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How to use Meade DSI or DSI Pro cameras with K3CCDTools

Meade DSI and DSI Pro cameras are supported in K3CCDTools 3 version.

A, Setting up the DSI camera

1, Start K3CCDTools and open the Settings Dialog using the tool-button:

2, Select the Camera section and set the Normal camera:

3, Select the Meade DSI sub-section in the Camera section and set your settings.
For color DSI camera your settings should be following:

For monochrome DSI Pro your settings should be following:

You can select High Quality preview if you have a faster computer. Using the Fast Preview quality can increase capture frame rate especially during planetary imaging.
If you have quite slow computer, color DSI camera and you want to increase capture frame rate even more, then use Monochrome preview.

4, Save settings by pressing the OK button. The Settings dialog will be closed then.

5, Open the Telescope and Camera Settings dialog using the tool-button:

6, In this dialog you can find 2 predefined DSI settings. For capturing process select the 8" LX200 F10 + DSI (Capturing) configuration:

Now you can edit your scope diameter, focal length and Barlow/Reducer. Then save your new setting - by using the Save As tool-button.

B, Activating the DSI camera

In Device menu you must select the Meade DSI interface. After choosing Meade DSI device you will see the list of actually plugged DSI cameras. The camera names listed in this list can be set in the original Meade Envisage software. In the following picture you can see the Meade DSI interface with one attached camera – DSI1:

When you check the DSI1 item, then the camera is activated. When you uncheck the DSI1 camera, then it is deactivated and it can be used by another application.

1, By using multiple instances of K3CCDTools you can use several DSI cameras connected to a single computer.
2, Don't activate the same camera from multiple applications or instances of K3CCDTools. Doing it will cause application lock out (it's caused by a bug present in the Meade camera drivers)

K3CCTools remembers the lastly used interface and activated camera. It means, when you close K3CCDTools while your DSI camera is activated, then it is also activated after the next K3CCDTools start.

C, Controlling the DSI camera

When you choose (check) a particular camera from the list, then this camera is activated and you can see the DSI Control Panel:

You can switch on and off this dialog by pressing the DSI Control Panel tool button in the main toolbar. The DSI Control Panel can be also recalled by using the menu Video Capture | DSI Control Panel....

The DSI Control Panel can work in 3 modes:

a, Short Exposure mode - this mode is dedicated for exposures from 0.1ms - 1000ms:

b, Long Exposures mode - this mode covers exposures from 0.5s up to 180s:

This mode enables you to visually watch the pending exposure progress.

c, All Exposures mode - this mode offers whole Meade DSI exposure range from 0.1ms – 1 hour. This mode is dedicated for some scientific usage of camera (you can set the camera exposure time with 0.1ms precision in whole its range):

You can use the Record button in the same way like in Long Exposure Dialog (used for SC modified cameras) - including the Pause (right mouse click on the Record button).
You can also use the Dark Frame button, which eliminates hot pixels in the Preview or during autoguiding. The Dark Frame has no effect to frames recorded to AVI file.
The Live Histogram button invokes the Live Histogram dialog which is invaluable tool for setting the proper exposure and setting a good preview.

DSI Camera Controls

DSI Control Panel offers several control elements which effect the capturing process:

Exposure Time – this is the most important parameter. Exposure time range is defined by a specific mode as it was described above. If you are in the Short Exposure mode or in the All Exposures mode with exposure time shorter than 1s, then you can see a green LED picture in the dialog – the LED is active when camera is taking exposure. In Long exposure mode or in All Exposures mode with exposure time longer or equal than 1s, you can see the exposure progress bar.

Fast Readout – this checkbox defines a camera readout mode. When it’s unchecked, then Slow readout mode is selected. Slow readout mode is recommended for long exposures. The Slow readout mode provides less noise and better picture quality. The Fast readout mode is recommended for short exposures (especially for planetary or Moon photos) – it allows you to utilize the highest camera frame rate (on fast computers you can achieve about 3fps).

Camera Gain – camera gain can be set in range from 0 to 63 (i.e. 64 steps). Don’t be confused by the original Meade software which offers the range from 0 to 100 – in fact (based on my experiments) it also uses the same range 0-63, but it recalculates (scales) it to the range 0-100 (i.e. there are 37 redundant steps in the Meade 0-100 range).

Camera Offset – camera offset can be set in range from –256 to 255. By double clicking the ”Offset” label you can reset the offset to 0 value

Other Useful Controls

DSI Control Panel offers also other useful controls – you can set the number of captured frames by using the Repeat Count control. Also you can set the Frame Alarm after capturing a certain number of frames. Finally DSI Control Panel offers you the Live Histogram dialog for proper exposure setting and choosing the best preview.

D, Capturing DSI frames

K3CCDTools captures RAW 16-bit DSI frames into AVI file. I developed a special K3CC AVI codec which is installed together with K3CCDTools and enables to view the captured data e.g. in Windows Media Player. When you process DSI captured frames from color camera, you must set the DSI de-Bayer filter to see the frames in color.

If you want to process the captured frames in other software I recommend you to load the AVI file into Processing part of K3CCDTools and use Export to unsigned 16-bit FIT files.

You can start capturing by pressing the Record button. The capturing stops when you press the Record button again. You can pause capturing process by right clicking the Record button during capturing. By another right clicking the Record button the capturing will continue. It's recommended to use the Big Display, which informs you about capturing status and number of captured frames.

Note: You can use all known tools with the DSI camera:

  • Focusing tool
  • Live FFT window
  • Live Histogram
  • Brightness Lever Meter (the 16-bit level values are divided by 256)
  • Drift Explorer for measuring a periodic error and auto-guiding

Go to How to process Meade DSI or DSI Pro captured sequence

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Last Update: 03.01.2006