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Advice on CCD purchase -- I know a can of worms

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#1 WalterG

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 03:50 PM

I own an ASI1600 Mono and something is wrong with the cooler, I contacted ZWO and I'm working on that but that story is for another time. The ASI1600 is almost 3 years old and I've gotten used to it.  When I purchase the camera I was not aware of the best pixel size I should use to match my scope so I just bin to get close to what I need.  It turns out that I need a pixel size between 5-6um.  I usually work on deep-sky object's limited to Mag ~13, and I own an f10 scope.  I live in a light-polluted area and if I go for longer exposures sky background becomes a big issue.  I'm tired of dealing with CMOS issues like Amp-glow and messing around with gain offset and the cooler malfunctioning after 2+ years. I'm willing to give-in on the chip size if I can get cleaner images off the camera. Also, I only image in narrow band because of the light pollution. I'm not sure what to think of the Sony vs. Kodak sensor discussion so I'm open to both. 

 

I want to buy a CCD and my budget is no more than about $4k.  I have been looking at Starlight Xpress Trius SX-825, several Atik cameras including the 383L.  Both of these are much less than my max budget but I don't need to spend all of the money if I can get the right camera.  That's where I hope some of you can come in and help.  I have read all the threads I could about CCD selection on CN but some of them are old and don't take into account the new cameras that are now available. Other threads are about purchasing CMOS cameras. So I wanted to start up a best CCD thread again. Any advice you give me will be greatly appreciated. 

Walter 

.   


Edited by WalterG, 20 August 2019 - 10:01 AM.


#2 fetoma

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 04:20 PM

Probably one of the KAF-16200 chip models. Google KAF-16200 and you'll find them.

 

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Edited by fetoma, 19 August 2019 - 04:23 PM.

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#3 rgsalinger

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 04:53 PM

The QHY16200A camera is 4000 dollars and comes with a wheel and an OAG. (Or at least mine did.) I love the camera now that I understand a couple of quirks. Mine has been used remotely night after night for almost two years now without a failure. Seems very solid and well thought out. Make sure you buy UNMOUNTED filters, they are much easier to use in the wheel.

Rgrds-Ross


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#4 lucam

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 04:54 PM

$4k is a tough target. You can go for the KAF-8300, which meets your pixel size spec but will suffer from high read-noise (see the other thread on the front page). At f10 it will not be easy to collect enough photons on this sensor and you better have a sturdy mount and steady skies. 

 

You did not say anything about your desired field of view. The KAF-16200 that was already suggested, would be an excellent choice but it would certainly exceed by a fair margin your dollar target. 50mm filters are not cheap.

 

If you are willing to go for a small sensor, the ICX-694 may be a good compromise for you. It's very sensitive, low-noise, and pixel size is a little smaller than your desired range but not terribly so. There are several camera manufacturers using this sensor at various price points. You would only need 1.25in filters, which you are likely to have already with your 1600.  


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#5 bobzeq25

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 05:16 PM

Well, if you could afford to spend a little less.  <grin>

 

My Atik 460EXM(ono) is a joy to live with, the data easy to process.  Sony 694 chip (the key thing).  Not only does it have no amp glow, thermal noise is so low I don't do darks.

 

5 electrons read noise.  Not great by CMOS standards, quite decent for a CCD.

 

As stated above the 4.54 pixels are a little smaller than you want.  But, they'd work OK, and even better with an F6.3 reducer on the scope.  The camera also bins well, meaning the read noise binned 2X2 is close to the same as the read noise unbinned.

 

Personally I wouldn't spend $2500 for it again, I'd buy a CMOS, and deal with the issues.  But that's _solely_ a price issue, I wouldn't trade it for a CMOS now.  

 

It might be exactly what you're looking for.


Edited by bobzeq25, 19 August 2019 - 05:26 PM.

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#6 Marcelofig

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 07:07 PM

What are your problems with cooling the ASI1600? If it is the fan it is very easy and inexpensive to replace.

 

This is the fan it uses (the cable may be a little long, but it's easy to handle):

 

https://www.amazon.c...0?ie=UTF8&psc=1



#7 FlankerOneTwo

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 07:22 PM

The 1600s also had some issues with the TEC power connector being a little loose. Fan comes on but camera never cools. If this is the problem, it is easily fixed by removing the rear part of the can, unplugging the little TEC power plug, bending the little prongs in slightly, and re-connecting.



