Top positive review
108 people found this helpful
Excellent tool, but with a learning curve
on June 8, 2008
I purchased this camera from Amazon and have had a few weeks to test it out. Overall, I've found it to be an excellent tool for lunar and planetary imaging. It is easy to get started using, but to get really good images, you'll need to spend some time and you'll need to be technically adept. A few points are worth noting for newbies. All astro cameras in this price range are essentially webcams that have been modified to capture video through a telescope. This technology achieves image quality by sampling the best frames from the video and then stacking them on top of each other. This results in much more fine detail. This camera comes with two different pieces of software that must be used. The capture software gives a real-time view of the scope video, which allows you to focus, but you must be able to see the laptop screen while you adjust focus on the scope (unless you have a focus motor). The AMCap capture software also allows you to tune the brightness, contrast, frame capture rate and other important video quality metrics. Tuning the capture is a real art and takes practice. The second piece of software is the Registax post processing package. It takes the recorded video, collects and orients the moving image frames and allows you to tune the detail by bringing out features from different frames. The Registax package is relatively technical to use and is a bit intimidating. It takes several attempts to learn how to use it at a basic level, but the instruction PDF provided is very well done. Celestron's support faq site for this camera notes that the camera's internal BIOS can be modified to operate in RAW (uncompressed) avi mode, which will improve its image quality by about 2x. I downloaded the 3rd party utility to do this and also downloaded a better image capture program that allows easier processing of the RAW avi files. After spending several hours learning how CCD video imaging works and upgrading/tweaking, I was getting what I consider to be excellent planetary images with my Celestron NexStar 130 SLT Newtonian. This camera does not allow the use of eyepieces, but can be used with a Barlow. It is equivalent to a fixed 5mm eyepiece. I also bought the optional reducer (see my review of it). Because of the fixed focal character of the CCD chip, this camera is optimized for planetary and lunar imaging (I also did some filtered solar images), but it would be hard to get good deep space images with it, and a reducer is needed for the moon or sun, as they will fill the viewing area several time over. All in all, this is a great tool for the money and lets you produce really nice planetary images for a small price. However, if you're a newbie, you should plan to spend a weekend researching, tweaking and practicing before you get decent results. You can capture quick single frame stills, but they will be disappointing. The stacking and post processing is really needed to get good images.