New PGR Blackfly now available

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New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by Astrograph » Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:07 am

Hi Everyone

The new PGR Blackfly using the excellent IMX249 chipset is now available (finally) in a USB 3 version from stock. This joins the Gigabit Ethernet version of the same camera.

The IMX249 chipset has proven itself to be outstanding value. It is identical in size to the IMX174 chipset used by the ZWO ASI174 and PGR Grasshopper 3. The IMX249 is a new chipset and trades some speed for lower noise, more dynamic range and more QE. Speed at 1920x1200 is 41FPS for both versions of the Blackfly.

Some of you may think that as the IMX174 is faster then it is the one to go for. Well in our opinion not necessarily. This is why

1) When capturing 16 Bit at 1920x1200 (2.3MP) the PC is dealing with a lot of data. If anyone has seen more than 40FPS @ 16 bit for Solar at 1920x1200, and been able to capture at more than 500 frames before the memory collapses please let us know!
2) Used for planetary, the chip will be set to a small region of interest. At the typical ROI sizes used, the IMX249 is just as fast as the 174
3) The best 174 camera is the PGR Grasshopper which can offer excellent performance due to its 128MB frame buffer. It is nearly double the price of the Blackfly with the IMX249.
4) The ZWO is also more expensive than the Blackfly. It also has no frame buffer and does not follow the USB Vision standard.

USB3 power can be very poor and lead to increased noise. The PGR Blackfly, Flea and Grasshopper have GPIO connectors allowing them to be powered separately. This results in a big reduction in camera noise allowing high gain to be used with confidence. This is not an option with the ZWO ASI174 although you could get an injector lead.

Astrograph are possibly the world's only Astronomy specialist offering Point Grey cameras (at least we have not seen another). We offer the Blackfly IMX249 GigE version for £475 inc VAT/shipping (this includes all software on a CD, 3m X-Over Network Cable and GPIO to DC socket power cable). The USB 3 version is supplied for £459 inc VAT/shipping but does not include the GPIO cable as the camera can be powered without it. The GPIO cable is available for £22.00 as an accessory or bundled for £475.00 if ordered with the camera. Prices on PGR's website may look cheaper but there is no tax, shipping, leads etc or support for astronomy applications.

If you have any questions please ask.

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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by marktownley » Tue Jul 07, 2015 6:02 am

I have the GigE version of this camera and I think it is fantastic. Very true about the gain, I can happily crank it up and it does not adversely affect the image with noise. I can also testify that the accessory pack that comes with it in terms of support for setting up the camera is very easy and straightforward to use, and IMHO, just about anybody should be able to follow this through methodically and get the camera up and running in no time.
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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by DJD » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:04 pm

Speaking from a position of immense ignorance ( I don't even have a camera ...yet ),
can I ask how many people use a separate power supply for a USB3 based camera?
I have always assumed that a single (powered) cable was a big attraction.
Out in the field ( literally, at my farm ) I would really prefer not to have a power supply for the mount, another for the Quark and a third for the camera ( and possibly
a fourth for the laptop ) if I can help it. Sorry, don't want to hijack this thread, just don't want to make a mistake with my impending purchase.
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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by Astrograph » Tue Jul 07, 2015 1:37 pm

Hi

Your absolutely right that part of the attraction with a camera powered by the computer is there is no need to power it separately. Having said this high frame rate cameras can be noisy and you have to stack a lot of frames to get rid of the noise. Some of that noise is just bad camera design and some of it is caused by noise on the power supply. Basically a camera is an amplifier. If you turn the gain up you amplify signal. If there is noise present, be it from the chip, the cameras electronics etc then you will amplifier that too.

Being able to feed the camera with a clean source of power brings a benefit in terms of reduced noise and improved camera performance. You spend a lot of time, then some money choosing a camera based on its claimed performance. Why not make sure you get it?

The USB Blackfly gives you the freedom to choose. You can power it off the PC. If it works well then its job done. If you want to extract the last bit of performance out of it then you can always add the power lead.

I take your point about dragging 101 power supplies out into a field. In reality your laptop should last a few hours on its battery. You need a battery for a mount. For this I now use and recommend an Anker Astro Pro2 (not the 2nd Gen - the silver one). This offers 20000mAh and up to 4A on a single output. Its £60, weighs next to nothing and the size of a book. I run my mount and camera off this. In theory I can run the Quark off it too as it has USB ports but for that I use a smaller Anker Astro.

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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by GuillermoBarrancos » Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:34 pm

I always wondered how you can connect your mount to these new flat Lithium powersupplies that only have USB ports?

The Mounts, like my NEQ6 Pro, come with a 12V lead to sigarette lighter adapter. I have not seen any adapters from this to USB. Nor direct mount cables to USB. :(

I would really love to start using Lithium batteries only and get rid of these heavy cumbersome NiMH battery packs.

