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Old 16-08-2020, 11:55 PM
langman78 (Ben)
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Processing Programs of Choice

Hi all.

Been a long time and due to the lovely COVID restrictions I'm thinking of jumping back into some basic photography.
The only real program I used (after stacking) or was familiar with was photoshop. Now that the lovely people at Adobe have decided to only have monthly subscriptions, they can forget it! Over the last few yrs I've upgraded to a Macbook pro. My older retired windows laptop did have photoshop included but I have no passkey etc and the transition to a mac probably wouldn't make it possible anyways (and I'm just not that keen to use photoshop again).
As I've been out of the game for sometime, I just wondering what a majority of folks here are using these days as I'm sure there are many that were left dumbfounded by adobe's decision.
I was considering using Startools. Pixinsight seems like a good choice also but from the information I have read online this seems a little too advanced for my liking.
I don't know if a pending choice should be based in the type of AP being carried out?
I'll be doing wide field AP with my 1st Gen iOptron skytracker. And hopefully one day I'll pull the trigger on a semi decent Refractor for some DSO's and visual.
Probably not really relevant, but I'm looking into purchasing Luminar 4 soon for my general photography. Wondering If any folks here have used for any AP processing? I highly doubt this would suffice for any decent AP work but worth asking I guess.
Any input or advise would be greatly appreciated.

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Old 17-08-2020, 12:12 PM
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billdan (Bill)
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In our Astro world there are three levels of software to consider.

1). A sequencing program that you set up for the target you want to capture, these programs are used for setting how many subs you want to capture, auto-focusing, filter changing, plate solving and mosaic generation. NINA is free and is widely praised or SGP which is more common but you have to pay for it.

Both of these programs will interface with PHD2 (free) guiding software for dithering.

I use EZCAP which came with my QHY12 camera.

2) A stacking program which stack all your subs, darks and flats, DSS is free and is widely used but I found it a bit slow on my computer.

3) A processing program to stretch the final stacked image and also remove noise and gradients and perform colour correction.

I use Startools for this as its easy to learn, Pixinsight is the best and it can also stack your subs as well, but my computer was too slow when I tried the 45 day free trial.

Astroart I did purchase, which can also capture, guide, stack and process images, I only use it for stacking now as its very quick on my PC compared to DSS.

There are free processing programs around like Gimp, or ImageJ but I have never tried them.

Hope this helps

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Old 17-08-2020, 01:45 PM
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Outcast (Carlton)
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Unfortunately, being on a Mac limits you a little in terms of some of the free programs that are out there; however, you may find this page useful in finding software that will work on your Mac:


Sadly, Deep Sky Stacker doesn't work natively in the MAC OS, you can use bootcamp or Parallels & for some older MAC OS, there are versions available in a Wineskin wrapper. Nothing available for current MAC OS... trust me, I've looked...

If you are looking for an alternative to Photoshop that is just as powerful but, doesn't have a monthly subscription fee, have a look at Affinity Photo. One off price (around $79 from memory), extremely powerful & serious challenger to Photoshop. Some Photoshop plugins will work with Affinity as well but, not all & unfortunately, there are no Astrophotography plugins for Affiinty. However, it's worth checking out if you are looking for excellent Photo developing/manipulation software.

FWIW, I use the following on my Mac:

1. ASTAP (MAC alternative to DSS)
2. Lynkeos (MAC alternative to Autostakkert & Registax)
3. Startools (Works natively in both MAC & WIN)
4. Affinity Photo

I also have a 'trial' version of Nebulosity but, haven't tried it out yet...

Hope this helps
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Old 17-08-2020, 11:41 PM
langman78 (Ben)
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Thanks for the intel gents.
Wow I guess it's something I never really considered switching to a Mac OS if certain AP programs would work. Not that I regret the decision as the more I use my mac, the more I realize what a much better OS it is compared to windows (just my opinion) but in the case of AP, windows may have an edge but certainly not enough incentive for me to ever go back to windows. I'm glad that to hear that Startools is compatible but a damn shame about DSS as I had a ok understanding of operating the software. But in saying that I'm glad that there alternatives for mac users. Thank you very much for the link Carlton for what's available.
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Old 14-09-2020, 10:59 AM
morls (Stephen)
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Late to the party, but this is a good freeware alternative to photoshop:

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Old 14-09-2020, 04:32 PM
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Nikolas (Nik)
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Astropixel processor to stack and combine and then recombine colour etc, then Gimp to finish if you have not got a copy of Photoshop
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Old 21-09-2020, 11:13 AM
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Andy01 (Andy)
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+1 ^ APP & seriously, PS - PSCC 2020 is well worth the small monthly fee for the latest upgrades, plug ins, camera compatability, bells & whistles.
Pretty hard to find decent AP apps that are not subscription based now.
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Old 21-09-2020, 09:44 PM
langman78 (Ben)
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You're probably correct Andy. But for someone like myself that only dabbles and will probably be lucky to use a handful of times a year it's just not worth it for me personally.
Perhaps when my kids are all grown and I have a bit more time and certainly when I have much better equipment to justify getting the most out of it!
Just out of curiosity how does PS structure their subscriptions?
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