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Simple question: best EAA camera based on ease of use.

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#1 SimonIRE

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 09:46 AM

Hi All,
I’m interested in buying a dedicated EAA camera for use with my kids and at outreach events. Also I’d like to generate videos for lectures (although video capabilities are not essential).

Note I already have a QSI 683 for AP.

What are users opinions on the best options in 2019? Is the infinity now “yesterday’s” technology or have I got that wrong?

Many thanks

Simon

Edited by SimonIRE, 07 December 2019 - 09:46 AM.


#2 OleCuss

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 10:11 AM

Hi All,
I’m interested in buying a dedicated EAA camera for use with my kids and at outreach events. Also I’d like to generate videos for lectures (although video capabilities are not essential).

Note I already have a QSI 683 for AP.

What are users opinions on the best options in 2019? Is the infinity now “yesterday’s” technology or have I got that wrong?

Many thanks

Simon

I'm not sure exactly what makes a camera "easy to use" in another person's situation.

 

For myself I want a fairly generous FOV with the combination of the sensor and OTA and a simple connection.(few cables).  The generous FOV means it is easier to find stuff and to track it.  Oh, and I want it to do what I need or it is frustrating and does not put me at ease.

 

The Infinity software is probably about the easiest software to use from what I've seen.  Pretty capable despite its ease of use.  An expert with SharpCap will see more/better and if it will bug you to not get quite everything available then SharpCap might be easier - but for public outreach I'm guessing you'll find the Infinity software a better choice.

 

The Atik Infinity camera has a pretty awesome form factor for use with some of the fork-mounted SCTs and similar.  I don't think anything else comes close.  State of the art in that regard IMHO.  The single USB cable connection is also an "easy" feature IMO.

 

However, the Atik Infinity's sensor is rather noisy with large pixels.  This means a relatively poor SNR and for a lot of OTAs you'll be under-sampling as well.  The sensor is also small which doesn't make it out-dated but makes the FOV smaller and I consider small FOVs to be difficult rather than easy.

 

You might want to look instead at the Atik Horizon.  You still get to use the Infinity software but you get a bigger sensor with smaller pixels, you get a high-resolution image, etc.  If you use the cooling feature you'll need to run a power cable as well as the USB cable to the camera which isn't likely a deal-breaker.  But if you don't want to use cooling then you can run just the USB cable.

 

 

Now all that said?  Much of what makes a system "easy" is the software.

 

ZWO is developing their own proprietary software.  Since SharpCap works very well with SharpCap my best guess is that ZWO is planning to develop their software as a simple/easy software package for those of us who don't want to become experts at using SharpCap.  So the odds are good that the ASI Live software from ZWO will soon be very easy and very competent and will make you very happy with a ZWO camera.

 

But right now the ZWO software is in beta and is thus sort of vapor-ware and the Infinity software is a better bet for ease of use.

 

 

If you have a whole lot more money?  You could get the Stellina.  I consider that to be a camera as there is no provision for use with an eyepiece.  Right now it has a limited (but likely satisfying) catalog of targets and the small aperture also makes integration times much longer.  I'd really enjoy having one but at a whopping $4,000 it is simply not an option for me at this time.



#3 Muleskinner115

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 10:23 AM

The Atik Infinity wins my vote. Ease of use for the software is the deciding factor for me. This is EAA so I don’t really get hung up on the details. A nice quick view and move on to the next challenge. This is better than looking through an eyepiece for me. 

Tim


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#4 eyeoftexas

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 11:38 AM

+1 for ATIK Infinity software.

 

I use the Infinity camera, which definitely is easy to use, and does a good job for EAA.  But, I concur that you should also consider the Horizon, especially since the Horizon II is about to become available in a matter of weeks.


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#5 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 12:50 PM

+1 for ATIK Infinity software.

 

I use the Infinity camera, which definitely is easy to use, and does a good job for EAA.  But, I concur that you should also consider the Horizon, especially since the Horizon II is about to become available in a matter of weeks.

