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New Mono camera, which one? ZWO 120, 178 or 290?

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#1 Stargazer3236

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 01:42 AM

I originally placed an order for the ASI120MM-S camera at the beginning of April for the ZWO sale, but due to the fact that High Point sold out, it was put on back order. Needless to say, when the stock was replenished, I was not ready to re-order it.

 

Suffice to say, I am back at the drawing board and trying to decide which Monochrome camera I want to buy. I am polling the forum members for their advice.

 

My three choices are the ZWO:

 

ASI120MM-S Super Speed Mono camera

ASI178MM Mono camera

ASI290MM Mono camera

 

All are USB 3.0, different size chips, but all basically at or near 1/1.8 - 1/3. Exposure range is between 32us and 64us up to 1000s to 2000s. My goal is not long exposure imaging, but 15-30 second imaging of DSO's with Live Stacking and EAA or planetary avi's to stacked images.

 

My assumption is that the ASI290 is the big brother to the ASI224, but in mono form, since the 224 was never made as a mono camera. The ASI120MM-S is the same sized chip as the 224 and appears to be the little brother to the 224 and both the 120 and the 224 are 1.2 mega pixels.The ASI178MM has a slightly smaller chip at 1/1.8".

 

Full Well between the 120MM-S, the 290MM and the 178MM are  14.6K, 14.6K and 15K respectively. I have the ASI224MC camera and it's Full Well is 19.2K Full Well.

 

As I see it now, the ASI120MM-S camera seems to be on par with the 178 and 290, however, the 178 is 6.4mp, the 290 is 2.3mp and the 120 is 1.2mp.

 

So which one is better? My budget is $400. The ASI290 and the ASI178 are both $399 and the 120MM-S is $249. Based on available information, the 120MM-S looks to be the better deal, however, between the 290 and 178, which one is better than the other? The 178 appear to be better by resolution at 6.3 mega pixels compared to the 290 at 2.3 mega pixels. So which one would be the better deal? Is the better resolution of the 178 @ 6.3 better than the 290 @ 2.3 mega pixels? Will it really matter for details on the planets? Which resolution will produce more detailed images of the planets?

 

Please give me your advice and suggestions: I plan on buying this camera next Friday morning.



#2 Stargazer3236

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 02:37 AM

It would appear, that the contest is really between the ASI290 and ASI178. However, the 178 does not have a binning sequence, where as the 290 and 120 do. If comparison between the 120 and 290, the 290 would win out based on pixel size. The 178 has the bigger sensor and smaller pixel size. The 290 has the next biggest sensor size and pixel size and the 120 has the smallest sensor and largest pixel size.

 

I am torn between the 120MM and the 290MM, based on price, the 120MM is the cheapest and the 290 more expensive. The 290 is the best and most recent technology and the 120 is the first technology, being one of the first cameras to come out.

 

I like the sensor size of the 178, but it does not have a binning sequence. It has more mega pixels and the diagonal size is largest out of the three.

 

So, is the 178 not a contender based on binning? Binning helps out of locating the object in question when setting up to frame the object before actual image taking begins.

The 290 and 120 can be binned at 2x2, helping to frame the object prior to initiating the image sequence.

 

I guess it is a trade off between price, sensor size and binning ability.

 

Are there other alternatives outside the ZWO product line near my budget price of $400?



#3 Stargazer3236

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 03:04 AM

I was checking out the QHY QHY5III178. That looks like a better camera than the ZWO 178 and has binning modes 1x1 and 2x2 and also has the Anti Amp glow that the new ASI224MC camera uses and a small form factor size with 6M pixels. I am leaning towards this camera now.


Edited by Stargazer3236, 21 April 2017 - 03:05 AM.


#4 baron555

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 06:39 AM

What will you be imaging with this new camera?   What system will it be installed on?



