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The curious case of SBIG Cameras

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#1 Jeff2011

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Posted 25 October 2020 - 12:36 PM

I have an SBIG STF-8300m that I have had for 6 years. It has been a really good camera. I use it with SGP but have been curious about other image acquisition software like NINA and Voyager.  There is no ASCOM driver for the older SBIGs.  Neither NINA or Voyager appear to have native support for SBIG and Voyager only supports it through MaximDL or TheSkyX.  
 

Last night I was bored and googled around to understand why there was no ASCOM driver and found this.  

 

https://forum.diffra...-stf-8300.5591/

The explanation seems to be that DL is too busy working on their new line of cameras and there is no profit in it for them to write and maintain an ASCOM driver for cameras that will soon go the way of the dinosaur.   The irony of all ironies is that DL was the company that helped create ASCOM but that was before they bought SBIG.  
 

DL does mention their SDK is freely available and that they are willing to help developers integrate there native drivers into theirs applications. Although I think there is a bit of a conflict of interest there since DL also sells their own imaging software Maxim DL. 
 

The other thing I find interesting is that both NINA and Voyager have native support for FLI. Is this some vast conspiracy or is SBIG just the red headed step child of cameras.tongue2.gif

 

I seem to remember reading a CN post years ago where someone wrote their own SBIG ASCOM driver.  At the time that did not interest me because I was set with SGP.  But that may be more relevant to me now.  Does anyone remember that post?

 

For you NINA contributors out there, is there any plan to add native support for older SBIG cameras?

 

For Voyager it appears they are just waiting to get their hands on an older SBIG.  Anyone in Italy willing to lend their SBIG to the Voyager team? 


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#2 Ken Sturrock

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Posted 25 October 2020 - 01:01 PM

Yeah. It's a long running issue. I actually stopped using my older SBIG camera (an ST-2k) as well as an ST-i because SBIG (when it was owned by Aplegen) stopped keeping up with operating system changes on OSX and my SBIG cameras just ground to a halt under SkyX for non-Windows platforms. There were various attempts to update drivers & plug-ins over the years but they all had different issues. At one point, the guy in Europe who they had hired to maintain the drivers had to borrow a Macintosh to make changes to the code (he also didn't own most of the cameras).

 

Today, given the parts situation on many of the older cameras, I can understand DL not wanting to invest a lot in software development and support for those cameras. They are playing "Going Home". As for software developers and native drivers proprietary to those programs - well, it's also an age-old dilemma about who should provide critical low-level software support for devices: The manufacturer who wants to sell the device? Or the software developer who is now faced with the dilemma of taking care of the users of every single badly supported device in the universe? It maybe worth it for certain extremely popular devices with less-than-stellar (pun intended) software support but not something that developers want to get into the habit of doing. Unfortunately, cheap hardware can still be expensive - just for somebody else.

 

Yes. You're right. The irony of DL's involvement with ASCOM has not gone unnoticed regarding no ASCOM on older SBIG cameras. In my case, though, I really like the Aluma but lack of cross-platform support for SkyX is holding me back.


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#3 dghent

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Posted 25 October 2020 - 01:17 PM

I’ve always been interested in writing a native driver for NINA but I (or any other the other contributors to my knowledge) have not been able to borrow a model of sufficient feature set in order to do so. Temporarily borrowing one also has its issues because that camera will eventually need to be returned and that poses issues for the maintaining the code going into the future. I don’t think any of the contributors have the appetite to expend personal funds to buy such a camera if we are already happy with what we use. So there is the crux of the support issue. Either a donation of one or a person who has one and is willing to commit to contributing the code and maintaining it would be the most likely scenarios that would result in NINA gaining SBIG support.

Edited by dghent, 25 October 2020 - 01:19 PM.

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#4 Dan Crowson

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Posted 25 October 2020 - 01:58 PM

This same thing has prevented me from trying some of the newer generation software as well. I can completely understand Diffraction's reluctance to spend money to make old cameras work with software they don't sell especially since their newer cameras have ascom drivers. The SDK has been available free for years but I'm sure the number of these cameras is dropping by the day. It looks like Diffraction only has a handful of the STF-8300's left.
 
Sadly, I doubt many imagers will replace their aging SBIG cameras with newer SBIG models.

