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The Sad State of the ZWO ASI120MM and ASI120MC

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#1 james7ca

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 01:48 AM

Well, I just tried ZWO's new drivers for their USB2 version of the ASI120MM and ASI120MC and I confirmed that the split frame issue is still NOT fixed. Thus, I now have two ASI120 cameras that will NOT work reliably under anything but Windows 7 (that mean no luck under Windows 8 or Windows Home).

 

Note, I've had this problem on FOUR different PCs running various releases of Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. In my experience, these cameras haven't work correctly on an Asus Core i3 running Windows 8.1, an Acer Core i3 running Windows 10 Home, an Intel Compute Stick running Windows 10, and a Minix mini PC running Windows 10 Home. The only system on which they seem to work night-after-night is an Acer netbook running Windows 7.

 

If you are using these cameras for planetary work then you may get some functionality, since these split frames only happen intermittently and sometimes the camera will recover on its own. However, when guiding with PhD these intermittent split frames will make the guide star jump half way across the frame which will cause the guiding to fail (lost guide star). Interestingly enough, these slit frames seem to happen about every 20 minutes of runtime, although I have had nights when the camera seems to work fine (for several hours).

 

It might be a hardware issue (but then why does it work under Windows 7?), but I actually think it is nothing other than a defective driver.

 

But, as they say YMMV and some users seem happy with these cameras. Note, this is NOT an April Fools' joke (if only). frown.gif


Edited by james7ca, 02 April 2017 - 04:24 AM.

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#2 otocycle

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 02:57 AM

Thanks for the heads up.  I am just starting out with this season's planetary imaging now that Jupiter is high enough by midnight, and I have been using the ASI120MC on Windows 7 for the past few years on several scopes and laptops/ remote PC.

 

I wanted to try an identical laptop upgraded to Windows 10 to see which legacy astro programs are impacted or may even be incompatible.   I have seen intermittent split frames using SharpCap2 on Windows 7, but I blamed those on poor quality USB hubs or flaky power supply.    I get the best frame rate performance with my son's old gaming laptop (i5 based ASUS GX640). 

 

Now I won't be surprised if a Win10 capture starts coughing up split frames.



#3 Tapio

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 03:22 AM

I've used asi120mm as guide camera for years.

First with win7 and recently with win10.

And yes, I get split frames, but if I see it happening I just disconnect all and connect. Most of the time it corrects after first reconnect but sometimes it needs two or three reconnects.

This is annoying but when all is good splitting never reappear during guiding session.


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#4 Madratter

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 06:58 AM

James, I feel for you. Have you tried setting power settings to Max Performance and screen to turn off after "Never". This probably won't work, but since you mentioned it seems somewhat periodic, it might be worth a try.



#5 james7ca

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 07:19 AM

James, I feel for you. Have you tried setting power settings to Max Performance and screen to turn off after "Never". This probably won't work, but since you mentioned it seems somewhat periodic, it might be worth a try.

Thanks, but it is a camera/driver problem pure and simple. In any case, I'm running off of AC power and the system is already configured to never sleep or dim the display (when powered by AC). It's clearly a problem with frame sync and split frames, in fact the camera will often recover on its own without any intervention by me. I've done hours and hours of testing using an artificial star and nothing solves this problem. It may work fine for a day or eight hours of simulated guiding, but it always comes back even during the simulation runs and even without any changes to the system. Tonight I've already had about six failures in guiding after about five hours of use (or attempted use). The way you can recover is to stop the image looping in PhD or disconnect from the camera, then start again, rinse and repeat about every 30 minutes to one hour (sometimes more often, sometimes less often).

 

It also happens on two different ASI120 cameras (one mono and the other color) so it's not a one-off issue with a specific sample of camera. And, as I said earlier, it has happened on four different PCs running four completely separate system installations. And it's not the USB cable, unless I happen to have three or four different cables that work fine with other equipment but not with the ASI120 cameras (that is, I've tried different cables).



#6 freestar8n

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 07:33 AM

I don't use my asi120mm much - but to me it seemed like the split frame effect stopped happening some time ago - maybe when I upgraded to Win10. It used to be fairly persistent - but I thought it had stopped.

I can try watching it again next time I use it. I just use it via DirectShow.

