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DSLR vs CMOS vs CCD with a $800 budget

astrophotography ccd CMOS dslr equipment
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#1 kimiwaffles

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 05:47 PM

I have an old DSLR that I planned to use for astrophotography. Turns out it's so old, "live view" isn't supported, and neither are long exposures over 30 seconds... even while using backyard EOS or APT.

So the question is... if you had $800, would you buy a DSLR, a CMOS or a CCD camera? Would you consider buying any of these used from the CN classifieds or ebay? Which camera would you get?

 

I have a William Optics ZenithStar 73 w/ a focal length of 430mm, f/5.9

I also have the Celestron 8SE w/ a focal length of 2032mm, f/10 (considering the focal reducer)

 

I plan to shoot both large and small DSO, so I want to make sure the camera I get isn't oversampling or undersampling on either of the scopes. I found the Bintel Astrophotography Calculator of great use while researching, but I'm looking to the wise and experienced minds of CN before doing too much research into one specific camera.

 

Thanks! 



#2 Jim Waters

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 05:57 PM

What are your long term goals?  Color, NB, Mono?  Do you want a Ha ready / modified camera?  ...etc.  What's your astrophoto experience level?

 

For $800 I would consider getting a refurbished DSLR.  Comes with a 1 year warranty.

 

https://shop.usa.can...le-lens-cameras


Edited by Jim Waters, 19 September 2019 - 05:58 PM.


#3 kyle528

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 06:18 PM

You'll likely want to stick with the Z73 to start with, it will be more forgiving, and f/6 is *much* more desirable over f/10. If you plan to pick up an astro camera, I wouldn't bother with anything uncooled. Set point cooling is the major advantage with these cameras, it keeps the noise very manageable, and lets you work from a master dark that correlates to your chosen settings (no need to take darks after each session, another huge advantage.) $800 likely won't get you into mono+filters territory, but you can find a good OSC for that. The asi294mc- pro could be found used at that price, and paired with the Z73 offers an acceptable image scale and a generous FOV. What kind of light pollution do you have and what kind of targets would you like to image most? These will be two large contributing factors when making a camera recommendation. 



#4 mstark

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 06:23 PM

I started out with a used DSLR (Nikon D5500) that I had modified for full spectrum. The articulated screen is wonderful feature, and I wouldn't want to use a DSLR without it. Upgraded to a Zwo 1600mm (also purchased used) and haven't looked back, though there was a lot more of a learning curve there. 

I buy almost any and all gear I can used. 



#5 mbechtel

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 06:23 PM

I agree with the DSLR recommendation, because remember you also need to buy or acquire software to process your photos. You also need mounting connectors for both scopes, and maybe a reducer for the 8 inch. Personally I'd buy a used Canon, and use Backyard EOS. 



#6 zakry3323

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 06:33 PM

If I had $800 and haven't done imaging before, I'd still probably stick with a newer DSLR. 



#7 ssa2294

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 07:24 PM

You might find Astronomy.tools.com helpful as well - https://astronomy.to.../field_of_view/

 

If you do not need to use the camera for other purposes right away, a good option would be a new Nikon d5300 (very popular for astrophoto.) and just get the body kit only. The extra savings could used to cover all the other added expenses you soon find. For me it did not take long before I began thinking about filters, and filter attachments, focal reducers & field flatteners. For me, it did not take long to consider adding a 2nd mount, camera, & scope to purchase by next spring (but thats just me). Point is, you will find you can get more than necessary spending well under $800. You can find good Nikon d5300 or Canon T6i kits with dual lenses for under $600 at Amazon.



#8 Bretw01

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Posted 19 September 2019 - 07:35 PM

You can get a used Nikon D5300 for $379 at Life Pixel, and have a full spectrum or H-alpha conversion done for another $275. https://www.lifepixe...-and-conversion

 

This has low noise and does not usually require dark frames. 

 

If you don't want the conversion, you can buy this camera new for another $100 and have the warranty.

 

Any DSLR you use will need a T-ring made for that brand to attach the camera to the scope. (For Nikon) -> https://www.stellarv...42-mm-catnikon/

 

I have no experience with canon so can't offer any advice on them.