#5 Stargazer3236

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 07:55 AM

My goal is to image the planets, specifically, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, plus Mars when it hits opposition. And then Deep Sky objects such as galaxies, planetary nebula, globular clusters, some emission nebula containing H-alpha nebula. I will be using filters like OIII, UHC, H-alpha and for the planets, UV for Venus, and Methane for Jupiter and Saturn, maybe Uranus and Neptune and IR 685 for the planets too. I may be getting into Thermal imaging at 1000 nm of Venus like John Boudreau has done.

 

My exposures will be from 5ms for the planets up to 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 seconds for Deepsky objects.



#6 baron555

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 09:02 AM

ASI 1600MM-C

What scope and mount?

Edited by baron555, 21 April 2017 - 09:03 AM.


#7 sink45ny

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 09:15 AM

If you really want the ASI120MM-S  this company is very good and has it in stock.

 

http://agenaastro.co...al-cameras.html

 

I bought the ASI224MC from them before they sold out.


Edited by sink45ny, 21 April 2017 - 09:16 AM.


#8 poobie

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:25 AM

David, 

 

I'd probably take the 290, of the three you originally listed.  I've actually got a 178MC-Cool, and I've gotten some results I'm happy with, but honestly, it's a much better planetary camera than DSO.  The 290 is more sensitive and has less read noise, and the smaller sensor is going to see less of the aberrations caused by focal reducers - and you're going to need to use focal reducers to image emission or reflection nebulae with any of these cameras.  The extra sensitivity will net you the ability to use shorter exposures, which is pretty important on an Alt-Az mount like your NexStar (I've got the 6SE myself, on a wedge.)  I haven't had good enough seeing in Alabama to bother with planets or planetary nebulae since I bought the camera.

 

Anyhow, I'll drop few astrobin links down here to show you the kind of results I've gotten with a 178 (the cooled color version, mind) and an SE mount; most of my better images were made with camera lenses, though, not the SCT.

 

M101 - this was shot with a nikon AF-D 180ED

http://www.astrobin.com/290024/

 

The Rosette - same setup, without guiding

http://www.astrobin.com/287429/

 

M51 - shot with the C6 tube

http://www.astrobin.com/292410/B/



#9 rgsalinger

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:45 AM

I went for the QHY290 cooled because the charts showed lower read noise across the board for the QHY electronics versus ZWO.  We wanted to take short exposures of small objects and we need the lowest possible read noise in that use case. Whether .7 is materially better than 1 electron is beyond my pay grade but that was my analysis of the situation. 



#10 calypsob

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 02:28 PM

My goal is to image the planets, specifically, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, plus Mars when it hits opposition. And then Deep Sky objects such as galaxies, planetary nebula, globular clusters, some emission nebula containing H-alpha nebula. I will be using filters like OIII, UHC, H-alpha and for the planets, UV for Venus, and Methane for Jupiter and Saturn, maybe Uranus and Neptune and IR 685 for the planets too. I may be getting into Thermal imaging at 1000 nm of Venus like John Boudreau has done.

 

My exposures will be from 5ms for the planets up to 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 seconds for Deepsky objects.

The asi290mm is the way to go with planets, but what is your focal length?  You will want bigger pixels if you have a big cat.  For dso's you may want to include asi174 into your search, but you will need a cooled sensor for the exposure times and temperature consistency between frames required.  


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#11 Stargazer3236

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:08 PM

 

My goal is to image the planets, specifically, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, plus Mars when it hits opposition. And then Deep Sky objects such as galaxies, planetary nebula, globular clusters, some emission nebula containing H-alpha nebula. I will be using filters like OIII, UHC, H-alpha and for the planets, UV for Venus, and Methane for Jupiter and Saturn, maybe Uranus and Neptune and IR 685 for the planets too. I may be getting into Thermal imaging at 1000 nm of Venus like John Boudreau has done.

 

My exposures will be from 5ms for the planets up to 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 seconds for Deepsky objects.

The asi290mm is the way to go with planets, but what is your focal length?  You will want bigger pixels if you have a big cat.  For dso's you may want to include asi174 into your search, but you will need a cooled sensor for the exposure times and temperature consistency between frames required.  

