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ZWO ASIAIR First Light

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#1 marc_mawson

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 03:51 PM

As topic title, 

 

I decided a while ago to ditch the laptop as part of my imaging setup, happenstance found me in possession of two ZWO ASI camera's the 071 and 120 mono guide cam respectively, it seemed a logical choice to use an ASIAIR. 

 

I was admittedly skeptical, i have been using a laptop for a year now and i know how "touchy" the software is, with my main concern being that troubleshooting with a device that you cant really get into the back end of.

 

So it seems my concerns were largely unfounded, Its been a very wet couple of months in the UK so tonight was the first chance I got to use everything in anger. 

 

I use a QHY polemaster so i still needed the laptop for that (i'll use the ASIAIR next time), however it literally took 5 mins to get pointing towards NGC 7000 and plate solved / guiding, with the image sequence running. It feels like cheating... 

 

Anyway i'll write up a full review with pictures over the next few days (the weather is terrible).   


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#2 elmiko

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 04:10 PM

Looking forward to seeing your images and review! Good luck!

Mike



#3 Kaydubbed

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 03:06 PM

Congrats on the purchase. I am sure you will enjoy it.

 

I've had good experiences with it but came to the decision that I needed to move to Stellarmate

 

1. ZWO equipment only. I have a Moonlite stepper motor and a Pegasus Power Box. I need INDI drivers for these. No problem! The ASIAIR uses INDI drivers. Oh wait, everything but ZWO [and DSLRs] is blacklisted. D'oh!

 

2. Customer service can only do so much from China. My RPi3b+ board broke and I realized the power controller was busted [USB and ethernet port simutaniously failed. OK no prob I run to MicroCenter and get a new one. Well my backed up ASIAIR image doesn't boot because of its license check. I think the license hash is generated from the MAC address of the ethernet port, but I haven't dived into it too much. Anyways, I had to explain to ZWO over a few weeks that I didn't want an RMA, I wanted to roll my license over to the new board. I valued my imaging time over the $30 cost of a new board and didn't want to wait for an RMA, but I ended up having to explain in quite a few emails what I did. They DID give me the new license hash though. It just took a long time. The Facebook ASIAIR support group is very, very beginner [the main ZWO group is much better] and there is a lot of 'voodoo' there and a lot of name calling. I'm sorry you don't like to hear how you are severely cutting down your signal by stacking LP filters but it doesn't make me an *#&*$* and I'm sorry but your guiding issues are caused by your 25#s of gear on your AVX!

 

3. Going off of point 2, the new RPi4 is going to be nigh impossible to move existing ASIAIR OS images to due to their funky manual licensing. I am a systems guy and I want that power, so as soon as Stellarmate offered their hacked and slashed beta for RPi4, I jumped on it. I have it 'nearly' fully functional after one indoor night of troubleshooting and one outdoor night of imaging. Unfortunately I see an 'ASIAIRv2' being released in October/November for $150-200 and a lot of backlash on ZWO for the inability to migrate licenses.

 

4. Various features like Polar Align not working with my Losmandy, ASIAIR app crashing in the background when I switch over to SkySafari, only having an ad hoc network using the Pi's dinky internal antennas to join and not being able to use my home WiFi [which is excellent!] Lack of auto-focus hurts, too. The bleeding-edge releases haven't offered anything new since PA was introduced, and even that feature was not even ready for beta. The lack of new features lead me to think ZWO is limited by the Pi3b+'s hardware, but then again Ekos/KSTARS lite on the Stellarmate has many more features, but uses the same hardware. Maybe ZWO has abandoned the Pi3b+ platform due to the sudden release of the Pi4. Overall the ASIAIR feels like a beta product.


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#4 marc_mawson

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 07:54 AM

Congrats on the purchase. I am sure you will enjoy it.