#8 WalterG

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 08:58 PM

What are your problems with cooling the ASI1600? If it is the fan it is very easy and inexpensive to replace.

 

This is the fan it uses (the cable may be a little long, but it's easy to handle):

 

https://www.amazon.c...0?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I did swap out the fan and I still have the problem.  When I cool to any temp below ambient my stars are elongated. Without cooling the stars are perfect, well as perfect as I can get them.  I have emailed ZWO numerous times but with translation problems it is nearly impossible to communicate with them.  I'll keep at it, but the last email to them they pointed out that the camera is 2+ years old.  So I think its now my problem and not their's  



#9 WalterG

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 08:59 PM

The 1600s also had some issues with the TEC power connector being a little loose. Fan comes on but camera never cools. If this is the problem, it is easily fixed by removing the rear part of the can, unplugging the little TEC power plug, bending the little prongs in slightly, and re-connecting.

I'm just repeating myself here, but...

 

I did swap out the fan and I still have the problem.  When I cool to any temp below ambient my stars are elongated. Without cooling the stars are perfect, well as perfect as I can get them.  I have emailed ZWO numerous times but with translation problems it is nearly impossible to communicate with them.  I'll keep at it, but the last email to them they pointed out that the camera is 2+ years old.  So I think its now my problem and not their's



#10 WalterG

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 09:11 PM

$4k is a tough target. You can go for the KAF-8300, which meets your pixel size spec but will suffer from high read-noise (see the other thread on the front page). At f10 it will not be easy to collect enough photons on this sensor and you better have a sturdy mount and steady skies. 

 

You did not say anything about your desired field of view. The KAF-16200 that was already suggested, would be an excellent choice but it would certainly exceed by a fair margin your dollar target. 50mm filters are not cheap.

 

If you are willing to go for a small sensor, the ICX-694 may be a good compromise for you. It's very sensitive, low-noise, and pixel size is a little smaller than your desired range but not terribly so. There are several camera manufacturers using this sensor at various price points. You would only need 1.25in filters, which you are likely to have already with your 1600.  

I found this on an old thread but I wanted to ask you if you experience this:  "the Sony ICX694 CCD sensor suffer from what QSI called Sony Glow - an apparent glow that appears around long exposures, adding background gradients to faint images."  Do you get any Sony glow?  I know, or at least I think, that unless I'm willing to spend $$$$$$ a sensor is going to have some issue.   I'm just trying to figure out what is best at my price point.   Thank you for your response!  



#11 WalterG

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 09:28 PM

The QHY16200A camera is 4000 dollars and comes with a wheel and an OAG. (Or at least mine did.) I love the camera now that I understand a couple of quirks. Mine has been used remotely night after night for almost two years now without a failure. Seems very solid and well thought out. Make sure you buy UNMOUNTED filters, they are much easier to use in the wheel.

Rgrds-Ross

I just looked at the website and the camera looks interesting!  I can use my existing 2-inch filters, I get a built-in OAG and read noise look good at 10e.  Thank you for the insight!

Walter  



#12 lucam

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 09:58 PM

I found this on an old thread but I wanted to ask you if you experience this: "the Sony ICX694 CCD sensor suffer from what QSI called Sony Glow - an apparent glow that appears around long exposures, adding background gradients to faint images." Do you get any Sony glow? I know, or at least I think, that unless I'm willing to spend $$$$$$ a sensor is going to have some issue. I'm just trying to figure out what is best at my price point. Thank you for your response!


I don’t have a 694, but I do use a ICX-814 and have not experienced Sony glow. I think that was a problem with only some manufacturers (as you mention, QSI) and quickly resolved.




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#13 bobzeq25

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 11:24 PM

I found this on an old thread but I wanted to ask you if you experience this:  "the Sony ICX694 CCD sensor suffer from what QSI called Sony Glow - an apparent glow that appears around long exposures, adding background gradients to faint images."  Do you get any Sony glow?  I know, or at least I think, that unless I'm willing to spend $$$$$$ a sensor is going to have some issue.   I'm just trying to figure out what is best at my price point.   Thank you for your response!  

