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ZWO 290mm Mini Guidecam - Beta Test Thread

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#1 ChrisWhite

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 03:27 PM

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. 

 

20170824005.jpg

 

20170824006.jpg

 

20170824007.jpg


Edited by ChrisWhite, 24 August 2017 - 03:30 PM.

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#2 ChrisWhite

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 03:28 PM

20170824008.jpg


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#3 mikefulb

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 07:07 PM

Been looking forwards to this for a long time - a value priced, sensitive, small pixel guider for OAGs.


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#4 JoeR

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 07:56 PM

Interesting and I just bought the ASI290MM today to use as a guide cam and planetary imager. I prefer the one with M42 threads as it secures firmly onto my focuser better.


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#5 Stelios

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 08:02 PM

I'll be following this thread avidly. 

 

I wish they didn't have a proprietary USB port (needing an overpriced backup cable) but oh, well...

 

Any idea when this camera will be available? 

 

Any chance of obtaining a Loadstar X2 to give a comparison with the "main competitor?" 

 

I'm planning to buy an OAG probably in the next month, but I could be persuaded to wait a little in order to save a few hundred $, if this is sensitive enough. I'm thinking of when shooting narrowband from the city, how likely is it to be able to find a star to guide on (after a plate-solve or meridian flip)? 


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#6 ChrisWhite

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 08:12 PM

I'll be following this thread avidly. 

 

I wish they didn't have a proprietary USB port (needing an overpriced backup cable) but oh, well...

 

Any idea when this camera will be available? 

 

Any chance of obtaining a Loadstar X2 to give a comparison with the "main competitor?" 

 

I'm planning to buy an OAG probably in the next month, but I could be persuaded to wait a little in order to save a few hundred $, if this is sensitive enough. I'm thinking of when shooting narrowband from the city, how likely is it to be able to find a star to guide on (after a plate-solve or meridian flip)? 

 

The cables are pretty cheap.  You can get a spare cable in whatever configuration you want (90 degree or straight, short or long) for $10 to $15.  Honestly, I'm not sure if this will be the standard spec, or if it was just used in this Beta.  I'll ask Sam once I've tested it out.  I also have no idea when it would be available.. another question I'll ask... or if he sees this thread he can chime in.

 

I don't think the Loadstar would be a main competitor for this camera but would be a nice comparison to see if you can justify almost twice the cost. (I think I saw a rumor that these mini guidecams would be $100 less than the standard version, but now I cant seem to find it so don't quote me.).  I think that the 174mm Mini Sam has in mind would definitely be a direct competitor to the Loadstar and likely a similar price point. 



#7 iuseglasses

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 08:46 PM

I'll be following this thread avidly.

I wish they didn't have a proprietary USB port (needing an overpriced backup cable) but oh, well...

Any idea when this camera will be available?

Any chance of obtaining a Loadstar X2 to give a comparison with the "main competitor?"

I'm planning to buy an OAG probably in the next month, but I could be persuaded to wait a little in order to save a few hundred $, if this is sensitive enough. I'm thinking of when shooting narrowband from the city, how likely is it to be able to find a star to guide on (after a plate-solve or meridian flip)?


USB-C is actually an excellent standard! Expect to see it on more and more things in the future. It can handle data, video, power all at the same time.


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#8 tolgagumus

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 09:05 PM

I'll be following this thread avidly.

I wish they didn't have a proprietary USB port (needing an overpriced backup cable) but oh, well...

Any idea when this camera will be available?

Any chance of obtaining a Loadstar X2 to give a comparison with the "main competitor?"

I'm planning to buy an OAG probably in the next month, but I could be persuaded to wait a little in order to save a few hundred $, if this is sensitive enough. I'm thinking of when shooting narrowband from the city, how likely is it to be able to find a star to guide on (after a plate-solve or meridian flip)?

This connector is standard with most new phones. It's nothing special or proprietary.

Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G870A using Tapatalk
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#9 gundark

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 09:05 PM

 

I'll be following this thread avidly.

I wish they didn't have a proprietary USB port (needing an overpriced backup cable) but oh, well...

Any idea when this camera will be available?

Any chance of obtaining a Loadstar X2 to give a comparison with the "main competitor?"

