into this market. QHY is just releasing a first generation as ZWO releases a second, no one else is even on the radar.


Just checked out your astrobin pages, I think you make it clear ZWO is actually on par or better, it's just that up until now no serious AP imagers have used this camera ... you have proven these cmos camera's are on par ...
What kind of site where the pictures taken, my guess it's pretty dark ...
/Yves


Thanks...all my images are from my orange zone backyard.

Regarding ZWO, I'll just say I have been very happy with them and admire the ability to bring fresh tech to market quickly in a well engineered product.
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#30 Goofi

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 11:19 AM

I think Jason/Thirteen being happy with his images speaks volumes ...

 

There's a lot of discussion on the business side of sensors. Let's remember that you can count on one foot the number of sensors made specifically for astrophotography.  If a company were trying to stay in business  because of us - it's hopeless!  Medical imaging uses these sensors, some scientific scanning ... as mentioned on planetary, the sensor comes from home security chips.  My point - we get what the industry makes for their main customers ... and then a few companies adapt them for our imaging needs.  If business calls for a switch to CMOS .. .we're going to see a lot of CMOS cameras. We'll also start paying more, not less, for 'old-fashion' CCDs like the 8300s .. just to get the capabilities that CMOS isn't delivering.

 

Someone else pointed out the OP was asking about beginners starting out. That's always a challenge recommending a good starting system ... knowing they'll outgrow it or just want something more/better.  Jason is showing that you can do a lot with them.



#31 Peter in Reno

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 11:29 AM

I think ASI1600 camera is perfect for beginners. Not only the price is very good but good for both DSO and planetary imaging. It's a "one size fits all" camera.

 

Peter


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#32 josh smith

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 11:32 AM

I'll counter that I think it's not as good for beginners. There is more to figure out with spacing and there will likely be more troubleshooting. It's good on a budget, but a beginner would likely do better with an integrated package where everything is figured out and they just have to connect and shoot. I'm very glad there are some experienced imagers getting this camera. I think they will greatly accelerate the growth of it and figuring out good integrated packages and spacing requirements.
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#33 Peter in Reno

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 11:40 AM

According to: https://astronomy-im...-3-0/asi1600mm/ and click on "Specification" tab.

 

It says the back focus is only 6.5mm. Is this a typo? I have never seen a camera with such a short back focus. This is great for scopes that requires very short back focus.

 

Peter


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#34 vdb

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 11:56 AM

Well, I own and have owned ccd cameras my most "expensive" ones being a QSI and SBIG ... 

(Also ATIk and SX ones)

And what I have seen from experienced imagers with the ZWO camera's it's up to the same quality of the top dogs, maybe the build quality is not on the same level or the software is a bit rough, the images are in the same league ...

The issue is you see a lot of "rubbish" images as well. The camera is being used by beginners or Planet people trying their first baby steps in AP ...

It's not all perfect, like the amp glow, which could also be a combination of cmos and experience with it.

But others are starting to produce camera's with the same chip, next is QHY and then my guess is that the established manufactures will move in and will have to adapt some of their premium pricing that they could maintain trough the years ... interesting times ...

 

/Yves



#35 MikeMiller

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 11:56 AM

According to: https://astronomy-im...-3-0/asi1600mm/ and click on "Specification" tab.

It says the back focus is only 6.5mm. Is this a typo? I have never seen a camera with such a short back focus. This is great for scopes that requires very short back focus.

Peter

This is correct. It is to accommodate the 13mm backfocus of micro four thirds lenses. (The adapter itself makes up the difference in backfocus.)

At NEAIC they had the asi1600 set up with a Rokinon/Samyang m43 lens using it as a webcam as a demonstration. Looks impressive and is interesting for those of us that have a bunch of m43 lenses.

The only downside is there is not enough room to fit a 1.25" filter inside the adapter. You can always adapt a Canon or Nikon lens with a filter holder such as the Geoptik EF->T2 one.

Edited by MikeMiller, 03 May 2016 - 11:58 AM.