 

I've had good experiences with it but came to the decision that I needed to move to Stellarmate

 

1. ZWO equipment only. I have a Moonlite stepper motor and a Pegasus Power Box. I need INDI drivers for these. No problem! The ASIAIR uses INDI drivers. Oh wait, everything but ZWO [and DSLRs] is blacklisted. D'oh!

 

2. Customer service can only do so much from China. My RPi3b+ board broke and I realized the power controller was busted [USB and ethernet port simutaniously failed. OK no prob I run to MicroCenter and get a new one. Well my backed up ASIAIR image doesn't boot because of its license check. I think the license hash is generated from the MAC address of the ethernet port, but I haven't dived into it too much. Anyways, I had to explain to ZWO over a few weeks that I didn't want an RMA, I wanted to roll my license over to the new board. I valued my imaging time over the $30 cost of a new board and didn't want to wait for an RMA, but I ended up having to explain in quite a few emails what I did. They DID give me the new license hash though. It just took a long time. The Facebook ASIAIR support group is very, very beginner [the main ZWO group is much better] and there is a lot of 'voodoo' there and a lot of name calling. I'm sorry you don't like to hear how you are severely cutting down your signal by stacking LP filters but it doesn't make me an *#&*$* and I'm sorry but your guiding issues are caused by your 25#s of gear on your AVX!

 

3. Going off of point 2, the new RPi4 is going to be nigh impossible to move existing ASIAIR OS images to due to their funky manual licensing. I am a systems guy and I want that power, so as soon as Stellarmate offered their hacked and slashed beta for RPi4, I jumped on it. I have it 'nearly' fully functional after one indoor night of troubleshooting and one outdoor night of imaging. Unfortunately I see an 'ASIAIRv2' being released in October/November for $150-200 and a lot of backlash on ZWO for the inability to migrate licenses.

 

4. Various features like Polar Align not working with my Losmandy, ASIAIR app crashing in the background when I switch over to SkySafari, only having an ad hoc network using the Pi's dinky internal antennas to join and not being able to use my home WiFi [which is excellent!] Lack of auto-focus hurts, too. The bleeding-edge releases haven't offered anything new since PA was introduced, and even that feature was not even ready for beta. The lack of new features lead me to think ZWO is limited by the Pi3b+'s hardware, but then again Ekos/KSTARS lite on the Stellarmate has many more features, but uses the same hardware. Maybe ZWO has abandoned the Pi3b+ platform due to the sudden release of the Pi4. Overall the ASIAIR feels like a beta product.

I was lucky enough to have at least a 2 hour window over the last two nights to Iron the bugs out of the settings and optimise, unfortunately the only thing i have to show for my efforts is a couple of 5mins test subs. verily I cannot describe how much the weather in the UK is depressing me (especially when you factor in that it's August). 

 

I use an EQ6-R Pro which has a SynScan Handset, I use ZWO camera's only (I also have an EAF, but i haven't tried it in anger yet)

 

1. Using the ZWO SynScan driver (which you have to do to get SkySafari to work) there is no option to enable tracking, I have to do this through the handset. 

2. Guiding is easy once you realise that its predicated on the actual slew speed of the mount in the ASIAIR App (i set mine to x8, if its set any higher the guiding will never calibrate itself) 

3. if you are used to Sequence generator pro you might be tempted to create a work flow for the entire nights shooting, the interface seems to imply that its possible, however if you do this it will run a single sub from each set, and then do it again... there is a button that says "group by function" which is probably the answer however i didn't try it out.  

4. you need a tablet, the interface is way to small to be that useful on a phone 

5. if you want easy goto you'll have to fork out for sky safari, but its easy to use. 

6. you do actually need to do a 3 star alignment to connect to a SynScan mount, however you only need to perform the function, not make it accurately 

7. i couldn't get the polar alignment to function, i also have a polemaster, which i wont be ditching any time soon. 

 

things i would wish for? 

 

1. HTML 5 web interface that looked and felt like the iPhone App, so i could use my PC, and not an apple or android device. 

2. The ability to active tracking in the App for SynScan mounts (you can do this on the SynScan Beta driver and the EQmod driver, then SkySafari wont sync.)

