Over the winter Sam from ZWO and I were chatting by email about using ZWO cameras for guiding and Sam asked me if I would be interested in a 174mm sensor in a 1.25" guidecam body. I'd been using an SSAG Pro, which is basically a re-branded QHY 5Lii (as far as I can tell), and a ZWO 290mm camera for guiding. I loved the sensitivity of the 290mm, but the convenience of a 1.25" barrel camera body of the SSAG Pro generally won out. I was also going the OAG route, and focusing a guidecam in a 1.25" body is quite a bit easier so, needless to say, I was intrigued by Sam's proposition.
For me though, the cost of a 174mm sensor is somewhat prohibitive, and because I really loved the 290mm, I asked Sam why not make two guidecams, with one having the cheaper 290mm sensor for those of us who don't want to spend an arm and a leg on a quality guidecam.
A month ago Sam emailed me and to my delight he said he informed me that he had a 290mm Mini Guidecam in hand and was going to ship it off to me for Beta testing.
I'm comparing this to my SSAG Pro, which should be a great comparison for many people as the sensor in this camera is used in many other guidecams out there. Size between the two is very similar. The backfocus is a little different, with the SSAG Pro at 17.5mm and the 290mm Mini at 12.5mm (8.5mm if you remove the black extension). The sensor is much bigger, which will make finding a guidestar much easier especially with the more sensitive gain adjustable sensor. I frequently have trouble finding a guidestar with my SSAG Pro when using an OAG, and I have NEVER had trouble finding many guidestars to choose from with my 290mm standard. If the 290mm Mini performs the same way, I'm already confident it will be a home run.
The camera Sam sent me has a USB C connection on the back of the camera and after installing the Beta Ascom Driver I had the camera hooked up and connected through my ZWO 1600MM-C built in USB hub. Next I fired up SGP and connected my ZWO 1600MMC through Camera 1 (ASCOM) and then fired up PHD2 and connected the 290mm Mini through Camera 2 (ASCOM). With both cameras connected and looping, I'm ready for a clear sky test... which if the forecast holds is going to be tomorrow night.
I'm looking forward to trying this camera out! I'll be collecting more data on the Iris Nebula, which I had to babysit on the last couple of sessions because after the meridian flip, the SSAG Pro could not find a guidestar on it's own. I had to nudge the scope to bring one into view. Tomorrow, we'll see how the 290mm Mini does. Fingers crossed things will run much more smoothly.
Edited by ChrisWhite, 24 August 2017 - 03:30 PM.