Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

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GreatAttractor
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Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by GreatAttractor » Mon Apr 13, 2015 9:02 pm

I've decided to replace my trusty old Chameleon (USB 2.0) with its newer version (the same sensor, ICX445): Chameleon 3 (USB 3.0). I wanted the higher framerate and the useful - probably - short exposures (see below). Point Grey reacts quickly and when I placed the order on Thursday, the package (camera + locking USB 3.0 cable) left Canada the same day and was delivered (in south Poland) this morning. The camera is a little smaller and heavier than its predecessor, with a metal body and the USB port on the side.

Before ordering, I bought an Express Card USB 3.0 adapter for my 4-years-old, but still very well-performing laptop. I chose the i-tec EX1USB3, based on one of the chips recommended by Point Grey: a NEC/Renesas μPD720202.

I started my trials by connecting to a USB 2.0 port (let's see if it really is backward-compatible!) and... got confused, because the transmission reached 30 fps. Do I have a USB 3.0 port already and don't know about it? A quick check on the Web resolved it: the max useful throughput of USB 2.0 is about 35 MB/s, so just enough to push 30 1.3-megapixel frames a second. In effect, you don't need a USB 3.0 for the (ICX445) Chameleon 3.

I've checked the i-tec too and it works just fine. It needs drivers under Windows, but Fedora 21 (kernel 3.19.3-200 x86-64) detects and handles it automatically. Under Fedora the camera is detected and works at full speed through USB 2/3 with both the Point Grey's Fly Capture 2 library and libdc1394 (though the latest version 2.2.3 is needed, as it contains the Chameleon 3's device id; I had to download and build it, as the repositories still have only 2.2.2). The PGR's website misleadingly states that this model only commmunicates via the USB 3 Vision API, but the good old IIDC/DCAM is still there.

I've noticed two small problems: under libdc1394 the camera doesn't advertise the 16-bit modes; under FC2, switching to 1288x964 16-bit mode hangs the communication. This doesn't occur on Windows.


Speed

As opposed to its predecessor, which doesn't reach more than 24 fps without binning, the Chameleon 3's speed increases nicely. The framerate depends only on the height of the ROI. My results (on both USB2/3):

964 lines: 30 fps
484: 50
324: 66
292: 72
228: 82
196: 90
164: 97

So with not too-small a ROI we get a “planetary” framerate.


Short exposures

As we know, when with the old Chameleon the shutter time falls below 3-3.5 ms, every second line in the captured image comes out darker. It's easy to reach such conditions during solar imaging (as in my current Hα setup when imaging the disc details; to avoid it, I have to pop in an additional ND filter to reach >4 ms). Had Chameleon 3 also suffered from this effect, it wouldn't be a great problem for me, as I was primarily after the higher framerate. Fortunately, the situation here is much better. The darker lines are visible only at very short exposures, and they seem to be gone starting around 0,317 ms (though it's possible that something may come out after stacking – it need's a Sun test; for now I'm just shooting photos of a lightbulb using a stopped-down lens).
My software:
Stackistry — an open-source cross-platform image stacker
ImPPG — stack post-processing and animation alignment
My images

SW Mak-Cass 127, ATM Hα scope (D=90 mm, LS50 etalon), Lunt LS50THa, ATM SSM, ATM Newt 300/1500 mm, PGR Chameleon 3 mono (ICX445)

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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by swisswalter » Tue Apr 14, 2015 4:08 am

Hi Filip

thanks for all that information. Having read your note on very short exposure times (< 1 ms). I wonder if my problems with the Grasshopper 3 (Image tearing and low frame rates) is due to too low exposure times. I'll have to check that.
Only stardust in the wind, some fine and some less fine scopes, filters and adapters as well. Switzerland 47 N, 9 E, in the heart of EUROPE :)

from 7 am - 7 pm http://www.nanosys.ch

from 7.01 pm - 6.59 am http://www.wastronomiko.com some times vice versa ;)

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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by marktownley » Tue Apr 14, 2015 5:27 am

Great review, thanks :)
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http://brierleyhillsolar.blogspot.co.uk/
Solar images, a collection of all the most up to date live solar data on the web, imaging & processing tutorials - please take a look!

