Jump to content

  •  

CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.

Photo

Preliminary Review of the New ASiair from ZWO

  • Please log in to reply
48 replies to this topic

#1 CraigShelley

CraigShelley

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 42
  • Joined: 17 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Utah

Posted 13 August 2018 - 05:12 PM

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.


  • Xeroid, charotarguy, KenS and 3 others like this

#2 KenS

KenS

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 905
  • Joined: 10 Jan 2015
  • Loc: Melbourne, Australia

Posted 13 August 2018 - 10:37 PM

Excellent review Craig. My main concern with the raspberry Pi is the tendency for the SD card to get corrupted when you  remove power without shutting down. So I run my Pi off a USB stick as it is more robust. I can understand you not wanting to test to that extent but its a likely scenario in our world


  • ghostboo likes this

#3 CraigShelley

CraigShelley

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 42
  • Joined: 17 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Utah

Posted 13 August 2018 - 11:10 PM

Excellent review Craig. My main concern with the raspberry Pi is the tendency for the SD card to get corrupted when you  remove power without shutting down. So I run my Pi off a USB stick as it is more robust. I can understand you not wanting to test to that extent but its a likely scenario in our world

Ken, I agree completely.  There isn't a way that I know of to shut down Rasbian with the ASiair.  I set up a Samba server on the Raspberry Pi that I run TheSkyX on.  I copy the files to my Macintosh sometimes as I take images during the night and evaluate them with PixInsight.  The ASiair's method of removing power and pulling out the microSD will no doubt increase the likelihood of corrupting the card.

 

One could add a battery pack to the ASiair to ensure that the power is only turned off when desired.  Perhaps it could reduce the chance of corruption.


Edited by CraigShelley, 13 August 2018 - 11:11 PM.


#4 power1001

power1001

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • Posts: 29
  • Joined: 22 May 2013

Posted 14 August 2018 - 05:03 AM

The ASIAIR downpower command is in the autorun screens, attached...  continuing to test... plate solving is really fast... couple of seconds...

Attached Thumbnails

  • ASIAIRSD1.jpg
  • ASIAIRSD3.jpg


#5 CraigShelley

CraigShelley

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 42
  • Joined: 17 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Utah

Posted 14 August 2018 - 09:58 AM

The ASIAIR downpower command is in the autorun screens, attached...  continuing to test... plate solving is really fast... couple of seconds...

Thanks for the feedback on plate solving.  Please post more on your experience with the ASiair as you use it.  I think it has potential.  Without a mount connecting, I didn't get as far as I would like to have with it.



#6 RedLionNJ

RedLionNJ

    Gemini

  • *****
  • Posts: 3294
  • Joined: 29 Dec 2009
  • Loc: Red Lion, NJ, USA

Posted 14 August 2018 - 11:25 AM

Really nice review, Craig.

 

Totally bummed about the 'misplaced advertising' regarding the ability to interface to Paramounts (I'm in a similar boat to you). I guess I'll have to stick with the non-ASIair TheSkyXPro solution on a separate laptop.

 

Does get one wondering though - if the claims of Paramount compatibility are mis-founded, what else might not be implemented/functional?  This is why we rely so much upon beta testers like yourself.

 

25GB seems like an awfully small amount of free space for data files. Something like an ASI183 could fill that pretty quickly, even with 10s exposures.

 

I'm not quite getting the whole USB2 vs USB3 thing. Only USB3 cameras are supported, yet the ports are 100% USB2, so download speed is going to be greatly-compromised. I guess that certainly explains why planetary-type imaging is not encouraged!

 

Can anybody chime in with greater details on the plate-solving capabilities?  What is the recommended smallest field size for reliable solving, for example?  half a degree? smaller?

 

Thank you, everyone!