#36 Joe G

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 01:29 PM

I am not sure the OP really meant this thread to be exclusively about "new" imagers.  After all it is in the CCD Imaging forum, not the Beginning Imaging forum.  And the title of the thread is: "Has the $1200 large chipped ASI 1600 made existing modestly priced CCDs obsolete."

 

I'm not sure I understand the notion that beginning imagers will have a tougher time with this product.  Heck, compared to an unmodded or modded DSLR which is going to be much nosier in higher temperatures.  That makes processing much harder.  It seems that this camera is more sensitive to boot which might require less exposure time making guiding easier.  I doubt a new astrophotographer could really care whether the camera had a CMOS or CCD chip inside anymore than whether a PC had an AMD or Intel microprocessor inside.  They just want it to work.

 

It seems that those that have ZWO cameras have nothing to complain about with respect to the quality of the engineering and performance.  Maybe this camera will be different?

 

There is nothing more frustrating than drivers that don't work properly.  I have had problems with my Nikon D600 drivers not working properly.  I am not sure that bugs here are abnormal but I haven't seen anyone complain about ZWO's driver performance.

 

While iOptron has had some issues with some of their mounts it seems there are many happy customers as well.  The Chinese built Atlas mounts have been a great low priced mount for imagers for many years.  Sure they are not high end, but they are not priced high-end either.  In the case of mounts I understand the premium for the performance and quality engineering of the high end mounts.

 

In the case of cameras I don't understand the differences as much.  These camera companies are "repackagers/asseblers," not much different than Compaq (HP) or Dell in that they buy parts and assemble a product.  The real value added is in the sensor and we know that the main sensor suppliers have moved to CMOS from CCD.  I just can't understand those that want to stay in the CCD world.  Small companies like Truesense/Kodak have no where near the resources to out engineer Sony when it comes to sensors, otherwise these Kodak chips would be in Nikon cameras today.  They are not.  Sony chips are in Nikon (and Sony and other companies) cameras.

 

QHY made the QHY8 which was a lower priced version of the Starlight Xpress camera at a much reduced price.  There were certainly some early problems but it opened up a cooled CCD camera to many that were priced out of the market.  I don't really see anyone complain about these cameras today, and as I said above the Starlight Xpress camera is price 50% higher today.  QHY has also produced "cheaper" cameras that compete directly with SBIG, QSI etc.  That is their business model.  They have also created the Polemaster which many here have raved about.  Interesting that this has been done by QHY and not the other premium makers.

 

It seems that ZWO is the new guy on the block and has produced many cameras using CMOS chips in a very short time period.  The planetary guys seem to love them (those that have them).  I will take a leap of faith that many will love these larger format ASI 1600 cameras.  The pricing is great and similar to the strategy that QHY adopted years ago.

 

I think it is important to understand the reluctance of the premium makers to want to compete at this price level because the margins on the ZWO cameras are likely very thin.  Take that margin on a $1200 camera instead of a $3000+ camera and you can understand the reluctance of the premium camera makers to enter this part of the market.  But if these cameras become popular and perform adequately, they will disrupt the M 4/3 and APS chip format AP market.  It very well might be too late for the premium companies to compete.

 

And if in the future ZWO (or QHY) is not done and introduce larger chip mono cameras with good performance it changes the existing market dramatically.

 

There is nothing mysterious at all with this.  It happens in technology products all the time.


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#37 Thirteen

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 01:44 PM

 

 

I think it is important to understand the reluctance of the premium makers to want to compete at this price level because the margins on the ZWO cameras are likely very thin.  Take that margin on a $1200 camera instead of a $3000+ camera and you can understand the reluctance of the premium camera makers to enter this part of the market.  But if these cameras become popular and perform adequately, they will disrupt the M 4/3 and APS chip format AP market.  It very well might be too late for the premium companies to compete.

 

 

I think this is important.   No doubt margins are tiny, but it can be somewhat offset in volume.   Even if we are talking extraordinarily small volumes, I'm not the only person that thinks 3 or 4 of these will sell for every single 16200.  On CN, I've already observed it steal a number of would-be CCD customers.   That's a wake up call for the old guard. 



