View Full Version : New toys

12-25-2014, 06:22 AM
I can't yet spend much time in the shop so I have been spending most of my time playing on my computers. I can't get out in the cold to work in my observatory either so I have been looking for a way to do at least some astrophotography without having to go outside for more than a minute or two.

That meant finding a new camera that can operate in very cold conditions or at least not suffer damage from being outside all night. The primary issue with the SLR cameras is the moving mirror. I could have gotten a mirrorless SLR but that isn't what I want. Too big and harder to stick inside a weather tight housing than what I ended up getting.

I decided to try something really different. It will snag some pretty good night sky shots, I have checked out that very thoroughly.

It is the new Sony DSC-QX100. Not cheap but has some pretty good reviews and I have a little extra money since I beat the government into giving me my back disability pay. We spent nearly all of that on paying off loans but I kept a bit for something to keep me busy when I cannot even sit straight up never mind stand.




The camera is basically a super smart lens and can take pics with nothing else attached. It is intended to be used either attached directly to a smart phone or running somewhat near a tablet using a wi-fi connection to the app that gives full including manual control. It has a 1" sensor at 20 megapixels which is a big enough sensor to do some serious low light work. Less pixels would be nicer but many if not most people still think that more pixels is better. Anything over about ten mega pixels is a waste of sensor size and reduces image quality greatly unless the sensor is really large.

To go along with it I have picked up the Samsung Galaxy Tab S T800. This is currently the largest and highest resolution OLED screen in existence. The screen image quality is truly amazing with a resolution of 2650 by 1600 and a pixel density of about 288 pixels per inch on the 10.5 inch screen. While the pixel density is a very big deal the use of light emitting diodes for each and every pixel is the real winning feature. The light is coming from the pixel itself and from the very front surface of the screen. The diodes are able to emit nothing to full brightness in a very linear fashion and can produce nearly the entire range of light to dark nearly perfectly. That is something that an LCD simply cannot even come close to doing and worse, the apparent brightness of LCD pixels changes dramatically with viewing angle. When you are looking at a tablet only about a foot from your eyes the angle difference between you eyes is about 12 degrees. That is plenty enough to make a difference in how each eye sees the screen no matter how you align the screen to your face.

With the OLED screen it makes almost no difference at all regardless of how you look at it. The difference is incredible although it isn't at all obvious why it looks so much better. The reviews on this screen and my own experience is that this screen makes the so called "retina display" look like dirt. For some reason I do not understand the screen makes ultra hi res movies look three dimensional. My friends also say that as the very first thing they notice when they have seen it. It simply blows away LCD screen technology in every possible way.

Here is an example of just how well the screen stays perfectly visible even at very high viewing angle changes.


The coolest thing though is that I can now easily review images I take at close to actual full resolution.

It's not a bad Christmas.

12-25-2014, 07:05 AM
Hi Evan ! I'm having a nice christmas also, YOU ARE BACK ! I am sure the forum pic cannot do your new pad justice although the display looks fantastic considering its a picture of a picture, posted on a forum. The advances in consumer technology are quite amazing. I see the Sony camera has a Zeiss lens, that says something about the quality itself.

I am curious, what is the ballpark cost of the camera and pad? No doubt, like all technology toys the price will drop considerably before long.

Have fun with the new toys !


12-25-2014, 07:44 AM
Wow! Interesting device. I'd not heard anything about this and I'm a nut about cameras. I'm going to have to look more into it. Thanks for exposing me to it. Merry Christmas!

12-25-2014, 07:51 AM
Great to see you having even enough energy to muster some posts lately, Evan. I understand what a challenge even that can be at times.

I have been reading about those "smart lens" cameras since the press releases started leaking out about them. I'll be looking forward to hearing what you think of it after you have had some time to mess around with it.

Hang in there and have a great Christmas!

12-25-2014, 09:11 AM
Thanks Evan, good to see your'e post here again, wishing you the very best in 2015.