I'm planning to buy an OAG probably in the next month, but I could be persuaded to wait a little in order to save a few hundred $, if this is sensitive enough. I'm thinking of when shooting narrowband from the city, how likely is it to be able to find a star to guide on (after a plate-solve or meridian flip)?


USB-C is actually an excellent standard! Expect to see it on more and more things in the future. It can handle data, video, power all at the same time.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

I agree we will likely see a lot more USB C in the future. I like that it is so versatile and it does not matter which way the plug goes in. 


Edited by gundark, 24 August 2017 - 09:06 PM.

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#10 Jon Rista

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Posted 24 August 2017 - 10:07 PM

 

 

I'll be following this thread avidly.

I wish they didn't have a proprietary USB port (needing an overpriced backup cable) but oh, well...

Any idea when this camera will be available?

Any chance of obtaining a Loadstar X2 to give a comparison with the "main competitor?"

I'm planning to buy an OAG probably in the next month, but I could be persuaded to wait a little in order to save a few hundred $, if this is sensitive enough. I'm thinking of when shooting narrowband from the city, how likely is it to be able to find a star to guide on (after a plate-solve or meridian flip)?


USB-C is actually an excellent standard! Expect to see it on more and more things in the future. It can handle data, video, power all at the same time.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

 

I agree we will likely see a lot more USB C in the future. I like that it is so versatile and it does not matter which way the plug goes in. 

 

USB-C is the current standard connector that came along with USB 3.0 and 3.1 standards. It has become the exclusive connector design for current generation Apple Macs, has pretty much become the standard for current generation phones, and will ultimately become the standard for a majority of USB devices given it's benefits (it's reversible, so you don't have to worry about whats up or down!) That said, it is not replacing USB-A or USB-B, those ports and their various sub-forms are still standards, and it is entirely up to manufacturers to choose which connector standard they wish to implement. 

 

FTR, the other end of the cable will usually still be a standard male USB-A connector, to fit all of the standard female USB-A ports on the majority of computers and other devices with ports out there. The key exception is Apple, which opted to use female USB-C for all of their ports on the latest macs (I don't think either the standard USB-A ports fit, too large for the thinness of their latest macbook designs, and I'm not even sure that the Lightning ports were small enough, which may be why they chose USB-C).


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#11 Stelios

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 11:33 AM

This connector is standard with most new phones. It's nothing special or proprietary.

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry to have hijacked this thread with my ignorance of what USB-C looks like blush.gif blush.gif blush.gif  ! Somehow it's on none of my devices--I guess more popular with the Apple crowd so far. I was in rare form making that post--even mis-spelled Lodestar.
 
Back to comparing guidecams... 

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#12 GoldSpider

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 01:01 PM

I'll be following this as well.  I was about to pull the trigger on an ASI120MM-S, but I think I'll wait a little longer while this one comes into focus.



#13 iuseglasses

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 02:54 PM

This connector is standard with most new phones. It's nothing special or proprietary.




Sorry to have hijacked this thread with my ignorance of what USB-C looks like blush.gifblush.gifblush.gif ! Somehow it's on none of my devices--I guess more popular with the Apple crowd so far. I was in rare form making that post--even mis-spelled Lodestar.

Back to comparing guidecams...

It is a newer connector. Not to worry!


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#14 tolgagumus

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 03:02 PM

 

This connector is standard with most new phones. It's nothing special or proprietary.

 

 

 

 

 

Sorry to have hijacked this thread with my ignorance of what USB-C looks like blush.gif blush.gif blush.gif  ! Somehow it's on none of my devices--I guess more popular with the Apple crowd so far. I was in rare form making that post--even mis-spelled Lodestar.
 
Back to comparing guidecams... 

 

It's actually pretty cool. It doesn't have an up and down. It will be very easy to plug in in the dark.


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#15 ChrisWhite

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 09:06 PM

Well, first impression: 

 

With gain set only to 50 (unity is 110) I handily have many guidestars to choose from.  Selected one in PHD and it registered an SNR of ~150!  A couple nights ago when guiding the same exact starfield with my SSAG Pro I was hard pressed to find one with an SNR of 20.  Also, I'm only using 1.5 second exposures and at this exposure length I have over a dozen to choose from. 

