Atik Infinity Colour Camera - Experiences

Introduction | First Attempts | Use with Different Telescopes | Preliminary Conclusions | Links

In progress

On this page, I present some experiences made wth my Atik Infinity Colour* camera (received used on November 25, 2017). Possibly, these are useful for others who want to acquire this camera as well...

See also page Atik Infinity Colour Camera.

*) Usually, I would write "Color", because I try to use American English, but Atik is a company located in the UK, and therefore it's "Colour"...

 

Introduction

The Atik Infinity Colour camera is originally sold with the following accessories:

I bought the camera used at Teleskop-Leasing, instead of leasing it at first. They also supplied an adapter cable for the power supply that can be screwed into the camera und thus prevents the power cable from being removed inadvertently. This was a frequent source of criticism that I read on the Internet. I hope that the adapter will help prevent power interruptions.

A few First Impressions...

Just as a reminder how the Atik Infinity camera looks like...

Adapter Cable for the Power Cable

The adapter cable can be screwed into the power connector of the Atik Infinity camera, whereas the original power cable cannot. The plug of the original power cable sits fairly loose in the power connnector and can easily be removed inadvertently.

Teleskop-Leasing added the adapter cable to the package to fight one often stated criticism, namely that the power cable gets loose when the camera is moved by the mount and thus, the recording is interrupted. I do not understand with Atik cannot deliver the camera with a "screw in" power cable. That's probably a matter of pennies...

Because of the length of the plug of the power supply cable, the plug sits firmly in the mating connector of the adapter cable. Here you do not have to worry that the connection gets loose easily.

 

First Attempts

Very First Attempt

One or two days after having received the camera, I tried it out for the first time and used it with the Sky-Watcher Heritage 100P on the Sky-Watcher Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount. However, the sky was partly cloudy, so that I was not able to align the mount, because one important star that I needed for the alignment was always hidden. My attempts to direct the telescope anywhere at the sky and to play a little bit around with the application only led to gray noise images on the computer screen... Finally, I tried to point the telescope at the moon and somehow I saw a glimmer on the screen. But very soon, the moon disappeared in the clouds, and I had to shut down my activities...

Why do I write this at all? Well, I dod so in order to warn others not to test the camera under inappropriate conditions. That might, as happened to me, only lead to frustration and disappointment...

Second Attempt

On November 29, 2017, I started my second attempt with the camera. This time the sky was pretty clear (which, however, did not last too long...). The equipment used was the same, and this time I was able to align the mount fairly exactly using the stars Vega and Altair (with a long focal length eyepiece...). The handling of the Infinity application was still not so clear to me, though especially when and where something is stored. In the end, the session and four JPG images were saved, which was sufficient for my purposes (images: two objects, two almost identical images for each). When adjusting to a medium bright star, whichever it was, it turned out that I was not able to get into focus with the Heritage 100P. The focuser was already at the bottom stop, but the image was still not sharp. That was good enough for tests, but, of course, you definitely want to get sharp images. I then tried M 57 (Ring Nebula), which I am rarely able to find with the Heritage 100P. And to my surprise there was something round in rainbow colors on the screen - that had to be the Ring Nebula! I then moved it a little further to the center of the frame and moved the histogram controls to optimize the image. But blurred remains blurred... An attempt with the NGC 7000 (North American Nebula) failed, but the globular star cluster M 15 in Pegasus was visible beyond any doubts. But then the clouds came in and put an end to all this...

Thus, the second attempt was, in principle, OK and even revealed two deep-sky objects, but unfortunately it also showed that my hope to be able to operate the Atik Infinity on the Heritage 100P cannot be fulfilled directly. I cannot come into focus with the camera attached to this telescope. Soon after, I came, however, across the suggestion in a book that Barlow lenses shift the focus to the outside, and also found this statement confirmed on the Internet. More on this when I discuss the third attempt below!

    

M 57 (Ring Nebula in Lyra), unprocessed

 

M 57 (Ring Nebula in Lyra), post-processed

 

M 15 (Pegasus), unprocessed

 

M 15 (Pegasus), post-processed

Third Attempt

With my third attempt on December 7, 2017, I firstly wanted to clarify whether I would be able to come into focus with the camera on the Heritage 100P and, if not, whether this would, as described, be possible using a Barlow lens or a focal extender. In the case of Barlow lenses / extenders, a magnification factor of two would result in doubling the focal length, but the light intensity would also drop by two f-stops. The first effect would be welcome, at least for small objects such as the Ring Nebula or globular clusters, but the second would be less welcome, as exposure times would quadruple.