  • bobparkersd likes this

#7 power1001

power1001

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • Posts: 29
  • Joined: 22 May 2013

Posted 15 August 2018 - 04:58 AM

With my William Optics 61 and ASI178MC I get 1.18 X 0.79 degrees FOV.  ASIAIR plate solves in around 4 seconds.  There is no setup or configuration or index files to load or chose. The manual controls to mount are working correctly from SkySafari 5 PRO on IPAD and Iphone 6, and from 4 Plus from my IMAC, and from ASIAIR.  I've been unable to sync the ASIAIR plate solve solutions to my WO-EQ35 mount and SkySafari  even though ASIAIR reports sync success, so GOTO isn't yet working for me.  It might be how I am starting up.  I want to be able to not do any 2 or 3 star alignment and simply use the plate solve solution to align the mount and SkySafari.  That might not be how it works or maybe there is a limit on how much the SkySafari remote offset alignment allows.  More testing to do. 



#8 vdb

vdb

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1417
  • Joined: 08 Dec 2009

Posted 15 August 2018 - 05:02 AM

Why buy a crippled device if you can have this?

https://www.stellarmate.com

 

/Yves


  • RRPG and Miguelo like this

#9 power1001

power1001

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • Posts: 29
  • Joined: 22 May 2013

Posted 15 August 2018 - 05:17 AM

I also have a Stellarmate which is awesome.  It plate solves in about a minute for me which is too slow.  ASIAIR is much faster so I'll be comparing.


  • psandelle likes this

#10 vdb

vdb

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1417
  • Joined: 08 Dec 2009

Posted 15 August 2018 - 06:49 AM

I also have a Stellarmate which is awesome.  It plate solves in about a minute for me which is too slow.  ASIAIR is much faster so I'll be comparing.

That's a question of the wright catalogs and settings, I guess they both use the same software and are running on the same HW. The Stellarmate does autofocus, scheduled imaging, full automated runs with pier flips focusing, dome control, much wider support for camera's, focusers etc ... 

You can even have a cloud based control/storage for a beer a month.

 

/Yves


  • Henry from NZ and tkottary like this

#11 seigell

seigell

    Vostok 1

  • -----
  • Posts: 112
  • Joined: 10 Nov 2010
  • Loc: 'Burbs of Phoenix

Posted 15 August 2018 - 06:57 AM

I'm not quite getting the whole USB2 vs USB3 thing. Only USB3 cameras are supported, yet the ports are 100% USB2, so download speed is going to be greatly-compromised. I guess that certainly explains why planetary-type imaging is not encouraged!

I don't get how the ASIAir USB2 Hub is Non-Powered/Low-Powered, yet all ZWO USB3 Cameras are USB-Powered as are their Filterwheels.  Where is all this Device Power supposed to come from??



#12 gustavo_sanchez

gustavo_sanchez

    Viking 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 943
  • Joined: 30 Dec 2010
  • Loc: Puerto Rico, US

Posted 15 August 2018 - 09:40 AM

Seems like a nice concept, but it will be undoubtedly upgraded in the coming months and early buyers will get burned. It's an incomplete product.


  • RRPG, psandelle, RedLionNJ and 2 others like this

#13 CraigShelley

CraigShelley

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 42
  • Joined: 17 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Utah

Posted 15 August 2018 - 03:58 PM

Seems like a nice concept, but it will be undoubtedly upgraded in the coming months and early buyers will get burned. It's an incomplete product.

ZWO has a good reputation for supporting customers.  It's also the software that needs to be updated, not the hardware, to improve compatibility with many more mounts.



#14 CraigShelley

CraigShelley

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 42
  • Joined: 17 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Utah

Posted 15 August 2018 - 04:13 PM

I don't get how the ASIAir USB2 Hub is Non-Powered/Low-Powered, yet all ZWO USB3 Cameras are USB-Powered as are their Filterwheels.  Where is all this Device Power supposed to come from??

I don't think power is a problem.  The ASiair does have an under voltage warning though. The Pi (as used by the ASiair) has four USB ports rather than a hub.  The ports are powered.  It's quite possible that the 12v to a ZWO cooled camera provides power to the USB hub on a ZWO camera (I don't know that it doesn't.  If you know it doesn't, I'd like the link/reference.)  I don't have any problems running a Moonlite Nitecrawler, Paramount MyT, ASI1600MM-Cool, ZWO Filter Wheel, and ASI120MM-S plugged into the ports of a Pi running TheSkyX.



