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Old 05-06-2016, 10:08 AM
Jocksquin (Ron)
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Prostar guiding cameras

I am looking at a cheap and effective way of getting into astrophotography.
Don't want to spend much until I can learn all the ropes and the Sw packages.
I have all the Sw already on a dedicated laptop.
Platforms are a SW 200mm Newt with GOTO and a newly purchased Sw 102-500 GOTO travel scope.
So as.not to waste any cash,or end up with redundant equipment,my plan is to buy a Prostar colour guide camera for the start-up photography. Then when I am more proficient,the Prostar will become the guide camera and I will buy a good quality CCD camera or SLR. for.the photography.
Wondering if anyone has experience with the PROSTAR cameras.
All comments welcome.
Thanks,
Ron
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Old 08-06-2016, 07:33 AM
VPAstro (Andrew and Cam)
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I am interested in the prostar also.
Hopefully someone has some experience.
Andrew
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Old 12-06-2016, 04:28 PM
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G'day guys I only just saw this. I have had a Prostar LP- Guide mono for a little over a month now. I am using it as a guide camera so cannot comment on how they are for photography. My guide scope is a converted 50mm finder and the camera has no problems picking up stars to guide with. I did have a lot of issues with settings in PHD2, (uncontrollable oscillation in both RA and dec), when using the native "Toupcam ascom driver" that comes on the CD. However you can use the "WDM webcam"" setting in PHD2 for this camera and they work very well. You still have all the same adjustments available and you can adjust them while the camera is connected instead of only at connection. I have only had one full nights imaging after I swapped to the WMD driver but had an average total guide error over the entire night of 0.81". I am not sure but I think that's pretty good for a finder guide scope (certainly good for me up here in NQld). Anyway, point is for guiding once I swapped drivers It works very well. Was pulling my hair out for a couple of weeks, thought I had a dodgy cable, then thought a dodgy USB port, then checked backlash on my mount. Was just about to throw in the towel when I remembered reading that you can tell PHD that it is a webcam. Instant results, All settings in PHD2 have been returned to normal settings and it works every time. Just for the record, one night doesn't seem like much of a recomendation, but I use SGPro and my system runs automatically from a backyard observatory. My current project is a mosaic and the system moved eight times during that night, to take different panels, and had to pick up guiding and calibrate etc after each move, and the guider worked flawlessly, not one error in the logs at all. Hope that gives you some idea about them.
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Old 19-06-2016, 11:23 AM
Jocksquin (Ron)
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Thanks for the inpuit

Gday Rex,
thought I posted a reply yesterday but it has gone into cyberspace. Thanks for the heads-up on the driver. Will come in handy when I eventually do some guiding with the Prostar which is it's final destination.
At the moment i am trying to learn astrophotography and am using the Prostar to find my way around. It not going well in my SW 102-500 as i am having trouble with exposure and focus - it's not that I can't reach the focus point with the focuser but the image is crap compared to the eyepiece view. Also exposure control is an issue and I can't get any image in daylight. I am using video capture and haven't tried still yet.
I might also mention that it's too cold for astro stuff down here so I am practising on an offshore bass strait oil rig some 25kms away.
The other night they were burning off gas and the glare just "blew out" any picture. Tried all sort of frame rates and exposures but no luck.
Now we are talking about 10% of the moon's brightness so I'm not sure how this camera is supposed to take lunar and planetary pictures- but I'll press on and keep trying.
Do you know of any articles to reference in using the Prostar and particularly the Toup-sky software (other than the user manual of course)??

Lasty, would be interested in your mod of the finder to produce a guidescope (which is my intention with a 9x50SW). Did you use that online post from the british guy or??

Thanks in advance
Ron
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Old 25-06-2016, 12:31 PM
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HI Ron,
Sorry mate I missed your reply until now. Your original question peeked my curiosity so I have actually been playing with the prostar as an imaging camera. I have the mono model, and I don'y have any imaging filters, so I stuck a UHC-E filter on that I had left over from my visual days. The preliminary results look very promising. I am in the middle of stacking a couple of runs that I did, I will do a very quick process on them and post them here once they are done. That will at least give you an idea of what kind of end result you can expect. I will post them soon.
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Old 25-06-2016, 02:03 PM
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Hi Ron,
The first very quick process of an imaging run I did last night using the Prostar LP-Guide mono as an imaging camera. I used an old webcam that I had converted years ago to guide with.

