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Struggling on focusing with SGPro (not consistent focus) - alternatives?

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#1 SebaAstro

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 06:00 AM

I have been having quite some challenging with getting consistent focusing result with SGPro. I have been reading around that this has being a common issues in this software and with poor response from SGPro team.

Since i really love SGPro i don't want to migrate to a different application ( f.i. N.I.N.A.).

 

So my question is: what  other softwares can I use that has a more sophisticated algorithm and that at the same time is integrated with SGPro or not affecting the on-going SGPro session ?

Let me explain: if i decide to use FocusMax for example (it should be one of the best out there) and i use it as a stand alone (can I ???) , when it starts the focusing process what will happen to SGProwhile being in the middle of integrating a picture?

 

Any suggestion will be very helpful since i have been ruining to many nights, finding out that during the night and after automatic refocusing,  SGPro jumped the HFR from 1.8/2.5 to 3-4 !!!!!! (by the way, the focusing curve i get is quite OK , not perfect, but sometime SGPro  just doesn't  get it right).

 

thanks

Seba



#2 entilza

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 06:13 AM

What equipment are you using?

When the autofocus completes do you ever get a pop up warning at the final step when it goes to the midpoint and verifies the final HFR?

If so you need to setup backlash compensation in SGP. In the control panel -> focuser -> OTHER button. There you can enter some backlash steps and IN direction for example. This is necessary even if you are using hardware backlash compensation sometimes. I found after this I get perfect results in SGP.

#3 SebaAstro

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 06:18 AM

What equipment are you using?

When the autofocus completes do you ever get a pop up warning at the final step when it goes to the midpoint and verifies the final HFR?

If so you need to setup backlash compensation in SGP. In the control panel -> focuser -> OTHER button. There you can enter some backlash steps and IN direction for example. This is necessary even if you are using hardware backlash compensation sometimes. I found after this I get perfect results in SGP.

 

My equipment is listed in my signature. I do use backlash compensation (the value should be fairly correct) and when the autofocus completes that pop up warning at the final step shows a  midpoint that is not quite the minimum (sometime acceptable sometime is too far ...hence the inconsistency).

Sorry if i didn't specify this at the beginning



#4 ChrisWhite

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 06:26 AM

I feel your pain. you cant use anything else for focus and have it automate with SGP. That's one of the big gripes with the program for those who have focusing issues. You can manually pause SGP and then run focus boss...

You said you don't want to learn another software because you like SGP. I'm in the same boat. For the most part, I love SGP other than the focusing issues from time to time, botched meridian flips from time to time, bugs and crashes... I'm not being sarcastic, I love the UI, the framing wizard, even the flats wizard works well for me.

That said, I'm tired of those issues and lack of response from the devs. I just downloaded a trial version of voyager and after poking around a bit it looks pretty good. I'm going to tune in to bill long's (rockstarbill) presentation on TAIC in a couple of weeks on voyager and see if it's a viable replacement for me.

From what I have seen and heard, there is a compelling argument to switch.
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#5 Eric Horton

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 06:33 AM

If I'm not mistaken focus max requires maxim dl or another to take the pictures. It seems those with focus issues have to go to a different program. I appreciate your situation I love sgp too and some of its features. Frame wizard is hard to give up
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#6 SebaAstro

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 06:34 AM

I feel your pain. you cant use anything else for focus and have it automate with SGP. That's one of the big gripes with the program for those who have focusing issues. You can manually pause SGP and then run focus boss...

You said you don't want to learn another software because you like SGP. I'm in the same boat. For the most part, I love SGP other than the focusing issues from time to time, botched meridian flips from time to time, bugs and crashes... I'm not being sarcastic, I love the UI, the framing wizard, even the flats wizard works well for me.

That said, I'm tired of those issues and lack of response from the devs. I just downloaded a trial version of voyager and after poking around a bit it looks pretty good. I'm going to tune in to bill long's (rockstarbill) presentation on TAIC in a couple of weeks on voyager and see if it's a viable replacement for me.

From what I have seen and heard, there is a compelling argument to switch.

Thank you Chris! I just quickly checked Voyager website and it seems quite great. I will read more and then I will decide if investing a couple nights on trying it.


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#7 entilza

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 06:40 AM

My equipment is listed in my signature. I do use backlash compensation (the value should be fairly correct) and when the autofocus completes that pop up warning at the final step shows a midpoint that is not quite the minimum (sometime acceptable sometime is too far ...hence the inconsistency).
Sorry if i didn't specify this at the beginning

Ok if you are getting a pop up warning on final check its not really SGP causing this in my opinion it is your focuser.