I could not find any information describing what the difference between the original Horizon and new Horizon II please?

 

Steve



#6 saguaro

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Posted 07 December 2019 - 02:21 PM

I could not find any information describing what the difference between the original Horizon and new Horizon II please?

 

Steve

https://www.atik-cam...zon2-technical/


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#7 roelb

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 12:08 PM

+1 for Atik Infinity

But you need a 12 V power supply.



#8 Noah4x4

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 02:33 PM

I reckon that it is the supplied Software that generally determines if an astro-camera is easy to use (or not). By contrast,  my Nikon DSLR had a 200 page instruction manual with so many buttons and settings I never fully mastered it. But all third party software is inherently more difficult to master, and the reason is obvious....

 

The joy of the Atik astro-camera range is that Atik's Infinity EAA (or Dawn AP) software is dedicated to that specific camera range. For example, my Atik Horizon has optimised low, medium and high Gain presets. The software mirrors that making the establishment of settings mega-easy. By contrast, Sharpcap and other third party software  aim to support multiple camera ranges, and that is where the greater complexity kicks in. It is also easier for Atik's software developers to maintain its own software as it only has to worry about one set of drivers. But it is simply a question of learning curve. 

 

I had the Horsehead Nebula on screen inside ten minutes with Atik Infinity software (I also use Hyperstar) and such ease after facing 12 months of frustration with my DSLR was rewarding. But eventually I graduated to Sharpcap and finally settled on Sequence Generator Pro. Sharpcap was initially frustrating as it didn't originally recognise he Atik Horizons presets. It does now, but that illustrates my point about drivers. I believe ZWO is now developing its own easy to use software dedicated to ZWO cameras recognising the benefits that Atik enjoy over support of the learning curve for newcomers and to reduce dependence on third party software (good as it might be). 

 

The Infinity is a fine camera, but I chose the superior (and more expensive) Horizon. It's 4/3" sensor and 16 megapixels  is awesome. But don't underestimate the computing, communication and battery power needed. It's cooled system pulls almost 2 amps (12v) which is almost double that of a typical scope. Also processing 16 megapixel data requires a fair bit of computer processor ooomph and storage. WiFi remote control is another layer of challenge. But, if one ignores price, I think the Horizon with Infinity software is possibly the easiest high quality output camera to master. 


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#9 Seaquel47

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Posted 08 December 2019 - 08:06 PM

+1 for the Infinity camera and software.  I started my foray into this field with it and was immediately rewarded with beautiful views of the Lagoon Nebula.  It's fun to use during outreach events since it is so easy to use.  I recently purchased a ZWO ASI 294 Pro and am working to understand Sharpcap but it is at another level of difficulty.  The Infinity is a good place to start and you can always move up as you explore the possibilities.


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#10 mclewis1

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Posted 10 December 2019 - 09:31 AM

IMHO the progression of easy to use software (easiest first) ...

 

ATIK Infinity

Starlight Xpress StarlightLive

Touptek ToupSky (and all it's many derivatives)

SharpCap

 

If someone wanted most effective or fully featured then the order would be different.

 

Clearly the broad concept of "ease of use" is also affected by patience, experience and familiarity as well as how optically fast a scope is and how sensitive the camera is. Optically fast means shorter exposures and a more immediate observing experience. A very sensitive camera can be "abused" and doesn't require as careful attention to tweaking and balancing of exposure time, gain, stacking, and the histogram to quickly produce acceptable images for observing.


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#11 Astrojedi

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 12:31 AM

Hi All,
I’m interested in buying a dedicated EAA camera for use with my kids and at outreach events. Also I’d like to generate videos for lectures (although video capabilities are not essential).

Note I already have a QSI 683 for AP.

What are users opinions on the best options in 2019? Is the infinity now “yesterday’s” technology or have I got that wrong?

Many thanks

Simon

 

What is your budget?

