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CCD Cameras for Photometry

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john downing
CCD Cameras for Photometry

First, let me say I am new to AAVSO, photometry, and this forum and look forward to learning about and contributing towards the science of photometry. As a beginner I ask: What ccd cameras are recommended for photometry? I am interested in recommendations for beginners and what more advanced contributors are using. If there is a thread already available on this topic I would appreciate someone directing me to it. If there is not a thread perhaps one could be started including not only beginning through advanced imagers but also those which meet the requirements of specialized areas of interest. It will be helpful for me (and hopefully others) as I progress so that I can be looking out into the marketplace for opportunities to upgrade my equipment.

HQA's picture

There are many factors to consider when purchasing a CCD camera, not the least of which is your budget. :)

My usual statement is that you can do decent science with any digital detector.  That said, some are much easier to use and get good results than others.

Many of the details of camera selection, such as optimizing the pixel size or the field of view, are given in the CCD manual:

There are many vendors, and I've used almost all of their cameras with success (AAVSOnet has cameras from Apogee, ATIK, Finger Lakes, QSI, SBIG, and Starlight Xpress, from 765x512 to 4kx4k pixels).  The SBIG ST-line (especially the XME variety) were very popular a couple of years ago; that line is no longer being made, but you can often find some good used bargains.  The two best there were the ST-8XME and the ST-10XME, again depending on your focal length, seeing, etc.  Currently, the best value uses the KAF-8300 sensor, an ABG chip but with lots of pixels.  Most vendors set up the A/D converter so that the nonlinearity at high signal is not seen.  I think about every vendor has a camera based on the 8300.  There are dozens of cameras and sensors - as a beginner, I'd probably get help from the Mentor Program, and think about getting a camera and software that your mentor knows and understands.



john downing

Thanks for your advice Arne. After doing some reading and getting some great advice from my mentor (Tim Crawford) and others in this forum I have been able to find a used ST-8XE NABG. Many in this forum use and highly recommend it. Had first light with my 'new' equipment was last night and I am anxious to get started. 

BTW: I want to compliment AAVSO and its membership for its high level of service and assistance which I have experienced as a new member. From help with registering, posting in this forum (seems my Internet Explorer doesn't like the forum!), finding a mentor, and help with equipment selection I have been amazed at the amount of prompt friendly assistance I have received. 

In less than a week of joining I had a membership package in hand a great mentor in contact and was well on my way towards starting my photometry. 

It does seem to me that it would be very helpful to new members as well as members seeking to upgrade their imagers to have even an informal data base with equipment information and what that equipment is being used for. Nothing that could be perceived aS the organization recommending or endorsing any specific brand. But just a way for someone contemplating a first imager or new one when moving into a new campaign to see what others are using. Even if it were only specific lines in the observer bio. where members could elect to indicate their camera, telescope, mount, and other applicable equipment would be helpful. Just my newbie thought for the day!

Thanks again,

John Downing



FJQ's picture

To:  John

AASVO and its more senior members (like our Heffy Dr. Arne) are great in answering questions and getting one started on the wonderful path of CCD photometry.  Just got an ST-8XE NABG myself after using an SBIG STL-11K for the last 4 years.  That was a great camera for capturing wide fields, but was not very linear after 20.5K adu since it was an ABG "pretty picture" camera.  I wonder why an ST-8XME is recomended over a ST-8XE.  I thought the M(microlens), which I heard can vary sensitivity of the pixels over the surface of the chip, might introduce problems.  Anyways hope you enjoy your photometric for buying those nice Astrodon photometric filters........


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