 

OAG

800mm Focal Length

Target: Iris

Filter Lum

 

Screenshot below:

 

290 Beta.JPG


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#16 freestar8n

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 09:40 PM

I think it's great zwo is offering these smaller cameras for guiding.  For OAG it can be a big help in many ways to be able to slide the sensor in to get closer to the prism.

 

I do like the larger 174 sensor because it is so much bigger - but as long as you have enough stars available the 290 should be fine.  And the smaller pixels would work better with a guidescope.

 

Frank



#17 ChrisWhite

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 09:53 PM

I think it's great zwo is offering these smaller cameras for guiding.  For OAG it can be a big help in many ways to be able to slide the sensor in to get closer to the prism.

 

I do like the larger 174 sensor because it is so much bigger - but as long as you have enough stars available the 290 should be fine.  And the smaller pixels would work better with a guidescope.

 

Frank

 

I'm not sure if someone is testing the 174 sensor version right now, but I think Sam's goal with it was to produce a large sensor large pixel guidecam that would compete with the Lodestar (price point).  I bet you are correct and having that large sensor would really be nice at high focal lengths...  I wonder if you would get vignetting on the sensor though from the small aperture of the prism stalk.  Maybe a new round of OAG's would need to be produced to take advantage of the big sensors....

 

Setup was very easy for this and I didn't have to move my prism stalk, or adjust the prism base.  This is what I really like about the 1.25" camera bodies for OAG.  Set your OAG up how you want it, and have full tunability with focus by sliding the camera in or out.  I had it dialed in about 10 minutes and that was running back in the house to check my laptop where I was running everything from remotely. If I had a screen next to me it would have taken a minute if that.....


Edited by ChrisWhite, 25 August 2017 - 09:54 PM.

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#18 ChrisWhite

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Posted 25 August 2017 - 11:22 PM

And after the flip:  A couple nights ago with the SSAG Pro, PHD2 could not find a guidestar and the SGP sequence failed.  Tonight, with the 290mm Mini, there were no problems picking up a guidestar after the flip. 

 

290 Beta Flip.JPG


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#19 ChrisWhite

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Posted 26 August 2017 - 09:01 PM

Night two with the 290mm Mini.  It's working like a charm. 

 

I ran it all night last night, and so far for about 90 minutes tonight.  I have had no problems with connectivity so far, and the driver, even though it's just a beta driver seems stable. 

 

Not really much to talk about other than it's working exactly as I hoped it would.  The large chip, gain adjustable camera is giving me many possible guidestars to choose from.  What more could you ask for? 

 

Anyone have any questions about it? 


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#20 GoldSpider

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 10:53 AM

Interesting and I just bought the ASI290MM today to use as a guide cam and planetary imager. I prefer the one with M42 threads as it secures firmly onto my focuser better.

 

I'd like to know what might make this mini guide cam less suitable for planetary imaging than the standard (uncooled) ASI290MM.



#21 Stelios

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 12:28 PM

I think it's time to ask Sam those key practical questions (price? availability?) as some of us (well, one that I know of for sure :) ) are very seriously interested.


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#22 kingjamez

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Posted 28 August 2017 - 03:24 PM

 

Interesting and I just bought the ASI290MM today to use as a guide cam and planetary imager. I prefer the one with M42 threads as it secures firmly onto my focuser better.

 

I'd like to know what might make this mini guide cam less suitable for planetary imaging than the standard (uncooled) ASI290MM.

 

USB 2.0 only is the only reason it wouldn't be an excellent planetary imaging camera.

 

I'll be buying one of these as soon as they are released. 

-Jim


Edited by kingjamez, 28 August 2017 - 03:24 PM.


#23 Dunkstar

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 03:00 AM

Looks neat.

 

My special request to Sam is to produce a mini-specific adapter for the OAG so that it clears the filter wheel in any of the positions possible with the OAG.

 

If this becomes possible, I'll be all over the mini like a bad rash ;)



#24 ChrisWhite

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 06:09 AM

I think it's time to ask Sam those key practical questions (price? availability?) as some of us (well, one that I know of for sure smile.gif ) are very seriously interested.

 

Sam got back to me about the price.  Looks like $299 for the 290mm Mini and $499 for the 174mm Mini.


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#25 Robrj

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 08:44 AM

So the only differences between this and a standard 290MM are size and a USB 2.0 connection?  




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