 

Easy for me is not just software but the whole experience including the mount you have to use and the OTA, focal reduction required, speed of acquisition etc.

 

Right now if you have the budget I would recommend the ASI533MC. It is one of the cleanest most sensitive sensor on the market. Due to the very low read noise and incredibly high dynamic range you can use 10-15s exposures and get to the same or better image as any other camera with much longer sub exposures. This will improve your EAA experience in a way you cannot appreciate without actually having used it. Allows you to use an Alt Az mount and have views as nice as longer subexposures with other cameras.

 

You can use the ASI533MC (like other ZWO cameras) in a few different ways:

 

1. For brighter objects, just connect up the camera to a Android tablet, turn up the gain, bin and you call see most bright objects in single 1-10s exposures. Works superbly for outreach. Cannot get simpler than this.

2. For fainter objects and/or for better image quality you will need to stack. You have 2 options here:

2a. ASILive - new release from ZWO - not as feature rich (yet) as Atik Infinity or SharpCap but super easy to use

2b. SharpCap - The most advanced live stacking and observing software on the market but also the most complex to use - having said that you can get up to speed with it in a couple of hours - just use my quick start guide.


Edited by Astrojedi, 11 December 2019 - 12:34 PM.

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#12 Don Rudny

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 12:36 AM

I agree with Mark’s assessment, but would add that Starlight Live is the only software available natively for both Mac and Windows that has Live stacking.  Touptek has a Mac version, but no live stacking the last I knew.  Not sure of the OP’s preference for color, but I can’t think of anything simpler than a Lodestar X2 mono used with Starlight Live software.  One single USB cable to a laptop.  The mono approach will make any EAA system simpler as well.  Getting the right color balance and saturation can make things tricky.  Color noise is another issue that can be exacerbated by sky conditions.

 

My first image head system was a Lodestar X2 mono with, what was called originally, Lodestar Live, and it opened up a whole new world for me.  Using it with a narrow band Ha filter with give another dimension to your viewing of emission nebulae.  I always enjoy mono viewing because it reminds me of traditional visual.

 

Used Lodestars come up for sale often and I know there are still a number of experienced EAA people using it with good results.  I think a used one could be bought for less than $400.  Make sure it is the more recent X2.

 

Don



#13 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 12:41 PM

I agree with Mark’s assessment, but would add that Starlight Live is the only software available natively for both Mac and Windows that has Live stacking.  Touptek has a Mac version, but no live stacking the last I knew.  Not sure of the OP’s preference for color, but I can’t think of anything simpler than a Lodestar X2 mono used with Starlight Live software.  One single USB cable to a laptop.  The mono approach will make any EAA system simpler as well.  Getting the right color balance and saturation can make things tricky.  Color noise is another issue that can be exacerbated by sky conditions.

 

My first image head system was a Lodestar X2 mono with, what was called originally, Lodestar Live, and it opened up a whole new world for me.  Using it with a narrow band Ha filter with give another dimension to your viewing of emission nebulae.  I always enjoy mono viewing because it reminds me of traditional visual.

 

Used Lodestars come up for sale often and I know there are still a number of experienced EAA people using it with good results.  I think a used one could be bought for less than $400.  Make sure it is the more recent X2.

 

Don

The only problem that I see with Starlight Live is unless you already own a Starlightxpress camera you are obligated to buy one sense you can only use their camera with Starlight Live. Their cameras are good but there are better cameras for the money on the market these days. ZWO ASILive software has live stacking and a Mac version Don that is being beta tested and works well.

 

Steve



#14 Don Rudny

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 01:58 PM

The only problem that I see with Starlight Live is unless you already own a Starlightxpress camera you are obligated to buy one sense you can only use their camera with Starlight Live. Their cameras are good but there are better cameras for the money on the market these days. ZWO ASILive software has live stacking and a Mac version Don that is being beta tested and works well.

 

Steve

Steve,

 

I was responding to Mark’s post where he listed four proven programs.  ASILive for Mac is in beta.  Haven’t really seen evidence yet that it “works well”.  Mark’s and my posts were primarily addressing the OP’s focus on ease of use.

