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There may be another Micron-Aptina sensor ready to rock and roll the planets

Cameras like ASI120MM or QHY5-IIL are equipped with AR0130CS or MT9M034 (mono) sensors. We know what those sensors can do as there is a lot of images made with those cameras. There is also a third very similar sensor that is new and not very popular - Aptina AR0134.

All of those sensors have 1280 x 960 frame and 3.75 pixels. MT9M034 is rated up to 60 FPS while the new contender AR0134 only 54 FPS. The biggest difference is that AR0134 has global shutter and thus is a different design when compared to MT9M034. Global shutter in CMOS sensors usually increased read noise, but provided shutter-artifact free frames. It's hard to tell how the new sensor would perform in planetary imaging but it could be free of vertical lines visible on MT9M034 dark frames. That depends on the design and performance of the sensor.

The new sensor is available in Point Grey Blackfly BFLY-PGE-12A2M-CS camera and has the usual QE/noise/performance measurements from PGR. Sensitivity looks as nearly identical to that of MT9M034 (maybe with a bit more IR sensitivity - by placing two QE charts on each other). In the EU shop this GigE camera is priced at 250 EUR, so very close (maybe sometimes cheaper) to EU prices for USB2 ASI120MM. Gigabit Ethernet allows it to reach 52 FPS at full frame and 100 FPS at 640x480.

Recent sensor releases, not only AR0134 or MT9M034 but for example Sony ICX693, 692 bring better and better performance in small steps over their predecessors. Whats changing much faster are prices. Nowadays most popular planetary cameras cost around half of what we paid for ICX618 cameras when they showed up. We live in interesting times for Solar System imaging. What will be next? NIR cameras with response beyond 1100 nm? sCMOS v2.0 sensors?


Astronomy and Astrophotography, 10 February 2014, Piotr Maliński

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