#15 MattC867

MattC867

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 219
  • Joined: 18 Jun 2016

Posted 15 August 2018 - 09:10 PM

Was just testing my raspberry pi with INDI. It all works but, my goodness some of you have low standards for what constitutes acceptable performance 🤣

I'll stick with my NUC

Edited by MattC867, 15 August 2018 - 09:11 PM.

  • mikefulb, RRPG and CrossoverManiac like this

#16 NMBob

NMBob

    Apollo

  • *****
  • Posts: 1485
  • Joined: 21 Nov 2015
  • Loc: New Mexico

Posted 15 August 2018 - 10:02 PM

Was just testing my raspberry pi with INDI. It all works but, my goodness some of you have low standards for what constitutes acceptable performance

I'll stick with my NUC

Hey! It's call a sense of adventure, and it builds character to boot. :)

Waiting for my ASiair ("late August" said an email from High Point today).

 

Bob


  • psandelle likes this

#17 MattC867

MattC867

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 219
  • Joined: 18 Jun 2016

Posted 15 August 2018 - 10:13 PM

Hey! It's call a sense of adventure, and it builds character to boot. smile.gif

Waiting for my ASiair ("late August" said an email from High Point today).

 

Bob

Modern computers have spoiled me!


  • psandelle and NMBob like this

#18 CraigShelley

CraigShelley

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 42
  • Joined: 17 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Utah

Posted 15 August 2018 - 10:24 PM

Was just testing my raspberry pi with INDI. It all works but, my goodness some of you have low standards for what constitutes acceptable performance

I'll stick with my NUC

What software were you running on the Pi and Windows?

 

My experience is just with TheSkyX on Macintosh, Windows, and Rasbian with fast Macintosh and Windows machines.  The TPoint calibration is substantially slower but I haven't yet timed it.  Imaging on the other hand doesn't appear to be impacted.  That is what most of the time is spent on for me.  Although my set up is portable, I typically run TPoint once and then acquire images over many nights.

 

TheSkyX may be one of the few options where the software is a constant across platforms.

 

I use solar panels and lithium batteries to provide power over multiple nights at a remote location.  I think the Pi will have some advantages for power consumption over what I've done in the past.

 

However, in part, I enjoy trying out different possibilities.  I guess you do too, since you took time to try out a Pi with INDI.


  • psandelle likes this

#19 ccs_hello

ccs_hello

    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 10196
  • Joined: 03 Jul 2004

Posted 15 August 2018 - 11:00 PM

re: USB3-based astrocams only

 

(Set the marketing factor -- newer cams, aside...)

The major difference is that USB3 astroimagers have built-in frame buffer memory thus the

demand on data transfer in between cam and compute device (Rasp Pi) is lessened.

 <-- note the USB2 cams typically use (EXUSB FX2) USB ttramssion IC in isochronous mode  <-- almost identical to streaming, no error detection/correction

 

The isochronous transfer mode can add a burden on (1) requires high quality USB cabling arrangement (due to hiccup causes communication Abend)  and

(2) requires the compute device devotes more attention to the data transmission.  

 

 #2 would be more pronounced on a low-end, low-cost, and low-power compute device.


  • RedLionNJ and OleCuss like this

#20 ccs_hello

ccs_hello

    Voyager 1

  • *****
  • Posts: 10196
  • Joined: 03 Jul 2004

Posted 15 August 2018 - 11:06 PM

This probably will touch some  nerves...

 

Many astro software packages are GPL'ed and may be subjected to their own licensing constraints (e.g., disclose source code, commercial use / non-profit, etc.)

Note that Rasp Pi 3B+ is $35.  Chassis, power supply, microSD card, etc. are add-ons but not too expensive.

Just saying.

 

(I don't want to mention other software implementations in this thread, but search the "Software" subforum should find inspirations...)


Edited by ccs_hello, 15 August 2018 - 11:06 PM.


#21 power1001

power1001

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • Posts: 29
  • Joined: 22 May 2013

Posted 16 August 2018 - 08:40 AM

That's a question of the wright catalogs and settings, I guess they both use the same software and are running on the same HW. The Stellarmate does autofocus, scheduled imaging, full automated runs with pier flips focusing, dome control, much wider support for camera's, focusers etc ... 

