View Full Version here: : Questions for all you 8300 owners
So last few months I've really gotten into Astrophotography, and wish to progress from my (unmodified) DSLR to a decent CCD + EFW. I've narrowed it down to a 8300 Chip, and it's now between the Atik 383L+ & SBIG ST-8300M :D I intend to use it with my 8" f/5 Newt & 80ED. I had a few general questions about the 8300 Chip so hope I don't ask too many questions :P Any help would be greatly appreciated:
1. I really dont want to ask this but - Atik, or SBIG? I've heard about the quality and build on the SBIG, and obviously Atik is popular for a reason, but my main concern is through-life support. I suspect they both have excellent customer support? Im willing to be swayed either way :lol:
2. Will 1.25" filters cause vignetting? I've heard mixed results. I understand to mount the EFW as close to the chip, and in the case of the Atik CCD+EFW2 there is very little vignetting. But the Atik EFW2 costs about $200 more than the SX wheel so if anyone has a 8300/SX combo i'd like hear your experience :) I dont want to spend the extra on 2" if its avoidable, and I dont like the idea of 36mm unmounted as having 1.25" threads appeal to me.
3. In terms of budget, I can only stretch it for a decent LRGB or HOS filter set, not both (For the time being :P). I plan on doing mainly DSOs like galaxies & nebulas. I suspect starting of with LRGB gives me a little more flexibility in terms of imaging different things? (Not many pictures of galaxies with HOS now is there ;))
4. I'm not entirely sure how this mounting business works with the filter wheels. Is it possible to attach the EFW directly to the t-thread on my focuser? with no need for my 1.25" adapter? My 8" newt has some issues with backfocus, I have very little travel to play with :( (Focal plane is just above the focuser).
Lastly, thank you so much for taking the time to read this :) In return I will leave you with some pretty pictures from my (very) amateur setup :rofl:
Sorry one last thing! The software is also extremely important to me. I want to be able to set the imaging sequence (i.e. LRGB 10x5:8x2:8x2:8x2 etc) and have it do it automatically. Does the Atik/SBIG software allow this? And for any ASCOM compliant EFW?
Im more than happy to drop the SBIG/SX Combo for the more expensive Atik/Atik combo if it means better support via software. Ive heard the Atik software is really easy to use and you can do the automation.
And here is another picture for reading my many questions :P
15-04-2012, 11:29 AM
Another consideration... if you're interested in using the CCD with Canon DSLR lenses. The Atik 383L+ CCD+EFW2 combination requires too much back focus, and can't be used with Canon EOS lenses - it's only a couple of mm too long.
The ST-8300M, when paired with one of the SBIG filter wheels specifically designed for the ST-8300M (such as the FW8-8300 (http://www.sbig.com/FW8-8300.html) for 8 x 36 mm filters), on the other hand does work with Canon EOS lenses with this adapter (http://www.sbig.com/Canon-EOS-Lens-Adapter-for-ST-8300.html).
Inserts are available so that 1.25" filters can be used in the 36 mm FW8-8300 wheel.
15-04-2012, 03:02 PM
I would pick SBIG over Atik. It wasn't that long ago that Atik made cheapie little planetary cameras that were pretty crappy.
I don't know anything about their current products but they would have had to climb a steep curve to match the current crop of 8300 cameras and their often high standards. They may be fine but I doubt they are in SBIGs class.
SBIG has been around forever and maintains a high standard.
It also has a large range of accessories. It comes with CCDsoft for free which runs the camera, autoguider and you program in your 4 filter exposure.
Other choices are:
QSI - has an integrated filter wheel and off axis guider and 2 models the 583WSG and 683WSG. They can use the smaller filters saving more money. The incorporated off axis guider is the ideal solution to guiding.
The 683 series costs more because it has faster electronics, stronger cooling.
Apogee: Alta U8300 and filter wheel. A good camera. No autoguiding solution so you need a guide camera and a guide scope or an off axis guider plus 2 adapters. It all adds up.
SBIG also has the 8300 STF which has a built in off axis guider and fast electronics. You use the STi autoguider. Chris Venter here is using one.