At first, the new test showed that the camera indeed cannot get into focus on the Heritage 100P, because the focus point is too far inside. Secondly, both a 2 x Barlow lens (Sky-Watcher) and a 2 x focal extender (Explore Scientific) moved the focus outward far enough so that the camera comes into focus on the Heritage 100P. My first experiments were done with a cheap Sky-Watcher Barlow lens, but then I also tried my Explore Scientific focal extender (although I originally thought that it was too heavy for the Heritage 100P), because when I was using the Barlow lens on the Dumbbell Nebula M 27, I was not able to achieve acceptable results. After all, with the focal extender they were not significantly better ...

Basically, one has to say that with a Barlow Lens / focal extender, objects appear distinctly "fainter" than without one. Here, in addition to the loss of light caused by the Barlow lens / focal extender, the surface brightness may also play a role, because the area is four times as large due to the magnification.

Overall, it can be said that the Atik Infinity camera can be used on the Heritage 100P with a Barlow lens / focal extender. The magnification is even slightly above that of my Explorer 150PDS (800 mm vs. 750 mm focal length), but the loss of light is immense. Therefore, I do not know yet, whether I will go with this solution. I would use the tele extender, which I expected to perform better than the cheap Sky-Watcher Barlow lens, but the differences between the two are not as big as I had expected, based on the low quality of the Barlow lens. A test with the Explorer 150PDS is still on my waiting list...

In the following I present a few examples of the results achieved on December 7, 2017 (although they are actually very modest ...), which I saved as JPG images from the Infinity program and slightly post-processed. Overall, these shots are fainter than the first ones, although I exposed much longer, but they are, at least, a little bit sharper. Nevertheless, focusing still remains a problem for me... The shots with the focal extender seem to get, at least, a little more out for the fainter objects, and the sharpness seems to be a bit better overall. But this was not a serious comparison test for the two "extenders"...

With Barlow Lens

    

M 57 (Ring Nebula in Lyra), unprocessed

 

M 57 (Ring Nebula in Lyra), post-processed

 

M 15 (Pegasus), unprocessed

 

M 15 (Pegasus), post-processed

 

M 56 (Lyra), unprocessed

 

M 56 (Lyra), post-processed

 

M 27 (Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula), unprocessed

 

M 27 (Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula), post-processed

With Focal Extender

    
M 57 (Ring Nebula in Lyra), unprocessed   M 57 (Ring Nebula in Lyra), post-processed
 

M 57 (Ring Nebula in Lyra), post-processed, another try...

 

M 57 (Ring Nebula in Lyra), post-processed, yet another try...

 

M 15 (Pegasus), unprocessed

 

M 15 (Pegasus), post-processed

 

M 56 (Lyra), unprocessed

 

M 56 (Lyra), post-processed

 

M 27 (Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula), unprocessed

 

M 27 (Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula), post-processed

 

M 27 (Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula), post-processed, another try...

 

M 27 (Dumbbell Nebula in Vulpecula), post-processed, yet another try (two many artifacts)...

Fourth Attempt

Finally, on December 12, 2017, the sky seemed to be clear again. This time, I wanted to try out the Atik Infinity camera on my Explorer 150PDS telescope tube (on the Star Discovery AZ GoTo mount as the attempts before). At the beginning, I was able to set everything up, although I had some problems with finding a suitable second alignment star. As a test, I pointed the telescope to M15 in Pegasus and was able to see the globular cluster in the eyepicece - small, but I had found it. I then connected the Atik Infinity camera to the telescope and my laptop computer, started the Infinity application and wanted to start focusing. But now the sky was already cloudy and only gray in the area of ​​M 15. I managed to capture a lower star and was, at least, able to find that the camera comes into focus with this telescope (and without a Barlow lens). But soon the sky was overcast there as well, and the clouds did not release the view of the stars for hours. At first, I moved everything inside the house, except for the telescope on the mount - just in case that the sky might become clear again... But then a short hail came, which luckily did no harm and did not wet the telescope, and I also brought the telescope and mount inside.

