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Looking to Upgrade my Current EAA Camera

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#1 iam1ru12

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 03:43 PM

I’m stuck in the analysis paralysis stage and unfortunately, I don’t have the technical background to get anything more of the research I’ve done.  Therefore, I’m hoping I can get some opinions and recommendations.

 

I’ve been using my AVS MK-IV for almost 4 years now (but only seriously for about 1.5 years in that for the past 1.5 years I have rarely placed an eyepiece into either one of my telescopes.  However, it’s time to upgrade and get away from the analog to digital conversion as well as the limited resolution and narrow FOV of my existing camera.

 

Here’s a little about how I’ve been doing EEA.  I use Sharpcap on a Minex NEO Z83 Windows 10 platform with the output to a 24” 12v computer monitor.  My set up is USB 3.0 ready.  My choice of targets ranges from the small, dim galaxies of the Herschel 400 to large nebula and I like to view in color, so mono is out for me.  I also do a fair amount of outreach, 6 to 9 events a year.  I would have done more planets, but the AVS MK-IV was never as good on the planets as the mark 1 human eyeball.  I’m in North Carolina but I travel to various star parties on the East Coast, so humidity and dew are always a concern.  I only do EAA, no imaging or post processing.  I typically try to observe a dozen+ or so objects and spend 10 fifteen minutes on each trying out different exposures and settings on each to maximize details.  Then I take a simple screen shot for my logs.

 

I’ve combed through various threads here on the forum but at times they go over my head from a technical perspective.  In any case I’m ready to pull the trigger but I don’t want to make a mistake and not get the right the camera for my type of observing and current set of equipment.  The 2 scopes I use for EAA are a CPC1100 Alt-Azm (a wedge in my future) and an Explore Scientific AR102 refractor on a CG-5 goto mount (with really good tracking).

 

The camera’s I’m considering are the ASI385MC, ASI1600MC or ASI294MC.  I was thinking about the ASI224MC but it sounds like the ASI385 is the same camera with a bigger chip and more resolution.  In comparing the various cameras, I took into account the various FOVs I could get with my focal reducers and telescopes (I have a variable focus reducer that can give me x6.3 to x3.8 depending on the spacers):


ASI385MC

  • CPC1100: 9.0' x 4.8' with no reduction to 23.5' x 13.3' at 0.38x
  • AR102: 37.8' x 21' with no reduction to 1° 39' x 56' at 0.38x

ASI1600MC

  • CPC1100: 21.7' x 16.4' with no reduction to 43.4' x 32.8' at 0.5x
  • AR102: 45.9' x 34.7' with no reduction to 3° 4' x 2° 19' at 0.5x

 

ASI294MC

  • The FOV would be slight wider than the ASI1600MC

 

So here are my questions:

  1. Should I go the route of a cooled version of the camera or just build my own cooler/fan?  I’ve seen several DIY options, the like RC car motor fan for the RT224, etc.  I can also use dark subtraction via Sharpcap.
  2. I assume my existing variable focal reduction in 1.25” format be too narrow for the 4/3” chip?  I do have a standard Celestron SCT 0.63x focal reducer or would a 2” 0.5x reducer work on the 4/3” chips?  I’m more concerned with FOV than I am with faster acquisition.
  3. For just EAA, is the ASI1600MC a better option than ASI294MC?  It sounds like if I wanted an EAA & an imaging camera the ASI294MC is a better option, but I really have no desire to get into gathering darks, flats, bias frames, etc. and then post process.
  4. I am missing any other serious contenders in the $1,000 and under range?  What would you buy if you had my set up and a budget of $1,000?

 

Thanks in advance for your responses.

-Mike


Edited by iam1ru12, 25 February 2018 - 03:46 PM.


#2 CharlesC

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 05:17 PM

Atik414EX (ICX825) with Infinity software, but most will have other CMOS recommendations. 

Is the newest sensor the best censor for you?

Do you need more resolution than can fit on an 1080 TV screen?

 

ICX825 = 2/3 sensor, 6.45um pixels, 2000mv sensitivity, HD resolution 1360 (H) × 1024 (V). 

 

CMOS is lower noise than CCD but CMOS require longer exposures.  I like color of CCD better than CMOS.

 

The Ultrastar C by Starlight Xpress  also uses ICX825 sensor, but no Infinity software.


Edited by CharlesC, 25 February 2018 - 10:45 PM.

