Why buy an Altair camera with so many brands out there?
Altair cameras boast many unique features that set them apart from competing brands, a dedicated user group with unrivalled support backed by constantly evolving software and drivers. Superior construction with a CNC machined body designed for cooling and precise optical alignment. A particularly relevant difference is the USB socket, Altair cameras use an industry standard robust socket that is both secure and reliable unlike micro USB phone type sockets that are notoriously troublesome
To sum it up, the most desirable features of the Hypercam IMX178 are:
- Large format 1/1.8" sensor 7.37 x 4.92mm
- SONY STARVIS and Exmor R Technology with a sensitivity of 2000 mV or more per 1µm²
- Low read noise, approx. 2.2e electrons (e-).
- Saturation (full well) capacity approx. 19,200 electrons (e-)
- High Dynamic Range with 14 bit ADC for high image quality in both light and dark (high contrast) areas.
Video astronomy and long exposure deepsky imaging: Hypercam IMX178 deliveres 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 (use Altair DSLR lens adapter, product code beginning with "CLA").
Here's an example Hypercam IMX178 image of the Orion Nebula with an Altair 10" Truss Newtonian Astrograph. About 100x15 second exposures were stacked and processed by Nick (Altair Astro) and combined with darks, flats. No bias frames were used due to the Sony sensor's low read noise. Click the image to enlarge to full size (opens new window). As you can see, this camera can produce incredibly detailed images with good optics.
Solar Imaging: Being a black and white camera, the Hypercam IMX178 Mono is particularly desirable for solar imaging with filters. You can image the sun in white light (with an Altair Solar Wedge or other filter), Hydrogen Alpha (with a Daystar Quark and refractor or dedicated solar telescope), Calcium or Sodium (with the respective Quark filters). We can advise the best equipment combinations depending on your existing equipment.
FREE 1 YEAR SharpCap PRO License with all Altair Hypercam Cameras! Just download the latest SharpCap, connect your camera, register when the screen pops up and sign up for your free license. Sharpcap PRO has the amazingly accurate guidescope polar alignment routine, focus assistance, live flat field subtraction and many more great features to make deepsky, EAA or solar system imaging that much easier
To get an idea of what this camera is capable of, here's a solar image with Hypercam IMX178 mono by Nick (of Altair Astro). Click to enlarge (opens new window). A "double stacked" Lunt 60/50mm dedicated solar telescope was used to capture about 100 frames. The IMX178 sensor covers the entire disc of the sun in one frame with this scope, so you don't have to mosaic several frames to capture a detailed image. Because the sun changes so fast, mosaics rarely "hold together" and it's very hard to blend frames, so being able to capture the entire disc simultaneously at high resolution really helps the image to "hang together".
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 16bit, 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 very simple, and unlike with cheaper cameras, you don't need to be a computer whizz to make your camera work.
Wide compatibility: Although the Hypercam 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 IMX224 is more than sensitive enough for autoguiding.
Fan cooling: The Hypercam is cooled with and internal low vibration fan. The fan can be switched on or off and the speed controlled in AltairCapture and SharpCap. Cool air is drawn in through the vents at the side of the casing, over a large internal heat-sink. The heat-sink is connected directly with the sensor board just like a computer CPU. The free flow of air through the casing cools not only the sensor, but all the internal electronics boards. Cooling is especially desirable for long exposure imaging to reduce thermal noise. Some camera casings get uncomfortably hot during a solar imaging session, and the sensor can reach around 60 or even 70 degrees. This can cause the electronics to become glitchy and unreliable. The Hypercam is designed for consistent, reliable solar imaging with a solar filter and diagonal or Hershel Wedge. With the fan running, the Hypercam electronics will always remain cool.
Software & OS support:
Drivers & AltairCapture software download (Windows only): cameras.altairastro.com (opens new window).
Driver support: PHD2, AltairCapture, SharpCap
AltairCapture OS support: Win XP 32bit / Vista/ 7/ 8/ 10 (32 & 64 bit)
NOTE: Windows 10 is recommended for best USB performance, with 2013 or later USB host controller v1.0 or later.
SharpCap (a 3rd party application) is also fully supported and tested with native drivers.
USB Port & Cable: 3.0 USB Cable, 1.8m cable (USB2.0 also supported at low frame rates).
ST4 Port & Cable: Standard ST4 Opto-Isolated, 1.5m cable, iOptron, Celestron, Skywatcher SynScan GOTO.
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