Old 10-08-2014, 01:30 PM
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Quark (Trevor)
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ASI120MM-S Report

ZWO ASI120MM-S test report.

When Sam contacted me to see if I would be interested in testing the ASI120MM-S I was more than happy to do so. There are not many camera manufacturers that actually use their own product and are so proactive in the ongoing develop of cameras for the amateur astronomy community.
My ASI120MM-S was delivered July 23rd 2014 and I have successfully used it on 2 different computers. I should note that I have been using a ZWO ASI120MM for the last 12 months.
  1. Toshiba Qosmio Laptop, Windows 7, Processor I7 – 2630QM CPU @ 2.00GHz 2.00GHz
8 GB RAM 64 – bit Operating System, Renesas Electronics USB 3.0 Host Controller
Renesas Electronics USB 3.0 Root Hub.
This Laptop had 1 USB 3.0 port and 3 USB 2.0 ports
  1. Desktop with Windows 7, Processor I7 – 3770
CPU @ 3.40 GHz 3.40 GHZ
16 GB RAM 64 – bit Operating System
Intel® USB 3.0 eXtensible Host Controller
Intel® USB 3.0 Root Hub.
This computer had 2 USB 3.0 ports and 4 USB 2.0 ports.

After unpacking the camera the first thing I noticed was the optical window fitted in front of the sensor and the guider port. My earlier model ASI120MM did not have a guider port or optical window and that camera came with a considerable amount of dust on the sensor.

After installing the latest driver and FireCapture v2.4.05 BETA. (Note I installed both the driver and FireCapture from their particular websites) I fitted the camera to my imaging train, that is a 4 x Modular Seibert Barlow, filter wheel and camera, all screwed together to create the one sealed module.

I installed it in one of the scopes down stairs in my observatory and ran the camera with a light flooding the scope to check on any possible dust motes. The sensor was fine and the window had an insignificant couple of spots that were down near the bottom left of the field at max resolution.
Clearly the quality control regarding the cleanliness of the sensor has improved and Sam should be congratulated for that.

Having satisfied myself regarding the cleanliness of the sensor I ran bench tests with the camera on both computers. I had previously been running my ASI120MM on 8 metres of high quality shielded USB 2.0 cable with no problems. Note; With the ASI120MM running there was not enough band width to also have another USB 2.0 camera which is on a modified 8 x 50 finder running at the same time, I had solved that problem previously by running the USB 2.0 camera on my finder with another older laptop.

The ASI120MM-S was not detected when connected on 8 metres of high quality USB 3.0 cable but was detected and worked flawlessly on a high quality 5 metre USB 3.0 cable. This meant that for the first couple of nights I captured my Saturn data using the Laptop.

To solve the problem with my desktop I shifted it and mounted it, still down stairs but on a very high shelf that was closer to my main imaging scope which lives upstairs and allowed for the use of the 5 metre USB 3.0 cable. Note; I normally capture data via my desktop to a USB 3.0 external drive.

As a test I ran at max resolution 1280 x 960 with three successive 90 second captures to see if there would be a backlog of data but there was no problem at all, I achieved 60 fps. This result was identical for capturing data both to the Laptop or Desktop. Note; I have attached some Luna images captured at full resolution, 1280 x 960 at 60 fps, have also attached the pertinent Fire Capture log file.

Obviously when capturing data with the Laptop, as there was only one USB 3.0 port, I couldn't’t dump directly to my USB 3.0 external drive, that is, not with the amount of data the camera was capable of putting out. My solution was to capture to one of the two drives on the Laptop and at the end of the session plug the USB 3.0 external drive back in and down load the data from the Laptop. Of course this took a while and gave me time to go up to my house and have a cuppa.

Although I have had my ASI120MM-S only a short time I have captured a considerable amount of data with it. All of my Saturn data from July 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th & 29th, August 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th & 8th has been captured with the ASI120MM-S with 463 x 90 second avi’s contributing to the images I have created. That data is all on the public record and best seen on the ALPO Japan or PVOL websites. I have previously uploaded a small selection of data from July 26th to IIS.