 

Or you could buy an intervalometer for your current camera and save to the internal disk, depending on the model camera you have. This will allow you to get you feet wet and maybe get a better idea about what you want for an astro-camera.

 

I started out with an intervalometer - but using live view and Backyard Nikon was much easier and probably a better way to start.

It will be hard if not impossible to find a camera that works well with both the scopes you have, you might need one for each scope.

As mentioned above, it would be a good idea start with the WO scope.

 

You can use this website to plug in your scope and camera combo - it will tell you your image scale and show you the FOV on targets that you select.

http://www.blackwate...maging-toolbox/

 

 

 


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#9 knight_parn

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Posted 20 September 2019 - 06:50 AM

To get some decent results right from the start, you will need a guiding setup and a field flattener. Once you include them, your $800 budget would only be enough for a modded DSLR. If you've already got a plethora of lenses from a particular brand and plan to use your new cam for both astro as well as daytime, then go for a DSLR from the same brand as your lenses. Otherwise Nikon D5300 seems to be the most popular choice at the moment. Its low noise performance could rival some of the un-cooled osc astro cams.


Edited by knight_parn, 20 September 2019 - 06:51 AM.

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#10 bobzeq25

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Posted 20 September 2019 - 09:55 AM

With that budget, I'd go for a Nikon D5300/5500/5600.  Very similar, the later ones are not inferior, 5300s are getting hard to find.

 

An astro specific camera really only pays off if it's cooled, and you don't have the budget for it, unless you find a good one used.  Otherwise, it's like getting a DSLR, but with a smaller chip, smaller field of view.


Edited by bobzeq25, 20 September 2019 - 09:57 AM.

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#11 nimitz69

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Posted 20 September 2019 - 05:08 PM

Nikon D5300s can be had on EBay for $400 all day long.  Add a copy of BackyardNikon for image capture ($50) and you’re set ...

 

what mount do you have?



#12 tonyt

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Posted 20 September 2019 - 07:27 PM

The d5300/5600 is the obvious choice. Either buy one and modify it yourself if you are mechanically minded, or buy it from Lifepixel already modified. Here's another of my images taken recently with that camera and an L-enhance filter.

15x7 minutes lights only, poor transparency but directly overhead:

Helix030819_DBE.jpg50.jpg

 

It will probably take a few years before you outgrow the camera and want something more. Personally I'm happy to stay at this level due to the simplicity.

 


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#13 Stelios

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Posted 21 September 2019 - 12:44 AM

Piling on to the Nikon D5300/5500/5600 series. Very low dark noise which is a huge plus. Nice APS-C sized sensor which will cost double your budget in a cooled astro-camera.

 

For astrophotography you only need the *body*. Assuming you will be using capture software (like Backyard Nikon, APT, SGP, N.I.N.A. etc.) I will disagree with another poster--the articulated screen gives you nothing, when I was using my Canon T3i I had it closed all the time as the laptop provides the same information only much larger and clearer. (You will need a USB cable to connect to laptop and I imagine there's an AC replacement brick for the battery as there is for Canons, if so, it's highly advisable).

 

Buying used here *is* an option, and if so what you want is a *cooled* camera. CCD cameras are heavily discounted, look for a color one and *ask* before buying. CMOS cameras are not heavily discounted as they are much newer in general. Something like a cooled color ASI183MC-Pro might come up and would be a great buy.

 

Make sure you trust the seller though. Unless you a risk taker, look for people with several 5-star *sales* of roughly the same amount as yours, and also people with many *posts* here. And always ask why they're selling, and give the answer the sniff test smile.gif


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#14 Stelios

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Posted 21 September 2019 - 01:08 AM

Re not being oversampled or undersampled with 430mm and 2032mm. That's almost impossible. The ratio of image scales for ps=pixel size of camera in um would be

 

(206.3*ps/430)/(206.3*ps/2032) = 2032/430 = 4.72  (image scale = 206.3*pixel_size_in_um/focal_length_in_mm). That is very hard to do without undersampling the WO scope or badly oversampling the 8SE.

 

You have a bit better luck with the F/6.3 reducer (which you would want anyway to flatten the field and make guiding easier) where the ratio is 2.97. Let's call it 3. If your seeing is decent, you should target around 0.6"/px with the 8SE+reducer which would give you about 1.8"/px with the WO. Neither perfect, but not bad--I've imaged at both with no regrets.

