Friday, June 7, 2013

First light with new improved camera.

The 60Da.
I came across a great deal on Craigslist (thanks for finding that Traci!), on a Canon 60Da camera.  I won't mention the price, but I saved a lot of money on it. This camera is Canon's latest step back into DSLR Astro-capable cameras after about 7 years since they first came out with the short lived, but still popular, 20Da (the "a" is for astro).  So what sets this apart from a normal 60D?  This version has about 3x the IR/Red channel gathering ability (at least from what I read), and it has a super low noise ratio also for those long exposures.
The flip out screen - so nice!

I got lucky last night and actually had a chance with some clear skies.  Transparency was kind of lousy, and clouds rolled in as I was taking the 6th image, but I got enough for a quick image stack and processing to see what it can do.  I also bought a registration for a cool imaging software called "Backyard EOS" which has a lot of really nice features, and it's super easy to use.  I really like the auto-dithering feature it has with Phd Guider.  That's really slick.  It will move the scope a few pixels between frames to minimize the repeating noise.  As for noise, I was quickly impressed with how little background noise was seen even after a 3 minute exposure at ISO 1000.  Very clean data.  I didn't take any dark/flat frames in this test run, but it came out looking really great.  I did have some errors in autoguiding, which caused the elongated stars, but that's another issue.
Focusing this camera is going to be a HUGE time saver!  It has a live video mode so you get a live image on the screen. Combine that with the remote focusing from the computer and I had the image focused in just a couple minutes.  Usually, with the old camera, I would take a shot, focus, take another, focus, swear a bit since I went the wrong way, focus - and repeat until I was there.   A Bahtinov mask and a couple minutes and it's ready!
The camera has a few different RAW modes with maximum resolution a massive 18 mega pixels!  I'll need to invest in a bigger hard drive for my data.
So here it is, the "first light" image from the observatory armed with the new 60Da.
  • M-27 Dumbell nebula
  • Camera: 60Da
  • Filter: CLS
  • Scope: Meade LX200 at f/6.3
  • ISO: 1000   |  Exposures:  6 |  Time:  3 minute each
As always, click for full size

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