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#3 OleCuss

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 06:03 PM

Of the three presented cameras I'd be thinking the IMX385 camera might be the better choice.  My impression is that the Minix NEO Z83 is not a powerhouse processor and I'm really a bit concerned that it will choke on all the data you collect with the bigger sensors.

 

But then, you can define a smaller ROI for the bigger sensors and handle things OK data-wise unless and until you get a more capable computer.  So no great penalty if you are willing to do that.

 

If you aren't worried about handling the data (because you are confident your computer can handle the load or you will plan to define a smaller ROI) then I'd go with the IMX294 camera since you have more options for the future.

 

If you want cooled I'd get the cooling built-in.  You'll probably find that with either the ASI1600 or the ASI294 that some of the waste heat is used to keep the optical window heated just a little to prevent dewing/frosting.  You are just unlikely to get the engineering done as well as would ZWO or QHY.

 

The Infinity is a pretty good camera and worthy of consideration.  But you aren't going to have as much in the way of options for doing planetary because the frame rate is necessarily slow (might not be a big deal for you).

 

If you wanted to make pretty pictures with post-processing and all that, then the ASI1600 is probably the better choice.  For NRTV (what you want to do) I'd rather have the ASI294, but I have the ASI1600 and don't feel too much need to immediately go to the ASI294.



#4 Phil Cowell

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 08:42 PM

The OSC 183C cameras look to have a lot of potential in Hyperstar or smaller refractors. 



#5 Stargazer3236

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 08:52 PM

I sold my nearly new ASI224MC camera to buy the ASI385MC camera. It was a wise choice. The 385 is a very good camera! Check the pic below for size comparisons!

 

I also just bought ASI290mm CAMERA, for monochrome imaging of deep sky objects, using Narrowband filters and the planets using CH4, UV and IR filters.

 

As far as Darks, Bias, etc, you do not need to be concerned with those if using a Cooled version of either the 294 or the 1600. The 294 has such a huge sensitive Full Well Capacity, it blows the 1600 out of the water at the cost of less resolution. Being a sensitive camera, 294MC, and cooled, you can take less exposure sub frames for stacking with SharpCap and get better detail and the stars will not bloom out and get overexposed, than with the 1600MC.

 

Using a 0.5 focal reducer, your pics will vignette a bit using a 4/3" chip in a 1.25" configuration. However, with such a wide field given the 0.5 reduction, your 102mm with show awesome FOV. I am currently using an Astronomers Without Borders One Sky 5" F/5 Newtonian and the pics look great through the 385. Using the FOV calculator, the 0.5 focal reducer in my One Sky Newt shows a tremendous field of view.

 

Now, I am on the market for a wide field camera like you. The two things you have to figure out is what you want to spend, but I would recommend the COOLED version of either the ASI1600MC or the ASI294MC.

 

The ASI1600MC has more resolution, @ 16mp but three times less sensitivity at only Full Well Capacity of just 20K.

 

The ASI294MC has more sensitivity at 63.7K Full Well Capacity three times the 1600MC camera, but only has 11mp of resolution.

 

Looking at the pic below, they seem to have nearly the same FOV, based on the pixel size and resolution, but remember, the ASI294MC has three time the sensitivity, thus revealing more detail at lower exposure times than the ASI1600MC can deliver. And adding Cooling to the mix, your 294MC will be one heck of an EAA imaging camera!

 

The price difference between the 1600MC Cool and the 294MC Cool is only $80 (ASI1600MC @ $999 and the ASI294MC @ $1080).

 

So it is all based on: do you want more resolution or do you want more sensitivity?

Attached Thumbnails

  • FOV.jpg
  • 385_224.jpg

Edited by Stargazer3236, 25 February 2018 - 09:13 PM.


#6 Stargazer3236

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 08:58 PM

If you want to play around with the FOV calculator, go to: http://astronomy.too.../field_of_view/ It will give you approximations of any telescope and any camera you can think of for EAA imaging, in a picturesque way, using various deep sky objects or planets to determine your FOV.

 

I have used it countless times to go over the same analysis paralysis in finding out which wide field 4/3" chip camera to buy, the ASI294MC or the ASI1600MC camera. Where the difference is only $80 for the cooled version of either camera, I juggle the thought of do I want more resolution or more sensitivity. I am leaning toward more sensitivity in the ASI294MC Cooled.