Remember whats happening on the final step: SGP goes back to the mid point position and takes a new picture to validate the HFR falls in the expected range.

I also have the pegasus focuser and it works perfectly after a few adjustments.

Are you using the flexible coupler or a solid one? After I switched to a solid one it started working very well. Only because my focuser is fairly tight.

The focuser is having issues getting back to the same spot. If you tape a toothpick to your focuser knob you can move your focuser lets say 6 positions forward using the rough adjustment (120 steps example) to move it forward then nove it back 6. The toothpick should point exactly at the same position.

Try a backlash comp of at least 60 steps. These numbers may vary for your setup.

PS. Test this when scope is pointing up as well. Very important to get the max load on focuser. The good news this can be all done indoors.

Edited by entilza, 25 May 2019 - 06:47 AM.


#8 ChrisWhite

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 06:54 AM

Thank you Chris! I just quickly checked Voyager website and it seems quite great. I will read more and then I will decide if investing a couple nights on trying it.

 

I'm starting with their manual here:  https://voyager.tour...ges/voyager.pdf


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#9 rgsalinger

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 07:57 AM

Focusmax requires MaximDL or the SKYX camera add on to for camera control. It is the best thing for focusing generally available. What really separates it out is the ability to use the planetarium feature in MDL and SKYX to find and slew to an appropriate star (not too bright or too dim) focus there, and then precision slew back to your object.

 

SGP is stuck with whatever star it picks in the frame as far I've been able to determine. Can SGP use temperature control to autofocus? If so, then that would be my first choice rather than learn yet another piece of comprehensive imaging software which is going to have its own limitations and foibles. If you do as I do and use periodic focusing during the night, remember that a passing cloud can mess you up and there might or might not be an appropriate star in your image. 

 

Rgrds-Ross



#10 epdreher

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 08:08 AM

I'm starting with their manual here:  https://voyager.tour...ges/voyager.pdf

https://m.youtube.co...?v=TTKLjFbB9vs 



#11 Stelios

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 01:11 PM

<snip>

SGP is stuck with whatever star it picks in the frame as far I've been able to determine. 

<snip>

That's not how SGP works. SGP assumes a close focus (that you have to achieve, e.g. with a Bahtinov mask). But then it gets the HFR (Half Flux Radius) of all stars above a particular threshold pixel size (minimum star diameter), and uses *that* as its metric.

 

My guess is that the OP's problem is one of two things: 

 

1) Insufficient backlash compensation (or erroneous direction). 

2) Focuser slippage.


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#12 SebaAstro

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 01:51 PM

Ok if you are getting a pop up warning on final check its not really SGP causing this in my opinion it is your focuser.

Remember whats happening on the final step: SGP goes back to the mid point position and takes a new picture to validate the HFR falls in the expected range.

I also have the pegasus focuser and it works perfectly after a few adjustments.

Are you using the flexible coupler or a solid one? After I switched to a solid one it started working very well. Only because my focuser is fairly tight.

The focuser is having issues getting back to the same spot. If you tape a toothpick to your focuser knob you can move your focuser lets say 6 positions forward using the rough adjustment (120 steps example) to move it forward then nove it back 6. The toothpick should point exactly at the same position.

Try a backlash comp of at least 60 steps. These numbers may vary for your setup.

PS. Test this when scope is pointing up as well. Very important to get the max load on focuser. The good news this can be all done indoors.

I am using solid couplers. The backlash is 70 steps. So based on your inputs i think that the problems is that when i calculated the step i tested with the OTA horizontal and not pointing up like you suggested (max load). I will need to check potential focus slippage (i may need tight the top and bottom screw).

 

Once this is done i kind have the feeling that i will get consistency...and keep loving SGPro. I will let you.

Thanks for the excellent inputs!!!!


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#13 SebaAstro

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 01:53 PM

That's not how SGP works. SGP assumes a close focus (that you have to achieve, e.g. with a Bahtinov mask). But then it gets the HFR (Half Flux Radius) of all stars above a particular threshold pixel size (minimum star diameter), and uses *that* as its metric.

 

My guess is that the OP's problem is one of two things: 

 

1) Insufficient backlash compensation (or erroneous direction). 