Dan


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#5 avarakin

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Posted 25 October 2020 - 03:03 PM

One way around this issue is to use Raspberry Pi based system. I have even older SBIG ST8300M and it runs fine on Pi.

There are many options of getting Raspberry Pi based system running: build from scratch (e.g. https://github.com/a...n/AstroPiMaker4), install Astroberry or Stellarmate image or get ASIPro device. I run all my image acquisition tasks on Pi 4 itself using KStars:  polar alignment, plate solving, auto focus. Plate solving is almost instant using ASTAP.

 

Alex



#6 pfile

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Posted 25 October 2020 - 03:33 PM

i used to be in an imaging group with Leo so i "know" him... at one point i asked him to add the SGP API to voyager so that voyager can use SGP for camera control. it works well for Ray's products (pempro/appm), but Leo didn't want to add this as i guess he feels SGP is too unstable to even serve as a camera interface. i don't agree, but there you go. since i have an STT-8300M i'm in the same boat and would be all in on voyager if he were to do this.

 

rob


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#7 pfile

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Posted 25 October 2020 - 03:34 PM

by the way some subset of SBIG cameras have an ethernet interface and have a very simple http-based protocol to control the camera. that might be "easy" to implement in NINA, but of course it would not cover most of the older SBIG cameras.

 

rob



#8 Jeff2011

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Posted 25 October 2020 - 10:40 PM

i used to be in an imaging group with Leo so i "know" him... at one point i asked him to add the SGP API to voyager so that voyager can use SGP for camera control. it works well for Ray's products (pempro/appm), but Leo didn't want to add this as i guess he feels SGP is too unstable to even serve as a camera interface. i don't agree, but there you go. since i have an STT-8300M i'm in the same boat and would be all in on voyager if he were to do this.

 

rob

Yes I have PemPro3 and SGP works well for camera control. I was going to suggest Voyager using SGP for camera control as a joke cause I already figured what the response would be.  



#9 Jeff2011

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Posted 25 October 2020 - 10:44 PM

One way around this issue is to use Raspberry Pi based system. I have even older SBIG ST8300M and it runs fine on Pi.

There are many options of getting Raspberry Pi based system running: build from scratch (e.g. https://github.com/a...n/AstroPiMaker4), install Astroberry or Stellarmate image or get ASIPro device. I run all my image acquisition tasks on Pi 4 itself using KStars:  polar alignment, plate solving, auto focus. Plate solving is almost instant using ASTAP.

 

Alex

Thanks for your suggestion Alex but I am not a Raspberry PI guy. Interesting technology though.  We had a guy in our club give a presentation about it.



#10 OrionSword

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Posted 26 October 2020 - 08:07 AM

I have an SBIG STF-8300m that I have had for 6 years. It has been a really good camera. I use it with SGP but have been curious about other image acquisition software like NINA and Voyager.  There is no ASCOM driver for the older SBIGs.  Neither NINA or Voyager appear to have native support for SBIG and Voyager only supports it through MaximDL or TheSkyX.  
 

Last night I was bored and googled around to understand why there was no ASCOM driver and found this.  

 

https://forum.diffra...-stf-8300.5591/

The explanation seems to be that DL is too busy working on their new line of cameras and there is no profit in it for them to write and maintain an ASCOM driver for cameras that will soon go the way of the dinosaur.   The irony of all ironies is that DL was the company that helped create ASCOM but that was before they bought SBIG.  
 

DL does mention their SDK is freely available and that they are willing to help developers integrate there native drivers into theirs applications. Although I think there is a bit of a conflict of interest there since DL also sells their own imaging software Maxim DL. 
 

The other thing I find interesting is that both NINA and Voyager have native support for FLI. Is this some vast conspiracy or is SBIG just the red headed step child of cameras.tongue2.gif

 

I seem to remember reading a CN post years ago where someone wrote their own SBIG ASCOM driver.  At the time that did not interest me because I was set with SGP.  But that may be more relevant to me now.  Does anyone remember that post?

 

For you NINA contributors out there, is there any plan to add native support for older SBIG cameras?

 

For Voyager it appears they are just waiting to get their hands on an older SBIG.  Anyone in Italy willing to lend their SBIG to the Voyager team? 

