Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Astrel Instruments AST8300

  • Please log in to reply
13 replies to this topic

#1 Hutzi

Hutzi

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 16
  • Joined: 23 Feb 2017

Posted 28 March 2017 - 11:30 AM

Hi all,

 

I have been following the cloudynights forums for quite some time now, enjoying the wealth of information and inspiration I could get out of it.

I am a user of an Astrel AST8300M camera and I was looking for user reviews outside of europe, where the usage of these types of cameras is spreading. I was not able to find any review at all, so I was wondering if asking for it in this way would turn up some, or on the other hand if people would be interested in a quick review from my side.

 

Any feedback is highly appreciated.

 

Regards

 

Achim



#2 Hutzi

Hutzi

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 16
  • Joined: 23 Feb 2017

Posted 30 March 2017 - 02:18 PM

A field review of the Astrel AST8300M

Let me start this review with a little introduction and some background to what I have been doing in the astrophotography space.

I am Achim, 42 and I am doing astro imaging since the end of 2015, starting with a DSLR (Nikon D5300) and some planetary imaging with an ASI224MC, using different optics ranging from a 10“ f5 newtonian to a widefield 90/600 f6.6 apo.
I am mainly dependent on a mobile setup, which is why I was looking for a camera that best supports my needs. I started to do some research and read several reviews on CCD chips, camera types, how to control and sequence them. My conclusion was that doing mobile imaging with a mono CCD can be leading to a complex setup with a lot of components.

By chance I got some information on the Astrel AST8300M camera and did some research into the camera as well. It is based on the rather „outdated“ KAF8300 sensor, comes with a built in 7 position filter wheel and an onboard Linux based PC system that lets you control all camera functions and some additional AP components. Comparing the features with my needs I was quickly pulling the trigger and got myself a shiny new toy.
At this point some may argue that there are better sensors then the KAF8300, especially when it comes to noise levels. Astrel Instruments has implemented the sensor readout in Software and is able, with multisampling, to reduce overall noise levels to roughly 6-7e.

When the camera arrived it was neatly packaged. As I ordered the entire package it included WIFI dongle, touchscreen, low vaccuum pump and power supply cabling. A camera test report was also included describing readout noise and overall system noise. It promised system noise of roughly 6e.

As I bought the camera from a german Astrel retailer I had to mount the filters into the camera myself, which can be a bit tricky and should have some preparation in order not to have too much dust enter the camera body. In addition you need to fine tune filterwheel calibration as the camera accepts 27mm filters that are very close to the sensor, so vignetting might be an issue if calibration is not correct, but this is well described in the user manual. Alternatively, if you buy it directly from Astrel, they are offering a free of charge filter mounting service.
Booting up the camera and using the apps is pretty self explaining and does not pose too many problems, even for non IT people 😉

One of the pretty smart concepts of the camera is the way how they are handling subzero cooling temperatures and possible frosting. The camera is evacuated and a low vacuum condition is achieved by using a vacuum pump before you start cooling the camera. Usually the vacuum will last for weeks so this procedure is nothing you need to do often.

 

 

Lets get to using the camera in the field. As said I am depending on a mobile setup, which consists of my optics, an AZ-EQ6, an MGEN autoguider, my Astrel camera and a small tablet. As always with mobile setups you need to bring enough battery power to keep everything going. The camera itself usually consumes 2A per hour depending on how you set the temperature delta.

As soon as everything is set up you can connect to the camera either by using a WiFi or LAN connection using a VNC client. Using the external touchscreen is something I only did once. The one supplied in version A is not really that useful. The screen that comes with version B of the camera is supposed to be a lot better, although I have not tried that myself, but either using a tablet or my phone to control it more then makes up for it 😉
One of the features I really came to like with the Astrel is the DSLR like preview function, which helps finding, focusing and framing your target a lot.

As soon as this is done you can move to planning your exposure series with the help of an app. You can chose time, number, binning and order of filters you want use. Being it sequential or interleaving. You can save your exposure settings if you like. The pictures that are taken are stored on the cameras internal storage or, if you like, can be saved to an USB stick that can be externally connected.

If you like you can use the integrated autoguiding that is based on the Lin_Guider software. It is a bit tricky finding all the right settings and UI performance in the A version of the camera is not optimal. Again, version B, as it features a more powerful CPU, is remediating this issue. Once you tackled settings and user experience the overall guiding performance is very good.
If, like me, you are using an MGEN you can connect it to the Astrel and have them communicate and control dithering, which is a very nice feature.

So everything set up, configured and ready to go you can hit the „shot“ button and the camera starts exposing while the MGEN is guiding. Usually this the moment when I am starting to watch the sky and relax. You can use the monitoring app to see how the camera and exposure series is doing. You can even check the images that the camera has taken with an app, although the resolution in the A version is not good, again solved in version B.