 

To achieve this you'd want a camera with 206.3*X/1280 = 0.6 or X = 0.6*1280/206.3 = 3.72um (micron) pixels (approx).

 

THIS (QHY163C) might be the answer if you can stretch the budget--$899 new. This is the same size sensor as the super popular ASI1600MM-Pro (there used to be an ASI1600MC-Cool, but it was withdrawn and replaced with the ASI294MC-Pro which has larger pixels (which can still work with your two scopes, you'd be slightly undersampled with the short one) and is more expensive.

 

Note that I don't own the QHY camera, but I do have the ASI1600MM-Cool. The sensor size is very nice for astrophotography. 

 

Given that the QHY163C is over the top of your budget, and that you will likely have other expenses (reducer, guiding, cables, masks, filters, autofocusing down the line...) you may be better off with the Nikon which has a 3.9um pixel size, pretty close to the ideal discussed above.


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#15 nateman_doo

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Posted 21 September 2019 - 12:02 PM

For what its worth... having shot with a DSLR and cooled astro cam I am NEVER going back to DSLR again.  

That being said, you really can only use the astro cam for astrophotography.  At least you can use a new DSLR during the daytime.  



#16 Stelios

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Posted 21 September 2019 - 12:30 PM

For what its worth... having shot with a DSLR and cooled astro cam I am NEVER going back to DSLR again.  

That being said, you really can only use the astro cam for astrophotography.  At least you can use a new DSLR during the daytime.  

Well, the advantages will vary. If you shoot from warm temperatures, then the cooled camera will be far superior. If your DSLR has high dark noise (the D5300 series doesn't) then again the cooled camera will show huge improvement. A recent video I watched by the creator of Sharpcap, demonstrated pretty convincingly that from an average polluted site (Bortle 6 or so) and F/6 or faster ratios, thermal noise is a negligible component of total noise (from darker sites the importance rises and same for slower F/ratios)--this was for low-noise dedicated CMOS cameras however.

 

We all need a rich uncle and an ASI071MC-Pro smile.gif


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#17 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 04:46 PM

Well, the advantages will vary. If you shoot from warm temperatures, then the cooled camera will be far superior. If your DSLR has high dark noise (the D5300 series doesn't) then again the cooled camera will show huge improvement. A recent video I watched by the creator of Sharpcap, demonstrated pretty convincingly that from an average polluted site (Bortle 6 or so) and F/6 or faster ratios, thermal noise is a negligible component of total noise (from darker sites the importance rises and same for slower F/ratios)--this was for low-noise dedicated CMOS cameras however.

 

We all need a rich uncle and an ASI071MC-Pro smile.gif

So I'm still confused.  I'm in a Bortle 5/6 zone, have an f/5.6 telescope, and live in a warm climate.  I also watched Robin's excellent video.  I came away with the same conclusion as your first paragraph, that the cooling of the ASI071 wasn't super necessary.  (I'm equating "cooling" with the reduction of thermal noise, right?)

 

Then your second paragraph says we should get the ASI071 if we can afford it.

 

What about the ASI071 makes it such a compelling win over an unmodified DSLR that you'd ask your rich uncle for one? 

 

I currently have a Nikon D3200, which I expect is a bit worse than the D5300 in terms of noise, and the ASI071 a bit better than both, but not massively so.

 

Piecing together some data on the cameras, I find these numbers.  Nothing mentioned about thermal noise, and Robin's video only talks "typical" values.

 

Read noise:

D3200:  3.0e-

D5300:  2.4e-

ASI071:  2.3e-

 

Conversion noise:  (what is a "DN"?)

D3200:  0.60 DN

D5300:  1.20 DN

ASI071:  unknown



#18 Stelios

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 04:58 PM

So I'm still confused.  I'm in a Bortle 5/6 zone, have an f/5.6 telescope, and live in a warm climate.  I also watched Robin's excellent video.  I came away with the same conclusion as your first paragraph, that the cooling of the ASI071 wasn't super necessary.  (I'm equating "cooling" with the reduction of thermal noise, right?)

 

Then your second paragraph says we should get the ASI071 if we can afford it.

