Old 03-08-2018, 10:08 AM
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Peter Ward
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A-list Planet cams

This old chestnut has been touched on before, but I am looking at upgrading
my planet cam (Point Grey 6.0mp CCD)

I'm really interested to hear from ZWO or similar, plus Point Grey or Lumenera users os to their experience, particular if they have had to deal with any fixed pattern noise, dodgy software etc.

Lastly, I more focused on performance over price ( I'm inclined to buy a Scotch I want to drink rather than pay for )
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Old 03-08-2018, 11:43 AM
bratislav (Bratislav)
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in fact you will need TWO cams. For planets only, anything over ~800x600 is an overkill, as sampling at anything over 0.06 - 0.08 arcsec/pixel is a waste, even with largest of guns (1m and over). But you do need frame rate, as high as you can go. These days ZWO 290 monochrome seems to be the best pick among planetary imagers. It will allow over 400 fps on small bright targets like Mars, and 300+ on Jupiter/Saturn. You will be exposure limited (you need lots of light at 3ms subs!), not camera's frame rate limited. Same performance can be extracted from color only 224, which is also an excellent choice.

For Moon/Sun a larger chip is required, but those will not be as fast. This is where it gets trickier. I know that Damian Peach asked Chilescope guys to replace 174 camera because of some fixed pattern issues, so I'd be inclined not to recommend it; they still use it though.
I'd personally look into 183, but I have no direct experience with either 174 ot 183 so I'd let others to chime in. I've used cooled 1600 and it is a reasonably decent Moon/Sun camera, but not SOTA (too slow). How about get a 290/224 and keep using your PG as Lunar cam for a while longer?

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Old 03-08-2018, 11:53 AM
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Merlin66 (Ken)
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I can only comment on the larger chip size required for full disk lunar/ solar.
The ASI 174MM is a compromise and really needs longer fl (>1000mm) to compensate for the pixel size.... I didn't experience any issues with the ASI 174 other than Newton Rings in Ha solar - fixed with the T2 tilter.
The ASI 183 looks good on paper BUT it has been withdrawn by ZWO for narrowband solar imaging (""Technical issues"") I ended up with the ASI 1600 to get the smaller pixels and good coverage.
Used with ROI it is capable of good frame rates.
Just my 2c
I use FireCapture with all my fast frame cameras....
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Old 04-08-2018, 04:32 PM
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ASI290MC is apparently very good for planetary.
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Old 04-08-2018, 06:38 PM
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Marke (Mark)
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As others have said the pic at the moment would be ZWO/QHY 290 for mono
and the 224 for colour.
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Old 04-08-2018, 06:43 PM
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I'm using the 174 and getting good results with no fixed pattern noise. Generally imaging at either 15m or 11.5m depending on seeing conditions. That's with a 14" SCT. On Mars I am getting something like 65fps in each channel and Jupiter is about 50fps in red and down to 44fps in blue. It depends on focal length as light drop off is pretty savage at around 15m.

I have not done any solar work for so long, but the 174 would run pretty fast on that, but not as fast as the 290.

I don't have any direct experience with the 290 or 183. The pixel size worried me on the 290 and hence why I did not buy it.

Point Grey is way too expensive to consider. I was getting some discount from them using my images to advertise and even at that price it was ridiculous. Their electronics are good but not that good to justify their pricing. I have not used Lumenera for many years so would not know what their products are like anymore. Once again though probably too expensive.
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Old 06-08-2018, 10:54 AM
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sil (Steve)
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I went through this process myself a few months ago. Understanding what the spec give you helps narrow down your decision. Bit depth, pixel size, frame rate and exposure range is what I looked at. I was after a do -everthing-cam. Deciding on colour and cooled for where I want to be for the foreseeable future the zwo cams all divide up nicely with the above criteria for specific imaging needs.

Colour over mono because I couldnt afford filters and wheels (annoyingly i have already but cant use due to my stroke, so i its a frustration for me already). Anyway, my 120mc is still going well but not ideal for planetary which is what I doing atm and I wanted to take advantage of mars opposition too and upgrade. So pixel size, fps and fast exposure times were important for planetary. Low noise is on all ZWO cams and my 120mc so old anything would have been an improvement. But I was also interested on doing some captures at full frame instead of cropped (eg for lunar or dso) so something that was bigger than 1mp would have been nice with long exposure capabilities. Cooling was a much anyway. So for me I went with the 178MC-C, nice and fast frame rates for planetary, 6mp for full frame captures. Low noise and pixel size made a massive detail jump immediately over my 120mc. I think for the price its hard to beat for a planetary with all-rounder capabilities in a OSC platform. Recording to an SSD not HDD with a ROI around a planet it doesnt sweat recording around 150fps without dropping frames . The cooler gets the chip to around -30c easily enough, but then its canberra winter so no biggie there, summer will be interesting. Only slight gotcha I had initially is the planetary presets in firecapture typically dont turn on the cooler (which runs so quiet you cant tell when its on) took me a little time to find the panel (with sliders for white balance, brightness, contrast, etc camera controls) which also contained a slider for the target temperature. It doesn't always reach the target temp, eg mine i set to lowest of -40C but i havent seen it reach it, the cooler runs at 100% and maxes out under -30C and is very very steady at temperature. So keep in mind if temp is critical to you.

No problems with software or drivers that werent already there. I cant capture with firecapture 2.6 so use 2.5 instead (same with 120mc), so i just swapped cameras and didnt need to do anything to get it working, the firecap worked a treat straight off, just a little time tweaking settings for the new setup. No bad noise issues noticed yet. But I havent done much long exposure with it. I really love the flat usb3 cable it comes with too.

I highly recommend you take the specs I mentioned earlier and list out the zwo cameras by those and see which cameras best cater to your imaging needs. The 178 is hard to beat on speed and pixel size for planetary and there are slightly faster but at lower bit depth, so understand the specs and the tradeoffs you're making, it looks like ZWO have got the bases covered. I dont think they have "this camera does everything way better than all others" camera, maybe out of my price range, remember these are still budget consumer level equipment. They are not garbage though and for the price point are pretty much the best you can get.
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Old 06-08-2018, 08:31 PM
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I have the 224mc and it’s great unit considered the 290mc but was advised 290 is better in mono variant and if you want colour stick to 224. Point grey is just to pricey now, I still have my old dragonfly but I don’t think the price is justified any more. Qhy or Zwo take seem to be the choice of the vast majority.
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Old 07-08-2018, 05:11 AM
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Peter Ward
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Thanks for your responses gentlemen. iím swayed toward Lumeneraís quad tapped 12mp CCD sensor, which can pump out 15 fps as my main application will be h-alpha solar...but it looks like more research is needed.
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