 

Use with Different Telescopes

Heritage 100P on Star Discovery AZ GoTo Mount

The Atik Infinity camera can be operated, from a purely technical point of view, at the Heritage 100P. But unfortunately, this combination does not work as such, because I cannot get into focus with the camera. But with a Barlow lens or a focal extender this is possible (tested with 2 x versions; not shown).

View of the complete equipment including the power pack (for the mount and the camera) and a laptop computer (for running the Atik Infinity software)

Explorer 150PDS on Star Discovery AZ GoTo Mount

Up to now, I was only able to check one thing with this tube, namely whether the camera will come into focus with this tube (without Barlow lens). This is indeed the case. By the way, "PDS" means "designed for photography" and "dual-speed 10:1 ratio focuser."

Top left and center view of the complete equipment including the power pack (for the mount and the camera) and a laptop computer (for running the Atik Infinity software)

 

Preliminary Conclusions

In progress

Focus or not?

As a "first information," I can already pass on that I cannot use the Atik Infinity camera on the Heritage 100P as such, because the camera does not come into focus, that is, delivers only blurry images. Meanwhile, I found out that using a Barlow lens* might be an option, because it moves the focus point in the desired direction, namely outward. Depending on the magnification factor (1.5 x or 2 x), the focal length is extended, which might be quite advantageous, but also reduces the aperture ratio, which would require longer exposure times. A first test confirmed this, but also revealed that the sky objects appear much fainter, even if you increase the exposure time.

*) So far, I have always found only the opposite, namely, that Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes (e.g. a Celestron C8, C9, or C11) were provided with a focal reducer to shorten the long focal length of these telescopes and to reduce the opening ratio, that is, to increase the light sensitivity. The reasons for this approach are unknown to me, because a fast Newton would do that as well, but presumably, the optical power and light collection performance of the Schmidt-Cassegrain tubes are better. Or they just do this, because they already own the Schmidt-Cassegrain tube?

I also found that I come into focus with my Explorer PDS150 without the need of a Barlow lens or focal extender.

Only Poor Results so far, but...

The results that I have achieved so far with the Atik Infinity camera are certainly way inferior to what can be achieved with it. Nevertheless, I have already seen more with it than I was able to find so far when observing purely visually. In this sense I am satisfied with the camera. And "room for improvement " is also nice, because this way I still have goals for the future...

Positive Aspects of "Quick-and-Dirty Astronomy Photography"

Now, I would like to point out a few more positive aspects of "quick-and-dirty astronomy photography," which also apply to "sub-optimal" photos. Firstly, I can "see" objects with the camera, which I am not able to find for a number of reasons when observing visually. Even though the telescope tube was sitting on the GoTo mount, I was not able to find some of the objects when observing visually, assuming that the objects were (mostly) correctly accessed. Thus, the camera can lead to the feeling of small successes, instead of frustration and disappointment.

Secondly, I can use the camera to save an image of the observed sky object, which at least, helps me afterwards to identify it, in the case that I am not quite sure that I actually have found it. And the image also shows certain object features that I normally cannot remember and quickly forget after observing. Later, you can find something like "a faint glow" or "nice" in my notes, which tells you close to nothing. Even a tiny and blurry photo contains more information that I can use in my recordings than such "overall" remarks.

Size Seems to Matter...

I made another interesting discovery regarding the photos of the Atik Infinity, but I have to mke a detour first. For telescopes, there is a maximum beneficial magnification, which should not be exceeded, because above this magnification, no further details become visible - the image is just "blown up " (besides, often the moderate sky quality does not allow using higher magnifications...). So you normally should not exceed this magnification. But as always, there is no rule without exception! Stoyan recommends for smaller extended objects to go up to twice the maximum beneficial magnification for a secure detection of sky objects (this is what he calls "maximum magnification"). In simple terms, I would put it this way: Often a certain size is needed to recognize objects well, details play a lesser role.

What does this have to do with the Atik Infinity Camera? Well, I found that on images in 1:1 format or even smaller, faint objects, despite the higher sharpness, are more difficult to recognize than on larger, "blown up" versions of the same image (or as the Atik Infinity application on my laptop presented), which actually provide no further information. Obviously, a certain image size is needed to recognite faint objects well.

 

Links

 

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14.12.2017