 

Also, ASILive, Toupsky and Atik Infinity require purchase of a certain brand as well.  SharpCap is more universal, but still has issues with some brands.


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#15 DSO_Viewer

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Posted 11 December 2019 - 02:36 PM

I agree with Mark’s assessment, but would add that Starlight Live is the only software available natively for both Mac and Windows that has Live stacking.  Touptek has a Mac version, but no live stacking the last I knew.  Not sure of the OP’s preference for color, but I can’t think of anything simpler than a Lodestar X2 mono used with Starlight Live software.  One single USB cable to a laptop.  The mono approach will make any EAA system simpler as well.  Getting the right color balance and saturation can make things tricky.  Color noise is another issue that can be exacerbated by sky conditions.

 

My first image head system was a Lodestar X2 mono with, what was called originally, Lodestar Live, and it opened up a whole new world for me.  Using it with a narrow band Ha filter with give another dimension to your viewing of emission nebulae.  I always enjoy mono viewing because it reminds me of traditional visual.

 

Used Lodestars come up for sale often and I know there are still a number of experienced EAA people using it with good results.  I think a used one could be bought for less than $400.  Make sure it is the more recent X2.

 

Don

 

Steve,

 

I was responding to Mark’s post where he listed four proven programs.  ASILive for Mac is in beta.  Haven’t really seen evidence yet that it “works well”.  Mark’s and my posts were primarily addressing the OP’s focus on ease of use.

 

Also, ASILive, Toupsky and Atik Infinity require purchase of a certain brand as well.  SharpCap is more universal, but still has issues with some brands.

Don,

 

I was just responding and correcting your first sentence in your previous message " I agree with Mark’s assessment, but would add that Starlight Live is the only software available natively for both Mac and Windows that has Live stacking". Yes you are correct regarding that ASILive, Toupsky and Atik Infinity require purchase of a certain brand as well.

 

Steve



#16 rml63

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Posted 24 December 2019 - 11:49 AM

When you guys talk about a 12 volt power supply required for Atik cameras, are you referring to something like the Celestron Power tank or a deep cycle marine battery ?

 

Mike



#17 OleCuss

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Posted 24 December 2019 - 12:02 PM

When you guys talk about a 12 volt power supply required for Atik cameras, are you referring to something like the Celestron Power tank or a deep cycle marine battery ?

 

Mike

12 volt power supplies can range from power adapters/bricks to deep-cycle batteries to jump-starter packages.

 

Increasingly I think folk are moving to lithium ion batteries of one sort or another.



#18 Noah4x4

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Posted 24 December 2019 - 12:53 PM

12 volt power supplies can range from power adapters/bricks to deep-cycle batteries to jump-starter packages.

 

Increasingly I think folk are moving to lithium ion batteries of one sort or another.

Since the Atik Horizon and Infinity software has recieved much praise above, I thought I should mention as an owner that one consideration is the impact of cooling on battery requirements. My Atik Horizon requires 12v and draws almost 2 Amps. I use a Tracer 12v 22 Ah having discovered my Tracer 12v 8Ah depleted far too quickly if also powering other devices (focuser or scope etc). It's very easy to under estimate both power and computing requirements with a camera of this high grade, high resolution and cooling.

 

Whilst I don't use it for astronomy, I recently found a great value 12v 18Ah sealed lead acid gel battery (Haze HzY-I1-18EV) costing merely £52.95 (Rapid Electronics UK). Whilst designed for mobility scooters, it weighs 5.9Kg. Not as light as my 22Ah Tracer, but it is the quarter of the price. I use it to power a 1080p CCTV camera and wireless transmitter that I use for broadcasting video of cricket matches. But I suspect it could be a decent choice for astronomy as it is reasonably compact despite its weight. 


Edited by Noah4x4, 24 December 2019 - 12:54 PM.

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