#7 BJS

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 09:06 PM

My friend just came back from the WSP at Chiefland.  He has the 294 pro and a cpc11 with hyperstar.  This is the image he got of the Horsehead.  You won't need a wedge with a hyperstar.  I think he was only using 10 sec or so subs with SC for this image. 

 

Update: Capture was 13 x 7s; no post processing

 

image.png


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#8 iam1ru12

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Posted 25 February 2018 - 11:25 PM

Wow, thanks for all the great responses so far.  I've been playing around with the following 2 FOV calculators for some time now.

 

 

Since I'm only using a monitor capable of 1080 pixels vertically, other than enhancing a region of interest (ROI - I had to look than one up), would the increased resolution of the ASI1900MC be a moot point as I would rarely take advantage of of the camera's overall resolution.  However, more sensitivity can always be utilized.

 

 

Of the three presented cameras I'd be thinking the IMX385 camera might be the better choice.  My impression is that the Minix NEO Z83 is not a powerhouse processor and I'm really a bit concerned that it will choke on all the data you collect with the bigger sensors.

My current equipment does not even make the Minix break a sweat.  I have a I5 based laptop with 16GB of memory with USB 3.0 but no discreet graphics card.  However, I prefer the 12v nature of Minix as all of my gear is set up to run off of 12v since our club's local observing site does not have power and you never know who's going to blow a fuse on a star party's field power.  I will however keep an eye on the Minix's performance.

 

I'm starting to lean towards to ASI385MC cooled.  My 1.25" variable focal reducer was able to get me 0.38x reduction on my 1/3" chip with no vignetting.  I may be able to get that or maybe only 0.46x  That said, where my CPC1100 runs out of FOV, my AR102 can begin, check out my comparison of FOVs.  Other than a smaller FOV, how will the ASI385MC compare to the ASI294MC for NRTV?  This is where my knowledge completely breaks down.

 

FOVs

 

Specs:

IMX385: 3.75 micron pixel size, read noise of 0.7e and Full Well of 18700e

IMX294: 4.63 micron pixel size, read noise of 1.2e and Full Well of 63700e. 

 

I assume the lower the read noise the better.  However, what about the other specs listed?  Which is better for NRTV?

 

-Mike



#9 nic35

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Posted 26 February 2018 - 10:42 AM

A couple of points:

 

I like maximum flexibility, which colors my decisions and recommendations

 

I'd suggest the cooled version, whichever camera you acquire.  Trying to fit a DYI solution to either camera isn't a simple matter.  I've tried - you've probably seen my posts on this topic in this forum.  Plus, the form factor of the ZWO cameras won't work with the racing car fans - much different shape. 

 

I see that the Minix is an Atom based system (cherry trail). I'd worry about it handling the big 294 chip at 14 bits and full size.  I had been using an Atom based Intel compute stick system ( only 2 GB memory ) on my RT224, but it could not handle the full 294 sensor.  I went to a compute stick Core m3 system with 4 GB memory.  I toyed with the idea of using a 4GB atom based system - and IIRC others have reported success with a large sensor and a 4 gb Atom system.  But I figured the next camera would croak that, so I stepped up a notch.  FYI, if running cartes du ciel, various ASCOM controllers and sharpcap, doing live stacking at 16 bits and full camera resolution - CPU usage  will spike into the 70 percent range and stacking time for each frame is running close to 2800 ms.  Meaning, I think that I'm already near the limit of this system.

 

Your laptop would handle the bigger sensor,  no problem.

 

I'm no expert, but I suspect that there is no real, practical difference between the two, except that the 294 can give you a FOV that you can't get with the 385.

 

john



#10 Ptarmigan

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Posted 27 February 2018 - 12:27 AM

Atik414EX (ICX825) with Infinity software, but most will have other CMOS recommendations. 

Is the newest sensor the best censor for you?

Do you need more resolution than can fit on an 1080 TV screen?

 

ICX825 = 2/3 sensor, 6.45um pixels, 2000mv sensitivity, HD resolution 1360 (H) × 1024 (V). 

 

CMOS is lower noise than CCD but CMOS require longer exposures.  I like color of CCD better than CMOS.

 

The Ultrastar C by Starlight Xpress  also uses ICX825 sensor, but no Infinity software.

I wonder if there is a CMOS chip with the same sensor size like the ICX825, which is 11 mm.