 

In my signature are the scopes I currently have. I use a Nexstar C8 for all my imaging needs. I use it at F/10 for planets and sometimes at F/20. For deep sky, I use F/5 and sometimes F/3.3.

So conversely to your statement, I would want big pixels for big cats, would I need smaller pixels for smaller cats?



#12 RedLionNJ

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 04:19 PM

 

 

My goal is to image the planets, specifically, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, plus Mars when it hits opposition. And then Deep Sky objects such as galaxies, planetary nebula, globular clusters, some emission nebula containing H-alpha nebula. I will be using filters like OIII, UHC, H-alpha and for the planets, UV for Venus, and Methane for Jupiter and Saturn, maybe Uranus and Neptune and IR 685 for the planets too. I may be getting into Thermal imaging at 1000 nm of Venus like John Boudreau has done.

 

My exposures will be from 5ms for the planets up to 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 seconds for Deepsky objects.

The asi290mm is the way to go with planets, but what is your focal length?  You will want bigger pixels if you have a big cat.  For dso's you may want to include asi174 into your search, but you will need a cooled sensor for the exposure times and temperature consistency between frames required.  

 

In my signature are the scopes I currently have. I use a Nexstar C8 for all my imaging needs. I use it at F/10 for planets and sometimes at F/20. For deep sky, I use F/5 and sometimes F/3.3.

So conversely to your statement, I would want big pixels for big cats, would I need smaller pixels for smaller cats?

 

Not exactly.  For DSO imaging, an image scale of between 1 & 2 arcsec/pixel is desirable. For planetary imaging, you want to be down around 0.15 or so arcsec/pixel (and hope you get really good seeing).

 

So therefore it's the focal ratio of the scope which matters, relative to the size of an individual pixel on the sensor.

 

Also bear in mind that CMOS cameras cannot be "binned" the same way a CCD can. The binning for any CMOS camera is done in the driver software, not in the readout from the sensor.



#13 james7ca

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 08:48 PM

I'd go for the IMX290-based camera if you plan on using the SCT for most of your work. The larger pixels and lower read noise will help with that setup (on DSOs).

 

However, the IMX178 would be my choice for a short-focus refractor, given that its smaller pixels would help with image scale and presentation.

 

Note that both of these sensors have a rather inconvenient critical sampling factor for an SCT. The IMX178 (mono) reaches critical sampling at around f/12, while the IMX290 does the same at about f/15 and neither of those ratios work out that well with an f/10 SCT (unless you want to use prime focus with the IMX178). Of course, it's probably better to be slightly oversampled for planetary work than undersampled, so a 2X barlow would probably be okay with the IMX290. In either case, you'll probably be seeing limited most of the time with these cameras, at least for planetary work and even on some nights with DSOs.

 

As for binning, I don't think any CMOS sensor really supports true hardware-based binning, so that really shouldn't be a determining factor in your search. However, remember that if you do a 2X resample on the IMX290 you'll end up with a pretty small image (968 x 548), while the IMX178 would still give you something like 1548 x 1040.

 

Then there is the issue of chip size, with the IMX178 being a larger sensor. I'd do some simulations using both chips to see how they will frame various targets, given the scopes you plan on using. You may find that the IMX290 will just give you too small of a field with your SCT, although neither camera is going to give you much of a "view" at the prime focus of the SCT.

 

Lastly, in the case of the IMX178 you can find lots of sample images here on CN that I've done with both the mono and color version of that camera (just do an advanced search on user james7ca with the "Find words" as 178 and with the display results set to "As posts"). But again, I think for the SCT the IMX290 might be the better choice (although from the above discussion it should be obvious that it's not an easy decision).


Edited by james7ca, 21 April 2017 - 10:28 PM.


#14 baron555

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 09:22 PM

So....there's no one camera for everything?



#15 RedLionNJ

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Posted 21 April 2017 - 10:30 PM

So....there's no one camera for everything?