2) Focuser slippage.

i agree. It may be a combination of both. I will do some checks/tests and hopefully i will be able to fix it.

I will let you know about results !!!

Starting all over again with a new application different from SGPro could be a pain.... <smile>



#14 diggy

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 02:00 PM

I'll put in a plug for Voyager: its focus routines ( single star or field ) are amazingly fast and accurate. I too like SGP UI but keep going back to Voyager. Scripting and flexible error management are hard to beat. I sometimes set up framing in SGP and transfer coords to Voyager by hand;a nuisance but doable. Took some effort to get everything up and running and to get used to the UI but worth it. I find myself using SGP for short interactive sessions but rely on Voyager for unattended trouble-free all night sessions.
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#15 gundark

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 02:53 PM

I’ll put in another plug for Voyager. It is extremely efficient, flexible, and reliable. I absolutely love its autofocus routines. It will also work with external focusing programs, if you prefer.  The main shortcoming, in my opinion, is the lack of a built-in image viewer, but this is currently in development. The developer is extremely responsive to user input.

 

The main web site is here.
The English wiki is here.

The forum is here

 

In response to the OP’s original question, keep in mind that as your local seeing changes during the night, you will see variation in your HFR measurements in SGP. This is normal. You may well have other focusing issues, but there is no escaping the effect of seeing on focus.


Edited by gundark, 25 May 2019 - 06:29 PM.


#16 kathyastro

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 02:55 PM

I would vote for focuser slippage.  I have the same problem.  The Crayford focuser just doesn't have enough traction to lift my camera and filter wheel.  So 100 steps in the up direction does not move as far as 100 steps in the down direction.  That makes the focuser positions unrepeatable, and means that SGP cannot find the right focus position.

 

Until I can replace the Crayford with a rack-and-pinion, I just focus manually with a Bahtinov mask.



#17 Joe G

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 03:45 PM

Seriously, give NINA a try.

 

It is the most elegant piece of software that I have seen for imaging.  Yes it is still under development, but you don't need a manual.  The user interface is so much better than SGP.  The learning curve is very minimal.

 

And it is very stable, at least from my personal experience.

 

I struggled getting SGP to do a meridian flip.  With NINA it was simple and worked the first time.

 

Still have issues with SGP crashing or hanging.  Same set of drivers, never an issue with NINA.

 

Yannick (CN's name Cuivienor) has been worked on imprroving the autofocus module for OSC cameras.  It seems to work really good.  Look at his focus curves in the "First time trying NINA..." thread.  I believe the autofocus works fine for mono cameras.  There was something he improved for how NINA handles the bayer filter array in OSC autofocus.

 

Try the latest nightly version 1.9xx.  It is very stable and has some improved features over the 1.8 version.

 

Seriously this software has a simple interface but is very powerful.  Very intelligently designed.

 

Last night I imaged with no issues including a meridian flip and parking at the end of the sequence.  The scope I was using does not have autofocus so I manually focused.

 

Can't say enough good things about this software.  It isn't quite finished but is very usable.  Personally I think this will be the dominant software for most imagers, akin to how PHD2 dominates the autoguiding software.

 

And it is free.


Edited by Joe G, 25 May 2019 - 03:48 PM.

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#18 cfosterstars

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 07:04 PM

That's not how SGP works. SGP assumes a close focus (that you have to achieve, e.g. with a Bahtinov mask). But then it gets the HFR (Half Flux Radius) of all stars above a particular threshold pixel size (minimum star diameter), and uses *that* as its metric.

 

My guess is that the OP's problem is one of two things: 

 

1) Insufficient backlash compensation (or erroneous direction). 

2) Focuser slippage.

 

I would vote for focuser slippage.  I have the same problem.  The Crayford focuser just doesn't have enough traction to lift my camera and filter wheel.  So 100 steps in the up direction does not move as far as 100 steps in the down direction.  That makes the focuser positions unrepeatable, and means that SGP cannot find the right focus position.

 

Until I can replace the Crayford with a rack-and-pinion, I just focus manually with a Bahtinov mask.