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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by GreatAttractor » Tue Apr 14, 2015 9:26 am

Illustration of better implementation of the sensor readout.
Old Chameleon, 0.3 ms:
ch_03ms.jpg
ch_03ms.jpg (155.61 KiB) Viewed 2082 times
Chameleon 3, 0.3 ms:
ch3_03ms.jpg
ch3_03ms.jpg (142.57 KiB) Viewed 2082 times
(Difference in brightness is due to slightly differ F-number used).
My software:
Stackistry — an open-source cross-platform image stacker
ImPPG — stack post-processing and animation alignment
My images

SW Mak-Cass 127, ATM Hα scope (D=90 mm, LS50 etalon), Lunt LS50THa, ATM SSM, ATM Newt 300/1500 mm, PGR Chameleon 3 mono (ICX445)

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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by marktownley » Tue Apr 14, 2015 6:20 pm

interesting!
Image
http://brierleyhillsolar.blogspot.co.uk/
Solar images, a collection of all the most up to date live solar data on the web, imaging & processing tutorials - please take a look!

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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by swisswalter » Wed Apr 15, 2015 4:58 am

Hi Filip

a fantastic improvement. Can you do that also to a Grasshopper 3 . I would be most interested
Only stardust in the wind, some fine and some less fine scopes, filters and adapters as well. Switzerland 47 N, 9 E, in the heart of EUROPE :)

from 7 am - 7 pm http://www.nanosys.ch

from 7.01 pm - 6.59 am http://www.wastronomiko.com some times vice versa ;)

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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by GreatAttractor » Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:23 am

Walter,
I didn't do anything ;) that's just the PGR's improvement from Chameleon to Chameleon 3.
My software:
Stackistry — an open-source cross-platform image stacker
ImPPG — stack post-processing and animation alignment
My images

SW Mak-Cass 127, ATM Hα scope (D=90 mm, LS50 etalon), Lunt LS50THa, ATM SSM, ATM Newt 300/1500 mm, PGR Chameleon 3 mono (ICX445)

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swisswalter
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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by swisswalter » Wed Apr 15, 2015 7:20 pm

Hi Filip

Oh I see , thanks a lot
Only stardust in the wind, some fine and some less fine scopes, filters and adapters as well. Switzerland 47 N, 9 E, in the heart of EUROPE :)

from 7 am - 7 pm http://www.nanosys.ch

from 7.01 pm - 6.59 am http://www.wastronomiko.com some times vice versa ;)

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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by GreatAttractor » Sat Apr 18, 2015 12:35 pm

Some additional details I was asked about by a fellow forum member:

1) Camera temperature (as indicated by FlyCap) after ca. 10 minutes of capturing (in ambient room temperature):
- Chameleon 3 - 40 °C
- old Chameleon - 50 °C

2) Chameleon 3 is detected and handled (via DirectShow) by PHD Guiding 1.14.2 and MaxIm DL Pro 6.08 (demo).
My software:
Stackistry — an open-source cross-platform image stacker
ImPPG — stack post-processing and animation alignment
My images

SW Mak-Cass 127, ATM Hα scope (D=90 mm, LS50 etalon), Lunt LS50THa, ATM SSM, ATM Newt 300/1500 mm, PGR Chameleon 3 mono (ICX445)

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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by GreatAttractor » Fri Apr 24, 2015 8:42 pm

My apologies for causing confusion. On Thursday I finally tested on the Sun and noticed I mixed things up. I read the shutter times (in the second post) off my own capture tool, where long ago I made a workaround for extended shutter mode calculation, which unfortunately gives invalid readings for short times on the old Chameleon.

Now I've rechecked it using FlyCap and making sure the F-number of lens is the same each time. Conclusions:

- darker horizontal strips occur with the same severity on both Chameleon and Chameleon 3

- the strips are barely noticeable in raw frames at 0.3 ms or more, and are practically gone after stacking and post-processing. This also means that my using of an additional ND filter in my Hα setup for the past year was unnecessary (initially I saw the strips in a scaled-down preview as moiré and got scared).