12-25-2014, 09:32 AM
Merry Christmas Morning Evan!
You have brightened my Christmas by your, as always, very interesting post.
I wish you a healthy and happy New Year.

12-25-2014, 09:59 AM
Merry Christmas Evan.

12-25-2014, 12:41 PM
Cost of both items is about $1000, 500 each. I will be posting some images from the camera once I get something worth looking at.

12-25-2014, 12:58 PM
Merry Xmas Evan. Nice to see you back at the forum.

12-25-2014, 12:59 PM
Cost of both items is about $1000, 500 each. I will be posting some images from the camera once I get something worth looking at.

$500 bucks for a decent camera is not really all that pricey. Look forward to what you can take with that, you are pretty good at getting your stuff to perform.

12-25-2014, 01:52 PM
The one thing that really bothers me about all consumer and prosumer grade cameras now is the sensors. They are pretty well all crap compared to what they could be. Unless you have actually used a camera with a really decent sensor that isn't obvious. By far the best camera I have in terms of sensor quality is my very old Nikon 4300. Even the other Nikon models just before and after that one aren't as good. It has a true CCD sensor, NOT CMOS, and the sensor pixel size is matched to the Nikon lens resolution spot size. That correspondence is very important optically and it can't happen with tiny high megapixel sensors. Also, the good CCD sensors are far lower noise level than any CMOS sensor and that includes all of the Canon CMOS sensors. The difference isn't small either. If you take a pic of gradually varying sky blue with the Nikon and any other camera with CMOS and then have a close look at the pixels the difference stands out like night and day.

The CCD pixels are pretty well all the same colour and density. CMOS never is, it's inherent in how the sensor types work and nothing can be done to improve CMOS to equal a good CCD. The modern CCD sensors are crap because they have figured out how to make the sensor pixel area so small that quantum variations now take over. They aren't any better than CMOS now. The Nikon 4300 has a large sensor so with only 4.3 megapixels each pixel has a good size area and quantum effects are small.

The main reason that good CCDs aren't used is that they draw about 10 to 100 times more current than CMOS. That makes for rather short battery life and in the larger megapixel sizes a lot of heat.

12-25-2014, 03:12 PM
How does the Galaxy tablet perform in direct sunlight? Tablets are being increasingly used to hold sectional charts and other aviation related data, but something like the Ipad is very difficult to see in bright sunlight.

12-25-2014, 04:55 PM
Merry Christmas, Evan

12-25-2014, 08:05 PM
Here are a few samples from the camera. These were taken at 1440x1080 and are posted here directly from the camera. No adjustment or resize or other fiddling. They were taken with no particular care to hold the camera steady.

This camera so far seems to have very low noise. The tree fort image was in pretty low light as the sun had just set and it is dark in the trees. It is NOT an action camera though, mainly because of inbuilt delays in the smart phone app, not the camera. I haven't even tried it yet with the new tablet. It has two four core CPUs and is a lot snappier than any of the other tablets we have (about five at this time). I expect it will be a lot more responsive with a fast tablet. Also, there is an app that I haven't yet tried that claims to be a lot faster than the Sony app. That doesn't surprise me at all. Generally, the manufacturer apps suck and that includes Samsung and Canon, not just Sony.

I haven't tried the Tablet in sunlight but I am certain it will work well. The maximum screen brightness is so bright it is hard to look at.




The images are on the cold side but I haven't tried any adjustments of any sort. One cool thing is that you can specify the focus point by simply pointing to it on the smart phone screen.

12-26-2014, 01:17 AM
I was talking to a friend who pointed out that CMOS CCDs pick up radiation, aka cosmic radiation and that there is an app for it, I think the plan is to spread the app to get a network of low resolution detectors by way of phones CCDS and make a global detector system, similar to SETIs old background number crunching on pcs.
Nice camera btw!

