Altair GPCAM3 224C USB3 Colour Guide / Imaging / EAA CameraThe Altair GPCAM3 224C camera has the sought-after Full HD Sony IMX224 CMOS sensor, with extremely low read noise and 2mp resolution.
The IMX224 sensor is particularily desirable for planetary imaging and microscopy where high frame rates, low light colour fidelity and small pixel sizes are required.
The Altair GPCAM3 224C can be used for solar, planetary and lunar “lucky” imaging, long exposure deepsky imaging, and of course video astronomy with the live stacking features in AltairCapture and Sharpcap. (Firecapture is also supported - now in Beta release). Time-lapse all-sky imaging is fully supported in the free AltairCapture software, and the camera can be used with an optional CS-Mount lens to hunt for meteors or aurora.
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Solar system imaging: The GPCAM3 224C is highly recommended for solar. lunar, or planetary imaging (video capture). Having pixels mid-sized pixels of 3.75um allows imaging with large reflectors or small refractors. The GPCAM3 224C has fast frame rates, and exceptionally low read noise required to 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.
EAA & Video Astronomy: The GPCAM3 224C can be used for Electronically Assisted Astronomy or Video Astronomy because of it's high sensitivity Sony IMX224 sensor. AltairCapture has a live stacking feature which brings out incredible detail in deepsky objects with only a few seconds exposure time.
Deepsky astro-photography: The IMX224 sensor has amp glow suppression, and for EAA/Video astronomy you can effectively remove any remaining amp glow by using the "Live" darkframe subtraction in AltairCapture or SharpCapor with darkframes during processing as usual. You can capture many .FITS files in RAW mode and stack them to produce detailed deepsky images.
To get an idea of what this camera is capable of, click here to view a lunar image by UK customer Neil Phillips. (Opens new window, compressed .JPEG file)
To sum it up, the most desirable features of the GPCAM3 224C are:
- 1/3" Format Sony IMX224 sensor 4.9 x 3.7mm.
- Full HD 1.2mp resolution making files quick to process, even on entry level computers.
- Exceptionally low read noise, approx. 0.8 electrons (e-) or less making the camera good for solar system imaging / stacking video frames. (See read noise vs. gain graph).
- Saturation (full well) capacity approx. 19,200 electrons (e-).
Video astronomy and long exposure deepsky imaging: GPCAM3 224C 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. 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.
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 8bit or 12bit (output scaled to 16 bit for processing). Furthermore, the popular PHD Guiding, SharpCap 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.
File formats: 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 IMX224 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 (the 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.
(Optional 2" OD Nosepiece with dual 2 and 1.25" filter threads is available, code GPCAM-2IN)
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.)
UV-IR Blocking Filter with Anti-Reflection coatings. (Removable for sensor cleaning).
Plastic dust cap 1.25".
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 (opens new window)
Sensor & performance specifications:
ALTAIRGP224C: SONY Exmor IMX224 Colour CMOS sensor
Sensor Size: 1/3" diagonal 6.09mm
Exposure duration shortest/longest:
Video mode: 0.105ms (0.000105 secs) / 5000ms (5 seconds) (Video Mode)
Trigger mode: 0.105 ms (0.000105 secs) / 1000 secs (16.66mins) (Trigger Mode)
Bit depth: 8bit & 12bit modes switchable
Pixel size microns: 3.75x3.75 um
Resolution in pixels: 1280x960
Recording System: Still Image & Video
Region Of Interest (ROI): Supported
Approx. Max frame rates (assuming computer Bus and Hard Drive operating at full bandwidth)*:
8 bit mode:
640x480 289FPS ROI
320x240 536FPS ROI
12 bit mode - approx 50% of above.
* Based on average user reports. May be revised as we get more data. The shorter the exposure duration, the faster the frame rate. An expensive PC does not guarantee a fast frame rate because bus and motherboard architecture vary. These are realistic frame rates.
Gain Sensitivity: 2350mv
Readout: Progressive Scan
Shutter: Electronic Rolling Shutter
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, 1.5m cable (USB2.0 also supported at low frame rates).
ST4 Port & Cable: Standard ST4 Opto-Isolated, 1.5m cable, iOptron, Celestron, Skywatcher SynScan GOTO.
Cooling: High Performance CNC machined aluminium casing with external Heat-sink and internal cold-finger contacting rear of sensor.
Camera body length: 73 mm
Weight grams: 70 g (camera net weight)
Sensor cover-glass transmission:
Clear coverglass AR-coated: 350-1050nm transmission wavelength
UV/IR blocking filter AR-coated: coverglass 400-700nm transmission wavelength
Back-focus & Adapter compatibility:
Cover glass is removable for cleaning and can be swapped with a clear or UV/IR blocking glass as required.
CS-mount lens compatibility: C-Mount male threaded lens with 12.5mm back-focus (or flange-distance) requirement.
C-mount lens adapter 5mm extension: Optional
C-mount lens compatibility: C-Mount male threaded lens with 17.5mm back-focus (or flange-distance) requirement.
Astro filter thread adapter: Included, 1.25" OD and 2” OD (optional), Female thread
Sensor surface distance from flat end of CS-mount adapter: 12.5 mm
Sensor surface distance from flat end of 1.25" / M42 Astro adapter: 37 mm
Operating environment conditions:
0.3 W (standby)
Max operating temp: 50 °C
Lowest operating temp: -10 °C
Max operating humidity: 80 % RH
Power source in Volts: 5V DC (via USB cable)
Windows PC Hardware Requirements:
Minimum PC: Equal to Intel i3 4GB+ RAM Windows 10 OS with separate graphics card.
Recommended PC: ( 2013+ i5 4GB RAM Intel 1.0x USB Host Controller preferable with separate graphics)
USB port compatibility: USB2.0 High-speed Port or USB3.0 High-speed Port
(computers manufactured in 2013 or later give best USB speed).
Monitor Display: 17" or Larger recommended.
Software delivery: Downloaded online at cameras.altairastro.com and saved to hard drive.
Protective silicon rubber end-cap for camera CS-thread.
Plastic end cap for 1.25" nosepiece.
Padded cardboard storage box with durable foam inserts
2 inch x 22mm nosepiece with dual 1.25" and 2” filter thread, code GPCAM-2IN. See associated products.
C-Mount 5mm extension adapter for C-Mount lenses requiring 17.5mm back-focus.
Spare Clear AR coated or UVIR coated optical windows available as spares.
Altair Astro Premium 1.25" CLS-CCD Filter with UV/IR Block & AR Coating (Code: F125CLSCCD) for imaging emission nebulae in light polluted urban environments.
Altair Astro Premium 2" CLS-CCD Filter with UV/IR Block & AR Coating (Code: F200CLSCCD) for imaging emission nebulae in light polluted urban environments.
Software delivery: Downloaded online at cameras.altairastro.com and saved to hard drive.
Quick Start & AltairCapture instructions: Downloaded online at cameras.altairastro.com and saved to hard drive.
Warranty: 2 years manufacturer warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. Return to point of purchase.
Availability: If out of stock, click on the red "Notify when in stock" button above to receive an email when product is ready to ship.
Altair Astro and dealers reserve the right to change the product specification and/or price at any time without notice.
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