Category : Equipment Reviews

Panasonic HD SD9 Camcorder Review

Panasonic SD9 CamcorderI have at last purchased a new digital high definition camcorder. I chose the Panasonic SD9 HD camcorder for it’s size, weight and functionality as well as price. I purchased it through Amazon and got a free 8GB SDHC card with it.

Once it arrived I was amazed by the small size of it and how light it was, especially compared to my 1st 8mm camcorder I bought 15 years ago which is now out of service.

This now means I have another option for recording astronomy, not just my webcam, Meade DSI Pro or Canon DLSR. The first thing I need to figure out is how to attach the SD9 camcorder to my telescope. I am hoping to find a simple 37mm threaded adaptor which will fit directly onto the front of the camcorder which will allow me to connect the other end as 1.25″ or 2″ eyepiece.

The manual mode of the camcorder does allow you to change the shutter times from 1/25 to 1/8000. This was useful for those night shots, especially when shooting the footage below that I took of the moon, which I took using a 1/4000 shutter speed via a tripod on full zoom which is 10x. You can also change the apeture setting as well. (From viewing these videos you will see that the viewing ratio has changed in YouTube as the moon looks a bit elongated, plus note you will not really see the HD quality on these videos).


There is a larger zoom than 10x, but this is digital and you lose quality and gain pixelisation when using digital zoom, so it’s not recommended to use it, and a good thing is that in the menu you can actually turn off the use of the digital zoom.


Viewing the files recorded in the AVCHD format is tricky, Windows Media Player will play the files but you may need to install special codec onto the PC to get it to work. Each file is located in a folder called “stream” as an .MTS file.

There is a supplied CD which allows you to first download the video footage to your PC and then edit it via an included program, which can output your video as MPEG2. Though as you have probably seen from the YouTube videos that the ratio is different as YouTube has squashed the videos.

The quality of the recordings are very good, the picture is clear and the sound good, but at the moment I don’t have an HD TV though, so I am probably not getting the best from the camcorder.

 There are other accessories to buy though such as macro lenses, so I have an idea of using the camcorder with a macro lens on and to record meteor showers by leaving the camcorder on a tripod and recording for 2hrs at a time, so then I should hopefully then get some footage of some meteors.

So far I can thoroughly recommend the Panasonic SD9 camcorder, the only downside at the moment is that spare batteries are hard to find and expensive. 

I purchased my Panasonic SD9 from Amazon, which I think was the cheapest although, it can be purchased from other online electrical retailers such as Currys and John Lewis.

Purchased a Meade DSI Pro II

I managed to sell my Meade DSI Pro I on eBay, I then purchased a Meade DSI Pro II from Telescope House over the final May Bank Holiday weekend when they gave me an extra 10% off the retail price.  Though I thought the price for the DSI Pro II was already a good price at £299, in fact the best I could find on the net.

I would have loved to have purchased a DSI Pro III, but there was no way I was going to spend £600 on a Deep Sky Imager, that’s the price of a new laptop, maybe in the future the price will come down and I may upgrade.

Anyway I have used the new Pro II version a couple of times and I can tell that it is slightly better than the first version, obviously there are more pixels that can be captured.

I was amazed to find out that there was no Autostar CD in the box, there was only an instructional DVD, which is the same as on the Meade website.  My first version did come with an Autostar CD, but maybe now they just expect you to download the latest version.

This is exactly what I did, as my original DSI came with something like Autostar v3, and I am now running something like v5. One of the main differences to the DSI software is that it now contained a field telling me the temperature of the CCD.

Now I think I have too much choice of what to use to image, do I use the DSI, Canon DSLR or Webcam? I am also thinking of purchasing a High Definition Camcorder to video our new child, but I’m sure I’ll want to somehow attach the camcorder to the telescope as well.

15×70 Astronomy Binocular Review

I have never owned my own pair of binoculars before, even though it seems that as an amateur astronomer having a pair of binoculars is a must.

Binocular EyepiecesThe binoculars being reviewed are from Telescope Planet and they are their own make, and are 15×70 (15x zoom with a 70mm lens diameter). They have a nice feel to them as they have a rubberised coating, which I am told is good for grip and reduces the formation of dew.

These binoculars are good for all types of viewing but really excel at astronomy, due to their 15x magnification and 70mm lens. It’s strange to think that even some telescopes have this size lens diameter.

Binoculars and CaseThe binoculars come in their own soft case and come with a binocular strap and cleaning cloth, as well as all eyepiece covers.

These 15×70 binoculars are not light, and I did find myself only being able to hold them for a few minutes before my arms got tired and I started to view star trails with my arms shaking.  I found the best way to hold these long binoculars was by holding the end of the binoculars with both hands, instead of up near the eyepiece and focuser.

Binocular Tripod AttachmentThe good thing is that they have a standard Universal Bush built into them beneath a protective screw on cover. I would thoroughly recommend purchasing a binocular L bracket (around £10) and putting them on a tripod to get the most out of these, perhaps something I should look at purchasing next.

I could then imagine myself just sitting in the garden on a chair with the binoculars on my tripod gazing up at the stars all night long when I did not want to setup my LX200 outdoors.