3. CDC or similar freeware cartographic program (in HTML 5) so i didn't have to use SkySafari

 

All in all the experience is positive. like I said i used a laptop for about a year with APT / CDC / ASPS / EQMOD, and getting all of the software to function correctly was... lets just say, not a guaranteed thing.   


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#5 Taylor

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 08:57 AM

I was lucky enough to have at least a 2 hour window over the last two nights to Iron the bugs out of the settings and optimise, unfortunately the only thing i have to show for my efforts is a couple of 5mins test subs. verily I cannot describe how much the weather in the UK is depressing me (especially when you factor in that it's August). 

 

I use an EQ6-R Pro which has a SynScan Handset, I use ZWO camera's only (I also have an EAF, but i haven't tried it in anger yet)

 

1. Using the ZWO SynScan driver (which you have to do to get SkySafari to work) there is no option to enable tracking, I have to do this through the handset. 

2. Guiding is easy once you realise that its predicated on the actual slew speed of the mount in the ASIAIR App (i set mine to x8, if its set any higher the guiding will never calibrate itself) 

3. if you are used to Sequence generator pro you might be tempted to create a work flow for the entire nights shooting, the interface seems to imply that its possible, however if you do this it will run a single sub from each set, and then do it again... there is a button that says "group by function" which is probably the answer however i didn't try it out.  

4. you need a tablet, the interface is way to small to be that useful on a phone 

5. if you want easy goto you'll have to fork out for sky safari, but its easy to use. 

6. you do actually need to do a 3 star alignment to connect to a SynScan mount, however you only need to perform the function, not make it accurately 

7. i couldn't get the polar alignment to function, i also have a polemaster, which i wont be ditching any time soon. 

 

things i would wish for? 

 

1. HTML 5 web interface that looked and felt like the iPhone App, so i could use my PC, and not an apple or android device. 

2. The ability to active tracking in the App for SynScan mounts (you can do this on the SynScan Beta driver and the EQmod driver, then SkySafari wont sync.)

3. CDC or similar freeware cartographic program (in HTML 5) so i didn't have to use SkySafari

 

All in all the experience is positive. like I said i used a laptop for about a year with APT / CDC / ASPS / EQMOD, and getting all of the software to function correctly was... lets just say, not a guaranteed thing.   

 

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

 

So to get the mount to track, I have to align, connect to ASIair, then go back to the Synscan controller to enable tracking? Seems like an unnecessary step. 

 

I use an EQ6-R Pro as well and I have an ASIair coming this week, which I will be using with all ZWO cameras. 



#6 Kaydubbed

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 08:59 AM

I was lucky enough to have at least a 2 hour window over the last two nights to Iron the bugs out of the settings and optimise, unfortunately the only thing i have to show for my efforts is a couple of 5mins test subs. verily I cannot describe how much the weather in the UK is depressing me (especially when you factor in that it's August). 

 

I use an EQ6-R Pro which has a SynScan Handset, I use ZWO camera's only (I also have an EAF, but i haven't tried it in anger yet)

 

1. Using the ZWO SynScan driver (which you have to do to get SkySafari to work) there is no option to enable tracking, I have to do this through the handset. 

2. Guiding is easy once you realise that its predicated on the actual slew speed of the mount in the ASIAIR App (i set mine to x8, if its set any higher the guiding will never calibrate itself) 

3. if you are used to Sequence generator pro you might be tempted to create a work flow for the entire nights shooting, the interface seems to imply that its possible, however if you do this it will run a single sub from each set, and then do it again... there is a button that says "group by function" which is probably the answer however i didn't try it out.  

4. you need a tablet, the interface is way to small to be that useful on a phone 

5. if you want easy goto you'll have to fork out for sky safari, but its easy to use. 

6. you do actually need to do a 3 star alignment to connect to a SynScan mount, however you only need to perform the function, not make it accurately 

7. i couldn't get the polar alignment to function, i also have a polemaster, which i wont be ditching any time soon. 