You can even have a cloud based control/storage for a beer a month.

 

/Yves

I expect that I can improve plate solve times in Stellarmate by adjusting index files and settings, although I have not had success so far. What I like about ASIAIR is that ZWO appears to have automated and optimized that part so you do not have to. It’s the natural next step of plate solving. Surely a device that can chug through star indexes can calculate FOV from focal length and sensor size and then pick the best indexes to solve for you automatically. 


  • psandelle and CraigShelley like this

#22 vdb

vdb

    Apollo

  • -----
  • Posts: 1417
  • Joined: 08 Dec 2009

Posted 16 August 2018 - 10:03 AM

I expect that I can improve plate solve times in Stellarmate by adjusting index files and settings, although I have not had success so far. What I like about ASIAIR is that ZWO appears to have automated and optimized that part so you do not have to. It’s the natural next step of plate solving. Surely a device that can chug through star indexes can calculate FOV from focal length and sensor size and then pick the best indexes to solve for you automatically. 

They are using the same engine I think, what normally speeds up the solving quite dramatically is the downsample parameter, I downsample by 2 ... also make sure you have the pixel scale set correctly, that will help to.

 

/Yves



#23 CraigShelley

CraigShelley

    Sputnik

  • *****
  • topic starter
  • Posts: 42
  • Joined: 17 Jul 2013
  • Loc: Utah

Posted 16 August 2018 - 02:23 PM

Was just testing my raspberry pi with INDI. It all works but, my goodness some of you have low standards for what constitutes acceptable performance

I'll stick with my NUC

As far as I know, you cannot install KStars with Rasbian.  Did you use Ubuntu?  Also, please verify if you're comparing KStars on Windows with the Pi running KStars.  Right now, it isn't clear to me though that your Raspberry Pi software has much in common with the ASiair.



#24 MattC867

MattC867

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 219
  • Joined: 18 Jun 2016

Posted 16 August 2018 - 11:07 PM

As far as I know, you cannot install KStars with Rasbian.  Did you use Ubuntu?  Also, please verify if you're comparing KStars on Windows with the Pi running KStars.  Right now, it isn't clear to me though that your Raspberry Pi software has much in common with the ASiair.

I have a Pi with Stellarmate OS.  With kstars.  However, I'm talking about system responsiveness in general - so don't get too hung up on comparing what apps are on each platform.  These are the issues with RPi systems as I see them:

 

Native Use:

If you use it naively it's very slow.  What can you expect - it's an ARM system the size of a credit card.  Trying to open apps, messing around in the settings, ect. It all takes way too long - I hate futzing around in the dark with software; especially in the field. 

 

You click to open an app...10 seconds later it's still not open...did it register your click?...click again...oh **** now its trying to launch twice -- blach! I hate it

 

INDI Use:

Maybe I use it wrong here, but the problem for me comes down to the framing stage.  I realize that it's possible to have autoguiding, autofocus(?), and plate solve(?) all done at the local level without having to transfer those images to the client for processing; but when I am testing out gain settings or framing I need to have the images sent back to my client machine.  On my network this takes 3ish minutes per frame.  It's a real pain point. If I am wrong about server side platesolve and autofocus then having to transfer those images to the client for those steps means even more delay.  ASIair may beat Stellar Mate here - but I imagine the framing issue remains.

 

Like I said, I also have the Windows based NUC runnig ASCOM and SGP so every time I experiment with the Pi all I'm left thinking is "Why bother."


Edited by MattC867, 16 August 2018 - 11:26 PM.

  • ldcarson likes this

#25 MattC867

MattC867

    Mariner 2

  • -----
  • Posts: 219
  • Joined: 18 Jun 2016

Posted 16 August 2018 - 11:15 PM

I mean; this is basically same price ballpark as the ASIair ($198 at time of post)

 

https://www.amazon.c...1_t4_B0728F8JS5


Edited by MattC867, 16 August 2018 - 11:16 PM.



CNers have asked about a donation box for Cloudy Nights over the years, so here you go. Donation is not required by any means, so please enjoy your stay.


Recent Topics






Cloudy Nights LLC
Cloudy Nights Sponsor: Astronomics