A third vote to check for focuser slippage. The only issues I have had with SGP focus were all solved with better focusers. For my SCT, I could never get autofocus to work due to EXTREME backlash combined with the central obstruction. I fixed that by adding s feathertouch R/P to the SCT and now it is bullet proof. I have found that counter intutively that shorter exposures work better than longer exposures. My second issue with with my APO and crayford focuser. This was the stock focuser that came with my ORION EON APO. Compared to previous crayfords that I had this was really nice. Then the weather changed and after being successful for more than a year, I started to have issues then complete failure with autofocus. What I found was that the crayford was slipping and i I was getting the focus slipping from the v-curve to the final confirmation image. I would get the warning about the focus not being as good as expected. After a while the focus had wanded to the point that I had to recalibrate the focuser. I tightened it up as well as I could. this was actually a very nice 3" crayford that is actually well built. I just recently replaced it with again a feathertouch R/P and wow it is solid. These were not an issue with the software. It was with my equipment. It took me a while to admit that it was my hardware and cough up for the feathertouch. Now it is unquestionable a big enabler to my imaging. While others have seriously complained about SGP autofocus as a serious limitation (and I agree it could be improved) it is still just software. It can only do so much. I strongly suggest (and its your money and rig) take a serious look at your focuser first. Yes there could be better software out there for auto focus. I have used many (MaxIm DL, FocusMax 4, etc.) and they will "work", but none have been fool proof. They all took a lot of work to get going. 

 

What I love about SGP - and it clearly has its limitations - is that is works well as a package. It is also an amazing deal. I have licenses for just about every package out there and I hate to think about how much dead money I have in software packages that I will never use again. For me, its going to take a lot to move on from SGP.  But that is just me. However, check your hardware first before blaming the software especially for focus. 



#19 Jon Rista

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Posted 25 May 2019 - 07:54 PM

I have been having quite some challenging with getting consistent focusing result with SGPro. I have been reading around that this has being a common issues in this software and with poor response from SGPro team.

Since i really love SGPro i don't want to migrate to a different application ( f.i. N.I.N.A.).

 

So my question is: what  other softwares can I use that has a more sophisticated algorithm and that at the same time is integrated with SGPro or not affecting the on-going SGPro session ?

Let me explain: if i decide to use FocusMax for example (it should be one of the best out there) and i use it as a stand alone (can I ???) , when it starts the focusing process what will happen to SGProwhile being in the middle of integrating a picture?

 

Any suggestion will be very helpful since i have been ruining to many nights, finding out that during the night and after automatic refocusing,  SGPro jumped the HFR from 1.8/2.5 to 3-4 !!!!!! (by the way, the focusing curve i get is quite OK , not perfect, but sometime SGPro  just doesn't  get it right).

 

thanks

Seba

I am curious, what are your current SGP focus settings, for each filter? Aside from the previously mentioned issues, I have been finding that the HFR measure can be skewed quite a bit if the stars used for focus are not sufficiently exposed. Sadly, this requires longer exposures, which slows down the AF process (and I requested half a year a go now several improvements to the SGP focus routine, including ways to improve the performance of it...seems they are not interested in fixing it) and increases overhead time. But, with the right exposure, I have found the SGP routine works very well and is quite reliable.


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#20 SebaAstro

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Posted 26 May 2019 - 08:01 AM

I am curious, what are your current SGP focus settings, for each filter? Aside from the previously mentioned issues, I have been finding that the HFR measure can be skewed quite a bit if the stars used for focus are not sufficiently exposed. Sadly, this requires longer exposures, which slows down the AF process (and I requested half a year a go now several improvements to the SGP focus routine, including ways to improve the performance of it...seems they are not interested in fixing it) and increases overhead time. But, with the right exposure, I have found the SGP routine works very well and is quite reliable.

Jon,

here my exposure time per filter (during focusing routine I bin 2x):

  • Lum, R, G, B -> 6 s / each filter
  • OIII, SII -> 10 s / each filter
  • Ha -> 15 s 

 

the camera setting has GAIN 0 offset 10 and yy rig is listed in my signature. I will try with 10 sec exposure for Lum and see if i can obtain more consistent results but I am almost convinced that i may have some slippage (to be verified). anyhow, I didn't realize that the exposure time may be part of this equation!

 

I went on SGP website forum, and i saw all your messages requesting improvements of the focus routine but like you said i didn't see much of a positive response from SGP team after all this time :(. Quite ashamed.

 

-Seba



#21 cfosterstars

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Posted 26 May 2019 - 09:14 AM

Jon,

here my exposure time per filter (during focusing routine I bin 2x):

  • Lum, R, G, B -> 6 s / each filter
  • OIII, SII -> 10 s / each filter
  • Ha -> 15 s 

 

the camera setting has GAIN 0 offset 10 and yy rig is listed in my signature. I will try with 10 sec exposure for Lum and see if i can obtain more consistent results but I am almost convinced that i may have some slippage (to be verified). anyhow, I didn't realize that the exposure time may be part of this equation!