I am not sure about the ability to connect an adaptive optics unit with this camera. It'd be worth asking about as you may be able to.
FLI: Microline 8300, arguably the highest quality of all of these cameras with the strongest cooling (runs -35 to -40C all year), fast and clean electronics, no cover slip option (the glass cover on the chip itself which reduces sensitivity slightly and can add to minor halos). Probably a bit more than the others. No autoguiding solution. Runs off Maxim DL (expensive) or CCDsoft but needs the CCDsoft camera plug in to run (US$99 I think just for the plug in). Needs an off axis guider or guide scope. No adaptive optics support.
Starlight Express have an 8300 camera. Starlight Express are probably middle of the road in terms of quality and price. They have a large range of accessories including adaptive optics and off axis guiders and guide cameras.
Morovian - not many people using this but on paper seems similar to QSI but QSI has many happy customers and Morovian is somewhat unknown.
QHY9 - a lot here use this camera and you could get feedback on this camera. The advantage is lots use it so there would be plenty of help.
QHY9 I think is most likely the cheapest option of all of these?
So of the above SBIG comes with sophisticated free software. I am not sure what QHY and Atik comes with but I doubt it could match CCDsoft which is a mature software that is very popular.
I own all Nikon accessories so am not too fussed about the back focus. Plus my next big purchase will be a Nikon D800, so not concerned about using the 8300 with SLR lenses :)
Thank you alot for the informative post. I've heard alot about CCDSoft and wasn't aware it came with the SBIG 8300M, but its good to hear that the program will do all the automation for me. I use a ST80 with a webcam via GPUSB for guiding. I was thinking about going for SBIG, and after reading your post, it just confirmed that. So I think that's decided :)
I have considered all the other options, but for me those two brands is what it came down to. The other brands are just too expensive for me to justify, with the SBIG available for ~$2100 from optcorp (This includes shipping, conversion and GST duties). QHY was on my list but i'd be happy to spend the extra on knowing I have a SBIG in my outift :D
Do you know if I was to use say the 1.25" SX filter wheel, will there be vignetting?
Also wanted to add, Astronomik vs Baader LRGB filters - Both are good brands yes?
15-04-2012, 04:55 PM
QSI has a system that allows use with Nikon & Canon lenses.
The issue of vignetting with 1.25inch filters depends on the distance between the filter and the chip. If the filter is further away, the more likely vignetting is to occur. Probably worse with external filter wheels. The QSI has an internal filter wheel which puts the filter very close to the chip, so it can cope with lower f-ratio optics (which have a wider light cone) without vignetting.
QSI is good but it's just too expensive for me to justify at the moment. For about the cost of a QSI583WS, I can get a SBIG Camera+EFW+Filter set.
I suppose the only thing really holding me back is the decision of which Filter Wheel/Filters combo to go for. Hmm might have to do more homework I suspect. I also noticed you have a Nikon D800 - Wow! What's it like to use?
15-04-2012, 06:16 PM
I have used Baader, Astronomik and Astrodon Gen 1 and 11. Astrodon Gen 11 I find the best, then Astronomik and then Baader. Baader are strong in red and I had some problems with colour combine. Perhaps it was my technique and today I could probably handle them. I still have them both.
Astrodon though are the most expensive. Astronomik are most economical. I'd get them but make sure your filter wheel can handle the thin 1mm thick Astronomiks. My FLI could not and I damaged some as a result. Gert took a while to provide a spacer for them. But he came through in the end.
15-04-2012, 08:41 PM
I will add a comment for the QHY9 having owned mine for 3 + years. It's a good little camera with excellent cooling (-50 from ambiant) but does have some idiosyncrasies like the power board being seperate from the camera and the unique shutter mechanism which is slow but should last for a 100 years. The shutter does catch some out when first learning to take flats with the camera but is a doodle once you know what to do. It can be binned 1 x 1, 2 x 2 and 4 x 4 and at 1 x 1 the download speed is about 8 seconds on the normal setting which most of us use. There is a option for fast and slow downloads but the fast leaves lots of undesirable artifacts on the sub and the super slow is about the same as the normal setting which gives very clean subs. The software that comes with it works but is very basic but then so is CCDsoft that comes with the SBIG's. I bought the QHY9 over the original ST8300 as the SBIG had very poor cooling in it's original form but I believe they have made changes to correct that with the latest model and its now right up there with the rest. With the QHY9 you get camera, filterwheel and filters for less then the cost of the SBIG camera alone and with the extra money you save you can buy MaximDL as a capture program (the best there is) and still have change in your pocket. The camera is backed by a long warranty and the local distributor Theo is great.