Frank

#7 james7ca

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 07:46 AM

I don't use my asi120mm much - but to me it seemed like the split frame effect stopped happening some time ago - maybe when I upgraded to Win10. It used to be fairly persistent - but I thought it had stopped.

I can try watching it again next time I use it. I just use it via DirectShow.

Frank

I've tried DirectShow and the split frames happen there also. The issue with this defect is that it can be very intermittent, works one night, then half of the next night, then for the rest of that second night you have problems so frequently that you can't even complete a calibration run in PhD. Then, the next few times that you try to use the camera it may fail every 30 minutes to one hour. Then it's back to working again (for a few hours, maybe).

 

I think this is one of the reasons why ZWO hasn't been able to fix this problem, it's too intermittent and they just gave up on trying to fix it.



#8 scopenitout

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 07:56 AM

My ASI120MM rarely showed the split frame problem on Win7/8. I didn't use it enough on a new Win10 laptop to see if the problem still occurred.

When I discovered the new driver on ZWO's website I loaded it and tested it a few nights later. No problems at all with PHD2 and the latest stable (non-beta) version. It ran perfectly all night long.

I have no idea what is going on with your 120.

#9 mikefulb

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 08:08 AM

James I've had the exact same experience with my 120MM - I've written it off as a lost cause and moved on as I could not trust the camera for automated imaging runs. 

 

To anyone who does NOT see split frames at all - could you post the actual versions of all the software you are using.  It doesn't help much to say you grabbed an updated driver because sometimes things changed between when you posted and the present.


Edited by mikefulb, 02 April 2017 - 08:10 AM.

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#10 darkstar3d

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 08:30 AM

Dang. I wasn't aware this was a systemic problem, I had chalked it up to my ancient laptop. Now I use remote sessions into the laptop to watch it periodically while I'm in the house. Most mornings I wake up with excellent results all night but sometimes not.

 

Now I know. 



#11 entilza

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 08:34 AM

James this must be affecting you a lot, and I believe you as I have seen it myself on mine just it is so rare that I don't really think about it.  I could see if this is an automated run that this could be an issue. Wouldn't PHD2 be smart enough anyway and pick a correct star even if it's split, it probably wouldn't pick a split star?

 

I assume your ZWO is attached to the computer(s) when the PC is turned on, if that has anything to do with it.

 

How would one be able to reproduce a test?  Perhaps to record how consistently this happens.  The only time I've seen it was on an initial connect.  So would it be a good test to say for example, try to connect and record frames 20-30 times and checking the initial screen?  And note how many (if any) are split frames?  

 

Furthermore, if it only happens on an initial first time connect you may have to reboot each time for each test?

 

Anyway good to have tech threads like this!


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#12 Madratter

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 11:21 AM

James I've had the exact same experience with my 120MM - I've written it off as a lost cause and moved on as I could not trust the camera for automated imaging runs. 

 

To anyone who does NOT see split frames at all - could you post the actual versions of all the software you are using.  It doesn't help much to say you grabbed an updated driver because sometimes things changed between when you posted and the present.

 

It may not be just software you are running. I had horrible problems with my QHY5L-IIm on my one machine. It simply was not reliable on that machine. I am reasonably sure after a good bit of experimentation and research the problem was with the particular chipset of that laptop.

 

I have switched to using a different laptop and the QHY5L-IIm is extremely reliable on that machine.



#13 Jon Rista

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 11:51 AM

James, mind if I ask how you power the camera up? For a long time, I had reliable behavior with my QHY5L-II. Recently, as I started changing around hubs, cables, power supplies and computers I was using to operate my rig, the QHY5L-II also became extremely unstable. The behavior as well as it's inconsistencies seem to be extremely similar to what you have described.

 

I did manage to get it working very reliably, every night, though. I learned that the camera needs some "settle" time after initially being plugged into my hub (currently a StarTech 7-port USB 3 industrial). If I plug the power into the hub, which in turn powers the QHY5L-II, and then immediately plug the USB into a computer, the camera is almost guaranteed to have problems. If I plug the computer into the USB first, then power the hub, the camera is almost guaranteed to have problems. Additionally, if I am connecting the hub to a port on any computer that is sharing a root hub with other devices, especially high traffic devices (i.e. keyboard, mouse, etc.), no matter what I do, the camera will be unstable.

