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Celestron NexImage 5 MP 5 Solar System Imager with Micron Digital Clarity Technology, Black (93711)
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- 5 Mega pixel color sensor with Micron DigitalClarity technology to dramatically reduce image noise levels Small pixels sizes provide sub arc-second planetary detail with most telescopes
- View and capture live video on your computer Software automatically filters out video frames most affected by poor atmospheric seeing leaving only the sharpest, clearest frames to be stacked and aligned into one high quality image
- Machined aluminum 1.25-Inch adapter barrel makes NexImage compatible with most any telescope Barrel accepts standard 1.25 eyepiece filters 1.25-Inch adapter barrel makes NexImage compatible with most any telescope
- Camera control software allows you to manually change the gain, contrast, exposure time, frame rate and color saturation using your PC. Camera body has integrated C-threads for direct threaded connection to telescope
- Integrated IR-cut optical window, Selectable region of interest sub-framing 2 x 2 and 4 x 4 binning capability, Progressive scan , Includes USB 2.0 cable
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Capture high resolution 5MP planetary, lunar and solar images. Combined with the included software package, NexImage 5 MP can bring out tremendous detail and produce images that will rival those taken with astronomical cameras costing hundreds more.
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Before I bought this camera, I was learning how to do Astrophotography one step at a time. First, I was snapping single frames with my Alpha A57 on a 130mm reflector. I could scarcely see a gap between Saturn and its rings, or see any type of detail on Jupiter's surface. Next, I learned how to take many pictures and stack them together. Now, I was getting little closer, but I was still very discouraged. Next came some video on a 8" SCT with my A57, followed with stacking in Registax, which produced some decent beginner images. After seeing some examples online of others' images, I knew I had to make the leap to a dedicated astro camera, if I were to make any progress. I've been very happy with that decision! Although it takes a little more planning to carry a laptop outside with me, it's completely worth it.
The camera is surprisingly small and lightweight. It functions like a 5mm eyepiece, so I generally center the object with a low magnification eyepiece, then add the barlow and recenter, then add a high power eyepiece and recenter, then insert the camera. On the computer, select a large video size and adjust the exposure and focus the telescope until it comes into view. Then, you can begin adjusting the video size and make you final videos. I always do a couple videos for each combination of settings.
Here are a few other suggestions based upon what I've learned so far about planetary imaging:
1. The best quality to file size ratio I've seen has been with the Y800 format.
2. I have to leave myself a lot of space around the planet, so that I can keep the disk away from any visible specks in the telescope.
3. I've had the best detail with a 3X barlow, with no binning. This is with an 8" Celestron SCT.
4. Quality is 60% seeing conditions, 30% post processing, and 20% telescope. If the planet is high in the sky and it's standing still, you're going to get a fantastic video. You will not be able to get a good final image if the planet is too wobbly. You just can't. I tried many times before I had the sense to just try again on another night.
5. Visit ClearSkyAlarmClock.com to generate customized advance notifications of good seeing conditions. If I didn't have that, I would have missed my best pictures!
6. Framerate is your friend; make it as high as you can by reducing the dimensions and using a faster shutter speed.
7. Use the histogram feature in iCap to ensure you're not overexposing.
8. The best viewing occurs near opposition and/or perigee, when the planet is brightest and/or closest, and only when the planet is high in the sky.
The imager includes a screw in 1.25 inch nosepiece along with a screw in dust cap and a heavy duty USB cable. Also included is iCap acquisition software and Registax 6 freeware for processing videos into still images. You don't have to use the included software if you can find something you like better.
The target market for NexImage 5 are hobbyists which means you're expected to figure things out without much hand holding. iCap includes a help file to get you started acquiring. But it doesn't offer tips on how to set gain and exposure, how to get the best focus or how many frames or how long to run the video. I run iCap on Windows 7 64bit. iCap provides a variety of settings and if a feature is not available it is disabled. You can also add or remove tool bars that are disabled or you don't use.
Imaging can be done in color or monochrome and there are 9 image size formats for the non-binned mode. There are two binning modes 2x2 and 4x4. This review doesn't deal with those. This review does deal with acquisition. Registax 6 processing software is third party software that was not written by the manufacturer.
The number of frames acquired per second is limited by the image size. On my setup this is typically as slow as 6 fps for the largest format (2592x1944). I only use this format in live view to help get a target into the field. I drop down to one of the lower resolutions that depends on what I'm imaging. iCap help won't give you much guidance on what gain, exposure or number of frames to take. The software provides a histogram function which should typically be set to be as wide as possible without hitting the 255 level.
Clear nights with excellent seeing are rare in New England or the Mid Atlantic States where I do my imaging.But I have had some success imaging the moon, Jupiter and Saturn and Mars. I'm amazed at how the combination of the NexImage 5 with Registax 6 processing can yield quite nice images even when seeing is mediocre. My imaging has been between 300 and 600 frames where 50% of the best frames are selected by Registax 6 for averaging.
I knocked off one star because of two annoyances. Often while focusing live view simply stops forcing me to restart it. The second annoyance is sometimes vertical red lines appear in the final image. They can be eliminated with careful adjustment of wavelets noise reduction. Otherwise I'm quite happy with the NexImage 5. A prime focus Jupiter image taken in January is attached.