 

things i would wish for? 

 

1. HTML 5 web interface that looked and felt like the iPhone App, so i could use my PC, and not an apple or android device. 

2. The ability to active tracking in the App for SynScan mounts (you can do this on the SynScan Beta driver and the EQmod driver, then SkySafari wont sync.)

3. CDC or similar freeware cartographic program (in HTML 5) so i didn't have to use SkySafari

 

All in all the experience is positive. like I said i used a laptop for about a year with APT / CDC / ASPS / EQMOD, and getting all of the software to function correctly was... lets just say, not a guaranteed thing.   

ZWO SynScan driver? I had no idea you would need that. AFAIK the handset just needs a quick align to tell it to shutup and listen to the ASIAIR head. I thought maybe EQ was different than other Synta mounts, then I checked Trevor's ASIAIR workflow @ Astrobackyard and his workflow doesn't contain anything different than what I have experienced. Have you turned on tracking in the mount menu in the ASIAIR app? 

My workflow is as follows:

 

1. Physically set up - 10 minutes

2. Rough focus and Polar Align in SharpCap - 3 minutes

3. Turn on mount. With my Losmandy using G2, I am good to go. With Synta mounts, I just push 'quick align' or 'last align'. No need for 3* alignment AFAIK. We just need that bit saying the handset says the mount is aligned to show as on.

4. Connect ASIAIR. Connect mount, cameras, peripheries. 10 second preview shot. Platesolve in ASIAIR. Sync mount. ~ seconds

5. Open SkySafari and choose your mount type. I choose Celestron for my CGEM, or Losmandy Gemini for my G11T. ~seconds

6. Pick bright star like Vega and slew. Platesolve again in ASIAIR and sync. Recheck SkySafari for accuracy. Use Vega to fine focus with mask ~1 minute

5. Make a plan, start guiding and shoot. ~5 minutes before clouds roll in

 

 

I too have an EAF and it is pretty great! But no autofocus in ASIAIR : *( I've been able to fit that EAF box on all my OTAs. 


Edited by Kaydubbed, 21 August 2019 - 09:02 AM.

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#7 Taylor

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 09:18 AM

I sure hope ASIair gets EAF autofocus in the near future. I have both an ASIair and an EAF coming this week. 



#8 Kaydubbed

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 09:36 AM

I sure hope ASIair gets EAF autofocus in the near future. I have both an ASIair and an EAF coming this week. 

Autofocus routines seem to be very complicated to code and script. For example, Ivo at APT has been working on adding an autofocus routine for years. Ekos can do it, but I've read some threads about it take dozens of focus iterations before putting a stamp on it as 'focused!' In the meantime you can use a Bahtinov mask and adjust every few degrees in temp drop...of course this is not automation!



#9 marc_mawson

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 09:39 AM

Thanks for sharing your experiences.

 

So to get the mount to track, I have to align, connect to ASIair, then go back to the Synscan controller to enable tracking? Seems like an unnecessary step. 

 

I use an EQ6-R Pro as well and I have an ASIair coming this week, which I will be using with all ZWO cameras. 

I have copied this guide (best practise or not, it worked for me) from a post i made on the ZWO forums; I am waiting on the EAF support for the ASIAIR, to be honest the focus tool in the ASIAIR is pretty good, as with any focus tool, don't chase the seeing smile.gif

 

I am lucky enough to live on the top of a rather wide valley, so I normally pre-focus my main and guide scope against terrestrial objects about 5-6 miles away, which so far has illicited focus that was almost spot on. 

 

Full disclosure I still use my laptop to run my polemaster, however this is the first thing i do, and it gets shut down and packed away once I am polar aligned.   

 

I use a Skywatcher EQ6-R Pro, which has a SynScan handset.

First off ASIAIR needs the firmware version recommended when you go to connect, if the firmware version is less please update the firmware first the lastest version is 4.39.05 http://skywatcher.co...nload/software/ just follow the instructions on the website.

