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Considerations when purchasing a camera

07 Sep, 2018 20:25
Hi everyone,

I am considering the purchase of a dedicated Astro camera, currently using an unmodified Canon 5D Mark III on a 120 Skywatcher ED Apo. I would like to be able to photograph all objects but I think my priority would be DSOs, galaxies and nebula.  I have watched videos and read information about my options and I try to take notice of what cameras are used by astrophotographers but I am still having a hard time trying to decide what to purchase. To help me and maybe others, I am asking you to rank what you feel the priorities should be. Here are the features I am aware of (if there are others, please add) that seem to be important. Please rank them as you see fit: Brand, Sensor size, Color vs mono, Resolution, Pixel size, Cooled vs non-cooled, Well depth, Cmos vs ccd, Frames per second, 8 vs 12 vs 16 bit or higher and signal to noise ratios.

Thanks smile
08 Sep, 2018 20:25

I am using an unmodified Canon 7D and am also thinking about buying a dedicated astro camera.  My thoughts are:

Mono or colour?
If I buy a mono camera I also need a filter wheel and filters.  The good thing about mono is that this means I can image in Ha OIII and RGB, extending the targets and images, the bad thing is the extra cost.  A colour camera is an extension of what I have with better sensitivity perhaps but many have smaller resolution (pixel count).

Cooled or not?
Cooled allows for much less noise which would be good but I wonder if I have the skills and the location (bortle 8/9 sky) for that to make much difference?

8/12/16 bit.
Obviously the more data bits the finer the resolution you get across the image and the finer the details it can resolve.  I'm definitely aiming for the higher end here.

The great thing about this site is that you can search for images which were taken with specific equipment so if you want to see the difference between two cameras, search for them both and compare the images available. You obviously need to ensure the scope etc are the same with images you compare but it is still a very useful feature.

For me it doesn't make sense to buy a colour astro camera because the 7D is a very capable camera and certainly doesn't limit the imaging I'm doing at the moment (my skill level is the limiting factor!)
My decision at the moment is that I will save for a good mono camera and filter wheel.  The best filters are very expensive so I'll start
with something reasonable and buy better ones as I can afford them.  From what I've read using a mono camera and filters is also a real benefit with light polluted skies.

I hope this helps - or at least doesn't confuse the issue for you smilesmilesmile

All the best

08 Sep, 2018 23:02
I have a Canon T3i modded full spectrum. You can look at my images to see what I am getting out of this camera. Your Camera is perfect for the modification. I sent mine out to Spencer’s Camera and photo. They modded the cameras on the ISS and do an exceptional job.

09 Sep, 2018 06:08
My advise - keep this wounderfull camera AS IS and use it for widefield astrophotography with 100-200 mm lense. Modification helps a lot but without cooling you would get too much noise with long exposition shooting. Look for astrocamera, there are so many to choose from, I love my ASI 1600 MM. You did not mention the mount, but this is more important thing in astrophotography. Without good mount and autoguider you will not get any decent results. Also the scope is important, Skywatcher 120 is too dark for DSO, but still good for planetary imaging. Clear skies!
10 Sep, 2018 17:49
Thanks for your responses and comments so far.
Anyone else want to weigh in?
10 Sep, 2018 20:57
I looked at so many images here on Astrobin and on so many different sites, and i came to a conclusion as following:

1. Dark sky will make any camera nice even unmodified.
2. Astro dedicated camera is easier to use because it give better control and processing apps is a fun to use them
3. Cooled cameras are the best because they can be used in all conditions or situations, dark, light pollution, hot, cold
4. Narowbanding is a life saver for people in light pollution area
5. A mono camera giving like full control and better results because you deal with each color individually although it will take time and more expensive.

So, a mono cooled astro camera is like the top list then anything else like one shot color cooled or modified DSLR uncooled or cooled or mono non cooled, and then it is up to people to choose whatever according to their locations and their budget and their time if they don't like long exposures.
13 Sep, 2018 15:47
Pretty much just the results, the reasons would take a _long_ time.

You want cooled, in any skies, it's perhaps the major reason for getting an astro camera.  It makes life better and easier.

Mono v color is a personal decision.

With sensors, bigger is better, but price goes up fast.

12 bit is no big deal, dynamic range gets you first, stacks of 12 bit frames are effectively higher bit level.

CCD is nicer/easier than CMOS, but the cost penalty is extreme.

Short focal lengths need small pixels, quite likely the smallest you can get.  Longer focal lengths are pretty flexible.

A common, good choice is an ASI1600.  Decently large chip, lowish cost, can even do some planetary (most DSO cameras can't).

An Atik 460 is easier to use, excellent quality, but the chip is slightly smaller, and the cost is more than twice as much.

My Astrobin has lots of 460 mono images.
Edited 13 Sep, 2018 15:49
13 Sep, 2018 17:17
In addition to the suggestions above, consider the ASI294MC Pro (if you want OSC). It is a good cam with a good chip size and medium sized pixels. Should be fine with your Apo.
13 Sep, 2018 19:48
I have used Modified DSLR, One shot colour CCD and Mono CCD and Mono CCD beats the lot.  Much more detail.
Cooling is essential.
Not used a CMOS camera so can't comment on them.

I would never go back to a colour camera now with the odd exception.  i.e. Comets, Milky way, and travel abroad with simple kit.

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