 

The closest I can think of is IMX174, which is 13 mm.



#11 Relativist

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Posted 27 February 2018 - 12:30 AM

There is the IMX385.



#12 iam1ru12

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Posted 27 February 2018 - 07:05 AM

Atik414EX (ICX825) with Infinity software, but most will have other CMOS recommendations. 

Is the newest sensor the best censor for you?

Do you need more resolution than can fit on an 1080 TV screen?

 

ICX825 = 2/3 sensor, 6.45um pixels, 2000mv sensitivity, HD resolution 1360 (H) × 1024 (V). 

 

CMOS is lower noise than CCD but CMOS require longer exposures.  I like color of CCD better than CMOS.

 

The Ultrastar C by Starlight Xpress  also uses ICX825 sensor, but no Infinity software.

The Atik 414EX is outside my budget but the Ultrastar C is within my budget.  I’ll have to add this to the list.  Anyone know how much focal reduction could you apply to this size chip without distortion?



#13 Don Rudny

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Posted 27 February 2018 - 12:29 PM

 

Atik414EX (ICX825) with Infinity software, but most will have other CMOS recommendations. 

Is the newest sensor the best censor for you?

Do you need more resolution than can fit on an 1080 TV screen?

 

ICX825 = 2/3 sensor, 6.45um pixels, 2000mv sensitivity, HD resolution 1360 (H) × 1024 (V). 

 

CMOS is lower noise than CCD but CMOS require longer exposures.  I like color of CCD better than CMOS.

 

The Ultrastar C by Starlight Xpress  also uses ICX825 sensor, but no Infinity software.

The Atik 414EX is outside my budget but the Ultrastar C is within my budget.  I’ll have to add this to the list.  Anyone know how much focal reduction could you apply to this size chip without distortion?

 

Hi Mike,

 

I use the Ultrastar C with a C11 Edge and can get down to f/5 without objectionable distortion.  Same with my Meade 8” SCT.  Maybe f/4.5 depending on your tolerance to aberrations.  The Ultrastar can be controlled with Starlight Live software available free through Starlight Xpress.  It is similar to the Infinity software in ease of use.  I also have Hyperstar for the C11 that works extremely well with the 825 sensor, giving a focal length range for the C11 of 560 to 2800mm.  Let me know if you have any other questions about it.

 

Don



#14 iam1ru12

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Posted 06 March 2018 - 08:56 AM

I’m purchasing the ASI385 Cooled today.  Given that it’s $380 cheaper than the ASIW294 Cooled and that my EAA set up with the Minix 4GB memory may have difficulties with that much data coming from the 294 camera, I think I’m making the best choice.  I decided to go with a CMOS chip, instead of a CCD chip based camera since I already own a CCD camera.

 

-Mike

 

EDIT: purchased Fromm Agena Astro Products about an hour ago.  Now I just need to wait for it to arrive. 


Edited by iam1ru12, 06 March 2018 - 10:14 AM.

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#15 Stargazer3236

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Posted 07 March 2018 - 01:38 PM

It will be there sooner than you think! (Agena is well known for their fast shipping service)



#16 iam1ru12

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Posted 07 March 2018 - 01:51 PM

It will be there sooner than you think! (Agena is well known for their fast shipping service)

Yes, Agena is great!  It’s arriving Thursday evening, I can’t wait! choo-choo.gif


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#17 DonBoy

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Posted 07 March 2018 - 11:38 PM

 

Atik414EX (ICX825) with Infinity software, but most will have other CMOS recommendations. 

Is the newest sensor the best censor for you?

Do you need more resolution than can fit on an 1080 TV screen?

 

ICX825 = 2/3 sensor, 6.45um pixels, 2000mv sensitivity, HD resolution 1360 (H) × 1024 (V). 

 

CMOS is lower noise than CCD but CMOS require longer exposures.  I like color of CCD better than CMOS.

 

The Ultrastar C by Starlight Xpress  also uses ICX825 sensor, but no Infinity software.

I wonder if there is a CMOS chip with the same sensor size like the ICX825, which is 11 mm.

 

The closest I can think of is IMX174, which is 13 mm.

 

You might consider an uncooled or cooled ASI1600 or ASI294 operated in ROA mode and you can adjust the image dimensions to your liking.  Typical 50% ROI of the 1600 is offers the same FOV as the ICX825 at higher resolution and the ASI294 can be similarly sized with more resolution than the ICX825.



