Home > Cameras

Choosing a Camera

Real time Astro-Video cameras

These cameras output a video signal which can be viewed on a TV or CCTV monitor. For imaging purposes or to view with a PC or laptop a video capture device or TV card is required. They use very sensitive chips but due to the lack of on-board integration they're really only suited to 'fast' events such as occultations and meteors, or as video finders. For short exposures they're more sensitive than any other cameras but without long exposure settings they're severely limited for deep sky use. Aside from Astronomy they are very useful for security and nocturnal wildlife observation.

Integrating Astro-Video cameras

Cameras of this type are not limited to standard video frame rates of 25fps, but can integrate exposures up to 2.5 or 10 seconds. Results from even small scopes (if setup correctly) are quite amazing to the first time viewer. There's no mystery to this as they can "store up" light for many seconds before producing an image whilst the human eye has no such facility. Additionally the CCD sensors can "see" in the Ultraviolet and especially in the Infrared thus giving your scope "bionic" vision. As well as increasing the power of your scopes these cameras lend themselves very well indeed to remote viewing. You can sit in the warmth of your living room whilst viewing the universe especially if used in conjunction with a goto scope.

Planetary CCD cameras

This camera type generally uses sensors with smaller pixels to more effectively sample the telescopes image. A high frame rate is also desirable to take advantage of those fleeting moments of atmospheric tranquility. Colour and Monochrome versions are available with Monochrome favoured by many enthusiasts because of it's edge when it comes to ultimate performance. The Monochrome cameras also lend themselves to more flexible colour composite imaging using Ultra Violet and InfraRed passing filters.

Cooled CCD cameras

To record and process long exposures of Deep Sky objects requires that the camera be effectively cooled to reduce noise in the image. Moreover it helps greatly if the image is rendered in high bit depth, ie has lots of shades of Grey between Black and White for a Monochrome camera or shades of each primary colour for a Colour camera. Many cameras used for presentation, such as video and webcam types, use only 8 bits (256 shades) but most CCD cameras designed for long exposure Astro-Imaging use 16 bits. Pixel size amongst the many sensors used varies greatly and has a bearing on sensitivity, larger pixels are generally more sensitive. Sensor size also varies with larger types becoming more common and affordable.