15-04-2012, 08:52 PM
I favour all things QSI myself and it seems to suit your needs.:)
Thanks for the responses guys :)
That makes an interesting read. I was happy to go with the Astronomik but I heard about their (earlier) issues with haloes, and a fair few people recommended Baader. But yes, 1mm is so thin!! I think I'm going to save a little more and settle on the 2" filters. Astronomik does mention a 10 year warranty on their filters for haloes, and that really does say alot for the company. Do you happen to have any photos comparing?
No don't persuade me to QHY again! Its taken me so long to narrow things down this far :P But definitely, the value (and from what I hear the service from Theo) is great. But his site does not mention the price of a QHY9 alone; Do you know what it is at the moment? And the thing is, if I buy from Optcorp it comes to about $3100 for the SBIG/2" EFW/2" Baader LRGB/NB. So for the extra $600, I feel like its more solid deal since the EFW with the QHY9 is a RS232 (not usb) and the 2" filters are QHY, not from Baader (which ive heard many great things about).
If only my wallet was so big :P I suppose after many years with the ST8300M I might upgrade to something like the 11000, and by then Ill probably be more serious about imaging and will buy a Apogee/QSI/FLI :D
16-04-2012, 02:10 PM
The FW is RS232 as it plugs straight into the camera via a short cord so there is no need to run a link back to the computer. It always worked without fail for me but I now use the FLI 2 - 7 unit as I want to load LRGB, SII, OIII and Ha in one wheel (big heavy sod of a thing, about 1 kg on its own). The QHY unit only has 5 slots so you can put Ha, LRGB in one wheel but it is compact and very light. I believe the SBIG unit takes 36mm filters which are cheaper but of no use if you want to upgrade your camera at a later stage to a larger chip and you would have to buy another set which is not cheap and you would have trouble selling the 36mm filters I imagine. The 9 wheel has 50mm filters (mounted or unmounted, both fit) so this is not a problem unless you went to the big kodak chip in which case you will need 65mm square units and by that stage money should be no object. Not sure about the filters as I use astronomik filters and the orange made filters that come with the QHY 9 were released well after I got my camera though I have seen some reasonable pics from them. Best way to find out what Theo is charging is to shoot him an email. With $600 to spare you can get a copy of MaximDL (with beer money left over, no make that spirits money) which does a whole lot more than just drive the camera and has to be the most complete astro program out there. It also integrates with the QHY9 nicely as with most other camera's. Interesting you have quoted OPT as a source, if you buy the camera from them you have no local warranty which means you have to send it back to the US everytime something goes wrong (if they will uphold warranty at all???) and being above $1000 the GST etc will apply. Have you factored in these costs? If you go SBIG you would be far better off buying it from Peter Ward locally as CCD camera's no matter what make can and do stop working as designed. User error is one of the greatest reasons for this but a power surge, accidental drop, moisture etc can also render your camera cactus and you really do need local backup.
16-04-2012, 03:24 PM
I had an sbig mono a while back and cooling is pretty weak, it could not get below -10C here in summer and dewed up regularly. I believe they have retrofitted a heater to the sensor window to stop dewing. Most of the single stage cooled cameras will be similar. Atik claim to have dual stage cooling but they count water cooling. The Atik 11002 I used the other week managed -15C but it wasn't a hot night, I was wearing a jumper and tracky daks on the night. My qhy9 will do -25C indoors during the day in summer. It is listed for sale here (http://www.iceinspace.com.au/forum/showthread.php?t=88564).
