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Canon 60D Performance
Submitted: Thursday, 26th July 2012 by Paul Russell
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Canon 60D

There seems to be a fair bit of interest starting over the Canon 60D for use as an astrocamera, especially since the release of Canon's 60Da. But information on the 60D's usefulness seems a bit thin on the ground. So with that in mind I felt it was time to attach my Xmas present to a scope and see what it could do. And it seems .... quite a bit.

First of all this isn't going to be an indepth look at the chip, electronics, internal processing etc,  but simply some observations about how the camera performs under 'livesky' conditions .;)

I don't know how I survived using a DSLR without a flip out screen. This little addition is worth its weight in gold if you are a refractor or SCT user. In a word, brilliant! Mated with Live View focusing at 10x magnification it makes focusing soo much easier. And once focused, centering the object to be imaged becomes a breeze as long as you can see one star on the screen .... and all with no grovelling on the ground and contorting yourself into knots to see the viewscreen. Big thumbs up on this one.

Canon also seem to have done some work on the onscreen layout and illumination. On previous Canon's I've used, the menu screen display brightness could be blinding. This one is very generous on your night vision.

One thing that did take some getting used to was the function selection dial's new lock. You have to press the center of the dial down to spin it, but I got used to it fairly quickly.

Its also a relatively weighty camera, but on a par with the 20D.

As for imaging performance.... very happy. As with any new camera there are processing techniques to learn to colour balance an image, but this is the first DSLR (apart from a modded one) that I've used that has had such good red response.

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Omega Centauri histogram

This is a TIFF straight into PS after stacking is DSS. (Note: All images used were RAW, have had darks applied, but not all have had flats used during inital processing).

One thing I have noticed over a number of shots is that the red channel seems to be truncated on the white point end compared to the green and blue channels in each image. Its clear in the histogram of this shot of Omega Cent. However once the brighter objects are excluded the histogram looks very respectable.

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Histogram after excluding bright object

As can be seen in this Eta Carina shot, the red channel histogram is truncated at the white point end as well, which I thought was strange considering the amount and brightness of Eta's Ha emissions.

 

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Eta Carinae Histogram

However after processing there was stil plenty of red showing.

The 14bit ADU really shows its strength in the processed shot of Eta Carina. No strong combing and a good histogram spread on all channels. I've over used contrast on this shot to highlight the amount of faint dust that has been caught.

This is a 20x8min shot through my VC200L autoguided using .63 Reducer and autoguided using 50mm Stellarvue Vinder, PhD guiding and DMK21. There were some guiding flexure issues.

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Histograms of Eta Carinae after processing

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Eta Carinae after processing

Below left is a 100% crop of the center.

I'm impressed with the lack of significant colour noise, particularly in dark areas and crouded fields. The image on the right below is a 300% crop of Mimosa taken with a 135mm lens.

 

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100% crop of the centre

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300% crop to show lack of noise

Left below is a crop from around NGC6334, and right is the full image.

 

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Crop around NGC6334

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Full image

The biggest challenge I've found with the images from the 60D isn't dealing with noise but getting them down to size for upload to the net. Image size is 5106x3378 pixels (around 24 mb for JPEG and up to 170mb for Tiffs). Even dropping it down to 1000pixels width and reducing quality to only about 4 (using PSCS3) some images still couldn't be reduced below 200kb.

Was there anything I didn't like? A couple of minor things, but I'm sure if I read the manual I'll get over them. The only real negative I found was the flash housing sticks quite a way forward. I'm not sure if its further out than other Canons, but I had trouble using an adapter for the VC200L that had 3 grub screws sticking out. When i turned the adapter to lock the T ring inplace in the camera the grub screws would hit the flash housing. I was able to work around it but it was an issue that stumped me for  a short period.

So overall how would I rate it? I've had the opportunity to use quite a few Canons for short to extened periods; 20D, modded 20D, 40D, 300D, 350D, 400D and 450D and I really think Canon have got a winner on their hands here. I'm looking forward to attaching it to a small refractor and see how it goes.

Review by Paul Russell ([1ponders]). Discuss this review on the IceInSpace Forum.

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