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 Post subject: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Fri Nov 09, 2012 3:36 pm 
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It must be 10 years since I gave up webcaming (when Keith became too good!) but below are a few notes on my initial tests with this newish HD webcam.

Software - Taking

I tried both WxAstroCapture and SharpCap using the 1280x720 HD resolution. Both are similar and have the essential histogram display for checking over/under exposure. I settled on SharpCap as it offered the promise of 30 frames per second (fps) using the MJPG codec. This codec and frame rate did not appear as an option with WxAstroCapture. SharpCap was a bit flakey and liable to crash but I decided to go with it. I didn't achieve 30fps with Jupiter on my laptop - 20fps was the fastest possible for no dropped frames. In further tests my Quad Core desktop could indeed capture 30fps so it appears that maximum frame rate is down to the PC. However, 20fps is an improvemnt and means 3000 to 4000 frames can be captured before Jupiter's rotation becomes apparent. The MJPG avi files produced are much much smaller than those saved under the YUY2 codec. I took a selection of both to compare. Quality looked similar - these are lossy compressions so neither is perfect.

Software - Processing

Registax6 had no issues with opening either type of avi file - YUY2 and MJPG. I could not persuade AviStack2 to read the MJPG files - "Codec not supported" message. This was despite following instructions to load the krsgravi DLL/DLM which is supposed to fix this. There is also a note that it can read any codec that Windows Media Player can play (the latter played them both) but no go for me in Avistack2. So Registax6 it is for processing.

Registax6 is starting to become somewhat bloated and suffers from overkill in my opinion. Where is the simplicity of earlier versions? I used it for the multipont alignment. Watch out for dust spots on the chip - flat fields would solve this but as yet I have not sorted out how Registax would use flats.

Taking

I used a Celestron C8 Celestar - a classic from the past! No GOTO and simple spur driven RA drive. From the first tests, if Polar alignment is good (not easy with the Wedgepod - you have to kick the legs to adjust) then having no electric DEC drive is not a problem. What is definitely needed is a focus motor.

With the small 3um pixels of the Omnivision chip a focal length of around 4 metres is sufficient. Rather than a barlow lens I use a 2x teleconverter bought on ebay for £2.56. It was a Japanese clone but even these are 4 element and on-axis images are good.

More details on my webpage:
http://www.deep-sky.co.uk/imaging/webcam/lifecam.htm


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 Post subject: Re: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:16 pm 
Glad it's not just me that dipped my toe into the HD webcam waters Dave, I only used mine on the moon, but struggled with some of he settings, I'll have to peck your head about the settings you used in astro capture if you don't mind.
Cheers
Andy


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 Post subject: Re: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Sun Nov 11, 2012 7:53 pm 
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Andy,
For the settings, I used a very scientific approach - set everything to the middle.
Exposure set manually looking at the histogram (I think around -7)
WhiteBalance - auto seems to get it near enough
Sharpness 25
Saturation 88
Contrast 5
Brightness 143.

You can save your parameters along with the resolution (1280x720), frame rate 20fps and compression MJPG.

There are probably better settings but I was happy just to get an image first time out.


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 Post subject: Re: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:38 pm 
thanks for that Dave,
I'll have to dig around sharpcap next time im out with the intent of a bit of planet capture.
Cheers
Andy


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 Post subject: Re: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 12:37 pm 
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Dave & Andy, I'm considering investing in a Microsoft LifeCam. Both the 1080p(Studio) and 720p(cinema) versions are available through Amazon. I recall some debate at a recent meeting over the relative merits and only recall that the studio version requires a powerful pc to get the best from it. Other than this are there any other compelling reasons for choosing one over the other for best results?

Regards

Peter Nisbett


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 Post subject: Re: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 4:56 pm 
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Peter,
The cinema version is the one that is small enough to fit inside an old eyepiece or barlow lens tube. It has more than enough pixels for the planets. Details of the conversion steps are given here:
http://ghonis2.ho8.com/lifecam/lifecam1.html

The only snag I have found is that for extended objects such as the Moon it needs extra processing. It seems to have an in built flat-field to conteract the dificiencies of the lens supplied by Microsoft. This means when we take the lens off it produces reverse vignetting at both left and right edges. To conteract this then flat-fields are necessay for extended objects (not planets). I guess all Microsoft webcams will have this "feature". More details here:
http://www.deep-sky.co.uk/imaging/webcam/lifecam.htm
For the planets it is great value and if I wanted to take the Moon I would use a DSLR instead.

The frames per second is down to your PC rather than limited by USB2. My 2 year old laptop manages 20fps. The higher resolution lifecam studio might well be slower as it is downloading a lot more pixels.


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 Post subject: Re: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Sun Dec 02, 2012 10:06 pm 
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Peter,

I converted the 720P cinema model and placed it in one of these Billet Parts - MS Lifecam Adapters

I think Andy struggled with the adapter as he converted the 1080P Studio model which turned out to be a little bigger than the cinema model.

You can follow along with all our strip down's and modifications in this thread, viewtopic.php?f=6&t=311

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Phil
Skywatcher Explorer 200P & EQ5


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 Post subject: Re: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 12:06 pm 
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Phil,
That adapter looks a better job than mine. My camera is secured in with blu-tack. Getting the chip square on was a problem - I used a small set-square across the end to check it was at right angles to the 1.25inch tube.


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 Post subject: Re: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Mon Dec 03, 2012 4:59 pm 
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DRatledge wrote:
My camera is secured in with blu-tack. Getting the chip square on was a problem - I used a small set-square across the end to check it was at right angles to the 1.25inch tube.


That sounds like a lot of work on top of an already fiddly job. Can yours not move now or do you have to be really careful with it ?

I was pleased with the quality of the adaptor I used but it is a little pricey :(

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Skywatcher Explorer 200P & EQ5


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 Post subject: Re: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema webcam (HD)
PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 3:05 pm 
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Thanks guys for your advice. I'll put the 720p version on my christmas list and look for Phil's adapter. See you tonight.

Peter


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