ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

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madman
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ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

Post by madman » Tue Aug 22, 2017 6:20 pm

Been using this camera for some months now and yesterday ran a dual setup with my Mod 6D in a Tak106 and then my quark, ASI174mm in my Explore Scientific ED80.

Ever since I've owned it, the 174 regularly disconnects from Firecapture and often won't let me back in or when it does, it does so at some very low fps (e.g. 40 vs. the 200+ I get when it runs right - which is never). When it is stable, [no religion please] forbid you want to exit and comeback in again as anything higher than the 2.5 beta version of Firecapture leaves itself planted in memory and even task manager can't kill the process, meaning complete re-boots.

What I have tried: Dedicated USB 3.0 port, multiple cables (active and not active), multiple USB traffic settings, multiple versions of firecapture (beta and non-beta), multiple versions old and new of 174 drivers, etc...

No support from ZWO available at all.

If it weren't for my Canon 6D in the Tak with a simple Baader film filter, I would have gotten nothing yesterday - and I'm fed up. I'm not sure which to blame - but I'm seriously thinking about taking the camera outback and shooting it with a 12 gauge. Can't figure out how to shoot firecapture, but will have to find a virtual way to do that as well.

Any suggestions on a better camera with some responsive support? I like the chip (174) but I would prefer a camera that contained it from folks that can write a driver and respond to support inquiries. I miss my Flea3 and even the Flycapture software that I used to use. Horrible stuff but at least it didn't crash incessantly.

Looking for recommendation on a 174MM chip in a well supported body (or a better chip if you all can find one that suffices for planetary and solar like the 174 seems to have speced out to) and an alternative to Firecapture (other than SharpCap which I cannot get a decent frame rate out of).

Maybe it's time for a new computer but any advice welcome.

Thanks in advance for suggestions!

Mike

bart1805
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Re: ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

Post by bart1805 » Tue Aug 22, 2017 8:23 pm

Hi Mike,
Since about two weeks I am experimenting with a PGR Grasshopper with the same chip. I had to go back to version 2.3 of Firecapture cause the newer versions seem to capture by default in RAW and not mono. This is only the case for PGR camera's so it seems.
I tried Sharpcap, fps to low. Genika Astro went quite ok. But version 2.3 of FC works the best. I do have problems with my laptop (1.7 GGHz / 200 GB SSD and 4 GB RAM). Biggest problems are that the RAM memory seems to low. And I have to watch out that the SSD does not get to full. So halfway through a session put everything on an external HD.
The settings in FC helped me a lot. Use the RAM buffer (it says it is experimental, but it works). And check if you have got the right settings for your laptop (single/dual or quad core).
Good luck! Bart.

madman
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Re: ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

Post by madman » Tue Aug 22, 2017 9:21 pm

Thanks Bart. I think the best thing to do at this point is get a dedicated new desktop. I never operate the laptop without power anyway. My only problem is I want one with Windows 7 64, not Win 10 and not sure if that's possible. Appreciate the insight though and I loved the PGR cameras. At least they pick up the phone!

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Re: ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

Post by Merlin66 » Tue Aug 22, 2017 10:59 pm

Mike,
I bought the ASI 174 for fast frame data collection on the spectroheliograph.
I also had to upgrade my laptop to a FAST, sexy MSI gaming machine with good USB3 port, plenty of memory and a fast SSD drive.
I'm happy with the FireCapture software and I can achieve >500 fps on the required ROI frame.
What ever the real problem, I don't think it is the camera.
"Astronomical Spectroscopy - The Final Frontier" - to boldly go where few amateurs have gone before
https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/ast ... scopy/info
"Astronomical Spectroscopy for Amateurs" and
"Imaging Sunlight - using a digital spectroheliograph" - Springer

madman
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Re: ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

Post by madman » Wed Aug 23, 2017 12:29 am

I am starting to concur with you Merlin66. I failed to mention that I tend to run two cameras (plus a guidecam for DSO if I'm doing that), so my USB traffic is high. I have not heard of MSI before but will be checking them out. Last two gamer desktops I have, although not used for multiple cameras - only gaming and video editing - are still performers after 7+ years. One homebuilt and the other a water-cooled Dell XPS. As long as it's got a motherboard with enough native USB 3's and some open slots, I'm all about it. Not going the laptop route any more. I can't see that fairing well in the summer heat in a dome here in GA.