 

Secondly, there are two options for SynScan in ASIAIR; SynScan and SynScan Beta.

SynScan Beta has lots more features (it looks suspiciously like the EQMOD Driver), such as the ability to enable and disable tracking, and setting the guiding multiplier, however it will not function with SkySafari. For the time being I will continue to use the non Beta version.

 

(using the EQMOD drivers also functions, however please note that the mount must be in PC direct mode, and again you will not be able to use SkySafari)

order of operations (assumes the ASIAIR is powered on, and the mount has been accurately Polar aligned, and that both your main and guide scope have been focused)

 

1. connect the USB to RS232 convertor to the ASIAIR USB port, connect a serial to RJ11 cable to the RS232 end of the USB to RS232 convertor.
2. connect the RJ11 end to the Aux port on the SynScan hand controller.
3. Turn the mount on and enter the settings for location / time etc... when prompted to do so choose Alignment > 3 star alignment
4. At this point you do not have to perform a 3 star alignment, you just need to trick the handset into thinking you have, so go ahead and slew to the 3 stars you have chosen without checking to see they are centred (platesolving will resolve the inaccuracies introduced at this point)
4. once aligned go into Setup>Tracking and enable tracking at the sidereel rate (you are unable to do this through the SynScan driver through ASIAIR at this point, so it has to be enabled on the handset)
5. In ASIAIR choose the mount and click connect (i also choose sync from phone, to sync up accurate date / time location information for the handset)
6. once the mount has been connected go into SkySafari (minimum plus version, I use Pro) go into settings and choose the SynScan option (don't auto detect the mount), and then connect (Sky Safari should then display where the mount is pointed which if in the home position should be at the NCP (North Celestial Pole)
7. In SkySafari choose the observation target and choose goto, this will slew the scope to the target.
8. In ASIAIR choose to take a preview image (I normally take an image for 60 seconds at BIN 4)
9. Once the image has been taken click plate solve (it is critical that the focal length of the scope (including any reductions in focal length due to a reducer, i use a televue .8x reducer, my telescope focal length is 430, which is 344 after reduction) and location information is accurate to perform this step)
10. Once the image has been platesolved click sync, this will instruct SkySafari of where the mount is actually pointing.
11. Go back into SkySafari and if necessary repeat the Image>platesolve>sync steps until you are happy that the target is framed.
12. Once you are happy Go back into ASIAIR and choose the mount speed as 8x (if the mount is set to MAX or any higher than 8x it will prevent the guiding module from calibrating correctly)
13. Click guiding to bring up the guiding module and double click the RA / DEC adjustment chart (this opens the guiding interface) (i use 1000ms guide pulse with a 2000ms max RA and DEC duration, these are the defaults)
14. Set the exposure time to 2 seconds and click the loop button
15. choose a star and click the guide button
16. the guiding module will then go through a number of calibration steps, and finally the cross hairs will go solid green, with means the mount is guiding, i normally go back into the SynScan hand controller and make sure that tracking is set to sidereel at this point.
17. run your imaging sequence, please note that if you queue up your entire sequence (like you would do with sequence generator pro) that the software will run the images sequentially, one image from each type, so I normally just do my lights first, then darks, bias, and flats, keeping the object name the same.

 

Using the above I have had great results for guiding and was able to take 10mins subs of NGC7000, with very flat guiding correction chart.

 

Equipment used:

ASIAIR
SkyWatcher EQ6-R pro
WIlliam Optics ZS73
WIlliam Optics 50mm Guide scope
ZWO ASI071MC Pro
ZWO ASI120MM
Televue x.8 reducer / flattener
SCT Duo Narrowband filter
QHY PoleMaster


Edited by marc_mawson, 21 August 2019 - 09:43 AM.

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#10 Kaydubbed

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 09:58 AM

 

SynScan Beta has lots more features (it looks suspiciously like the EQMOD Driver)

It is lol.gif

 

ASIAIR uses the INDI drivers. 