Image details:
Camera - LP Guid Mono
Filter - 1.25" UHC-E (only one I have laying around)
37 x 200sec bin 1 x1
Darks, Bias, & flats calibrated.
Gain setting - 0
Frame rate - 75%
Skywatcher CF8 F/4 Astrograph
Processing:
Calibrated and stacked in PIS.
Screen stretch applied using Histogram.
No noise reduction as I wanted you to see what the output is like.
No sharpening for the same reason.
On my scope this camera has an image scale of 0.95"/pixel.

This is basically a calibrated stack, cropped the edges and applied a screen stretch and that's all.

Link to Astrobin full res version.

I will add some more data to this and give it a real process to see what I can achieve, but this at least gives you an idea that the camera is not to bad for the price.
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Click for full-size image (M16_int_Dcrop_STF_Hist_200K.jpg)
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Old 25-06-2016, 03:49 PM
Jocksquin (Ron)
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Gday Rex,
thanks for taking the trouble to put the camera to the test and I am IMPRESSED with the result. I originally wanted the mono camera as I knew it was more sensitive but when I added the price of a filter set,etc it got cost prohibitive(at least at this point in my astro journey).
I am not sure how far I will delve into the astropics and I have been happy with visual only so far but you never know where it will take you.
I have made no further progress since my last post as the new Star Discovery goto mount on the little SW 102-500 has gone back to Tasco as there is a motor "clutch' problem at lower speeds (the slew "jerks" on all axes-see separate post under "equipment') . Add to that freezing weather and a chronic bad-back and it's a poor situation.
I am heading up the NSW South coast on 4th July and taking the little scope and camera with me as there are some great dark skies there.
I am interested in the settings and exposures you used - my son-in-law and eldest grandson have given me great info to get me started with the camera,but i need to make a start.
I also have a SW 8" Newt on an EQ5 goto which I guess is similar to your setup so i am hopeful of getting good pics when I return home(and it's warmer).
A few specific questions if you have time(which will show how little knowledge I have):
1.you obviously got sharp focus from your camera - why can't i get a sharp focus on a "lit-up" oil rig 25kms away (at night) in the ocean? (it looks sharp in the eyepiece but not through the camera ,viewed on the laptop)
2.Did you use a barlow for your Eagle Neb pics?
3. why can't I get a pic in daylight? (I have been using autoexposure and when that doesn't work,resorting to trying manual settings)
- similarly why did the picture "blow out" with the glare of a gas burnoff
on the oil rig (no amount of manipulation of exposure,frame rate,etc
fixed it) ?
4. can you give basic details of your finder mod to make a guidescope?