Binoculars from the topThe binoculars come with a standard dioptre adjustment, and they allow you to change the distance between the eyepieces to match your pupil distance.

The focus adjuster was quite stiff and did appear to spring back a little, but it did keep focus and with a bit more use it should become easier to use.

Views of the moon were brilliant with a very fine crisp detail being provided of the lunar surface. I also managed to track satellites in the sky with these binoculars and I even managed to witness a shooting star through them, something that was not visible with the naked eye.

Binoculars and CoversOverall, a very nice pair of binoculars with good magnification and viewing, and some really crisp views of the nights sky. They also have long eye relief (77m at 1,000m or 231ft at 1,000yds)

The only disadvantage is that they are a little heavy to hold, but these would excel when mounted on a tripod using an L type bracket.

UPDATE

I have now managed to get a large L-Type adaptor and have easily added these binoculars to a tripod and even though it is difficult to describe what you can see with them, here is an image of the Moon, taken with a Canon 400D SLR camera pointed through one of the binocular eyepieces.

Moon taken through 15×70 binoculars with Canon 400D SLR

I also managed to see Jupiter again in Summer 2008 using them, and amazingly enough they allowed me to see the disc of the planet and make out Jupiter’s Moons as stars.

Astronomy Binocular Specifications

  • Model: TP 15 x 70 Astronomy Binoculars 
  • Lens: 70mm
  • Magnification: 15x
  • Weight: 1.3kg
  • Supplier: Telescope Planet
  • Price (at 19th April 2008): £79

Buy these 15 x 70 Astronomy Binoculars from Telescope Planet.

My Meade Telescope Power Supply

I saw from my web logs that a few people have been finding my site whilst looking for a power supply for their telescope, and I have no main information on that, so I am adding some.

When I purchased my LX200 I did not purchase the official Meade power supply, but instead used a power supply which I already had.

For anybody that is looking for a general purpose (PSU) Power Supply Unit for their telescope then I can recommend this PSU currently being sold at Maplin, by the way mine is very similar to this one below which also came from Maplin and works really well.

Worldwide AC/DC Mains Adaptor ( Worldwide AC/DC PSU )

Maplin Telescope Power SupplyThis PSU comes with 8 popular power supply tips and the benefits of this is that it also has attachments making it usable abroad, in case you take your telescope on holiday!

“The lead connecting the power supply to your appliance is 1.6 metres in length and mains cable from the power supply 1.7m. The mains cable is terminated in a moulded-on 2-pin European mains plug which can be fitted with any of the UK, USA and Australasian supplied mains plugs.

Dimensions: 133mm (L) x 68mm (W) x 37mm (H)

PSU Power TipsThe high output current together with the range of popular power tips supplied means this power supply is suited to a multitude of uses. The power tips can be inserted either way around to provide a centre-positive or centre-negative polarity. Specifications:Input voltage:100-240Va”

Buy the Power Supply from Maplin here.

It’s always worth checking the Maplin website from time to time as they occasionally run special offers on this or similar power supply units.

Binoviewer Review

Binoviewers and caseLast week I was lucky enough to be able to borrow some binoviewers for a weeks use, from James at ScopesNSkies. I was very dubious that a pair of binoviewers could really give me a better view or increased viewing pleasure.

The binoviewers are just like a pair of binoculars that can be attached to the telescope. The main advantage of buying and using a binoviewer is that you can keep both eyes open whilst viewing and it seems as if we are more used to using binoculars than we are at viewing with just one eye.

Binoviewers from behindThe major disadvantage of the binoviewers is that you will have to buy two of every eyepiece, so increasing your costs.

On the other hand I can also see that the binoviewers are a brilliant idea if you have group observing sessions, such as when you want to have your family around to have a night observing with them, as I know the viewing will be greatly enhanced by the binoviewers as I am sure most people have used binoculars before and are used to using them.

BinoviewersThe eyepieces are held in place by a really nice half turn fixing, and the binoviewers are really well made and also quite heavy, I did find that the heavy weight was sometimes a problem when trying to secure the binoviewers into the diagonal when I wanted a really nice angular viewing angle.

The binoviewers took a while to get used to, as I was under the impression that you could put an eyepiece in and use it to get focus then take out the eyepiece and put it with your other matching eyepiece into the binoviewer and keep focus, but you can’t as the focus point has then changed.

Binoviewers with eyepieces insertedAfter a while of getting used to them I was amazed at how much extra you could see, or you thought you were seeing! Your field of view is very large when using the binoviewer as you are now using two eyes. The binoviewers are also very comfortable to use with some nice eye relief provided by your eyepieces.

The thing I was most impressed with was that I actually felt that what I was seeing was actually kind of 3D instead of a flat field kind of view you get with a single eyepiece. You do actually become more immersed into what you are looking at as well.

Binoviewers attached to LX200The binoviewers cost around £120, so are not a cheap purchase, although they do come with a set of eyepieces included. I think they are a bit of an extravagance but something that you may find will give you pleasing and improved viewing sessions.

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