12-26-2014, 05:52 AM
The sensor is either CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) or CCD (Charge Coupled Device). They cannot be correctly called "CMOS CCDs" since that is mixing them together. And yes, they can detect radiation but ground level events for cosmic rays are not very common, if that is what they have in mind. They do happen from time to time and I suppose it might be possible to detect. I have a couple of beta ray sources that I can try on my smart phone and I also have a decent radiation particle counter so I can calibrate it if it works at all. Gotta be careful to not radiate the flash ram too much though as it will scramble the data.

12-29-2014, 08:51 PM
koda2 asked about how the tablet performs in sunlight. It was sunny today so I took it outside and took some pics of it in direct sun and in body shade. The answer is that it is very readable, even in full direct sunlight. In the shade of your body it is as good as being inside completely out of the sun, much better than most any other tablet. The OLED screen and any other direct LED light source has that property. It's because all the photons are being generated from a very tiny point source and that makes the apparent brightness much higher than the absolute average brightness.

It is the same as stars in the night sky. They are actual point sources. If they were not we couldn't see most of them since even a small amount of spreading of the source area makes the apparent brightness far less.

In full sun:



In body shade:



12-29-2014, 09:12 PM
I take it your plan is to attach the camera to your telescope then? That is the exact purpose I have. Bright clear winter nights here are often below 20F so direct viewing is quite uncomfortable. I bought adapters to let me connect my Canon 7D to the scope (8" Celestron) but it is quite a rig to run a USB cable from my laptop to the camera. Steering requires another cable. Something like the lens camera may solve some problems.

I watched a DigitalRev review of that camera last year but the reviewer (Kai) can sometimes be a moron and this was one of those times. One thing I took away was that there was no way to set the ISO, shutter speed, or exposure. No mention of auto-focus, focus spots, etc. At nearly $500 that is a pretty good chunk of change for a snapshot camera, so there must other compelling drivers.

12-29-2014, 09:27 PM
I've often thought about building a remote controlled observatory along those lines, something I could use year round without leaving the house's warmth in winter. Interested and following this thread as well...

John Stevenson
12-29-2014, 10:07 PM
Few years ago was involved with a company making Delrin mounts for remote type cameras. These were Sony, about 30mm cube, had a tiny lens on the front, plug on the back and were silver. That's all I can tell you about them because that's all I knew but I got the impression they were just commercial cameras and not anything special.

All we were doing were converting ex college lathes to Mach and setting them up.

One day the boss came round to pick some things up with a Transit style van and he was a bit cagey but showed us inside the van which was equipped as a surveillance van. Porta loo, desks swivel chair etc. The camera was in one of those rotating vents things you see on the top of bread vans. Camera was able to swivel inside the vent unit so it could see 360 degrees. He aimed it at the bottom of our street about 300 to 400 yards and as a car came round the corner he was able to clearly see the number plate but then grabbed and froze the shot, then blew it right up and you could read the coding on the head of the bolts holding the bull bar on.

Very cagey at what it was all for but he did say he'd spent a whole day videoing a guy playing golf who was going in front of an injury board to claim benefits as he couldn't walk.

No idea if these cameras are still around or been superseded as I say it was 5 / 6 years ago.

12-29-2014, 10:25 PM
Version 3.0 of the camera internal and control software now allows full control of ISO 160 to 12800, aperture F1.8 to 11, and exposure from 1/2000 up to 30 seconds. Focus can be auto or manual and default focus when autofocus is off is exactly infinity. Exposure settings can be full manual, aperture priority or shutter priority and two auto modes. Exposure can be set at +- 3.0 with .3 steps. It has half push auto focus on the camera button and the camera also has a zoom ring on the front. It may be possible to assign the ring to other functions, I don't know yet. It has point to screen focus selection. It has eight different image size selections including 3:2, 16:9, 4:3, and 1:1 each in two size varying from 5 megapix to 20 megapix.

One very cool feature is that as you change anything it shows the result on the view screen before you take the picture. Setting proper exposure in full manual is a piece of cake.