Rating the imaging performance of the Astrel is simple, it is very good, although I do not have a direct comparison in terms of a CCD, only a DSLR. Noise is very low as promised. I have attached some pictures that have been taken with my setup.
With so many good things usually comes some sort of caveat. This is why I am going to list some things that I not fully like or I think can have some improvement:

- Steep learning curve due to very basic user manual
- Downloading large amounts of images takes a lot of time (solved with external USB or using version B of the camera)
- Internal clock is not buffered, you need to set this every time or use an external GPS dongle offered by Astrel Instruments
- The mechanical shutter makes taking flats a bit tricky. You need to watch timing (at least 5 seconds), so you better bring a dimmable flat field box or something 😉

 

Let me close with a brief summary and a comment on the service and support.
All in all I found what I was looking for in the Astrel AST8300M. The camera performs very well, is easy to use (once you get it), fully supports my mobile requirements, is upgradeable (they are working on KAF16200 based version) and, as not mentioned before, very lightweight. It is as close to a DSLR experience as you can get with a full astro CCD.
Last but not least I want to mention the service and support provided by Astrel Instruments. As always things can break or you might have questions. So whatever issue I ever face with the camera (had to service it once) was quickly solved. Communication was very timely, advise excellent and to the point and we have an ongoing dialog of possible things to put into the next version of the firmware 😉

I can only recommend the camera and hope that my review has helped answer some questions. I am happy to answer any addtional questions you might have via PM oder my mail.

Regards

 

Achim

 

get.jpg

 

get.jpg


  • Jon Rista, AnakChan and archy990 like this

#3 archy990

archy990

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 122
  • Joined: 23 Jul 2016
  • Loc: Madison, Wisconsin

Posted 09 June 2018 - 06:37 AM

Hello Achim,

 

Thank you so very much for posting both this review, and your images taken with the Astrel AST8300. I am making the transition from DSLR to mono CCD imaging, and just ordered the AST8300-X-F-M. I am very exited about the camera, and can't wait to jump on the learning curve with it. I have also been using the Lacerta MGEN II for guiding for almost two years, and love it. I appreciate your sharing your experience shooting with the AST8300 and guiding with the MGEN. Hopefully, my camera will arrive within the next week or two. Thanks again!

 

Best,

Jeff

Madison, WI



#4 Hutzi

Hutzi

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 16
  • Joined: 23 Feb 2017

Posted 11 June 2018 - 11:45 AM

Hi Jeff,

 

very good choice for making the transition. The benefits of the X version is even better as they have integrated some nice new features. Hopefully you get a lot of clear skies :)

 

Cheers

 

Achim



#5 eshy76

eshy76

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 21 Jun 2018
  • Loc: London, UK

Posted 07 August 2018 - 10:49 AM

Hi Achim,

 

Excellent review. I am deciding between the Astrel 8300 and the newer 16200 as an upgrade from my DSLR.

 

I also have the Lacerta MGen II, which is amazing and I had one question - how does the Lacerta communicate with the Astrel? Does the Astrel do all the dithering and exposure control and leaves the MGen to guiding? Or does the MGen control the Astrel?

 

At the moment, my MGen controls my DSLR fully for exposure and dithering while also doing the guiding...a very simple setup.

 

I am thinking ahead to when I add filters to the imaging process with the Astrel. 

 

Many thanks!



#6 Hutzi

Hutzi

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 16
  • Joined: 23 Feb 2017

Posted 10 August 2018 - 02:50 AM

Hi,

 

the Astrel controls the MGEN in terms of dithering. It also controls exposures and with the right setup it controls mount, plate solving and so on. What I personally find difficult with the 16200 is the amount of filters you can mount. If you are not going for narrowband it is a fine choice. If you do you will have to swap filters.

 

CS

 

Achim



#7 eshy76

eshy76

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • Posts: 45
  • Joined: 21 Jun 2018
  • Loc: London, UK

Posted 10 August 2018 - 06:43 AM

Thank you Achim that is very helpful.

I also noticed the lower number of filters for the 16200, I am thinking about getting a second filter wheel for the narrowband filters which I can swap in when needed. It seems to be the consequence of the bigger sensor.

Clear skies!

#8 sandcar

sandcar

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • Posts: 1
  • Joined: 27 Nov 2013

Posted 13 August 2018 - 02:45 PM

Hello Achim,

 

My name is Carolyn and I won the  AST-8300B at an imaging conference last year. It has taken me this long to start using the Camera. I am coming from a DSLR background using a Canon EOS 6D with a Celestron

1100HD Edge CGEM dx mount. I bought the Flat Box controller but the support folks did not send the proper documentation. Would it be OK if we share our experiences ? I'm just getting started and have many questions, mostly about using the Camera to take flats, bias and dark frames. I am not a Linux person, but

I like the idea of being able to modify the interface to include programs which may aid in the work flow process. Right now I am awaiting a fix for using Orion StarShoot autoguider from Andrea. Thanks in advance.