I knew NINA at the time in 2019 did not support SBIG and since I owned two SBIG cameras after visiting their forum SBIG was no longer interested in supporting them either from their comments I received, so I got rid of mine and bought QHY's for replacement.  Personally I thought the STF series should not have been orphaned so soon in the driver department but oh well.


Edited by OrionSword, 26 October 2020 - 08:07 AM.


#11 pfile

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Posted 26 October 2020 - 03:20 PM

so one thing i heard at my astro club and haven't followed up on is that indi might have support for ST/STT cameras. i think that implies having to run linux at the telescope, which would be OK with me, but it would be a lot of work. i need to look into this.

 

rob



#12 mikefulb

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Posted 26 October 2020 - 04:54 PM

so one thing i heard at my astro club and haven't followed up on is that indi might have support for ST/STT cameras. i think that implies having to run linux at the telescope, which would be OK with me, but it would be a lot of work. i need to look into this.

 

rob

I've never used the driver but it is documented. - here is more info:

 

https://www.indilib....s/sbig-ccd.html

 

There are distributions like Stellarmate OS already built ready to go that might make the transition easier for you if you haven't dabbled in Linux before.



#13 DickLocke

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 08:12 AM

One way around this issue is to use Raspberry Pi based system. I have even older SBIG ST8300M and it runs fine on Pi.

There are many options of getting Raspberry Pi based system running: build from scratch (e.g. https://github.com/a...n/AstroPiMaker4), install Astroberry or Stellarmate image or get ASIPro device. I run all my image acquisition tasks on Pi 4 itself using KStars:  polar alignment, plate solving, auto focus. Plate solving is almost instant using ASTAP.

 

Alex

I've been imaging for 15 years and am trying to catch up to current best practices and have an old SBIG ST 8300m.  It sounds like devices like ASI Pro can somehow manage imaging with non-ASCOM SBIGS - can anyone give me a quick and simple explanation as to how that works? 

 

I'm still trying to figure out if I should consider a device like that, though I do have a new "good" laptop I am trying to get set up for use.



#14 DickLocke

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 08:16 AM

I’ve always been interested in writing a native driver for NINA but I (or any other the other contributors to my knowledge) have not been able to borrow a model of sufficient feature set in order to do so. Temporarily borrowing one also has its issues because that camera will eventually need to be returned and that poses issues for the maintaining the code going into the future. I don’t think any of the contributors have the appetite to expend personal funds to buy such a camera if we are already happy with what we use. So there is the crux of the support issue. Either a donation of one or a person who has one and is willing to commit to contributing the code and maintaining it would be the most likely scenarios that would result in NINA gaining SBIG support.

Maybe us legacy SBIG owners should take up a collection and find an inexpensive legacy camera that someone would be willing to part with for this purpose.  I haven't followed the market at all thought so don't know if we're talking $100, $1000, or what though ;-)



#15 avarakin

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 08:51 AM

I've been imaging for 15 years and am trying to catch up to current best practices and have an old SBIG ST 8300m.  It sounds like devices like ASI Pro can somehow manage imaging with non-ASCOM SBIGS - can anyone give me a quick and simple explanation as to how that works? 

 

I'm still trying to figure out if I should consider a device like that, though I do have a new "good" laptop I am trying to get set up for use.

 

RPi devices are running Linux and ASCOM is not available on Linux. A whole new stack was developed for Linux. It starts with INDI drivers, which serve the same purpose as ASCOM, although I think it is more advanced, e.g. it supports remote operation. On top of INDI drivers, you have capture programs like Kstars or CCDCiel which utilize INDI drivers. These programs are very capable and can do all parts of workflow: focusing, plate solving, capturing, polar aligning etc.  PHD2 and astrometry.net are also available on Linux. 

BTW, you can also run INDI on your laptop, as long as you install Linux. The recommended version of Linux would be Ubuntu 20.04.

PM me in case if you need more pointers.

 

Alex


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#16 Raginar

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 09:54 AM

If a company doesn't support their product, they'll get you the first time but you won't go back.  I think we've all learned this about SBIG at this point.  And, you see fewer and fewer people using their products.


