We have found it increasingly difficult to source new cameras for the UKMON network and needed to find an alternative to the ageing VE-6047EF. There are alternatives like Watec for example, which are excellent cameras, but an objective of the UKMON network is to balance cost and performance by using more affordable hardware.
Finding a good low cost meteor detection camera is not easy and with a minimal order quantities, buying untested hardware is always a bit of a risk. However, Jakub Koukal from European EDMOND helped us tremendously with selection process and after months of research we found a suitable and affordable alternative from a Chinese supplier.
We asked the supplier not to install any filters at the factory. Not only does this mean they are supplied ready to go, it also removes risk of damage by our pre-installation surgery. They are easy to set up. The camera’s OSD menu is somewhat similar and we kept most of settings on defaults. Interestingly the camera automatically switches to low light level mode which makes me wonder how a large fireball would look, could we see a colour maybe?
Isn’t it always the case when you order new astronomy hardware it’s raining for days afterwards? Well, as is typical, it was for us. In Britain we call this Sod’s law - if anything can go wrong it will go wrong. Sunday 7 May 2017 was cloudy but forecasted possible gaps in the clouds so I waited patiently and as soon as I saw a gap I tried to focus the camera. That didn’t last for very long and next attempt was Monday 8 May 2017 that finally we saw some results!
I started out evaluating the KDM-6101G with its factory supplied lens (at 45 degrees FOV) by comparing it with my existing K2 camera (VE-6047EF camera and Computar lens at 62 degrees FOV).
Each camera captured the usual number of planes and blips. While the lens F1.4 is really not ideal lens, it still can be used to get reasonably good results. The first night test was cut short as the clouds rolled in after just two hours of observing.
I still managed to get some meteors!
This time I used spare my Tokina lens (at 43 degrees) on the new KDM-6101G camera and again compared it to our standard setup on K2 with VE-6047EF camera and Computar lens (at 62 degrees).
Immediately I could see big difference; better image and more stars on the mask.
For comparison meteor pictures:
Sod’s law my computer died during the 8 May test so today I got a new one and unusually the OS installation went so well that I managed to plug in the camera to a new laptop just before sunset.
Still using the Tokina lens, but this time with a 60 degrees FOV, and matching the FOV of my K2 cameras almost perfectly!
The night yielded same number of meteors with one brighter one with a small explosion.
After two weeks of very poor weather I finally got the opportunity to resume testing of this new camera. By now it was clear the camera is performing at least as well as the older VE model.
Both cameras yielded exactly the same amount of meteors, 6 in total but after close inspection there were not exactly identical. This time around I had time synchronisation on.
Due to weather conditions my evaluation took almost a month to complete. I tried to align the cameras as accurately as possible so that both cameras see same part of sky. In May we have usually low meteor numbers anyways and
(group / mag)
(group / mag)
|20170525_214136||J8_NSC / 0.8||J8_JEO / 0.9|
|20170525_222149||spo / 0.7|
|20170525_223114||J8_LLY / 0.1|
|20170525_230840||J8_ASC / -0.1|
|20170525_230903||J8_MAC / 1.6|
|20170525_235554||J8_LLY / 1.8|
|20170526_004701||spo / -0.4||spo / 0.4|
|20170526_011211||J8_GDE / 1.1|
|20170526_014333||J8_LLY / 0.4|
You can download combined CSV files for each camera and judge for yourself.
KDM-6101G camera gives adequate sensitivity, image quality and “price / performance ratio” in its default configuration and using the lens provided by manufacturer. However, fitting the camera with a better lens improves performance drastically and with a lens at F1.0 we believe it will out-perform our existing setup (VE-6047EF cameras).
The new camera is larger than the old. This might make a straight swap into some camera housings difficult. A trial installation into one of the smaller Genie TPH-1500 camera housings has been attempted and we believe it is possible with the addition of a 90 degree BNC adaptor (which we did not have available at the time). The camera should be an easy fit into the mid-sized Genie TP2000 housings.
VE camera: VE-6047EF
KDM camera: KDM-6101G 1/3”, CMOS Sony, 700TVL, PAL/NTSC system
Tokina lens: Tokina 3.0-8.2mm 1:0.98
Stock lens with KDM camera: 2.8-12mm 1:1.4 1/2.7” CCTV
You can now order your own KDM-6101G camera directly from UKMON. Hurry while stock lasts.