NexImage 5 one-shot color 5 megapixel solar system imager

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Single-Shot Color
Individual pixels in CCD cameras record only light and dark, black and white. They don’t see color. To produce a color image requires taking three separate monochrome (black and white) images though individual red, green, and blue filters. These three black and white images, each representing a single color of light (red, green, or blue), are then combined in your computer to produce the final full-color image.

Most CCD cameras take the three filtered images sequentially and store them in the computer for later processing, with the operator changing color filters between each exposure. However, several CCD manufacturers offer single-shot color cameras that record all three color images at the same time, in a single exposure. These cameras are also available in conventional monochrome versions. The single-shot color CCD cameras are essentially identical to their monochrome counterparts with the exception of the addition of a permanent color filter matrix over the pixels that lets them take all three color images simultaneously, as explained below.


The images in the box above show the basic structure of the pixels on a Kodak CCD detector, such as used on high-end SBIG and Finger Lakes Instrumentation single-shot color cameras. The top row shows a monochrome detector, the bottom row shows a single-shot color detector. The center image in each row is an actual photograph of the surface of the CCD showing a small section of the pixel array. The drawings at the right depict a side view of an individual pixel.

As you can see from the bottom row of images, the CCD structure for the single-shot color version is the same as the monochrome version except for the red, green, and blue pattern of filters over the pixels. The arrangement of colored filters over the pixels in a single-shot color camera is a repeating square of RGGB known as a Bayer pattern. This repeating pattern of RGGB pixels allows the separate red, green and blue data to be collected in a single monochrome exposure and electronically separated into the three monochrome images your computer needs to reconstruct a full-color image. Every fourth pixel sees red, every fourth pixel sees blue and every other pixel sees green. Special software extrapolates the RGB color data for each individual pixel in the frame from the color information in the adjacent colored pixels.

Many of the more economical cameras from Celestron, Meade, and Orion use Sony CCD detectors primarily designed for general use in camcorders and other consumer electronics, rather than the more-specialized detectors from Kodak. The Sony detectors use a color filter matrix of yellow, cyan, magenta, and green filters in a repeating sequence to generate the full color spectrum using sophisticated addition and subtraction algorithms to generate the desired RBG signal. The Sony filter matrix pattern is shown below.

What are the differences between taking three separate exposures versus one? Primarily it is a trade-off between greater complexity, sensitivity, and flexibility at a higher cost for the monochrome camera versus the single-shot color camera’s simplicity, ease of use, and lower overall cost for color imaging. A single-shot color camera needs only one image to do the job of the three needed by a monochrome camera/color filter wheel system. While this is simpler and less time-consuming, it results in a difference in the amount and quality of data recorded by each camera. The final image from a single-shot color camera has the same number of total pixels as a color image created by a monochrome camera and external filters, but it is created from less original data than the three discrete images of a monochrome camera. In addition, only one-third of the color information for each pixel is unique to that pixel and measured directly. The other two color values are approximations, derived from adjacent pixels.

In the case of a monochrome camera, the external color filters can be designed specifically for astronomical use, with high light transmission, precisely tailored response curves, and with better control of the color balance between the emission line and continuum light for different deep space objects. There is no way to tailor the sensitivity and spectral response of each color filter in the matrix to match the emissions of the object you are imaging, or to use special purpose narrowband filters, such as Oxygen III, SII ionized sulfur, H-alpha, etc. The matrix filters are general purpose red, green, and blue filters only.

As far as sensitivity is concerned, the monochrome camera is somewhat more sensitive due mainly to the nature of the external filters compared to the micro-filters placed over each pixel in the single-shot color camera. The monochrome camera requires more work to take a tri-color image, however, and the addition of the required filters and color filter wheel makes it more expensive.