 

HOWEVER, if I plug the power into the hub first, then wait a minute (60 seconds) before I plug the USB cable into the hub, and I make sure the USB cable is connected to a port on the computer that is not sharing a root hub node with other high traffic devices (preferably zero other devices)...it seems to function perfectly fine. Since figuring this out, my 5L-II has been reliably stable and predictably so. If I ever have instabilities, I just reset...unplug the USB, unplug the power, wait a minute, and start over with the proper steps and enough wait time after powerup before plugging in the USB.

 

The QHY5L-II uses the same sensor as the ASI120M. These two cameras have often had problems over the years, and I've often wondered if it may be more due to the sensor, and inherent instabilities therein, than the driver. 


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#14 mikefulb

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 11:56 AM

Jon - does it also depend on the phase of the Moon? tongue2.gif

 

My advice is get the USB3 version while it is 15% off and sell the USB2 version for what you can as a planetary/lunar/solar camera and let buyers know it may not be reliable for guiding.  For planetary/etc mine works great.

 

Life is too short imho for this kind of quirkiness.



#15 james7ca

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 06:49 PM

I also have a QHY5L-II and that seems to work fine with all of my setups (well, I have seen problems during connection with certain drivers/interfaces, but once you get it connected it is fine). However, in the BOTH cases (QHY and ASI120) I always power the guide camera on a separate, dedicated USB2 port (no hubs). I had to purchase the QYH5L-II after failing to get either of my ASI120s to work reliably on my new computers. Also, I've never seen split frames on the QHY.

 

However, at times when I've been testing the ASI120MM and when it seems to be working I can basically throw anything at it and it continues to work for hours on end (one hub, two hubs in series, long USB cables, etc.). Then, without any changes to the software or configuration of devices that are connected I'll power up the next day and I get split frames right from the start and then every 20 minutes (give or take 10 minutes). Then I'll do a reboot and I still have problems, then another restart and still more problems, then I'll start re-adding the hubs and other cables and the problems continue. Then maybe three months later I'll drag either my ASI120MC or ASI120MM out and it will seem to be working again (for guiding), but not for long as the split frame issues always come back (the next day or the next week).

 

Like I said, I think this is one of the reasons why ZWO hasn't been able to fix this problem, it seems to come and go for no apparent reason and at one time (or many times, early on) they probably thought they had it fixed only to have the problem come back with further testing. It could be a hardware issue that affects any units that are slightly out of spec, but to me it seems more like a driver/software issue. The reason I suspect this is the case is that both cameras seemed to work flawlessly on my Windows 7 netbook and the last time I checked they still do (I used that setup for the better part of two years and never had problems with split frames). You'll also find reports from several different users on the ZWO support site that say the same thing, worked fine under Windows 7 and then after an update to Windows 8 or Home it started having problems.

 

Of course with so many problem reports and even with the range of behaviors that have been reported here in this thread it could be that we are experiencing several different issues (some hardware related, some software related, some user error, none that are directly connected).



#16 ToxMan

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 07:28 PM

It may be a sad state for other companies, too, James...

 

Orion stopped making their electronic filter wheel rather than update its drivers...it's a $300 paper weight if you don't have drivers to make it work in Windows 10.



#17 bobzeq25

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 10:08 PM

Almost never have the problem.  The rare exceptions are, I believe, only when setting up.  Driver 2.0.1.3.  Used with an older Windows 7 laptop with a dual core something and a new Windows 10 laptop with an i7 quad core.  I'm now even running it through the CEM60s unpowered hub.


Edited by bobzeq25, 02 April 2017 - 10:09 PM.


#18 Thundermoon1994

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Posted 02 April 2017 - 11:05 PM

I've been using the 120MC on my machine windows 10 for months and never had an issue.

 

I'm certainly not discounting your problem....just adding a data point to the discussion.  I have a Lenovo Ideapad Y700 with the Core i7 processor. The only issue I ever had was the USB traffic setting. If it's any higher than 49, I get hang ups at full frame. 

 

It also works fine on my cheap netbook that I used previously with windows 8 and then 10. 