 

What about the ASI071 makes it such a compelling win over an unmodified DSLR that you'd ask your rich uncle for one? 

 

I currently have a Nikon D3200, which I expect is a bit worse than the D5300 in terms of noise, and the ASI071 a bit better than both, but not massively so.

 

Piecing together some data on the cameras, I find these numbers.  Nothing mentioned about thermal noise, and Robin's video only talks "typical" values.

 

Read noise:

D3200:  3.0e-

D5300:  2.4e-

ASI071:  2.3e-

 

Conversion noise:  (what is a "DN"?)

D3200:  0.60 DN

D5300:  1.20 DN

ASI071:  unknown

It was just an example of an excellent color camera. What makes it superior to a DSLR?

 

For one thing versatility. Not everybody images with your conditions (and even you probably will be imaging with both different F/L and under darker skies), and there are conditions where the cooling *does* make a difference.

 

Also creating a dark library is far easier with a cooled camera (you can *omit* darks with *some* DSLR's, but that doesn't mean that darks wouldn't have helped, although with the low-dark-noise they matter less).

 

BTW, no idea what "conversion noise" is--or DN for that matter. That's for the Jerry Lodrigusses of this world :)

 

And finally (although not 100% on this since I don't own an OSC--I opted for the 183MM over the 071MC pro versions) I believe that an unmodded DSLR still cuts off part of the spectrum which an OSC does not.


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#19 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 06:01 PM

And finally (although not 100% on this since I don't own an OSC--I opted for the 183MM over the 071MC pro versions) I believe that an unmodded DSLR still cuts off part of the spectrum which an OSC does not.

Actually, I believe this is true, at least for my camera, and one thing that's pulling me towards the ASI071.  The ASI071's sensitivity curve drops off pretty quickly right about the Ha line, but still strong.

 

ASI071-QE-e1509346837511-annotated.jpg

 

ZWO cameras tend to use sensors that come from other (non-astro) markets.  Anybody know if there's a DSLR that uses the same sensor as the ASI071?  Might be a lower cost option for environments where the cooling doesn't make so much of a difference.

 

 

EDIT: 

 

BTW, no idea what "conversion noise" is--or DN for that matter. That's for the Jerry Lodrigusses of this world [:)]

Conversion noise, from Robin's video, is the variation in converting the analog value in the pixel to a digital quantity in the output image.  But, yeah, DN is a mystery.  Also no value for conversion noise on the ZWO website.


Edited by TelescopeGreg, 22 September 2019 - 06:04 PM.


#20 Lighthound

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 08:08 PM

This goes into some noise, dynamic range and bit depth info.

 

DN stands for "Data Numbers"

 

http://theory.uchica...0d/tests/noise/



#21 dayglow

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Posted 22 September 2019 - 09:56 PM

If I recall correctly, the ASI071 shares the sensor with Nikon D5100 DSLR


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#22 TelescopeGreg

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 12:45 AM

If I recall correctly, the ASI071 shares the sensor with Nikon D5100 DSLR

Interesting.  With the specs of the ASI071 comparing favorably to the D5300, why is the D5100 not on the preferred DSLR list?



#23 bobzeq25

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 04:11 AM

Interesting.  With the specs of the ASI071 comparing favorably to the D5300, why is the D5100 not on the preferred DSLR list?

Unsurprisingly, there are good reasons why the recommendation here is the 5300.  If there's an activity where "the wisdom of the crowd" applies, it's AP of DSOs.  It's easy to invent things that seem "better", usually hard to make them actually work better.

 

The 5100 has the black point set at zero, which lops off half the bias, making calibration uncertain.  The 5300 has it set at 600 ADU, a significant advantage.  There are other smaller advantages, such as no moire filter on he 5300.  The 5100 is OK, but not as good as the 5300, there's no reason to prefer it, if you're making a purchase.


Edited by bobzeq25, 23 September 2019 - 09:28 AM.


#24 terry59

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 06:33 AM

Interesting.  With the specs of the ASI071 comparing favorably to the D5300, why is the D5100 not on the preferred DSLR list?

IIRC the D5100 has a Toshiba sensor where the 5300 has a Sony sensor



#25 mikefulb

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Posted 23 September 2019 - 10:10 AM

If I had $800 I'd save a little longer and get a cooled camera.


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