The effective QE (quantum efficiency) of the monochrome camera with external filters is slightly higher than the single-shot color camera based on the filter transmission characteristics. But remember, the monochrome camera must take three frames versus the single-shot color camera's single frame. So for a proper comparison, a monochrome camera taking a 20 minute image through each of the three filters should be compared to a single-shot color camera taking a single 60 minute image. In this case, the single-shot color camera compares very well to its monochrome counterpart. Moreover, self-guiding the single-shot color camera is easier due to the fact that the separate built-in guider detector is never covered by a filter which can affect the tracking performance of the guider. Where a monochrome camera shines is in taking a grayscale image, or in taking narrow band monochrome or tri-color images of emission line objects. But for simple color images, single-shot color cameras are very capable.

The Celestron NexImage 5 is a dedicated Solar System Imager (CCD camera) that can be used with virtually any telescope in any size or price range. The NexImage 5 takes very high resolution 5 megapixel lunar and planetary photos in full 16-bit color with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of convenience. The 5 megapixel single-shot color sensor with Micron® DigitalClarity® technology dramatically reduces image noise levels. For more information on how single-shot color cameras work, click on the "Single-Shot Color" icon above.

The NexImage 5’s small pixels size provides sub arc-second planetary detail with most telescopes. Combined with the included software package, the 5 megapixel Celestron NexImage 5 can bring out tremendous detail and produce images that will rival those taken with astronomical cameras costing hundreds of dollars more.

The Celestron NexImage 5 captures streaming video of any solar system object at as many as 52.37 frames per second when binned 4 x 4, ideal for recording transient events such as lunar occultations of the planets, or the rare occasions when a planet occults a star. At its maximum resolution, the Celestron imaging camera captures high resolution images at a user selectable 0.71 to 5.99 frames per second. Shutter speeds are also user selectable, from 1/10,000th of a second to 30 seconds. Celestron's imaging camera control software allows you to manually change the gain, contrast, exposure time, frame rate, and color saturation using your PC.

This real-time video can be viewed live on your laptop or PC screen via the supplied USB cable so that several people can view the image at once. The images can also be stored on your computer as hundreds of individual frames. These can be viewed later to relive the occultation or can be digitally stacked to significantly reduce the electric “noise” inherent in video chips. Stacking will bring out the unseen fine detail (signal) hidden within your real-time image. The Celestron NexImage 5 camera takes advantage of the fact that the signal to noise ratio of a stacked composite image is proportional to the square root of the number of frames combined. This means that stacking as few as 16 frames will reduce the grainy noise of the composite image by 4 times. Stacking as many 1600 frames will improve the image by 40 times!

However, stacking the individual frames is only half the power of the NexImage 5 software. Before the images are stacked, the Celestron imaging camera software analyzes each individual frame for quality. It then filters out those frames that are most affected (blurred) by poor atmospheric “seeing.” This is a form of after-the-fact adaptive optics that leaves only the sharpest, clearest frames to be stacked and aligned into a single high quality image.

Finally, powerful processing features in the NexImage 5 software automatically break the image up into individual unsharp mask layers that can be used to bring out tremendous detail and reveal final images that will rival those taken with astronomical CCD cameras costing a thousand dollars or more.

Features of the Camera . . .

  • Imaging sensor: High sensitivity/high dynamic range 1/2.5” format color CMOS progressive scan sensor. Sensitivity is under one lux, comparable to imagers costing over $1000. The sensor chip measures 5.7mm x 4.28mm (7 mm diagonal).
  • One-pass imaging: Color images do not require multiple exposures through color filters as more expensive CCD cameras do.
  • Resolution : 5 megapixels (2592 pixels wide x 1944 pixels high, 5,038,848 total pixels). Each pixel measures 2.2 microns square. Nine different user selected settings from 640 x 480 pixels (4x4 binning, VGA resolution), up to the maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels, to match the camera resolution to the seeing and the focal length of your telescope.
  • Exposure times: From 1/10,000th of a second to 30 seconds (user selectable) at frame rates of 0.71 to 52.37 frames per second, depending on the resolution.
  • USB 2.0 download times: The NexImage 5 uses a fast USB 2.0 high speed connection to your computer via a supplied detachable cable. This allows fast data transfer of the camera’s uncompressed frames per second. You see your images almost as soon as you take them, making focusing quick and easy. There is virtually no delay between the moment the image is taken and when it appears on your computer screen.
  • Connection to the telescope: The NexImage 5 has a machined aluminum 1.25" nosepiece that allows you to use it with any telescope having a 1.25” focuser. The nosepiece is threaded for standard 1.25” eyepiece filters. There is an integrated IR-cut optical window built into the camera.
  • Power requirements: No batteries or power supplies required. Just plug the NexImage 5’s USB cable into your laptop or PC and you are ready to image. No other power supplies are needed.