On the contrary - you could pick one camera, then adjust your focal ratio accordingly, depending on the purpose you wish to put it too.

 

Just bear in mind the image scale for planetary is about ten times smaller than that for deep sky. That's quite a range.



#16 james7ca

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 12:58 AM

Truth be told, any of these cameras (and particularly either the IMX290 or IMX178) are going to have capabilities that exceed most people's ability to fully exploit them. Meaning that not only is beauty in the eye of the beholder but that "beauty" is also in the hands of the user.

 

As for there being ONE camera for everything, I don't think it exists and it probably never will (not in my lifetime). For DSOs you're probably still better off with a CCD and certainly for planetary you are better off with a CMOS camera. Beyond that your choice will depend upon the image scale that is produced by the scope/camera combination, mix with that things like read noise and sensor artifacts and the total field size that you want to achieve and you start to narrow down the possibilities. Then, there is always the cost factor (for camera and filters) and things like how much weight you want to put on your focusers and mount. It goes on and on...


Edited by james7ca, 22 April 2017 - 01:00 AM.


#17 A. Viegas

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Posted 22 April 2017 - 09:11 AM

Just to throw a monkey wrench here... I have been testing a Rising Tech Imx290 mono. Rising Tech is a toupcam rebrand just like Altair or Mallincam. They are selling a USB2 version of the IMX290 sensor for $285. This is in the same form factor as the QHY series and supposedly it also has "amp glow reduction".

My thread over on the EAA forum : https://www.cloudyni...g/#entry7832304

I have a number of ASI cameras and QHY and if not for the price difference there would be little reason to steer you to Rising Tech. Nevertheless i went ahead and bought two Rising Tech cameras an imx224 and this imx290 for primarily guiding and short exposjtebEAA DSO work, respectively. I have only gotten the Imx290 mono out twice since I got it so I am still developing my opinion but overall apart from lack of usb3 it's the same sensor and tech as the competing ASI/QHY for 30-40% less $

Al

#18 Stargazer3236

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 02:51 AM

I have used the ASI224MC camera quite a bit. I was looking at mono because as I have read, it is best for both planetary and DSO imaging because of the one channel of light, or perhaps two channels, black and white. The ASI224MC uses 4 channels red, blue, green and red. So the Mono camera can take in more data based on the two channels as opposed to four channels. That's the way I learned it by reading, I may be wrong. However, you get more detail in mono than you do in color.

 

I may just opt for the ASI120MM-S Super Speed Mono camera. It has pixels and sensor size similar to the 224 and has pretty much the same exposure and frame rate as the 224MC. I will explore the use of the 120 versus the 224 and then decide if I want to upgrade to the 178MM or the 290MM. I cannot afford the 1600MM. It is just too much money for me to spend on a camera. The 290 and 178 are at the soft limit for spending with a hard cap of around $600, however, I want to obtain a larger aperture for planetary and DSO imaging, so that is next on my list after a new camera.

 

I had originally planned on the 120, so I think I will stick with the 120MM-S camera for now and see what happens in the near future.



#19 james7ca

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Posted 23 April 2017 - 04:14 AM

Just remember, the IMX178 and IMX290 are both back-side illuminated sensors manufactured by Sony, while the ASI120MM is an Aptina-derived sensor (now owned by On Semiconductor) using less advanced technology. In fact, I'd call the ASI120 a definite step down from your current ASI224 although I do understand that you want a mono camera.

 

In any case, a mono camera has only one channel, each pixel in the camera responds to a pretty broad range in frequency, from the near IR to the near ultraviolet. However, a color camera typically uses something called a Bayer pattern that has either a red, green, or blue filter on top of each pixel with twice as many green pixels. So you have a block of fours pixels that have a pattern something like the following:

 

RG

GB

 

However, this is still considered a three channel sensor, since it detects only three colors.

 

As for your spending limit, have you included the cost of the LRGB filters for a mono camera? 




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