 

 

Clear skies,

Damien


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#19 mikefulb

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 06:24 AM

I wonder if there is a selection effect going on - the camera is getting old now so I suspect the only people using them now are the few it worked for - the rest of us gave up.  :)



#20 bobzeq25

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 10:03 AM

I wonder if there is a selection effect going on - the camera is getting old now so I suspect the only people using them now are the few it worked for - the rest of us gave up.  smile.gif

Could be.  Also could be the classic Internet effect, the few who had problems complain, the many who don't just pass these threads on by.  No good data.


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#21 Thundermoon1994

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 10:28 AM

 

I wonder if there is a selection effect going on - the camera is getting old now so I suspect the only people using them now are the few it worked for - the rest of us gave up.  smile.gif

Could be.  Also could be the classic Internet effect, the few who had problems complain, the many who don't just pass these threads on by.  No good data.

 

Precisely.  If you go on Astrobin, there are *TONS* of people using these cameras.



#22 james7ca

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 12:02 PM

 

 

I wonder if there is a selection effect going on - the camera is getting old now so I suspect the only people using them now are the few it worked for - the rest of us gave up.  smile.gif

Could be.  Also could be the classic Internet effect, the few who had problems complain, the many who don't just pass these threads on by.  No good data.

 

Precisely.  If you go on Astrobin, there are *TONS* of people using these cameras.

 

Okay, but to be politically incorrect a lot of what you see on Astrobin isn't very good, so maybe "these cameras" are one reason why. smile.gif

 

Also, maybe more to the point, a lot of what is on Astrobin is pretty old, so perhaps this is something that has come to a head with the most recent versions of Windows. My ASI120 cameras worked fine for guiding during their first year or two of use, it was only after I upgraded to a new PC running Windows 8.1 that I started to have problems.

 

If I have time I may take out my old Acer netbook and use that for guiding and see if my cameras still work on that system. I've done some limited testing with that system in the last year (and didn't notice and problems with split frames), but I haven't actually taken it out for a full night of imaging.



#23 telfish

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 12:06 PM

 

 

 

I wonder if there is a selection effect going on - the camera is getting old now so I suspect the only people using them now are the few it worked for - the rest of us gave up.  smile.gif

Could be.  Also could be the classic Internet effect, the few who had problems complain, the many who don't just pass these threads on by.  No good data.

 

Precisely.  If you go on Astrobin, there are *TONS* of people using these cameras.

 

Okay, but to be politically incorrect a lot of what you see on Astrobin isn't very good, so maybe "these cameras" are one reason why. smile.gif

 

Also, maybe more to the point, a lot of what is on Astrobin is pretty old, so perhaps this is something that has come to a head with the most recent versions of Windows. My ASI120 cameras worked fine for guiding during their first year or two of use, it was only after I upgraded to a new PC running Windows 8.1 that I started to have problems.

 

If I have time I may take out my old Acer netbook and use that for guiding and see if my cameras still work on that system. I've done some limited testing with that system in the last year (and didn't notice and problems with split frames), but I haven't actually taken it out for a full night of imaging.

 

I use Windows 7 for all my astro stuff. There is nothing that will not run properly on it. I downgraded from windows 10 on a new system specifically to avoid issues.


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#24 scopenitout

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 12:23 PM

And then again....All my astro programs from TSX to SGP to QHY PoleMaster™ to Metaguide to PemPro etc. work just fine night after night.

So does all the imaging gear from mount and cameras and filter wheel and focus motors.

Everything works consistently well with my new Dell i7 Win10 laptop. I keep it fully and regularly updated as well.

Edited by scopenitout, 03 April 2017 - 12:24 PM.

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#25 Thirteen

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Posted 03 April 2017 - 01:17 PM

I still use the ASI120MM as my guide camera under Win10.   I've updated to the latest ZWO driver to see if there was any change in the split frame issue.    Alas, I still see it occur.   

 

For me, it only happens in the first few minutes I connect it for the night.   It doesn't happen every night, it will always fix itself, and it will not happen again for the rest of the session.  So, it just hasn't been bothersome enough for me to worry about troubleshooting.    Were it to happen often, I'd have jumped ship long ago.   


Edited by Thirteen, 03 April 2017 - 01:18 PM.

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