I know I've seen no sign of it.  For example, this 9X900" image of CED214, the Question Mark.    Bias and flats, no darks, -10C.  I applied gradient reduction, I always do with any DSO image.

 

Fullsize with details here.

 

http://www.astrobin....1497/B/?nc=user

 

CED214 v2.jpg


Edited by bobzeq25, 19 August 2019 - 11:25 PM.

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#14 terry59

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 07:13 AM

$4k is a tough target. You can go for the KAF-8300, which meets your pixel size spec but will suffer from high read-noise (see the other thread on the front page). At f10 it will not be easy to collect enough photons on this sensor and you better have a sturdy mount and steady skies. 

 

You did not say anything about your desired field of view. The KAF-16200 that was already suggested, would be an excellent choice but it would certainly exceed by a fair margin your dollar target. 50mm filters are not cheap.

 

If you are willing to go for a small sensor, the ICX-694 may be a good compromise for you. It's very sensitive, low-noise, and pixel size is a little smaller than your desired range but not terribly so. There are several camera manufacturers using this sensor at various price points. You would only need 1.25in filters, which you are likely to have already with your 1600.  

Once again, the KAF8300 read noise issue is not as dire as posts like this imply. I wouldn't trade mine for anything in the 4/3 size on the market right now

 

Markarians chain, 28 x 180 second luminance, shot with my Atik 383L+ 

Attached Thumbnails

  • markarians chain.jpg

Edited by terry59, 20 August 2019 - 07:16 AM.

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#15 lucam

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 07:48 AM

Once again, the KAF8300 read noise issue is not as dire as posts like this imply. I wouldn't trade mine for anything in the 4/3 size on the market right now

 

Markarians chain, 28 x 180 second luminance, shot with my Atik 383L+ 

Terry, don't get me wrong, I enjoy using the Atik-383L+ as well. However, the example you showed is a luminance frame. For narrowband, it's a different story.

 

With my 10in f4 Newt, Astrodon 3nm filters and Bortle 5 sky, 20 minute OIII or SII subs give a background signal that's ~300 ADU above bias. Read noise on my sample is about 10e and gain 0.41e/ADU, so R_n^2/G~240 ADU. I am swamping read noise between 1 and 2x. That means integration is quite inefficient and I need much longer integration times than with less noisy cameras. It works but on faint targets I often need up to 8-10 hours of OIII and SII data. See my recent Tulip Nebula for example.

 

Recently, I have started acquiring SII data and OIII (depending on the target) binned 2x2 to build more signal in background areas. If there is no fine spatial detail in these channels, it's a viable approach. 


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#16 dhaval

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 07:53 AM

If you want to be in the 5-6um pixel size, your best bet is going to be either the KAF8300 chip camera (the better ones sell for around $4K with filters - I would keep looking for a used QSI683WSG-8 with 1.25" filters - most folks have AD filters attached to the FW and you also get an OAG with the camera - all of this for around $4K). If you can swing an STT8300 with the self-guided FW, that is an awesome camera as well, just that it needs 36mm filters (although, SBIG does sell 1.25in inserts that will hold 1.25in filters - and depending on the scope that you may have, it may or may not have some vignetting). 

 

The issue with the KAF8300 chipped cameras is that they are long in the tooth and manufacturers who are making them today will most likely cease to manufacture them soon - the point in this being, if you do decide to sell it, you will likely have to discount it drastically to find buyers.

 

If the KAF8300 chip does not work, then there is the newer KAF16200 chip. It is a larger chip, has lower read noise than the KAF8300, larger well and overall a better camera than the KAF8300. The challenge with that camera however is that most of those cameras need 50mm filters. That increases the cost tremendously. Ross mentioned the QHY16200A - the 8-position FW camera does sell for around $4400, but if you are going to use quality filters, you are going to have to pay a very high price for those filters. Now, there is Astrel Instruments AST16200B - that allows the use of 36mm filters. From the images that I have seen, at F4, it does produce very minimal vignetting - but that ain't so bad because of the larger FOV that the chip provides and you can always crop. Calibration will remove the vignetting as well (or at least reduce it). The other good thing about that camera is that it is relatively cheap (cheaper than QHY, just how cheap will depend on exchange rates, import duties, etc.). The downside is that it is sold in Europe and if things go bad, you will have to send it back to Europe (but it is the same with many other cameras - either China or Europe; only SBIG and FLI are serviced in the US). 