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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by Astrograph » Tue Jul 07, 2015 2:59 pm

Hi

You just make up a DC Socket to Cigar Type Socket lead or for an NEQ6 just get a long DC Plug / Socket extension lead. The big Anker battery has DC power sockets and comes with the other leads. its just plug and play.

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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by marktownley » Tue Jul 07, 2015 3:00 pm

Astrograph wrote:I take your point about dragging 101 power supplies out into a field. In reality your laptop should last a few hours on its battery. You need a battery for a mount. For this I now use and recommend an Anker Astro Pro2 (not the 2nd Gen - the silver one). This offers 20000mAh and up to 4A on a single output. Its £60, weighs next to nothing and the size of a book. I run my mount and camera off this. In theory I can run the Quark off it too as it has USB ports but for that I use a smaller Anker Astro.
Stop making me want to spend more money :lol:
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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by _Zakalwe » Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:00 pm

Astrograph wrote: USB3 power can be very poor and lead to increased noise. The PGR Blackfly, Flea and Grasshopper have GPIO connectors allowing them to be powered separately. This results in a big reduction in camera noise allowing high gain to be used with confidence.

Hi Rupert,

Do you have examples of this to demonstrate the difference?
Astrograph wrote: with the ZWO ASI174 although you could get an injector lead.
Whats an "injector lead"?

Thanks in advance.

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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by Astrograph » Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:20 pm

Just search for USB Power Injector. They come in various flavours. The simplest are the ones with two USB plugs at one end so you can power from something like a battery. The other has a DC power socket for which you need a 5V supply. The PGR camera run with 5-15V via the separate connector but USB only like ZWO need 5V

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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by _Zakalwe » Tue Jul 07, 2015 4:30 pm

Astrograph wrote:Just search for USB Power Injector. They come in various flavours. The simplest are the ones with two USB plugs at one end so you can power from something like a battery. The other has a DC power socket for which you need a 5V supply. The PGR camera run with 5-15V via the separate connector but USB only like ZWO need 5V

Thanks for the reply. I'm using a powered USB3 hub at the moment which has improved things. I think that USB3 is a lot more sensitive to cable length and power than USB 2....natural i suppose given the higher data bandwidth.

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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by fjabet » Wed Jul 08, 2015 1:08 pm

Astrograph wrote: 1) When capturing 16 Bit at 1920x1200 (2.3MP) the PC is dealing with a lot of data. If anyone has seen more than 40FPS @ 16 bit for Solar at 1920x1200, and been able to capture at more than 500 frames before the memory collapses please let us know!

USB3 power can be very poor and lead to increased noise.
I can acquire in direct to disk as much as I want when using Genika and my Basler 1920-155um at 75 fps in 16 bits, I don't understand your statement ?
As for the USB3 PSU, if the camera has been well designed and filtered, there is no issue at all...
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Re: New PGR Blackfly now available

Post by Astrograph » Wed Jul 08, 2015 1:40 pm

Hi

Re storage to disc. I am not familiar with Genika as capture software. I have just looked at it and note this comment

Using massive multi-threading, DirectX rendering on your GPU and a double leaky bucket image management, Genika doesn't suffer from the performances issues of some other applications and it does not bottleneck the high FPS your camera can deliver. It is the fastest acquisition software for planetary imaging.

This may well allow better capture of 16 bit data than Firecapture. Unfortunately it does not support PGR. We shall have to have a word about that.

Re power over USB. It actually has to do very little with camera design. Dirty DC power is full of noise which will affect the noise performance of any signal capture and amplification device. The most common group of products affected by this are audio components where reduction of noise and use of clean power supplies is common. Video is affected in the same way. Well designed cameras are inherently low noise assuming clean power. There are of course cameras which would benefit little as they are just noisy. As we all know, a good chip does not make the camera good.

PC power supplies are poor. A PC is full of RF noise due to the clock speeds of various chipsets and general unscreened nature of individual components. PC components aimed at better audio and video performance are usually better screened with additional power supplies to combat this.

USB3 outputs are known to have power issues and the length of cable that can be used with USB3 is limited. PGR for instance do not recommend exceeding 3m.

See the photo below for an example of very poor PC USB3 power. Open the image up and look at the dark areas. You will see banding. This image is from a PGR Grasshopper 3 with IMX174 sensor. This is one of the best cameras you can buy if not the best. Used on an otherwise A1 spec laptop with an i7 processor this noise was an issue. The customer had a PGR Flea which worked fine so it was assumed to be a camera fault. Using the camera on a simple i3 laptop there was no problem. After the client switched to an external power supply cable the lines were gone and performance improved.
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