The Altair GPCAM2 290C Colour camera has the sought after Sony Exmor IMX290 CMOS sensor, with high sensitivity, and extremely low read noise, which alongside the IMX224 is possibly the lowest of any similar sized sensor. *
It can be used for solar, planetary, lunar “lucky” imaging as well as long exposure deepsky imaging, and of course video astronomy. Time-lapse all-sky imaging (with optional meteor lens) is fully supported in the software. Amp glow is very well suppressed making this sensor a particularly good choice for deepsky imaging or video astronomy.
The SONY Exmor IMX290 Color CMOS sensor has very low read noise, with 2.9 micron pixels and a large 1920x1080 array giving 2.07 megapixels. It is also BSI, or backside illuminated and carries the STARVIS rating.
Onboard buffering gives USB data transfer speeds significantly higher than the GPCAM1 series, pushing the USB2.0 format to the limit, yet within a stable envelope. This almost completely eliminates dropped frames, corrupted video, and enables faster more consistent frame rates, even with less powerful notebook computers.
The casing has an external heatsink surface, which dissipates heat generated by the electronics, reducing thermal noise.
The USB2.0 connector is the high strength type - the highest quality component of it's type on the market. This is much more reliable than the micro-USB connectors found on smartphones (we all know how those loosen up over a short time!).
SPECIAL OFFER! FREE 1 year SharpCap PRO License with this camera! Click here for more SC PRO feature info. Just download the latest SharpCap and connect your camera, register when the screen pops up and off you go. Sharpcap PRO has the amazingly accurate guidescope polar alignment routine, focus assistance, live flat field subtraction and many more great features to make deepsky, EAA or solar system imaging that much easier. Download SharpCap here to take advantage of this special offer.
The camera has an ST4 auto-guiding port, and can be used to auto-guide with mounts from all the major mount manufacturers supporting ST4 format, such as iOptron, Celestron and Skywatcher.
You would be hard-pressed to find a more versatile small-format colour astronomy imaging camera with this price and features.
And what's more, you get UK/EU based warranty support, plus the Altair Camera Google User Group for all your technical questions - a great place to share tips and techniques to get the best out of your camera.
The camera can be fully controlled in AltairCapture and SharpCap to output uncompressed .AVI and .SER video files for solar system imaging, as well as all common still image formats such as .JPEG .PNG .TIF .BMP, to mention just a few. The GPCAM supports 8bit or 12bit output. The 12 bit output mode can be used for deep sky imaging with less frames needing to be stacked and a wider pixel intensity range. The IMX290 sensor is extremely sensitive in the IR region (for all pixels not just red!) and can be used effectively with IR Pass filters for solar and lunar imaging in mono mode.
What’s different about the GPCAM2 platform compared to the GPCAM1 platform? You’ll notice the GPCAM2 casing is larger than the GPCAM. This is to house larger electronics boards which support trigger mode and frame buffering as well as to increase the surface area for cooling. The GPCAM2 platform supports “Trigger Mode” to make long exposures of over 5 seconds easier to control. With most cameras, in normal video mode, you have to wait for an exposure to complete before the camera will accept, say a command to abort the frame, for say clouds, aircraft, or an alignment issue, like kicking the tripod and so-on, or for routine changes in gain, exposure time, , re-aligning or refocusing on the object. For long exposures, normal video mode is inconvenient, especially for video astronomy and deep-sky imaging, however in Trigger mode, you can stop the camera instantly (even if you are half way through a long 30 second exposure) change the settings, and re-start the camera looping again. The GPCAM2 also has an improved onboard frame buffer to improve data transfer stability at high frame rates (to reduce dropped frames) and to increase compatibility with a wider range of PCs. The improved buffers give a more consistent data transfer rate over USB2.0 and USB3.0 buses on laptops and desktop PCs.
Included in the box:
- Camera body with high-strength USB2.0 connector.
- 2m High-speed USB2.0 A male to B male cable.
- 1.5m ST4 guide cable.