The ASI120MM-S is an impressive camera with greater flexibility than the ASI120MM. I noticed previously with my ASI120MM that occasionally I would see an image in the live feed suddenly enter from the right and quickly disappear to the left, all while the target planet was centred. I spoke to Bird about that last year and he had also seen it happen. This seemed to have no effect whatsoever on the performance of the camera or on the images it produced. I have not seen that effect happen with the new camera. I suspect Sam may well have updated the firmware for this model. Both the ASI120MM and ASI120MM-S share the same sensor but I think with the ASI120MM-S Sam has come up with a better mouse trap.

Note; There is no band width problem running the USB 3.0 ASI120MM-S on my desktop while also having a USB 3.0 4TB external drive connected and dumping the camera data directly onto the external drive.

One point that I would make, anyone using this camera on a big Newt would be better off with a longer USB 3.0 cable so that if you have to flop the scope during the session you don’t have to disconnect and then reconnect the camera cable. I have attached a link to the cable that I am currently using.

With FireCapture v2.4.05 BETA I would recommend ticking the “Check for updates on startup” box. Thus far this version of FireCapture has worked flawlessly, that said the previous version I was using (2.3.21) also worked extremely well.
In conclusion the points I would make regarding the ASI120MM-S compared to my earlier ASI120MM.
  1. The inclusion of a guider port is a welcome addition.
  2. The addition of an optical window along with improved quality control regarding the cleanliness of the sensor is a very welcome development and reflects the positive reaction to user feedback by a manufacturer that is actually involved in the use and development of dedicated astronomy cameras.
  3. By going to USB 3.0 I experienced no issues when running the USB 3.0 camera and USB 3.0 external drive simultaneously.
  4. Both the ASI120MM and ASI120MM-S have been easy to use straight out of the box and for me personally, a welcome change from not having to try and source a laptop with an express card slot and not having to buy in and install a different expansion card for my desktop.
  5. The length of USB 3.0 cable will be an issue for anyone imaging with a large Newtonian Reflector. In my situation with my desktop down stairs in my observatory I found that this camera worked at max design specification on a 5 metre high grade USB 3.0 cable.
At this point I am happy to continue on with the ASI120MM-S as my primary imaging camera, although it’s nice to still have the old ASI120MM as a backup in case something unforeseen occurs. I always like to have at least two options available to me to capture data.




Note; This is the summer holidays in Spain and at the moment the PVOL site is down and wont likely be back up until the end of this month, when I will upload all of this particular data. Note also that I have uploaded all data mentioned in this report to ALPO Japan last night and it will be a day or so before the Saturn section Director loads it all onto the pertinent site.

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Old 10-08-2014, 02:28 PM
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Paul Haese
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Interesting review Trev. Camera development is continuing to move along. I am glad the days of firewire are over.
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Old 10-08-2014, 02:55 PM
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Amaranthus (Barry)
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Thanks Trevor. I got one of these about a week ago. So far I an only used it as a guidecam, at which job it has performed superbly (extremely sensitive). I hope to get to some planetary imaging with it in due course.
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Old 10-08-2014, 05:44 PM
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JB80 (Jarrod)
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Nice review and plenty of info there Trevor.
I recently got the mm but if the mm-s was available at the time I would of got that.
As Paul said cameras are developing so quickly just recently. I wonder just how far they can be pushed.
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Old 10-08-2014, 06:32 PM
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Quark (Trevor)
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Thanks Paul, Barry & Jarrod.

Note; All of the Saturn data referred to in my report (and there is a very large volume of it) has now been loaded onto the ALPO Japan Saturn section and can be seen using the ALPO Japan link I provided in the report.
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Old 10-08-2014, 06:39 PM
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Quark (Trevor)
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Originally Posted by Quark View Post
Thanks Paul, Barry & Jarrod.

Note; All of the Saturn data referred to in my report (and there is a very large volume of it) has now been loaded onto the ALPO Japan Saturn section and can be seen using the ALPO Japan link I provided in the report.
There seems to be a problem with the links I provided in my report so I have included another set of links here.



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