The casing has an external heatsink surface, which dissipates heat generated by the electronics, reducing thermal noise.
The USB3.0 connector is the high strength type - the highest quality component of it's type on the market. This is much more reliable than the micro-USB connectors found on smartphones (we all know how those loosen up over a short time!).
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Solar system imaging: The GPCAM3 290M is also capable of solar. lunar, or planetary imaging (video capture) allowing detailed images with refractors of less than 3 metres focal length, where small pixels (only 2.4x2.4um), high frame rates, and low read noise get the most detail. The ROI (Region of Interest) feature can be used for even higher frame rates when imaging the planets, sun or moon at high magnification.
EAA & Video Astronomy: The GPCAM3 290M is recommended for Full HD Electronically Assisted Astronomy / Video Astronomy because of it's high sensitivity thanks to Sony STARVIS back-side-illumination (BSI) and Exmor-R technology.
Deepsky astro-photography: Camera has amp glow suppression, and you can effectively remove any remaining amp glow by using the "Live" darkframe subtraction in AltairCapture or SharpCapor, or with with darkframes during processing as usual.
To sum it up, the most desirable features of the IMX290 sensor are:
- IMX290 Sensor Size: 1/2.8" (5.60x3.10mm)
- Mono is Approx. 4x more sensitive therefore ideal for guiding or narrowband deepsky imaging with filters
- SONY STARVIS and Exmor R Technology with a sensitivity of 2000 mV or more per 1µm²
- Low read noise, approx. 0.77-1.66e electrons (e-) or less. (See read noise vs. gain graph).
- Saturation (full well) capacity approx. 15Ke- electrons (e-)
- High Dynamic Range with 12 bit ADC for high image quality in both light and dark (high contrast) areas
- Digital binning
Video astronomy and long exposure deepsky imaging:
GPCAM3 290M delivers great results for for both deepsky imaging and video astronomy (or EAA) using the Live Stacking features in the free AltairCapture software
or SharpCap. (Firecapture is also supported - now in Beta release). Time-lapse all-sky imaging and video is fully supported, and the camera can be used with a DSLR lens to image large areas of sky.
Solar and lunar/planetary imaging: The GPCAM3 290M is a superb choice for solar system imaging. The Mono version is not only 4x more sensitive than the colour version, but is has also 4x the effective resolution due to the lack of a Debayering layer. For white light solar imaging with a refractor and the Altair Imaging-Ready Solar Wedge, the high speed and small 2.9 micron pixel pitch of the GPCAM3 290M are well matched. High sensitivity to red Hydrogen Alpha light makes this camera a good call for imaging the sun with dedicated solar telescopes and the Daystar Quark.
Speed and reliability in one camera: USB3.0 and on-board memory buffering give much faster transfer speeds than the GPCAM USB2.0 series, pushing the USB3.0 format to the limit, yet within a stable envelope. Memory buffering almost completely eliminates dropped frames and corrupted video files, a common problem with USB cameras, and enables faster more consistent frame rates, even with less powerful notebook computers. Consistency and stability is improved for video capture sequences - especially desirable for scientific applications.
QUALITY software and drivers included:
Unlike cheaper cameras, Altair Astro has spent considerable time developing the extensively featured and intuitive AltairCapture software, which can be downloaded from cameras.altairastro.com
. AltairCapture is a stable 64 bit Windows application, which allows full control of the camera in high speed video or still mode. It includes extensive automation features, and supports all the major file formats useful for astro imaging and professional scientific imaging in 14bit or 8bit mode. Furthermore, the popular PHD Guiding, SharpCap and Firecapture (Beta) are also natively supported. ASCOM drivers are also available for download at cameras.altairastro.com
where you can also get regular driver updates. The installation process is easy, and unlike with cheaper cameras, you don't need to be a computer expert to make your camera work.
Wide compatibility: Although the GPCAM3 is a USB3.0 camera, it is also fully compatible with USB2.0 ports when a longer cable and less speed are required, for example in deepsky or video astronomy using the live stacking features in AltairCapture or Sharpcap. Windows 7 to Windows 10 software is widely supported by AltairCapture in 64bit mode (see technical info for details).
Autoguiding: The camera has an ST4 auto-guiding port, and can be used to auto-guide with mounts from all the major manufacturers supporting ST4 format, including iOptron, Celestron and Skywatcher. The sensor is more than sensitive enough for autoguiding.
Support & warranty:
Altair delivers proper on-shore English-speaking UK/EU support with a 2 year manufacturer warranty
against defects in materials and workmanship. Now just try that with a Chinese camera! New users should definitely visit the Altair Astro Google User Group
where you can get answers to technical questions, as well as sharing tips and techniques, to get the best out of your camera. The AltairCapture software interface supports most European languages including English, German, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Russian, Chinese, Spanish, Thai, and Turkish.
The camera can be fully controlled in AltairCapture and SharpCap to output uncompressed .AVI and .SER video files for solar system imaging, as well as all common still image formats such as .JPEG .PNG .TIFF .BMP, and .FITS (for deepsky imaging) to mention just a few. The IMX290 Sensor supports 8bit or 12bit ADC output. The 12 bit output mode can be used for deep sky imaging with less frames needing to be stacked and a wider pixel intensity range. The sensor sensor is extremely sensitive and a good candidate for video astronomy, especially with small refractors (final .FITS file is stretched to 16bit for post processing compatiblility). Find out more about bit depth here
. Find out more about video & file formats here
What’s different about the GPCAM3 platform compared to the GPCAM1 and GPCAM2? GPCAM3 has additional electronics for USB3.0 support, and to make space for the FULL SIZE USB3.0 connector. (We feel USB micro connectors are not a good idea for imaging because they don't maintain a reliable connection and wear easily, so we used full-size dual port connectors on this camera).
Better control with Trigger Mode: “Trigger Mode” is fully supported to make long exposures of over 5 seconds easier to control. With most CMOS cameras, in normal video mode, the camera controls are "locked up" during a long exposure, so you have to wait for the exposure to complete before the camera will accept any commands. So you have to wait to abort a frame if a cloud covers the view, or make routine changes, say gain (ISO), exposure duration, re-aligning or refocusing on the object. However in "Trigger Mode", you can now stop the camera instantly (even if you are half way through a long 30 second exposure) change the settings, and re-start the camera looping again. For long exposures "Trigger Mode" is essential. Of course you can use normal video mode at up to 5 second exposures for video astronomy and solar system imaging. The GPCAM3 also has improved circuitry to improve data transfer stability at high frame rates (reducing dropped frames) and to increase compatibility with a wider range of PCs. This gives a more consistent data transfer rate over USB buses on laptops or desktop PCs.
Included in the box:
1.5m High-speed USB3.0 cable.
1.5m ST4 guide cable.
1.25 inch x nosepiece with female 1.25" filter thread on the front.
CS-Mount insert (12.5mm back-focus) is pre-installed on camera. (Optional 5mm extension adapter is available for C-Mount lenses requiring 17.5mm back-focus.)
Removable Clear blocking filter with AR anti-reflection coatings. (Removable for sensor cleaning).
Silicon dust cap for sensor.
Note: This camera does not come with software in the box. To operate the camera you will need to download the latest camera drivers at cameras.altairastro.com
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