Cheap Webcams

For those interested in imaging and image processing with DSLR, CCD, webcam or film.
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imartin

Cheap Webcams

#1 Post by imartin » Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:21 pm

It is possible to purchase Phillips SPC880NC webcams for £6-99 delivered from Morgans Computers:-
http://www.morgancomputers.co.uk/shop/p ... goryID=556

They are also selling IR blocking filters and nosepieces.

and download WcRmac from here:-

http://www.burri-web.org/bm98/soft/wcrm ... wnload.htm

to flash the firmware to turn them into SPC900NC

admittedly you need an Windows XP machine or Virtual XP machine to do it.

I have managed to flash 2 off cameras and I am not a computer whizz by any stretch of the imagination.

all explained on another forum:-

http://stargazerslounge.com/astro-loung ... vered.html

I have seen some great examples of shots people have taken of Jupiter.

Good luck. :D

Ian

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rwilkinson
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Re: Cheap Webcams

#2 Post by rwilkinson » Fri Oct 22, 2010 3:11 pm

Thanks for your tip Ian - I bought myself a couple of them to play with.

I've not tried the firmware upgrade, as my astro-laptop is an old WindowsME machine, but I've managed to get it to run them with a PCVC750K driver for now.

I've just completed the "SC1" long-exposure modification on one of them, which is quite straightforward - I'll write it up and post the details in our Members' Area soon...

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Re: Cheap Webcams

#3 Post by rwilkinson » Mon Oct 25, 2010 1:19 pm

Got some results from my modified SPC880 webcam last night.

First, in "normal" mode (just like my original TouCam):
Image
150x 1/33-sec using 8" SCT and Barlow lens.

Then in "Long Exposure" mode (20x 30-sec)
Image
20x 30-sec using 80mm f/5 refractor.

There was a bright full Moon, so there was very poor contrast for the M82 image, but I definitely caught some photons which had made the 17 million light-year journey!

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Re: Cheap Webcams

#4 Post by rwilkinson » Sun Oct 31, 2010 1:54 pm

I managed to image M31 last night:
Image
using my SPC880-LX with a 50mm f/2.8 lens, mounted on the home-made tracking-platform.
This is a composite of around 40 expsoures of between 15 and 30-sec.

OK, so it's nowhere near as good as Keith's image (http://www.boltonastro.org.uk/Gallery/a ... 2/M31A.JPG) but mine was taken with a £10 webcam from the centre of Bolton on a not-very-clear night!

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Re: Cheap Webcams

#5 Post by rwilkinson » Mon Nov 08, 2010 9:23 am

I've written up my work on converting these great little cameras - see the new "Projects" section in our Members' Area:
http://www.boltonastro.org.uk/Members%5 ... ersion.pdf

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Re: Cheap Webcams - seeing red

#6 Post by rwilkinson » Wed Nov 10, 2010 3:32 pm

I caught the M42 Orion nebula last night with my LX-webcam:
Image

It was low in the sky, so even with a light-pollution filter I could only use 5-sec exposures without the sky-glow saturating the image - but it didn't take long to capture forty images for post-processing!
And the dark diagonal band across the lower left quadrant of the image is the silhouette of a neighbour's telephone line which was in my line-of-sight!

But the red sensitivity of the camera is much better than my Pentax DSLR - I must try it with a hydrogen-alpha filter sometime?

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Re: Cheap Webcams

#7 Post by rwilkinson » Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:27 pm

I've just upgraded the firmware in a SPC880 webcam, so that it now works with the SPC900NC driver. So if any other BAS Member is having problems with this process, I can do it for you.

And the Society has now purchased two of these cameras (together with eyepiece adaptors and IR-block filters), for loan to Members to try their hand at imaging - just add a PC and a telescope!
One of these is already converted and ready to go, and the second one should be done next month.

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Re: Cheap Webcams

#8 Post by rwilkinson » Mon Nov 15, 2010 1:24 pm

I've now tried my SPC880-LX with my 8" SCT - with the f/3.3 focal reducer I had an effective focal length of around 660mmm (and I had an Orion "sky-glow" filter in-line too).

I started with the gain (on the Video Source menu) set to about 75%, but with this setting it was tricky to find the objects (even with 10-sec exposures), and with a 1-min exposure I could see trailing due to imperfect polar alignment and drive errors. But my M82 image was taken with this setting:
http://www.boltonastro.org.uk/Gallery/d ... =18&pos=12

But for the Crab nebula, I pushed the gain up to full - although the noise came up too, I could get away with 30-sec exposures:
http://www.boltonastro.org.uk/Gallery/d ... m=18&pos=1

I thought that it was getting a little misty last night, but I didn't realise until I came back indoors that the Moon was at first quarter and quite bright - I hadn't seen it from the back of the house (facing East)!

Incidentally, I've been taking an equal number of "dark-frames" for each of the targets, and I'm using AstroSnapLite (running under WindowsME) to capture .BMP files for processing in IRIS. After a little practice, it only takes me around 20 minutes to process each set of images.

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Re: software for LX-webcam imaging

#9 Post by rwilkinson » Tue Dec 28, 2010 5:13 pm

The program which I use (AstroSnapLite) runs OK with my Parallel (LPT Port) controlled webcam attached to an old WindowsME laptop, and produces a series of colour BMP files for direct import into IRIS for processing.

However those of you using a Serial (COM Port) controlled webcam with a more modern computer could try the following:
  • use wxAstrocapture to control the camera and capture AVI files,
  • then use AVI2BMP to convert these into a series of BMPs.
Both programs are free, and can be downloaded from here: Alternatively, if you use the AVI conversion process in IRIS, this creates three sets of images (Red, Green & Blue) which can then be combined back into a series of colour frames using the MERGE_RGB2 command.

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Re: Cheap Webcams

#10 Post by rwilkinson » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:25 am

I've just been helping Dean to convert his SPC880 for LX-mode.
We used a hybrid of the techniques from my document (in the Projects section of our Members' Area) - serial (COM-port) control was used, but the camera was transplanted into an ABS box:
deanscamera1.jpg
An SPC880 re-housed in an ABS box along with the LX-mode and Amp-off switch circuit and a cooling fan
deanscamera1.jpg (174.78 KiB) Viewed 14592 times
This does require a little "plastic surgery" (with some drills, files and a chisel!), but then it's much easier to fit the circuit-board, wires, connector, switch and fan than trying to cram them inside the original webcam housing.
And the "black-box" looks more at home on the back of a telescope - rather than something which has fallen off the top of a PC-monitor! ;-)

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