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Digital SLR vs. dedicated Astro CCD Camera



 
 
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  #1  
Old July 4th 05, 09:27 PM
Gregory
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Default Digital SLR vs. dedicated Astro CCD Camera

Hello all,

I am thinking about getting into astro imaging, and
am wondering something...

The local club I belong to has an AISIG (Astro Imaging
Special Interest Group). The majority of the club members
that I have questioned about about getting started in
imaging use Digital SLRs, mostly acquired in the last
year or two. (In fact, only one member I have approached
has an ST-7, and that is a few years old).

These one-shot colour DSLRs are pretty popular, and
are obviously taking a *lot* of business away from
dedicated astro camera manufacturers such as SBIG
and Starlight-Xpress. The dedicated astro cameras
are *seemingly* much more expensive per newbie useful
chip unit area, even taking into account the greater
sensitivity of the dedicated CCD cameras, cooling
capabilities, etc.

Why should a newbie such as myself pay $6000 for a
dedicated 6-MegaPixel astro CCD, or $1300 for a
low-end 0.4-MegaPixel astro CCD, when $1400 can buy a
less sensitive, less specific, but perfectly adequate
large-format dual-purpose CMOS camera such as Hutech-
converted Digital Rebel?

Gregory

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  #2  
Old July 4th 05, 09:59 PM
Chris L Peterson
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On Mon, 04 Jul 2005 20:27:37 GMT, Gregory
wrote:

These one-shot colour DSLRs are pretty popular, and
are obviously taking a *lot* of business away from
dedicated astro camera manufacturers such as SBIG
and Starlight-Xpress.


I doubt they are having much impact on these companies. Maybe on their
one-shot color cameras, but those are just for newbies anyway, and don't
represent a large part of their business (not for SBIG, anyway). In
fact, I wouldn't be surprised if DSLRs are helping astrocamera
manufacturers, since they represent a cheap way into the hobby, but
don't provide much room for growth (so some users graduate to more
serious cameras).


Why should a newbie such as myself pay $6000 for a
dedicated 6-MegaPixel astro CCD, or $1300 for a
low-end 0.4-MegaPixel astro CCD, when $1400 can buy a
less sensitive, less specific, but perfectly adequate
large-format dual-purpose CMOS camera such as Hutech-
converted Digital Rebel?


It depends what you are after. One of the biggest mistakes beginning
imagers make is thinking they need lots of pixels. The actual number of
pixels you need is determined by how large a field you want to image. If
you are interested in imaging typical DSOs through a moderate focal
length instrument (like an SCT) there is little need for megapixels.
Also, you shouldn't underrate the value of cooling. A dedicated
astrocamera has _much_ better noise characteristics than even the lowest
noise DSLRs (Canons), and more than anything else it is noise that
determines image quality. Finally, color sensors do not generally
produce good results compared with individual B&W exposures made through
color filters. In short, if "adequate" is what you are shooting for, a
DSLR may serve you well. If your goal is to keep pushing your skills and
produce high quality astroimages, however, you will rapidly outgrow the
DSLR.

_________________________________________________

Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com
  #3  
Old July 4th 05, 10:18 PM
Gregory
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Hello again Chris and all,

Chris L Peterson wrote:


...In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if DSLRs are helping astrocamera
manufacturers, since they represent a cheap way into the hobby, but
don't provide much room for growth (so some users graduate to more
serious cameras).


I see...


...One of the biggest mistakes beginning imagers make is thinking
they need lots of pixels...


Oh...

The actual number of pixels you need is determined by how large a
field you want to image. If you are interested in imaging typical
DSOs through a moderate focal length instrument (like an SCT)
there is little need for megapixels.


OK -- I will be imaging with an f/5 300mm Newtonian. I was just
looking at DSLR images such as the following:

http://aisig.sdaa.org/astroblog/astr....asp?imgID=342

and thinking that I would be quite happy to produce such an image,
spending less than $2000 on the camera equipment.

Also, you shouldn't underrate the value of cooling...more than
anything else it is noise that determines image quality.


I see, I didn't know that...

Finally, color sensors do not generally produce good results
compared with individual B&W exposures made through
color filters. In short, if "adequate" is what you are shooting
for, a DSLR may serve you well.


If the image referenced above is "adequate", I guess that would
be OK with me for now...

If your goal is to keep pushing your skills and
produce high quality astroimages, however, you will
rapidly outgrow the DSLR.


Well, that *is* a goal, within my limited budget :-)

Thanks, Chris!

Gregory

  #4  
Old July 5th 05, 01:55 AM
Mark S. Holden
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Default

Gregory wrote:

Hello all,

I am thinking about getting into astro imaging, and
am wondering something...