Thank you as well.

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Re: ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

Post by Astrograph » Thu Aug 24, 2017 11:46 am

As a supplier of both ZWO and PGR/FLIR cameras and one that tests with Firecapture, SharpCap and Genika, here are my two pennies worth

1 - Firecapture needs the latest version of Java running on your PC or it will do some strange things.
2 - Sharpcap should run the ASI natively.
3 - Genika should run fastest (if the 64bit version) and allows integration of an SSM
4 - ASI cameras can be flakey if the drivers are not installed correctly. Early drivers seem to have problems but all later seem fine
5 - USB3 outputs on computers are very variable. The USB3 power spec is quite low. The PGR Grasshopper's power consumption is 4.5w which is the limit of USB3. On my basic i3 laptop one will work fine. I had a customer with a high end i7 laptop who got artifacts. We traced the problem to insufficient power. PGR cameras can be powered separately (and they recommend this for maintaining frame rate) which solves this problem and also lowers the already low noise. I have no info for the ASI174's power demands but this is somewhere I would look. You can get split USB leads that allow you to provide more power.
6 - As an aside, the PGR (now FLIR) IMX174 Grasshopper is the fastest etc, etc of all the 174 cameras.
7 - Using any large chip high frame rate camera with a normal HDD is a non starter. Any 2MP camera running 40FPS+ will fill up a RAM buffer faster than a normal HDD can write. Firecapture just crashes when that happens. Always use an SSD
8 - The IMX174 running flat out will use up nearly all of USB3's capacity. Laptops often have a single USB3 controller, so all the USB connections share this capacity. A desktop with separate cards can have a controller for each port. So if you have lots of USB devices running at once the camera is unlikely to be able to operate flat out.
9 - The mode of the camera will affect its speed. On a PGR camera you have RAW and Mono and each has bit depth options. RAW 8bit is fastest, Mono 16 (actually 14bit) slowest. The difference can be quite large. The ASI does not have a frame buffer, so any frames lost are lost. RAW mode tends to be the cause of dropped frames. PGR cameras have frame buffers which are used in Mono mode. These result on no dropped frames but the trade off is speed.

My own imaging gear consists of a cheap Acer i3 / 4GB Ram laptop that only has astro applications on it. No anti-virus, office or any other rubbish that will slow it up. I fitted it with an SSD. I can capture with a PGR Grasshopper with IMX252 (3.2MP) at 125FPS all day with no problems using Firecapture or Genika. The IMX252 is right on the limit of USB3's capacity and takes more of it than the 174.

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Re: ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

Post by madman » Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:12 pm

Thank you Astrograph! I really appreciate all of the help this forum has provided, feel bad that I am blaming hardware and software when it is likely my older Vaio that needs to be trashed and replaced with something more capable!

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Re: ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

Post by _Zakalwe » Wed Sep 13, 2017 7:35 am

I'd also look at the USB3 cables that you are using. I have a 3 metre cable that causes the camera to drop frames and disconnect in FireCapture. Stick a 2 metre in and it works fine. This may suggest a power issue as Rupert (Astrograph) has suggested.

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Re: ASI 174MM and Firecapture - endless issues - looking for alternatives!

Post by madman » Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:00 pm

Thanks Zakalwe and that could be an issue as well. As for now, I have bought a new higher end gaming laptop, which will be the foundation of the observatory control. Acer Predator I7 w/ 32g RAM and 8g GPU RAM, SSD, etc. If this doesn't work, I will give up and take up knitting.

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