 

 

I did some quick research and yeah the reason this process is so convoluted is because the SynScan encoders are not accurate enough for ZWO's platesolve packages...maybe? I think theories on why this doesn't work are wrong since platesolving seems to work after a rough alignment. I'd like to see if there is a 'quick align' or 'last align' feature in the HC that will allow you to connect to the ASIAIR much faster.

 

 

Sooooo a better working is to, I guess, ditch the hand controller and get an EQMOD cable. That seems to be flawless. And EQMOD support for SkySafari is coming 'maybe later this year'



#11 marc_mawson

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Posted 21 August 2019 - 10:51 AM

It is lol.gif

 

ASIAIR uses the INDI drivers. 

 

 

I did some quick research and yeah the reason this process is so convoluted is because the SynScan encoders are not accurate enough for ZWO's platesolve packages...maybe? I think theories on why this doesn't work are wrong since platesolving seems to work after a rough alignment. I'd like to see if there is a 'quick align' or 'last align' feature in the HC that will allow you to connect to the ASIAIR much faster.

 

 

Sooooo a better working is to, I guess, ditch the hand controller and get an EQMOD cable. That seems to be flawless. And EQMOD support for SkySafari is coming 'maybe later this year'

Once EQmod support has been added i'll get the dedicated EQmod cable and ditch the HC :) ASIAIR is admittedly an earlyish adoption, I can see the potential in it, and as it stands the process albeit convoluted produces great results, that that fact put ASIAIR beyond reproach in my opinion, especially when you consider the "learning curve" involved with using a laptop and the different bits of software involved. 

 

Its interesting that after a polemaster polar alignment, and a cheating 3 star align I slewed to NGC 7000 and it was only a little bit off (i admit NGC7000 is massive) but most of the nebulosity was in the frame. It only took one more solve and goto to get it framed up the way i wanted, that's pretty impressive however you slice it. 

 

Hopefully the ASIAIR will continue to mature as a product and go through some more release cycles the support and features will keep on coming, I am definitely a convert.   


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#12 ricar89

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Posted 24 August 2019 - 05:24 AM

this night used asiair for the first time. 

 

-correct setting in synscan, polar align through polar scope, did a 3 star align and checked through finderscope 

 

powered up asiair and connected the mount idem dito with skysafari 

all went good but when i goto hercules starcluster and synced with the mount

i didnt see it in my preview on asiair so my goto was was not correct ( 60 sec esposures at unity gain )  , i tried vega and scope was pointing a few degrees off 

tried with asairs goto same results

 

ive read people doing a sync in asiair when they start asiair to let asiair know where it is on home position

 

so im going to give it a try tonight and hope that solves the problem 

 

i knew that this night would be a night figuring out how to work with asiair, cant rely on the users manual theres nothing on there ! 

 

 

so i tried guiding 

i could not start guiding. seems that u need to put tracking on in the handcontroller.... 

 

seems like the customers need to figure it all out on their own

 

lucky enough whe can rely on the internet/forums etc.. 

 

 

zwo has to make good users manuals asiair/cameras .... 

customers shouldnt need to look everything up on the web to know how things work..



#13 marc_mawson

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Posted 29 August 2019 - 10:29 AM

I have had quite a few nights of using the ASIAIR now, I have never perfomed a proper 3 star alignment, and its never failed a platesolve and re-adjustment, the only thing close i have had was with skysafari, which for some reason thought my scope was point towards the ground when it was pointing at the NCP. It of course wouldnt accept the correction sent to it from ASIAIR, however, I just used ASIAIR to find the object and slew, and that updated skysafari.

 

Its been pretty idiot proof so far, and I am an idiot so I can judge it fairly. There is a slight learning curve, but its nowhere near as steep as some of the things I have encountered (Pix Insight I am looking at you). 

 

I got a ZWO EAF to try out and I can say I am very happy with it, I just need better (darker) skies, and less cloud...  




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