- 1.25 inch x 20mm nosepiece with female 1.25" filter thread on the front.
- CS-Mount adapter with built-in UV-IR Blocking Filter, AR coatings. (Removable for sensor cleaning).
- Plastic dust cap 1.25".
Note: This camera does not come with software in the box. To operate the camera you will need to download the latest camera drivers at cameras.altairastro.com (opens new window)
Sensor & performance specifications:
ALTAIRGP290C: SONY Exmor IMX290 Color CMOS sensor with STARVIS back illumination technology (BSI)
Sensor Size: 1/2.8" diagonal 6.46mm
Exposure duration shortest/longest:
Video mode: 0.105ms (0.000105 secs) / 5000ms (5 seconds)
Trigger mode: 0.105 ms (0.000105 secs) / 1000 secs (16.66 minutes)
Bit depth: 8bit & 12bit modes switchable
Pixel size microns: 2.9x2.9 um
Resolution in pixels: 1920x1080 (2.07mp active pixels)
Recording System: Still Image & Video
Region Of Interest (ROI): Supported
Approx. Max frame rates (assuming computer Bus and Hard Drive operating at full bandwidth)*:
8 bit mode:
640x480 37.2FPS ROI
320x240 56.3FPS ROI
12 bit mode - approx 50% of above.
* Based on average user reports. May be revised as we get more data. The shorter the exposure duration, the faster the frame rate. An expensive PC does not guarantee a fast frame rate.
Readout: Progressive Scan
Shutter: Electronic Rolling Shutter
Read noise: TBC, not provided by sensor manufacturer.
Software & OS support:
Drivers & AltairCapture software download (Windows only): cameras.altairastro.com (opens new window).
Driver support: PHD2, AltairCapture, SharpCap, (Windows DirectShow)
AltairCapture OS support: Win XP/ Vista/ 7/ 8/ 10 (32 & 64 bit)
SharpCap is also fully supported and tested with native drivers.
USB Port & Cable: 2.0 USB, 2m cable
ST4 Port & Cable: Standard ST4 Opto-Isolated, 1.5m cable, iOptron, Celestron, Skywatcher SynScan GOTO.
Cooling: Air-Cooled large surface area camera body.
Camera body length: 70 mm total length including CS-Mount and 5mm extension ring;
Weight grams: 70 g (camera net weight)
Colour Camera: AR-coated UV/IR blocking filter 380-650nm wavelength transmission
Back-focus & Adapter compatibility:
Optical Window is removable to reveal female C-Mount thread
Camera body thread: C/CS-Mount female allows direct attachment of CS-Mount lens or C-Mount lens with 5mm extension.
C-Mount lens adapter: Included, terminates in female thread connecting to camera body.
C-Mount lens compatibility: C-Mount male threaded lens with 17.526 mm back-focus (or flange-distance) requirement.
C-mount lens compatibility: C-Mount male threaded lens with 12.526 mm back-focus (or flange-distance) requirement.
Astro filter thread adapter: Included, 1.25" OD, Female thread
Pushfit Barrel OD: Standard Astro format 1.25” OD eyepiece-barrel
Sensor surface distance from flat end of C-Mount adapter: 17.58 mm
Sensor surface distance from flat end of 20mm 1.25” Astro adapter: 37.58 mm
Operating environment conditions:
Max operating temp: 50 °C
Lowest operating temp: -10 °C
Max operating humidity: 80 % RH
Power source in Volts: 5V DC (via USB cable)
Windows PC Hardware Requirements:
Minimum CPU: Equal to Intel Core2 2.8GHz or Higher
Minimum Memory: 2GB or More
USB port: USB2.0 High-speed Port
Monitor Display: 17" or Larger
Software delivery: Downloaded online at cameras.altairastro.com and saved to hard drive.
Warranty: 2 years manufacturer warranty against defects in materials and workmanship. Return to point of purchase.
* Read noise is unknown / unconfirmed at time of writing.