Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Review of Backyard EOS for framing and focusing your images

After 2 years of astrophotography its time to improve things. I have resisted using a laptop for a long time but since I built my diy guiding system I know use a laptop full time while doing my astrophotography.
By far the best improvement is the ability to focus the camera much quicker then before and with less hassle. Added to this is the advantage of being able to frame my pictures better and review any changes with out having to bend over the camera in daft positions trying to see whats on the tiny screen of my Canon 350d camera.

So what am I doing that has made such a big difference I hear you asking...

Simple, I have downloaded the cool software for astrophotographers called Backyard EOS. To be fair I also tried out Astrophotography Tool another cool software but because I am dyslexic I find the lay out of Backyard EOS much easier to understand. Both are good programmes.

So using backyard EOS, as you can see it has a cool interface which is very easy to navigate with a nice big panel that shows your images as you take your shots.On the top left you see the camera icon to connect to your camera, next to that is your imaging panel and then you frame and focus panel.

Step one. Connect your camera, I am just using the USB cable that came with my cannon at the moment but need to buy a serial cable to fully control my camera on bulb setting but for now its working with out it as I also have a remote digital timer that I use once I am focused and ready to start my main imaging sessions.

Step two.
Once your connected move over to the frame and focus panel.

I find this really useful. On the bottom right panel you simply set the camera to take 10 or 15 second shot after you have targeted a bright star and put your Bahtinov Mask on your telescope. The software will then load that image on the focus panel for you so you can zoom in on it and see very clearly your close up of the star and the diffraction spikes of the Bahtinov Mask. All you need to do then is adjust focus and take another quick shot and keep at it till your Bahtinov Mask is showing you perfect focus. You can if you want to refine it further buy using the stars width at half peak using the cool focus tool but to be honest I am content with my Bahtinov Mask and once I have that all focused its job done on focusing.
So next I take of my bahtinov mask and move to my target using my finder scope. Once I am roughly in place I take another shot 30 seconds will do, if I move to bulb it wont take a shot unless I use a serial cable which I don't have yet.
No matter it takes a 30 second shot and I can then use this to frame my subject by taking a shot and adjusting the telescope axis buttons. When its all in the panel the way I want it to look its job done and so I move back to the imaging panel. In all this time the software has saved quick .jpeg images to my folder on my pc.

So back to the imaging panel.

Now we are framed and focused we can begin our imaging session. I put on my digital timer and set it to take 30x1min shots and set it going. Backyard EOS downloads my images to the defined folder and after every image is taken it come up on the nice big display panel. I can zoom in for a closer look and keep an eye on each image in the thumbnails below the main display panel. I can also see the histogram and keep an eye on how its doing.
All in all a very good bit of software for astrophotographers indeed I really like it. It has many more features then I have talked about here but I would highly recommend it if your fed up with struggling with focusing and framing your images giving Backyard EOS a try.