Features of the Software . . .

  • Camera control: Allows you to manually change the gain, contrast, exposure time, frame rate, and color saturation.
  • Preview mode: Shows a live feed of your image, making focusing as easy as focusing an eyepiece. There is selectable “region of interest” sub-framing.
  • Video recording: Captures streaming video of solar system object used to generate the final high quality image.
  • Frame lists: Automatically allows you to view individual frames of your video stream.
  • Quality cutoff filter: Filters out low quality images based on individual frame quality and alignment differences.
  • Wavelet filter: Separates images into a series of unsharp mask layer that can be individually controlled to bring out all the hidden detail of the image.
  • Image processing control: Maximizes your image with powerful image processing controls such as contrast, brightness, gamma curve, RGB histogram and many more.
  • Included components: NexImage 5 camera with 1.25” eyepiece adapter and USB 2.0 cable; a CD-ROM including image capture software to capture streaming video of whet your telescope sees, image processing software to align and stack individual frame into one high quality image, and a quick setup and tutorial that’s complete with sample images.
Pixel Array:
2592 x 1944
Pixel Size:
2.2 x 2.2 microns
Warranty:
2 years
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Overall Product Rating: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics(4.67)   # of Ratings: 3   (Only registered customers can rate)

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1. Raymond on 5/15/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
My neighbor introduced me to the Next Image5 when he gathered a group of local youth for a night viewing party. This was a first for me utilizing a CCD to record my viewing. To say the least, I was impressed with the detail and quality of images from a low cost camera. Our group of six or seven youth were excited at the possibilities presented by saving images. The Next Image interfaced well with the First Scope and an ancient Meade 4" refractor, allowing the group to capture some great images of the Moon and Mars. The use of the camera was the highlight or icing on the cake and resulted in great enthusiasm that will hopefully create a new group of astronomy buffs.
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2. Kenneth on 5/11/2013, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
This is a really great imager that will allow beginners and intermediate amateurs to capture some nice photos of solar system objects. You don't need a huge scope either.

Here is a link to www.cloudynights.com (http://www.cloudynights.com/ubbthreads/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/5854267/Main/5853156) where I posted a picture I took with a NI5 and 70mm refractor.

I would recommend this camera to everybody.
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3. Kevin on 9/12/2012, said: AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics
Great camera for the price.The Icap software that comes with the Nextimage5 has a loads of setting. I have used this camera to image the Moon and Jupiter with good results on both. I bought the camera to use as a Guide camera and have guided with stars as dim as 7.5 mag on 72mm refractor works very well with 3rd party software metaguide. So if your looking for inexpensive Guide camera and Planetary one shot color this camera rocks.
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Helpful Formulas
CCD Calculator
NEXIM5 CCD Camera Information
Binning Options for the NEXIM5:
Pixel Size
  Width: 2.2 microns
  Height: 2.2 microns
Chip Size
  Width: 2592 pixels
  Height: 1944 pixels
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0.5(Planetary)  2 (Deep Space);  Other:     
      
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NEXIM5 compared to 35mm film (24x36mm)
Celestron - NexImage 5 one-shot color 5 megapixel solar system imager

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Celestron - NexImage 5 one-shot color 5 megapixel solar system imagerImage of Jupiter taken with the Celestron NexImage 5.
 AstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomicsAstronomics (Average: 4.67 | Users: 3)  Only registered users can submit ratings - Register Here
Our Product #: NEXIM5
Manufacturer Product #: 93711
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The 5 megapixel Celestron NexImage 5 provides a new level of high resolution color fidelity solar system imaging with any size telescope, and does it at a very sensible price . . .





. . . our 35th year