Sorry to ask all this basic stuff,but I am still trying to work out if i have a faulty camera or not.
I did a small run 10 days ago on the oil rig at night with it's "normal lighting" and actually got an image,then I stacked it in DSS just to practice the process. No darks,flats or bias frames - the image was not in sharp focus(see above) and I wasn't happy. Hopefully when I point the camera at Jupiter or similar,I wlll get better results
Rgds
Ron
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Old 25-06-2016, 05:29 PM
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No Problems Ron, ask away. I will help however I can. I will try to answer your questions in the order that you asked them.
1. For focusing I use a bahtinov mask, with an F4 scope my critical focus zone is 35 microns, so getting accurate focus in not something I can do just by eye. These cameras have tiny pixels, 3.75 microns so if focus is even slightly off you will see it in the image. Even with an f5 to get critical focus you are better off using some kind of focus aid. Baht masks are by far the cheapest way. Also assuming your little scope is not an Apo you will get chromatic Arberition, (blue or red rings around bright objects), even when in focus.
2. No I didn't use a barlow. For want of a better way to explain, the smaller the CMOS chip the smaller the field of view. I think the chip on these is like 4.8mm x 3.6mm or something like that. My scope has an 800mm Focal length and that and the size of the chip is what determines how zoomed in your image will be.
3. These camera's are astro cameras, and as such are very sensitive, I cannot get a pic during the day either ( just a full white screen), as they are not designed for that. To check if your camera is in fact working, when you turn it on and get a white screen, cover the end of the camera with your hand or the bung that came with it, and everything should go black. Take it away and it should go white again. Just too sensitive to take day time pics even on the lowest setting. The only thing I can think of with the blow it, is either stray light getting into the end of the scope somehow, or your settings are too high. My M16 pic was taken at gain setting of zero and a frame rate of 75%. The frame rate here doesn't really matter as I was taking 200sec total exposures, so even on the lowest frame rate, it would still be several frames to make up each sub exposure.
4. Basic details for the finder mod, was unscrew the eye piece end and I had a spare 2" to 1.25" adapter that was a tight squeeze but fit in the end with no major problems, and that's it. Camera goes in the 1.25" holder and focus the same as you do with any finder.
5. Depending on the focal length of the scope you are going to use you will definitely need a barlow to do planetary work. When I look at Jupiter with my F4 it looks basically just like a star, that's how small it is in the field of view.
6. Test stack in DSS. These cameras are very noisy, I know it doesn't look too bad in the image I posted, but that's what proper calibration with darks, bias and flats will do for your images. The uncalibrated images were very noisy. Also Something else that helps with the removal of noise during stacking is dithering, which I always do.
Hope that helps a bit, if I didn't explain something properly, just let me know and I will try again. Astro imaging is a huge learning curve, so don't hesitate to ask questions.
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Old 27-06-2016, 10:31 AM
Jocksquin (Ron)
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Gday Rex,
great post with all my questions answered.
The SW 102-500 is an achromat but reading reviews the chromatic abberation is much less than what would be expected in a scope of that size.
That said,the scope is my travel scope and what I am using to try out some pics. I will get more serious in the spring and use the camera on my 8" Newt. I have great dark sky views of the planets,Omega centauri,Tarantula,etc from my back patio overlooking the ocean so i have high hopes of some good pics.

You have certainly eased my mind with your daytime experiences with the camera the same as mine - I know now that it is working as i have tried it in the lounge and there is an image,albeit way out of focus. Thanks also for confirming that this size of chip is really not suited for ANY terrestrial stuff.

Re focusing,I have downloaded a 4" baht mask template and will have a go at making one - if that doesn't work too well,I'll buy one as from your advice,sharp focus will be critical. I do use SW electric focusers after learning from experience with my first Celestron scope that you can't focus properly on a small EQ3 tripod while it's still vibrating from turning the focus knob.

Re the barlows,I have a 2x but have a 5x on order for the planets - due in 2 weeks or so.

For the finder scope conversion,i am pleased to hear you had no focus issues after the conversion. From what I read on that English site,it can/could be an issue, so a plus there for me as i have a spare 9x50 finder which i will convert the same way.

As for processing,I made a mistake previously in that I was trying those oil rig pics using video and using Registax but i understand what your saying about the importance of the calibration images.

One last question however,before I sign off for a little while,do you think i should be putting the camera in the eyepiece holder at the back of the 45 (or 90 deg)star diagonals or should i try it straight in the back of the OTA? (might need an extension tube to achieve focus however)

Thanks again for your help

Rgds
Ron
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Old 27-06-2016, 09:37 PM
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No Problems Ron, glad to help. As for whether to put the camera in the diagonal or not, I don't think it matters as long as you can reach focus.
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Old 16-07-2016, 01:20 PM
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FWIW : Although not really billed as a DSO imaging camera the little LP-Guide colour camera can be used quite effectively for entry-level DSO imaging. Attached is a recent acquisition of M83 taken with a very low cost f/5 5" Newt. 4 x 4 minutes unguided exposures. The only calibration was the automatic subtraction of a dark frame during capture. Stacked with RegiStax and mildly processed with Photoshop. Not brilliant but would probably satisfy a starting imager, particularly as the camera is as cheap as chips. Unguided exposures do require the mount to be pretty accurately polar aligned.

David
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Old 22-07-2016, 08:38 AM
Jocksquin (Ron)
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Hi David,
any beginner would be happy with that and I have some confidence now in the Prostar.
I have not actually progressed to astropics yet as I am on my winter break fishing up the coast
Thanks for your interest and input
Rgds
Ron
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