 

CS! 


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#17 terry59

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 09:24 AM

Terry, don't get me wrong, I enjoy using the Atik-383L+ as well. However, the example you showed is a luminance frame. For narrowband, it's a different story.

 

With my 10in f4 Newt, Astrodon 3nm filters and Bortle 5 sky, 20 minute OIII or SII subs give a background signal that's ~300 ADU above bias. Read noise on my sample is about 10e and gain 0.41e/ADU, so R_n^2/G~240 ADU. I am swamping read noise between 1 and 2x. That means integration is quite inefficient and I need much longer integration times than with less noisy cameras. It works but on faint targets I often need up to 8-10 hours of OIII and SII data. See my recent Tulip Nebula for example.

 

Recently, I have started acquiring SII data and OIII (depending on the target) binned 2x2 to build more signal in background areas. If there is no fine spatial detail in these channels, it's a viable approach. 

Right, blue/OIII is the big trade with this sensor. I owned a 490EX but didn't care for the chip size. As always it is about trading one thing for another

 

smile.gif 


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#18 WalterG

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 09:45 AM

If you want to be in the 5-6um pixel size, your best bet is going to be either the KAF8300 chip camera (the better ones sell for around $4K with filters - I would keep looking for a used QSI683WSG-8 with 1.25" filters - most folks have AD filters attached to the FW and you also get an OAG with the camera - all of this for around $4K). If you can swing an STT8300 with the self-guided FW, that is an awesome camera as well, just that it needs 36mm filters (although, SBIG does sell 1.25in inserts that will hold 1.25in filters - and depending on the scope that you may have, it may or may not have some vignetting). 

 

The issue with the KAF8300 chipped cameras is that they are long in the tooth and manufacturers who are making them today will most likely cease to manufacture them soon - the point in this being, if you do decide to sell it, you will likely have to discount it drastically to find buyers.

 

If the KAF8300 chip does not work, then there is the newer KAF16200 chip. It is a larger chip, has lower read noise than the KAF8300, larger well and overall a better camera than the KAF8300. The challenge with that camera however is that most of those cameras need 50mm filters. That increases the cost tremendously. Ross mentioned the QHY16200A - the 8-position FW camera does sell for around $4400, but if you are going to use quality filters, you are going to have to pay a very high price for those filters. Now, there is Astrel Instruments AST16200B - that allows the use of 36mm filters. From the images that I have seen, at F4, it does produce very minimal vignetting - but that ain't so bad because of the larger FOV that the chip provides and you can always crop. Calibration will remove the vignetting as well (or at least reduce it). The other good thing about that camera is that it is relatively cheap (cheaper than QHY, just how cheap will depend on exchange rates, import duties, etc.). The downside is that it is sold in Europe and if things go bad, you will have to send it back to Europe (but it is the same with many other cameras - either China or Europe; only SBIG and FLI are serviced in the US). 

 

CS! 

So if I read the description correctly, there is a vacuum pump attachment on the camera and you need to pump a vacuum each time you use the camera?  Do you think this is correct? Also, just an FYI, doing a quick check the price seems to be ~ 4k the same as the QHY16200A series.  If you have a choice which one would you go with the QHY or the Astrel? 



#19 dhaval

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 10:01 AM

So if I read the description correctly, there is a vacuum pump attachment on the camera and you need to pump a vacuum each time you use the camera?  Do you think this is correct? Also, just an FYI, doing a quick check the price seems to be ~ 4k the same as the QHY16200A series.  If you have a choice which one would you go with the QHY or the Astrel? 

A couple of things about the vacuum. Yes, there is a vacuum pump for the camera, however, instead of using the pump, you can fill the chamber with a gas like argon at atmospheric pressure, seal it and it will stay dry for about 12-15 months, at which point you can refill the chamber with argon again. Not a bad thing. If you plan on using the vacuum pump instead of argon, you can probably go a few nights just using the pump and nothing else. This is more significant from a remote imaging standpoint, not so much if you're using the camera in the backyard. 

