Difference between DSLR and CCD astrophotography

The difference between DSLR and CCD astrophotography cameras is pretty immense. Most people when searching for astrophotography equipment for beginners choose DSLR astrophotography because they either already have one or they are far cheaper to start with. When you go from DSLR astrophotography to a monochrome CCD you lose live view, but gain chip cooling. You lose color but gain sensitivity. You can lose pixels but gain resolution. Wait a minute! How can you gain resolution if you lose pixels? Easy, you no longer have the Bayer matrix turning every four pixels into one so your monochrome CCD in effect has four times the stated resolution. Yeah, I know it isn’t that cut and dried, but seeing the images from both it sure starts to ring true. Here is a DSLR astrophotography image of M8 taken with a 16.7MP Nikon D7000, 36 300sec lights and 25 darks:

M8 by DSLR I always thought this was a pretty good image for unmodified DSLR astrophotography, and it is.

Once I decided to switch to CCD astrophotography I started looking for a camera trying to find the best CCD camera for astrophotography. Out of all the choices out there for astrophotography CCD cameras I picked an Atik 383L monochrome as it fit my needs and budget the best. Now here is the same target, same telescope, same mount, same capture software, same processing software, but with only an 8MP monochrome CCD shooting through a 6nm Hydrogen Alpha filter. That’s right, HALF the resolution:

M8 showing Difference between DSLR and CCD astrophotography Something else I forgot to mention, this is only 4 480sec exposures and 4 darks. Yep, one fifth of the total exposure time and about one sixth the number of darks. I don’t even know what to think except CCD astrophotography rocks. Why exactly was it I waited so long to go monochrome? I have no idea.

So now the thing that people always bring up when looking at monochrome CCD astrophotography is to shoot narrowband or RGB with filters on monochrome takes three times as long because you have to shoot through three different filters. True enough, but when I can get results like these with one fifth of the total exposure time, even if I have to shoot through three filters it still works out to less time exposing to get better images. I am still working on combining the Ha, OIII and S2 together to make a single color image and unfortunately the night I took this image I did not get enough usable OIII or S2.

Sure there are lots of things still to work out when switching from DSLR astrophotography to shooting CCD astrophotography but with a start like this it sure looks promising.

Stay tuned for the results of the first color combination coming soon!

I hope you enjoyed seeing the Difference between DSLR and CCD astrophotography!


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ATIK 383L Mono CCD, my new camera

I recently purchased an ATIK 383L Mono CCD to branch out into mono imaging. I have been using my Nikon D7000 DSLR as my primary imaging camera for years but recently decided that it was time to make the step up to the big leagues and do some serious narrowband imaging. After looking around for a while I decided that the ATIK 383L Mono CCD Camera with Kodak KAF8300, 3362H x 2504V Sensor, 5.40um Pixels, USB 2.0, Thermoelectric Cooling available on amazon would make an excellent camera to start with.

ATIK 383L Mono CCD At 8 Mega Pixels it has the resolution I wanted to be able to print large, and since it is monochrome, 100% of those pixels translate into real resolution as their is no Bayer matrix like on one shot color cameras. Being able to cool it to 40C below ambient is a huge plus as well. Unfortunately the weather has not cooperated for the past six months or more so I am not sure when I will actually get to create some nice images with it but keep an eye out to see what I can do with it. Rest assured that new images are coming and that I hope to have some posted shortly. If you want one too, don’t forget you can help support this website by purchasing it with this link to the ATIK 383L Mono CCD Camera¬† on Amazon

Of the few shots I have made I have learned that just shooting with this thing as monochrome and not using anything but a light pollution filter creates amazing image. Sure, I like the beautiful color images you can create of celestial objects as much as the next person but the mono images this thing can take will stop you in your tracks.

I am also pleased with the size and weight of this camera. It is lighter than my DSLRs as well which is always a concern when doing astrophotography. I was amazed at how quiet it is as well considering the size of the fan.

Over all, so far I am impressed. If you get the chance to play with a ATIK 383L Mono CCD I am sure you too will enjoy it.

You can get detailed specifications on the KAF8300 sensor used in this from Kodak.


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Orion G3 Mono for spectroscopy

I just purchased an Orion G3 Mono and thought I would write this mini Orion G3 Monochrome CCD review.

As many of you know I am pretty fascinated with spectroscopy, or the use of the spectrum of light emitted by or reflected off an object to determine its chemical makeup. I have been working on this with a DSLR for a while and it does a fairly good job for just getting my feet wet. Unfortunately the filters on the sensor of a DSLR skew the results pretty badly towards the red end, and the sensor is too sensitive to certain colors (trying to make up for the way the human eye sees).

Spectrums of various stars

I had been told that the way to do it with more accuracy is to use a monochrome CCD. One of the more popular ones to start out with in these types of spectroscopy seems to be the Orion CCD cameras including the Orion G3 Mono, so I bought one. Some nice advantages are that this camera is only about $499 retail (cheaper on Amazon) so it is fairly inexpensive as far as CCDs are concerned, it is very small and light weight, it has cooling built in so the images have less noise than an uncooled camera, and it has a 1.25″ threaded nosepiece so the grating filter I use will screw right onto it.

Orion G3 Mono

I plan on redoing all my spectral images with the Orion G3 Mono and comparing my results from it to what I achieved with my DSLR. It will be interesting to see how close they are. I may even leave the DSLR images up so you can see the comparison for yourself.

The first few runs with the camera have proven hopeful. I am not too sure I like the software which comes with it so I am going to try it with my standards imaging software and see what happens. More to come!

You can get more information, read more reviews, or purchase this monochrome CCD.


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