Saturday, 20 February 2016

A Cheap, 1.3 Mp USB board camera, a possible starter camera for outreach, observation and an introduction to imaging

The Camera, an ELP, 1.3 Mp, CMOS, USB board camera is available at the time of writing, for £29-99p on Amazon.

Camera re-mounted in a project box

It has been tested here using SharpCap 7 capture software and a 150mm, f/5, AZ Star Discovery Newtonian. The camera was placed at the Newtonian focus of the telescope, and 500 frame AVIs were captured at full resolution of 1280 x 960 pixels. Registax was unable to read the AVIs, which were read into VirtualDub and re-saved as uncompressed AVIs (this does not affect any compression that may be imposed by the camera's firmware).
The first thing to note is that the camera does deliver some compression in both YUYV and MPEG formats, with framerates of 9fps and 15fps respectively. This having been said, the compression is not as severe as in some webcams, and delivers pleasing live views suitable for shared observing. So far, the camera has been tested on the Moon, but not on any planets.

Live Views using SharpCap

The terminator was imaged as a Mosaic of 4 overlapping images of the 55%, waxing, gibbous Moon, derived from 500 frame AVIs.

Terminator of the 55%, waxing, gibbous Moon

Another night, 8 overlapping AVIs of the 84%, waxing, gibbous Moon were captured and the resulting images combined into a mosaic.
84%, waxing, gibbous Moon

Although some compression is evident in these images, it is not sufficient to prevent the capturing of pleasing images, and from producing live images of the Moon that are suitable for shared observing and outreach.