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Old 18-12-2018, 03:03 PM
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sil (Steve)
Not even a speck of dust

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Join Date: Jun 2012
Location: Canberra
Posts: 1,295
What do you want to shoot?

The astro imagers tend to be strong for some targets and weak for others. Just like OTAs, it "all depends". For planetary you want frames per second since shooting duration is short before the target rotates and details after stacking get diminished. Solar you also want frames per second since solar features can be so short lived you want to capture as much data to be able to choose the best results from. But megapixels are not needed for planetary but are good for solar. In both cases MP gives you extra detail and with planetary you can record a cropped view around the planet which can gain you many frames per second increase so its nice there. Megapixels are good too for most deep space targets to maximise the number of pixels per arcsecond possible since only some targets are going to fill the sensor field and after stacking etc you are probably going to be cropping anyway. but megapixels is more a "nice to have" feature.

Must have: USB3, exposure speeds suitable to what you want to do and image with it, a dedicated (not shared with OS) large SSD drive is essential for frames per second performance and zero dropped frames. over 150fps is easy here for planetary/solar/lunar. File sizes will be huge too. I record to SSD and transfer to portable HDD to take to another machine to store on my nas where i can access for processing. Keep recording machine JUST for recording, no processing, no games, no web. everything you do with it will start to bloat and slow it down. no internet access needed ever. Setup control and guiding should be fine though.

When you sort out the zwo cameras according to their specs you find they have high speed planetary cams and deep space oriented ones, and everything in between. If you want "the one that does everything the best" well like OTAs is doesn't exist. Its all about compromises somewhere but there are some good ones out there. I think my current one is the 178MC-C which is for planetary really but it has capability for deep space long exposure stuff just not as well as others which in turn will be poor for planetary. You're on the right track with the homework you've been doing, comprehend whats needed for types of targets ideally and take note of the spec that are relevant to that and i suggest you go through say all the zwo cams and note them down with specs, which I did and it was very quick to be able to rule out various cams, eg non cooled just ignore, usb2 only ignore, mono ignore, low fps capture ignore and was left with a handful of planetary contenders for me which was easy to go through each of them for other specs that were either undesirable for my immediate need or had desirable features for a future need.

You'll also find competing makers have similar range in their models as they all use the same sensor mostly at specific price/feature points. Its not as daunting a task as you think when setting out to pick a cam. Also keep in mind the colour vs mono capabilities. I havent delved into mono capture yet and filter wheels, but I kept it in mind that i wanted a cam for a specific need now and one that hopefully wont be useless when i start to explore mono capture.
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