- at 0.11 ms and less the strips become severe


1) Lightbulb at ca. 0.047 ms

Chameleon
ch2_0047ms_f35.jpg
ch2_0047ms_f35.jpg (109.6 KiB) Viewed 1985 times
Chameleon 3
ch3_0046ms_f35.jpg
ch3_0046ms_f35.jpg (75.52 KiB) Viewed 1985 times
2) Lightbulb at ca. 0.29 ms

Chameleon
ch2_0297ms_f8.jpg
ch2_0297ms_f8.jpg (91.76 KiB) Viewed 1985 times
Chameleon 3
ch3_0283ms_f8.jpg
ch3_0283ms_f8.jpg (57.17 KiB) Viewed 1985 times

SUN
(Not very good quality, shot through an open window w/out tracking). I'm showing only Chameleon 3 images (the ones from the old Chameleon looked the same):

1) Travel Scope 50 + ND 3.8 + UV/IR-cut, 0.11 ms shutter

raw
wl1_raw_exp.jpg
wl1_raw_exp.jpg (178.96 KiB) Viewed 1985 times
stacked
wl1_exp.jpg
wl1_exp.jpg (140.8 KiB) Viewed 1985 times
2) Lunt 35 (prime focus), 0.38 ms

The strips barely stand out over the noise:

raw
ha1_raw_exp.jpg
stacked
ha1_exp.jpg
APPENDIX: Firefly MV

I've also finally tried astrophotography with the cheap Firefly MV mono I got from Ebay a few years ago. It turned out there are no strips with the above WL setup (the slanted smears are probably due to stacked dust specks):
wl1.jpg
wl1.jpg (52.62 KiB) Viewed 1985 times
The Aptina sensor used shows strong Newton rings in Hα:
ha1_raw.jpg
ha1_raw.jpg (80.27 KiB) Viewed 1985 times
but when we let the Sun drift, the rings disappear in stacking:
ha1.jpg
ha1.jpg (88.84 KiB) Viewed 1985 times
ha1_pi.jpg
ha1_pi.jpg (104.43 KiB) Viewed 1985 times
(Everything processed in ImPPG).
My software:
Stackistry — an open-source cross-platform image stacker
ImPPG — stack post-processing and animation alignment
My images

SW Mak-Cass 127, ATM Hα scope (D=90 mm, LS50 etalon), Lunt LS50THa, ATM SSM, ATM Newt 300/1500 mm, PGR Chameleon 3 mono (ICX445)

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swisswalter
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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by swisswalter » Sun Apr 26, 2015 5:30 am

Hi Filip

thank you for all that information
Only stardust in the wind, some fine and some less fine scopes, filters and adapters as well. Switzerland 47 N, 9 E, in the heart of EUROPE :)

from 7 am - 7 pm http://www.nanosys.ch

from 7.01 pm - 6.59 am http://www.wastronomiko.com some times vice versa ;)

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GreatAttractor
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Re: Chameleon 3 (ICX445)

Post by GreatAttractor » Thu Jul 02, 2015 8:07 pm

As I wrote before, the camera reaches 30 fps in 8-bit full frame mode, and USB 2.0 is sufficient to transfer this. But I've just realized (and confirmed) that USB 3.0 is good to have – when you go 16-bit! The 30 fps limit is related apparently only to sensor readout speed, not the data transfer speed. In effect, while via USB 2.0 we can push only 11 fps in 16-bit mode, on USB 3.0 we're back to full 30 fps.
My software:
Stackistry — an open-source cross-platform image stacker
ImPPG — stack post-processing and animation alignment
My images

SW Mak-Cass 127, ATM Hα scope (D=90 mm, LS50 etalon), Lunt LS50THa, ATM SSM, ATM Newt 300/1500 mm, PGR Chameleon 3 mono (ICX445)

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