The new sbig stf pro comes with wheel, 7x36mm filters and oag but I see it listed at US$4995 + shipping and gst. I ran a starlight wheel with the qhy9 and 7x36mm filters, no problems there at all. I don;t know anyone running an atik wheel but it does have 54mm threads so you'll need adapters. I believe the 1.25" filters in the qsi internal wheel are only good down to F5. The new camera has an option for a different size again, 31mm unmounted (http://www.optcorp.com/product.aspx?pid=17162) I think it is?
16-04-2012, 06:06 PM
The 31mm filter wheel is available as an option on the 583, not just the 683. I have one on my camera. I think it is ok down to f4 or maybe even f2.8. For the record, they are actually in some sort of mount and are ~28mm filters, but do give a slightly wider light path which makes a difference when the filter wheel is right in front of the sensor?
Need a run of fine weather some time to test all my attachments for the QSI and see if they work as claimed! At least the sky isn't going any where soon...
Oh right, for a second I thought the RS232 meant a connection to the computer. I read your post and had a good think today… Firstly, I was completely unaware about ATS but gave them a rang after hearing good things about Peters service. Turns out they also offer a very good deal on the SBIG 8300M, and I was unsure about how the warranty worked from Optcorp but with the price ATS was giving - Local is definitely the way to go. You’re also right about the 36mm, which is why I decided I was going to get the 2” anyways. It’ll also help when I use my Full-frame DSLR.
Lastly, I gave Theo a ring today – Wow, the pricing for the QHY9 package is about the same as the SBIG Camera alone. After talking to Theo and the 1+2 year warranty, I think I’ve finally landed on a decision to buy the QHY9. To get the SBIG + filters, it’ll cost me atleast about $1k more. And for someone like me, still an amateur compared to some of the guys here, that’s a lot of saving. In fact that’s alot of beer AND Spirits now that you mention it ;) Hopefully I’ll have mine this weekend. Thanks a lot for the posts :)
I didnt know they included liquid cooling as the '2-stage' cooling they claim, thanks for that. I also realised today that your right, SBIG isnt heated but the QHY9 is which is quite handy. There’s no way I can afford the STF version! And yup I saw your ad but Theo is giving a good deal for a new system so might just get it new :)
Yea I really like QSIs idea of having the filter wheel right against the sensor. I do believe it is good down to F/4, but once again the camera/wheel is over $3k and I feel im still too much an amateur to be able to justify that. But do post some images, Id love to see them. Waiting for the damn clouds to disappear down here myself too argh!
16-04-2012, 10:21 PM
congrats on the qhy9 meru. Look forward to your first light report.
it is very good value for money, there are some aspects I'm personally not a fan of, but then the results here speak for themselves and plenty of support here.
what software does it come with and does it allow automation of your exposures with the filter wheel?
i've seen it being used with Maxim DL with automation.
Thank you :) What aspects or 'quirks' are there that you dont like? But yes, its very popular for (good) reasons I guess. Im not sure what software it comes with, I'm going to talk to Theo tomorrow about it. Considering I'll be awake and with the scope when I take it out, I'm not too fussed (yet :P) about the automation but it certainly will be a good feature. Once I get it I think we'll be in a good position to have a great imaging session, atleast from my end. Cant wait to try it out and am also curious to see how your QHY8 works as well. I'll be in touch soon :)
17-04-2012, 11:07 AM
Theo will supply you with proper instructions on "how" to do the driver installation correctly including loading ASCOM platofrm first - do read his readmefirst text file on the CD - the EzCap software that comes with the CCD is quite basic - yep most of the imagers seem to use it very successfully with MaximDL and I use my QHY11 with Nebulosity 3 as well choosing only the ASCOM camera type - Craig Stark wrote to me confirming that he is going to include a QHY11 specific camera choice in Nebulosity 3 pretty soon
+1 for Theo - no-one has complained yet about him to date AFAIK!