The local club I belong to has an AISIG (Astro Imaging
Special Interest Group). The majority of the club members
that I have questioned about about getting started in
imaging use Digital SLRs, mostly acquired in the last
year or two. (In fact, only one member I have approached
has an ST-7, and that is a few years old).

These one-shot colour DSLRs are pretty popular, and
are obviously taking a *lot* of business away from
dedicated astro camera manufacturers such as SBIG
and Starlight-Xpress. The dedicated astro cameras
are *seemingly* much more expensive per newbie useful
chip unit area, even taking into account the greater
sensitivity of the dedicated CCD cameras, cooling
capabilities, etc.

Why should a newbie such as myself pay $6000 for a
dedicated 6-MegaPixel astro CCD, or $1300 for a
low-end 0.4-MegaPixel astro CCD, when $1400 can buy a
less sensitive, less specific, but perfectly adequate
large-format dual-purpose CMOS camera such as Hutech-
converted Digital Rebel?

Gregory


I'm using a DSLR to get over the steep part of the learning curve, but
expect to upgrade to a monochrome camera with a filter wheel at some
point down the road.

It is more work, but the dedicated cameras can do much more than a DSLR.




  #5  
Old July 5th 05, 03:55 AM
Gregory
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Thanks for the information, Mark; you recently wrote:

It is more work, but the dedicated cameras can do much
more than a DSLR.


OK...exactly how does the "much more" appear in the
finished product? In other words, what differences
do you actually see?

  #6  
Old July 5th 05, 04:52 AM
Chris L Peterson
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On Mon, 04 Jul 2005 21:18:22 GMT, Gregory
wrote:

If the image referenced above is "adequate", I guess that would
be OK with me for now...

If your goal is to keep pushing your skills and
produce high quality astroimages, however, you will
rapidly outgrow the DSLR.


Well, that *is* a goal, within my limited budget :-)


Budget is important. If a dedicated astrocamera is out of reach at the
moment, that is a very good reason to go with a DSLR (I'd recommend an
unmodified 300D). You will get pleasing results and learn a lot about
astroimaging. One thing to be aware of is that working with the images
from a DSLR is a lot harder than working with either B&W or individual
color frames from an astrocamera. Calibration, noise removal, and color
processing with a color camera involve a lot of work. If you move on to
a more advanced camera one day, you will be pleased with how much easier
the processing is.

_________________________________________________

Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com
  #7  
Old July 5th 05, 05:14 AM
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Default



Gregory wrote:
Thanks for the information, Mark; you recently wrote:

It is more work, but the dedicated cameras can do much
more than a DSLR.


OK...exactly how does the "much more" appear in the
finished product? In other words, what differences
do you actually see?


Dedicated CCDs result in smoother images and a higher dynamic range
(higher contrast) than a DSLR. This comes as a result of higher
sensitivity and cooling to reduce background noise.

Since you are a beginner I would sooner recommend the DSLR because it
is lower cost. If you decide you don't like astrophotography you are
left with a good daylight still camera.

Ian Anderson
www.customopticalsystems.com

  #8  
Old July 5th 05, 05:15 AM
Mark S. Holden
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Gregory wrote:
Thanks for the information, Mark; you recently wrote:


It is more work, but the dedicated cameras can do much
more than a DSLR.



OK...exactly how does the "much more" appear in the
finished product? In other words, what differences
do you actually see?


Here's a photo of the Lagoon nebula taken by Michael Downing.

http://www.astroden.com/stl6303/tmb130/M8_Core.jpg

Here's a shot of ngc6960 by Michael Sherick:

http://www.turbinelegend.net/ASTRO/N...5/6-27-05.html

Of course it's not just the equipment - these guys are experienced and
gifted at astrophotography.

  #9  
Old July 5th 05, 05:51 AM
Gregory
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Thanks again, Mark! You recently wrote:

Here's a photo of the Lagoon nebula taken by Michael Downing.

http://www.astroden.com/stl6303/tmb130/M8_Core.jpg

Here's a shot of ngc6960 by Michael Sherick:

http://www.turbinelegend.net/ASTRO/N...5/6-27-05.html


I am not sure which is the DSLR, and which is the high-end astrocamera...


  #10  
Old July 5th 05, 06:04 AM
Chris L Peterson
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On Tue, 05 Jul 2005 04:51:33 GMT, Gregory
wrote:

I am not sure which is the DSLR, and which is the high-end astrocamera...


Both were made with high-end astrocameras.

_________________________________________________

Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com
 




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