 

I went on SGP website forum, and i saw all your messages requesting improvements of the focus routine but like you said i didn't see much of a positive response from SGP team after all this time frown.gif. Quite ashamed.

 

-Seba

Well gain 0 is very low in general and that would likely mean you are not getting much signal to noise in your data especially with such short exposures.

 

For LRGB I use gain of 76 and for Ha, OIII and SII I use gain 200. Your OTA is a bit bigger than mine, but I dont think I could get my autofocus to work with that sort of gain and that short of time.  I suggest you try a higher gain or even unity gain of 139 depending on your focal ratio. You dont state that you have a reducer so that would mean you are at F/7? That would be slower optic system with low gain. For my F/7.5 SCT I use unity gain. I also never bin my camera and only run at 1X1 binning. I have never found any advantage to bining with a CMOS camera. The tendency to bin is more a legacy from CCDs.


Edited by cfosterstars, 26 May 2019 - 09:15 AM.

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#22 Jon Rista

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Posted 26 May 2019 - 01:18 PM

Jon,

here my exposure time per filter (during focusing routine I bin 2x):

  • Lum, R, G, B -> 6 s / each filter
  • OIII, SII -> 10 s / each filter
  • Ha -> 15 s 

 

the camera setting has GAIN 0 offset 10 and yy rig is listed in my signature. I will try with 10 sec exposure for Lum and see if i can obtain more consistent results but I am almost convinced that i may have some slippage (to be verified). anyhow, I didn't realize that the exposure time may be part of this equation!

 

I went on SGP website forum, and i saw all your messages requesting improvements of the focus routine but like you said i didn't see much of a positive response from SGP team after all this time frown.gif. Quite ashamed.

 

-Seba

Yeah, at gain 0 I would not be surprised if you need 10-15 second exposures even for LRGB. The quantization is so high at that gain, you want to make sure the stellar signals are quite strong to keep noise from skewing the HFR calculation.


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#23 SebaAstro

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Posted 26 May 2019 - 02:49 PM

Well gain 0 is very low in general and that would likely mean you are not getting much signal to noise in your data especially with such short exposures.

 

For LRGB I use gain of 76 and for Ha, OIII and SII I use gain 200. Your OTA is a bit bigger than mine, but I dont think I could get my autofocus to work with that sort of gain and that short of time.  I suggest you try a higher gain or even unity gain of 139 depending on your focal ratio. You dont state that you have a reducer so that would mean you are at F/7? That would be slower optic system with low gain. For my F/7.5 SCT I use unity gain. I also never bin my camera and only run at 1X1 binning. I have never found any advantage to bining with a CMOS camera. The tendency to bin is more a legacy from CCDs.

I don't use a reducer so i will follow your input to go higher with gain (will try unity). I just didn't want to go too low on exposure time for the pictures integration otherwise i will have too many pictures to manage. But at unit i think i can still manage a 60 sec (as i do at gain 0) without over saturating stars.

 

Awesome feedback...THANKS!

 

Yeah, at gain 0 I would not be surprised if you need 10-15 second exposures even for LRGB. The quantization is so high at that gain, you want to make sure the stellar signals are quite strong to keep noise from skewing the HFR calculation.

Same here Jon. I guess gain 0 for my setup is really too low but so far i was getting pretty good results. As i wrote above, i will try at unity and increasing to 10 sec the exposure on my focus routine. I will avoid binning as well.

 

I will let you know results at next opportunity.

Thanks much!

Seba



#24 Jon Rista

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Posted 26 May 2019 - 03:24 PM

I have not imaged in months due to the weather...so, I'm drawing a blank here. But doesn't SGP allow you to choose the gain you focus at? Or is that not an option? If it is, I would choose a higher gain, for one, but not too terribly high, and also increase exposure.



#25 cfosterstars

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Posted 26 May 2019 - 03:31 PM

I have not imaged in months due to the weather...so, I'm drawing a blank here. But doesn't SGP allow you to choose the gain you focus at? Or is that not an option? If it is, I would choose a higher gain, for one, but not too terribly high, and also increase exposure.

You can set exposure by filter in the filter setup, but there is no option to set the gain for autofocus. You can in the sequence for light frames, but I dont see that as an option for autofocus.




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