#38 Jon Rista

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 02:02 PM

According to: https://astronomy-im...-3-0/asi1600mm/ and click on "Specification" tab.

 

It says the back focus is only 6.5mm. Is this a typo? I have never seen a camera with such a short back focus. This is great for scopes that requires very short back focus.

 

Peter

 

The default backfocus with the M42 female thread extension is 17.5mm. You must first remove the extension, which then gives you the (unusual) male M42 thread, with a backfocus to sensor of only 6.5mm. The ZWO site is very much not clear on that point...you have to read it pretty closely to get that there is that M42 female extender on there by default. 



#39 A. Viegas

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 02:11 PM

 

 

 

I think it is important to understand the reluctance of the premium makers to want to compete at this price level because the margins on the ZWO cameras are likely very thin.  Take that margin on a $1200 camera instead of a $3000+ camera and you can understand the reluctance of the premium camera makers to enter this part of the market.  But if these cameras become popular and perform adequately, they will disrupt the M 4/3 and APS chip format AP market.  It very well might be too late for the premium companies to compete.

 

 

I think this is important.   No doubt margins are tiny, but it can be somewhat offset in volume.   Even if we are talking extraordinarily small volumes, I'm not the only person that thinks 3 or 4 of these will sell for every single 16200.  On CN, I've already observed it steal a number of would-be CCD customers.   That's a wake up call for the old guard. 

 

Look at my post #25 in this thread.   This is exactly what happened in EAA over the last 18 months.  The former dominant supplier -- who charged premium prices but who everybody acclaimed as best in class, best customer service and best overall in quality is no longer the only game in town.  Rather, what we have seen is many more new users in EAA, and many more entrants in terms of manufacturers.   This is likely to happen now to medium to high-end of AP imaging devices.   It may still take another couple of years... but like in all technology spurred endeavors the benefits will be lower priced cameras with greater functionality and improved imaging characteristics.   So the consumers win...  some manufacturers may disappear if they do not adapt  and we will start to see more and more of the existing camera gear from 2013-2015 finding its way onto the used market very quickly as users try and monetize value before it erodes.   Again the example in EAA is very telling.... Prior to the rush of new and much cheaper camera alternatives the dominant supplier cameras, even 2-3 years old still sold used for 75-85% of new price.  Now they sell for maybe 50%  and the suggested retail is itself down 30%...   

 

By the way it hasn't been lights out for the former dominant vendor...  rather than selling 1 camera in three different configurations they now sell over 12 different types of cameras and have branched out into other equipment and even scopes.   So net, net I would hope their business is doing ok...   But certainly the beneficiaries have been the users... EAA is thriving like never before...    So more competition, lower prices and increased capability is Win+Win+Win for all of us!

Al



#40 Goofi

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 02:14 PM

@Joe G ... the reason I mentioned new imagers is this line in the OP

 

 

Can anyone come up with reasons to recommend 8300s or 694s to new imagers any more?  Or is the answer to "help me choose my first CCD" threads now clear?  Is the "CMOS revolution" here?



#41 tolgagumus

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 02:16 PM

I am an American union worker who does not walk into Walmart because I despise cheap Chinese made, mass market goods. I can't stand American companies outsource work to overseas. Having said that, I draw the line when a company engineers it's own product (wherever they maybe from) that offers an option that is not available locally. I think this new ZWO camera is well made, well engineered. I don't think it's fair to bash a product that's not even out on the market yet. I have a 1600MMC test camera which I am NOT getting for free so I have no gain in talking nice about them. I think we should keep our minds open and see how it tests out. I am going to test it on some faint object and share all the data as soon as I get some clear skies so everyone can see for themselves. 


Edited by tolgagumus, 03 May 2016 - 02:17 PM.

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#42 Jon Rista

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 02:24 PM

Regarding the ASI1600 camera for beginners and as a "CCD Killer". I don't think it is either. Well, at least, not the mono.