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#17 Jeff2011

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 10:13 AM

So if you have an older SBIG your options for automated imaging software are:

 

OS Windows:

Sequence Generator Pro

Maxim DL

Voyager with TheSkyX or MaximDL as camera control

 

OS Linux:

Kstars

CCDCiel

 

I am not familiar with the Linux software.  Do they provide full automation like the Windows software does?  Example automated meridian flips.


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#18 Jeff2011

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 10:24 AM

If a company doesn't support their product, they'll get you the first time but you won't go back.  I think we've all learned this about SBIG at this point.  And, you see fewer and fewer people using their products.

That is true in my case. I don’t intend to buy another one.  Which is too bad because they made pretty good cameras.  Their newer modals do have an ASCOM driver but that is not the point. How will they support those in the future as new technologies arise?  Compare to a company like ZWO who bends over backwards to make their customers happy.


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#19 Raginar

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 10:28 AM

So if you have an older SBIG your options for automated imaging software are:

 

OS Windows:

Sequence Generator Pro

Maxim DL

Voyager with TheSkyX or MaximDL as camera control

 

OS Linux:

Kstars

CCDCiel

 

I am not familiar with the Linux software.  Do they provide full automation like the Windows software does?  Example automated meridian flips.

There is EKOS... does that run an SBIG camera?  It apparently does meridian flips.



#20 Der_Pit

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 10:34 AM

Yes, EKOS uses INDI, and thus supports the SBIG cameras (though I've only once used an old ST-6, IIRC). And yes, EKOS does all the stuff, from simple things like automatic meridian flip to fully automatic running of the observatory, starting from opening the dome etc, going through different target sequences to closing again at dawn (or when the weather station / cloud sensor gives alarm).


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#21 Jeff2011

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 10:52 AM

I've been imaging for 15 years and am trying to catch up to current best practices and have an old SBIG ST 8300m.  It sounds like devices like ASI Pro can somehow manage imaging with non-ASCOM SBIGS - can anyone give me a quick and simple explanation as to how that works? 

 

I'm still trying to figure out if I should consider a device like that, though I do have a new "good" laptop I am trying to get set up for use.

Hello Dick.  Do you mean ASIAIR Pro?



#22 leviathan

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 10:53 AM

I was happy to drop SBIG and move to modern CMOS camera just to be able to use new imaging programs like N.I.N.A. !



#23 Dan Crowson

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 11:01 AM

That is true in my case. I don’t intend to buy another one.  Which is too bad because they made pretty good cameras.  Their newer modals do have an ASCOM driver but that is not the point. How will they support those in the future as new technologies arise?  Compare to a company like ZWO who bends over backwards to make their customers happy.


I think this is a bit misleading. We're talking about SBIG cameras that are upwards of 10 years old. We can wait quite a few years to see if ZWO cameras of this age are still working and supported.
 
I'm just not sure there's any kind of upside to making code support the obsolete cameras and I own two SBIG 8300 cameras. If there was, the SDK has been available free for many years.

Dan



#24 Iver

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 11:28 AM

So if you have an older SBIG your options for automated imaging software are:

 

OS Windows:

Sequence Generator Pro

Maxim DL

Voyager with TheSkyX or MaximDL as camera control

 

OS Linux:

Kstars

CCDCiel

 

I am not familiar with the Linux software.  Do they provide full automation like the Windows software does?  Example automated meridian flips.

AstroArt has native support for SBIG, Sequencer and custom scripting. Single star and full frame guiding and focusing. Very fast plate solving. All native support.


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#25 DickLocke

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Posted 27 October 2020 - 11:39 AM

So if you have an older SBIG your options for automated imaging software are:

 

OS Windows:

Sequence Generator Pro

Maxim DL

Voyager with TheSkyX or MaximDL as camera control

..

Thanks this is very helpful.  I'm sticking with Windows for now - it looks like APT AstroPhotography Tool also supports old SBIG?  Or perhaps it's in the "kinda maybe works" category?  I'm trying to determine if that's a contender or if I go with MaxIm DL (pay them to upgrade) or SGP (which I have finally connected and at least taken a test exposure with the trial version).  I have the SBIG ST-8300, FW8-8300 purchased circa 12/2009.


Edited by DickLocke, 27 October 2020 - 11:50 AM.



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