#9 AstrOceanOmy

AstrOceanOmy

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • Posts: 21
  • Joined: 01 Jan 2010
  • Loc: Oman

Posted 06 September 2018 - 03:50 PM

Hello everyone, I just got my new AST16200 + 2 filter wheels, but still waiting for my filters set to arrive LRGB+ Narrowband set, 3nm (Ha+N2+SII+OIII)

My primary goal is to image in Narrowband, because I live in a city, heavy light pollution.

 

I'm still new with this camera, so until I receive my filters and modify my OAG setup, Its great if we keep sharing experience.  Any Group for AST our there, so we can join?

 

Thanks & Clear Skies



#10 archy990

archy990

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 122
  • Joined: 23 Jul 2016
  • Loc: Madison, Wisconsin

Posted 06 September 2018 - 07:32 PM

My AST8300-X is on its way from Italy - it shipped out Monday. I'm very excited to get my hands on it to begin learning how to use it with my rig. I will report in once I've received it, and let you know how things go.

 

All the best,

 

Jeff


Edited by archy990, 06 September 2018 - 07:32 PM.


#11 archy990

archy990

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 122
  • Joined: 23 Jul 2016
  • Loc: Madison, Wisconsin

Posted 15 September 2018 - 02:53 PM

Received my Astrel AST8300-X a bit over a week ago and have been able to get out a couple times to begin learning how to set it up and use it properly. Really stoked about my first ever, real data from my new dedicated astronomy camera! I managed to get focusing figured out and was able to capture this 10 minute exposure of the Crescent Nebula in H-alpha. This image is essentially straight from the camera - the only thing I did to it was stretch it so you could see the data. Click all the way through to get to the image that provides the sharpest view.

 

NGC-6888 Crescent Nebula

 

I had the sensor at -10C during the exposure, notice how there's very little noise! I feel like I'm on quite the ride with the learning curve on this camera. But, I'm happy to have been able to capture this data on just my second night out with it.

 

The Crescent Nebula in Cygnus (NGC 6888; Caldwell 27) is an emission nebula located about 4,700 light years from us. This nebula is formed by the Wolf-Rayet star HD 192163 which is shedding its outer envelope. That shed mass (about a Sun's worth every 10,000 years) is colliding with older, slower moving ejecta creating heat and shock waves along a front/shell ca. 25 light years across. In this image, at least, it creates a subtle structure against an amazing star-scape in Cygnus. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Stellarvue 130EDT (f7)
Celestron CGEM mount
Astrel AST8300-X mono CCD camera
Astronomik H-alpha filter (12nm)
1x10 min exposure
Sensor temperature -10C
Guided (Lacerta MGEN II)
PixInsight (stretched)
Photoshop (re-scaled for web)


Edited by archy990, 15 September 2018 - 02:56 PM.

  • rockstarbill likes this

#12 rockstarbill

rockstarbill

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6357
  • Joined: 16 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Snohomish, WA

Posted 15 September 2018 - 03:55 PM

Interesting device. Has anyone run this through BasicCCDParameters?

#13 AstrOceanOmy

AstrOceanOmy

    Lift Off

  • -----
  • Posts: 21
  • Joined: 01 Jan 2010
  • Loc: Oman

Posted 28 September 2018 - 04:46 PM

I've got the AST16200, with Astrodons 3nm filters (Ha, NII, OIII, SII) Never tested it yet.

 

Just comparing the size of the sensor with my Sony cameras. AST16200 is huge, bigger than APS-C

 

KAF16200 

CCD Sensor
Sensor size:
(27mm x 21.6mm)
Area = 583.2mm2
Resolution: 16.2 Megapixels
Pixel Pitch: 6 μm

 

SONY NEX5-N

APS-C CMOS Sensor
Sensor size:
(23.4mm x 15.6mm)
Area = 365.04mm2
Resolution: 16.10 Megapixels
Pixel Pitch: 4.76 μm

 

SONY A7S

Full Frame 35mm Format CMOS Sensor
Sensor size:
(35.60mm x 23.80mm)
Area = 847.28mm2
Resolution: 12.2 Megapixels
Pixel Pitch: 8.40 μm

 

IMG_5028.jpeg


Edited by AstrOceanOmy, 28 September 2018 - 05:02 PM.


#14 rockstarbill

rockstarbill

    Fly Me to the Moon

  • *****
  • Posts: 6357
  • Joined: 16 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Snohomish, WA

Posted 28 September 2018 - 07:44 PM

Just comparing the size of the sensor with my Sony cameras. AST16200 is huge, bigger than APS-C

 

Right, the KAF-16200 sensor is APS-H. 




CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics