The ASiair is a new product from ZWO for wide-field deep-sky astrophotography that retails for $179. It is not designed for planetary or lunar imaging.
ASiair consists of two software components and includes a Raspberry Pi computer. One part is software running on a Pi that is connected to the mount, camera, filter wheel, and guide camera. The second part is software running on iOS or Android (not tested) that accesses the Pi computer via WiFi. A 12v to 5v converter is included so only 12v DC is required for the Pi and ZWO camera, guide camera and filter wheel.
According to ZWO, supported mounts are listed here: http://indilib.org/d...telescopes.html. Although listed, the software is not compatible with the Software Bisque Paramount mounts as confirmed by ZWO. Although EQMod mounts are listed, I couldn’t get ASiair to connect with an Orion Sirius EQ-G mount using the USB2EQ5 Interface Cable from http://www.store.sho...oducts_eq.htm. ZWO indicates they have tested the air with iOptron and SkyWatcher goto mounts.
Some potential users may be interested in running additional software on the Pi computer. This is not possible. ZWO requires a username and password to boot the Rasbian operating system locking out the user from installing other software. It’s understandable that ZWO would choose to do this to minimize support issues with the ASiair.
A 32gb microSD card is provided with the recommendation to backup the card upon receipt. ZWO includes a microSD USB reader to make it easy for users to read and write the microSD card at a later time on a Windows, Macintosh, or Linux PC. The Rasbian operating system and ZWO installed software on the Pi leave 25gb available for image files. Copying the microSD to a computer and backing up to a larger microSD does not increase the disk space available to the user.
After imaging, the user pulls the microSD card from the Pi, inserts it into the microSD USB reader, and inserts the USB reader into a port of the user’s computer to copy the night's images for further stacking and processing.
Only ZWO cameras and only those with USB 3 ports are supported (although the Raspberry Pi ports are USB 2). It also only supports ZWO filter wheels. I tested the software with a ZWO ASI1600MM, ASI120MM-S and ZWO filter wheel. The software found the ZWO cameras and filter wheel easily. Because I was not able to connect to either of the mounts I own (Paramount MyT and Sirius EQ-G), I didn’t further test the software. However, I have used a Raspberry Pi controlling the ASI1600MM, ASI120MM-S and ZWO filter wheel and also a Moonlite Nitecrawler focuser/rotator to image many targets with TheSkyX Professional on a Raspberry Pi. As far as I’ve seen, the Pi is sufficiently fast for imaging, guiding, plate solving and autofocusing. I don’t doubt that the ASiair will likewise be able to handle these tasks without an issue (the ASiair doesn’t support autofocusing although ZWO has stated it could be included in a future release).
Another feature of the ASiair is a bridge between it and SkySafari Plus. I wasn’t able to test this because the mounts I own are not presently supported by the ASiair.
Although the software appears to be fairly straight forward to use, there isn’t more than a quick guide that is minimal. A video tutorial is referred to in the guide but is more of an advertisement than a tutorial.
The software includes plate solving to precisely position the scope on the target. The software includes manual focusing aids at the present time. There is a focus preview (zoom to a small area to provide max brightness curve and HFD curve to aid manual focus). ZWO has indicated autofocusing may be supported in the future. It doesn’t include any polar alignment functionality, however ZWO has indicated this may be supported in the future too.
In the case of a hardware failure, if the microSD card is inserted into a different Raspberry Pi than the one provided by ZWO, the software indicates there is a licensing issue and the user must contact ZWO to resolve it. There is however a 2-year warranty where ZWO will repair or replace the ASiair free except the customer pays for shipping to and from ZWO. When purchased from a dealer, the dealer is responsible for customer service according to the ZWO website.
I am a beta tester of the ASiair and receive a discount. I've tried to be as informative as possible without bias toward ZWO. When (or if) the connection problem with the Sirius EQ-G mount with EQMod is resolved, I will post further experiences with the ASiair.