 

For one, the ASI1600 hasn't even hit the street yet and is unproven. For someone who hasn't even stuck a DSLR on their scope yet, then at the very least, the mono version is probably not the best option. It took me a few days of searching around and reading various sites and forums, then time researching how to get the darn thing connected to my existing scopes, before I knew it would even be possible.

 

I had to contact Precise Parts by email and ask about the possibility of adapting an EFW2 to a MALE (not female) M42 thread, and a very thin one at that (and within 12 hours they had a solution on their site...a beginner would likely not even know Precise Parts existed, let alone know what to ask for.) I also had to do some digging on a few of the sites I know produce more obscure adapters at uncommon backfocus requirements to find all the necessary parts. 

 

If a beginner was looking for an easy cooled camera to use, the ASI1600MC-Cooled (color) might do. That should be easier to adapt, as there wouldn't be any need to find and adapt a filter wheel to potentially limited backfocus (i.e. 55mm T-thread). They would simply need one of a couple different adapters, and then they could slap the thing onto most refractors with a T-thread, or any number of camera lenses (including some mirrorless, thanks to the 6.5mm minimum backfocus.)

 

As for the ASI1600 being a CCD killer. I don't think so. It's at a great price point for someone who doesn't want to spend many thousands of dollars, however it seems clear it doesn't quite have the quality of a well built CCD camera. There is an amp glow issue. I don't think it is extreme, certainly not as extreme as some other ZWO cameras. But it does have some amp glow. For those sticklers who want ideal quality, a CCD will still deliver better results there. 

 

I have played with a number of bias and dark frames from people who are beta testing this camera, and I ran some DFT's on them. These cameras have very low noise, however the dark noise it is not purely gaussian. There is a bit of horizontal pattern, faint but it does show up a little in the DFT. Compared to a QSI or FLI dark, which show up as completely random and pristine. Personally, coming from a 5D III, the small pattern in the noise isn't a huge issue. I've had significantly worse with my 5D III, and I have also had significantly worse amp glow issues. Not to mention the lack of regulated cooling with a DSLR. However I could understand someone who is used to the quality of a well built CCD not wanting to deal with anything less than ideal. 

 

So, I don't think the ASI1600 is a CCD killer either.

 

However, it is really tough to ignore the price point. Depending on exactly what filter wheel and filters you get, the delivered price could be half that of the next cheapest CCD camera, and many times less than the average CCD camera. For a fully capable monochrome camera with filters, the problems of a little bit of amp glow and less than perfectly gaussian noise seem a little more trivial. If you have to work on a tighter budget, it's a great option, IMO.


Edited by Jon Rista, 03 May 2016 - 02:27 PM.

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#43 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 03:34 PM

I'm looking at buying one, but am going in the opposite direction. I have a QSI for my main telescope but am trying to put together a lightweight/cheapER option for my smaller 80mm setup. I am actually thinking about trying the OSC version because I have the other camera and it sounds like fun.

 

I'm not too worried about performance, I am more worried about build quality. I am really picky. I am also worried about software drivers because I use a Macintosh. Software drivers are why I shied away from QHY (I know, I know, they work perfectly for some people) and also one reason why I replaced my SBIG with a QSI.

 

Also, I totally agree with Tolga, I am happy to buy a Chinese product if it isn't some race-to-the-bottom rip off of something else.


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#44 Jon Rista

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 03:58 PM

Concerning build quality. I've owned QHY products, and the build quality seemed fine...however the guide cameras are very small. I have never owned an ASI camera, though...so I honestly don't know what the build quality is like. Anyone who has experience with a cooled ASI camera also have experience with other CCD camera brands? How is the build quality?



#45 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 04:06 PM

I was heartened that Tolga said the construction was acceptable.

 

Just to clarify: I don't expect miraculous fit and finish but do want better than cheap plastic joined by double-sided tape with crooked ink-jet stickers.


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#46 Peter in Reno

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 04:09 PM

The big difference between American companies having their products made in China usually cut too many corners (save money) and more inferior than Chinese companies designing and building their own products. I have ASI 120MC-S and it's made of machined aluminum and appeared to be built using CNC machines and visually very good build quality that I don't think American companies would do if made in China because using CNC is cost prohibitive.

