Altair GPCAM V2 IMX224

The Altair GPCAMV2 IMX224 Colour camera has the sought after Sony Exmor IMX224 CMOS sensor, with high sensitivity, and extremely low read noise. *

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.

The camera has an ST4 auto-guiding port, and can be used to auto-guide with mounts from all the major 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.

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 IMX224 sensor is extremely sensitive in the IR region (for all pixels not just red!) and can be used very effectively with IR Pass filters such as the Altair Planet Killer series for solar and lunar imaging in mono mode.

What’s different about the GPCAMV2 platform compared to the GPCAM? You’ll notice the GPCAMV2 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 GPCAMV2 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 GPCAMV2 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.

Some interesting features of the IMX224 sensor, aside from very low read noise, are a very high response in the red region of the spectrum making the camera very sensitive to red light for solar imaging, also a peak in all channels in the IR region which enables the camera to be used in mono mode, with a consistent response in all channels with an Altair Planet Killer IR Pass filter

A note of typical frame rates

GPCAM V2 IMX224 Colour (with new buffering):

Approx. Max frame rates (assuming computer Bus and Hard Drive operating at full bandwidth)*:

8 bit mode:
1280x960 - 25-32fps
640x480 - 70-80fps (ROI)
320x240 - 112-125fps (ROI)

12 bit mode - approx 60% of above.

Technical Specs:

Included in the box:

BASIC Package:
Camera body.
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".

FULL Package:
Camera body.
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".
2.1mm F1.6 150 degree FOV wide angle Meteor lens and dust caps.
C-Mount 5mm extension adapter for C-Mount lenses requiring 17.5mm back-focus.
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 (launches new window)

Sensor & performance specifications:
ALTAIRGP224C: SONY Exmor IMX224 Color CMOS sensor
Sensor Size: 1/3" diagonal 6.09mm
Exposure duration shortest/longest:
Video mode: 0.105ms (0.000105 secs) / 5000ms (5 seconds)
Trigger mode: 0.105 ms (0.000105 secs) / 1000 secs (1 second)
Bit depth: 8bit & 12bit modes switchable
Pixel size microns: 3.75x3.75 um
Resolution in pixels: 1280x960
Recording System: Still Image & Video
Region Of Interest (ROI): Supported
Approx. Max frame rates (assuming computer Bus operating at full bandwidth):

8 bit mode:
1280x960 - 27fps
640x480 - 72fps
320x240 - 112fps

12 bit mode:
1280x960 - 13.5fps
640x480 - 29fps
320x240 - 39fps

Gain Sensitivity: 2350mv
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
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.

Camera Format:
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:
Power consumption:
Standby 0.315w
Running 0.875w
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.

* Read noise is rumored to be 1.5e- or even less, but unconfirmed at time of writing.