 

A couple things about the price - Astrel does not include an OAG. Strictly from a pricing standpoint, that is maybe a $150 dollar difference (convenience wise, it may be a whole lot different, but I have used cameras with stand alone FW and OAGs and I don't have issues with such set ups other than managing the back focus). However, Astrel allows you to use 36mm filters - that is a massive difference when you compare filter prices (and I am considering the better ones like Chroma and AD). So, I will leave it up to folks to decide which camera they want to buy. From a spec standpoint, there is not much difference between Astrel and QHY - both are Class 2 chips, the cooling is going to be around 40-45C below ambient, download speeds are going to be around 30s and read noise is going to be around 9e. 

 

CS! 


Edited by dhaval, 20 August 2019 - 10:06 AM.

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#20 WalterG

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 10:06 AM

A couple of things about the vacuum. Yes, there is a vacuum pump for the camera, however, instead of using the pump, you can fill the chamber with a gas like argon at atmospheric pressure, seal it and it will stay dry for about 12-15 months, at which point you can refill the chamber with argon again. Not a bad thing. If you plan on using the vacuum pump instead of argon, you can probably go a few nights just using the pump and nothing else. This is more significant from a remote imaging standpoint, not so much if you're using the camera in the backyard. 

 

A couple things about the price - Astrel does not include an OAG. Strictly from a pricing standpoint, that is maybe a $150 dollar difference (convenience wise, it may be a whole lot different, but I have used cameras with stand along FW and OAGs and I don't have issues with such set ups other than managing the back focus). However, Astrel allows you to use 36mm filters - that is a massive difference when you compare filter prices (and I am considering the better ones like Chroma and AD). So, I will leave it up to folks to decide which camera they want to buy. From a spec standpoint, there is not much difference between the Astrel and QHY - both are Class 2 chips, the cooling is going to be around 40-45C below ambient, download speeds are going to be around 30s and read noise is going to be around 9e. 

 

CS! 

I did a quick search for argon gas and I come up with large cylinders (for welding) and small cans that are used to fill wine bottles ????  What do you use?  I would imagine that the gas has to pure and dry.  



#21 dhaval

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 10:12 AM

There is a $20 can of 99% pure argon gas on Amazon, The can will most certainly last a lifetime. I don't have the name with me right now, but will be happy to look it up once I get home.

CS! 


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#22 WalterG

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 10:30 AM

There is a $20 can of 99% pure argon gas on Amazon, The can will most certainly last a lifetime. I don't have the name with me right now, but will be happy to look it up once I get home.

CS! 

No problem, I"ll find it on Amazon.  Thank you for your input! 

Walter 



#23 bobzeq25

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 10:50 AM


A couple things about the price - Astrel does not include an OAG. Strictly from a pricing standpoint, that is maybe a $150 dollar difference (convenience wise, it may be a whole lot different, but I have used cameras with stand alone FW and OAGs and I don't have issues with such set ups other than managing the back focus).

 

 

The big problem with integrating cameras and accessories is, when you want to change one thing (and you will) you would have to change out the others.  No, thanks.


Edited by bobzeq25, 20 August 2019 - 10:50 AM.

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#24 dhaval

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 10:55 AM

The big problem with integrating cameras and accessories is, when you want to change one thing (and you will) you would have to change out the others.  No, thanks.

it is a game of trade-offs. I have yet to find an issue with bits and pieces cobbled together. But, everyone has preferences and they live by those. I don't think that there is anything right or wrong about it as long as you know what you're getting in to.

 

CS! 


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#25 rgsalinger

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 11:25 AM

There are used Astrel cameras on sale at OPT. They have been there for months. Not sure if that's a good thing or a warning.

 

The QHY16200A has been around for 3 years. Mine was in use nightly in Arizona and New Mexico for 2 years and never had a problem. I have seen no one have trouble with these but the set up is not well documented. You need to use unmounted filters, period. You need, for some strange reason, to set the gain and offset yourself.

 

I'm not sure that any of the posters have actually owned an Astrel camera. I thought that the Astrel cameras were in some way "stand alone" from reading the website. I'm not sure that I want another 500k lines of code in my camera. Too much trouble integrating what I already have. Still, the savings in filters will be over a grand if you go LRGB plus NB so that has to be tempting!

 

Rgrds-Ross


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