 

Peter


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#47 Jon Rista

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 04:22 PM

I was heartened that Tolga said the construction was acceptable.

 

Just to clarify: I don't expect miraculous fit and finish but do want better than cheap plastic joined by double-sided tape with crooked ink-jet stickers.

 

Aye. It did not look like the camera bodies were plastic, but it helps to know for sure. That would just leave the innards to question. Hopefully they will last...guess time will tell. 

 

Oh, one other question. Jerry actually asked this...but does anyone know the situation with the sensor cavity? Is it sealed with inert gas? Is a rechargable desiccant used? Is a non-rechargable desiccant used? 



#48 Joe G

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 04:29 PM

Hey goofi, I understand bobzeq25 mentioned "new" imagers, and this is part of the thread.  But I think he was also concerned with how this would impact the broader medium chip size AP market.

 

I would agree with Jon that the color camera would be best for a newbie.  Certainly LRGB and NB introduce another dimension.

 

I also understand the appeal of using this as Ken says as a kind of grab and go setup for small refractors which is usually the size scope beginners start with.  Given some of the examples above stacking fairly short exposures makes it easier for beginners.  They might make do with a poor polar alignment.  They might not even have to guide.  That just makes it easier for someone starting out and reduces their cost of not having to purchase a guide scope, guide camera, Polemaster, etc.

 

Also what is nice is that you get decent resolution of around 1-2 arc seconds per pixel with small refractors.  In the DSLR world I think many were surprised how well the noise held up as the camera companies moved to 24 and 35 megapixels.  One positive with this camera is you get higher resolution with better noise and increased sensitivity, that is, if it all works out.

 

Despite the potential flaws this camera might have I imagine ZWO (and other manufacturers) will try to improve it over time.  Hopefully ZWO and others can get other mono CMOS chips and introduce better cameras at lower cost.

 

One thing I have noticed about this hobby and plenty of other endeavors is that there are some who can produce great results with limited equipment and some that produce mediocre results with the best equipment.  So many factors...



#49 Joe G

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 04:33 PM

 

I was heartened that Tolga said the construction was acceptable.

 

Just to clarify: I don't expect miraculous fit and finish but do want better than cheap plastic joined by double-sided tape with crooked ink-jet stickers.

 

Aye. It did not look like the camera bodies were plastic, but it helps to know for sure. That would just leave the innards to question. Hopefully they will last...guess time will tell. 

 

Oh, one other question. Jerry actually asked this...but does anyone know the situation with the sensor cavity? Is it sealed with inert gas? Is a rechargable desiccant used? Is a non-rechargable desiccant used? 

 

 

In the Q&A for the 1600MM mono cooled Sam says,

 

"Yes, it’s sealed and replaceable dessicant
you can have a look at our other cooled cameras description"



#50 bobzeq25

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Posted 03 May 2016 - 05:02 PM

The OP has decided to say what he meant.  <grin>

 

Main focus - people posting "help me pick my first ccd.  my budget is (anything below $2500)".  And I'm talking new, used is just too variable.  I can't recommend they spend thousands on a new CCD, without waiting a few months to see how the 1600 thing shakes out.  I think the downside risk of waiting is small, the upside (savings) potential substantial.  If they decide they do want an older CCD, I think the price is going to become more attractive. 

 

I believe the above applies to a lesser degree to imagers moving from a DSLR to a CCD.

 

I am in no way suggesting that people replace their CCD (any CCD) with a 1600, in spite of the fact that the specs are encouraging.  That would be silly.  I'm not going to get one, my Atik 694 will do very nicely for quite some time.  But, when I do replace it, I'll be astonished if it's not a new design DSO camera with a CMOS chip.

 

The use of the word "obsolete" was poor.  I don't think the 1800 is some enormous breakthrough in performance.  But it seems clear that the price barrier between DSLRs and cooled DSO cameras will lower.  That's a good thing.




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