Yup Theo is definitely a great guy to talk with. I have used EZcap and it is quite limited, I have Maxim DL already so it's good to hear it's well supported. Thanks for the reply :)
17-04-2012, 11:47 AM
The software that comes with the QHY9 includes drivers and a basic capture program which only deals with operating the camera alone which is why I suggested MaximDL. Maxim is a complete package that has so many features and is well worth the purchase cost. It not only allows capture with just about any camera you can name, but has comprehensive guide control, automation of capture sequence including FW control and exposure times which you can set. It also includes fully blown processing software and plate solving via pinpoint, dome control, multiple camera control with all cooling adjustments, mount control, a basic planetarium and the list just goes on and on. It is a little daunting for the first time user but has a great help guide for all of its features including info on different cameras and how to get them working. It will even control your DSLR if you get one of the shoe string DUSB units. I love this program and it can be downloaded directly from diffraction limited website with the cost of purchase giving you free upgrades for set intervals. Also there is a free fully featured demo version available for you to try for 30 days. You can also buy a boxed version with a hardcopy of the manual but this costs more then the digital version and is not really necessary. (opps you posted before I finished :) )
Most of the problems I have read about (not experienced) are to do with the installation of the drivers. In short follow Theo's instructions and it will be trouble free. In the 3 1/2 years I have had my camera only one thing has gone wrong, a power spike blew the power board in the camera. It was out of local warranty by a month or so but I contacted Theo anyway and he asked me to send it back to him as although the local warranty had expired the factory warranty still had two years left. Theo checked it out and found the problem but decided it was best to send it back to the factory to be repaired. I had to pay for the camera to be shipped back to the factory (buggerall) but it was returned to me with a new board and ready to go within two weeks. One of the quirks that caught me out when I first got the camera was the correct attachment of the cable between the camera and power box/Tec controller. The EMC ring (big lump on one side) must be on the power box side not on the camera end or it will cause interfearence with the download (ie lines on the image) but the correct attachment is detailed in the users manual. Funny thing is when I first had this problem I rang Theo who talked me though the process until we found my stuff up and he was on the phone for an hour making sure everything else was right as well, top bloke though he could talk the legs off a chair, oh and he rang me back so the cost of the call was on his phone not mine. The only other quirk I can think off is with taking flats. The shutter is not a leaf shutter like other camera's using the KAF8300 chip. It is driven by a stepper motor which makes it slow. If your exposure times are too short there will be shutter artifacts on the image so you need to set your light source so you achieve about 20000ADU over a 3 - 4 sec exposure. The disadvantage is the shutters speed (which can be worked around as above), the advantage is unlike leaf shutters it does not have a number of exposures use by date and should last forever. QHY have a forum (QHYCCD.com, link also on Theo's webpage) in which you can post questions, read about updates, download software etc etc. Best thing is the designer and owner, Quiy participates directly with users and helps to solve problems with software compatabilty issues, camera hardware issues and so on. I have seen him respond within an hour of a post with the solution, even to posters whose cameras have had their onboard software corrupted offering the inhouse application and knowhow to go in and change the settings back to the defaults rendering the camera servicable again. I know of no other firm that does this with many just giving you the run around (e.g. TOMTOM) or deny the problem exists (e.g. apple). There are a lot of QHY camera's out there now so they must be doing something right.
Wow thanks for the insight Mark! I had a chance to play with MaximDl a few days ago, and I can see why its so good. It really does make everything else ive been using look quite - well amateurish! And yes Ive heard much about Theo's service, and your story only confirms what i already know from talking to him personally last few days. I have also been on QHYs forums and seen their level of almost instant support, it really is very good.
I suppose I was in a bit of rush to get the CCD, and the $1k off really is quite tempting. But I might just wait a little bit longer as I dont wish to rush into this. Plus I have some commitments which probably aren't gonna let up till May sometime. One hand QHY really is a great product with good value for money, but other hand I feel saving up for an SBIG and accessories might be worth the wait. I guess time will tell! Thank you so much for all your posts and advice, definitely is gonna help me make m decision. Ill post here the outcome!
19-04-2012, 10:49 AM
Yes don't rush your choice as there are always new options coming onto the market at lower prices and the new version of the ST8300 looks impressive with fast downloads and better cooling. But whatever you do stick with Maxim, it is a steep learning curve I know but you will be hard pressed to find better.
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