#18 iam1ru12

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Posted 08 March 2018 - 10:32 PM

The ASI385MC-Cooled arrived today.  Wow, it’s much bigger than I thought it would be.  No first light; I have some early meetings tomorrow.  However, Friday night looks like we might have several hours of clear skies.  For now, here’s a shot of the 385 next to my AVS MK-IV.

My 2 EAA Cameras

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#19 Ptarmigan

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 12:12 AM

You might consider an uncooled or cooled ASI1600 or ASI294 operated in ROA mode and you can adjust the image dimensions to your liking.  Typical 50% ROI of the 1600 is offers the same FOV as the ICX825 at higher resolution and the ASI294 can be similarly sized with more resolution than the ICX825.

If I was to get ASI294, I would like to use the full resolution. I know it is 4K resolution. smile.gif

 

I wonder if a computer with Intel Atom Quad-Core 1.8GHz with 1GB RAM could handle ASI294.

 

I also have a C925 and if I use focal reducers, which I would like to use, there could be vignetting.


Edited by Ptarmigan, 09 March 2018 - 12:13 AM.


#20 iam1ru12

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 12:39 AM

 

You might consider an uncooled or cooled ASI1600 or ASI294 operated in ROA mode and you can adjust the image dimensions to your liking.  Typical 50% ROI of the 1600 is offers the same FOV as the ICX825 at higher resolution and the ASI294 can be similarly sized with more resolution than the ICX825.

If I was to get ASI294, I would like to use the full resolution. I know it is 4K resolution. smile.gif

 

I wonder if a computer with Intel Atom Quad-Core 1.8GHz with 1GB RAM could handle ASI294.

 

I also have a C925 and if I use focal reducers, which I would like to use, there could be vignetting.

 

I originally was going to purchase the ASI294 but I really started to worry about my Atom x5 1.44GHz processor with 4GB of memory would start to choke on the full resolution of the ASI294.  I decided with focal reducers and my wide field refractor that I could get the FOV I wanted.  Since I do no astrophotography, I’d never use th full resolution of the camera anyways since I always use a 1080 lines max monitor when doing EAA.

 

So unless you’re going to save off high res pics for post processing or use a 4K monitor, you won’t really be viewing with the full resolution the camera.

 

-Mike



#21 ERHAD

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 09:58 AM

The ASI385MC-Cooled arrived today.  Wow, it’s much bigger than I thought it would be.  No first light; I have some early meetings tomorrow.  However, Friday night looks like we might have several hours of clear skies.  For now, here’s a shot of the 385 next to my AVS MK-IV.

Iam1ru12 , congrats. Really looking forward to your first light report... :-)



#22 nic35

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Posted 09 March 2018 - 12:15 PM

 

You might consider an uncooled or cooled ASI1600 or ASI294 operated in ROA mode and you can adjust the image dimensions to your liking.  Typical 50% ROI of the 1600 is offers the same FOV as the ICX825 at higher resolution and the ASI294 can be similarly sized with more resolution than the ICX825.

If I was to get ASI294, I would like to use the full resolution. I know it is 4K resolution. smile.gif

 

I wonder if a computer with Intel Atom Quad-Core 1.8GHz with 1GB RAM could handle ASI294.

 

I also have a C925 and if I use focal reducers, which I would like to use, there could be vignetting.

 

I don't think it will work.  I tried an Intel Compute Stick (Atom based CPU) with 2 GB of memory, and it could not handle the 16 bit full resolution ASI294.  IIRC, Some have reported luck with an Atom with 4 GB of memory.

 

I upgraded to a Core m3 compute stick with 4 GB of memory.  It works fine, although CPU usage can spike into the low 70's under heavy load - Stacking full resolution at 16 bits in Sharpcap,  running Cartes du Ciel at the same time.

 

I also sprung for Windows 10 Pro.  More than I had hoped to spend, but far less frustration/limitations.  And, hopefully I'm upgrade proof for a year !

 

john



#23 Stargazer3236

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Posted 12 March 2018 - 08:39 AM

I just use my Toshiba laptop with upgraded 8gb memory and 500gb SSD. Works like a charm when EAAing, I just use either my ASI385MC or my ASI290MM camera on my telescope. Laptop easily handles the stacking through SharpCap live stack and I can even process when using Firecapture for planetary imaging at the same time.




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