What’s new in SharpCap 2.8.2311

This release is mostly about bug fixes, although there are a couple of new features like clickable links in the notification bar and custom resolutions on QHY cameras.

  • QHY – Fixes for controlling built in filter wheel
  • QHY – updated SDK, fix binning crash
  • QHY – custom ROI selection now available
  • Altair – updated SDK – auto exposure no longer turns on auto gain too
  • SER file writing – show dropped frames due to disk write speed limit hit
  • Capture Sequences – fix menus disabled in second and subsequent captures
  • DirectShow cameras – fix for missing advanced tools when camera has to retry startup
  • DirectShow cameras – fix crash when saving stacked images on certain cameras
  • UI – do not show post capture status in status bar, as it’s now in the notification bar
  • UI – clickable links to captured file and folder in notification bar
  • Fix crash due to missing user-created python startup scripts
  • Fix controls and other panels cannot be clicked on when set to auto-hide
  • Installer – re-enable and fix installing to custom location

As always, the installer can be found on the downloads page.

SharpCap 2.8 Available

I’m going to call 2.8 a preview release for a couple of days – just in case there are a few bugs lurking. As always with a new version, test in daylight before risking valuable clear skies time!

What’s new in 2.8?

  • Notification Bar – replaces many message boxes and the capture sequence wait dialog.
  • Quick Capture – new Quick Capture toolbar button with various frame and time options.
  • Performance – Improved performance with high speed USB3 cameras, especially capture speed
  • Performance – Frame write speed test on the filename settings page for testing.
  • Histogram – improved look, range bars below histogram and now scaled in percent on the horizontal axis
  • RAW Mode – Debayer On/Off is now a separate control, no longer part of Colour Space selection.
  • File Naming – added option for WinJUPOS compatible file names. Uses mid point time in the capture for the WinJUPOS name
  • Dark Capture – new tool to help capture dark files in the Capture menu.
  • Dark Library – Darks automatically get saved into a folder structure based on camera name and parameters.
  • Dark Library – When you browse for a dark file it will start in the correct part of the dark library.
  • Focus Score – switch between recording average and best values.
  • Focus Score – Now always requires a selection rectangle to avoid hang on large frame sizes
  • Live Stacking – improved file naming including number of stacked frames
  • Live Stacking – Stop accidental double dark subtraction – Astro cameras can only subtract darks from the camera controls now.
  • Live Stacking – Switch between raw/stack immediately even for long exposures.
  • Live Stacking – fix FWHM filter not working unless the limit value was changed.
  • Live Stacking – Save as Dark removed from Live Stacking – use the ‘Dark Capture’ option in the Capture menu.
  • Many bug fixes from bug reports.

Note that this version will still work with Windows XP, but this will be the last major version of SharpCap to support XP.

Download Links

SharpCap 2.7.2135

This version of SharpCap contains fixes for a couple of bugs found in build 2125

  • Live stacking resets on ZWO cameras whenever the sensor temperature changes (also on other cameras with temperature sensors)
  • Timeouts on very long frames on some Altair cameras

Additionally, 2125 made the following changes over 2108

  • Fix broken saving from live stack under some circumstances
  • Fix saving to AVI files from mono astro cameras creating an RGB AVI (note that the mono AVI now created is upside down – it was turning it the right way up that made it get converted to RGB by DirectShow)
  • Add support for trigger mode on latest Altair cameras (latest model GPCAM)
  • Live Stacking – disable alignment in RAW modes as it would lead to the different colour channels being mixed
  • Live Stacking – do not include star highlight boxes when saving ‘As Viewed’
  • Updated Altair and ZWO SDKs

SharpCap 2.7 is now released

SharpCap 2.7 adds a number of new features, particularly to the live stacking feature that was already in 2.6. Improvements to Live Stacking include:

  • Alignment and derotation added – note: must be able to at least 3 stars in each frame for this to work
  • FWHM measurement and filtering on FWHM score
  • Flexible levels adjustment on the histogram tab
  • Log of stacking info/events
  • Make Test Camera available in released code for experimentation with these features
  • Much improved handling of reading dark frames – will convert bit depth and 3/4 colour planes as required
  • Add options to save stack as a dark or as viewed (ie including histogram adjustments)
  • Now supports alignment in 16 bit modes

In addition to the live stacking improvements, there are a couple of other significant new features:

  • Dark subtraction available for all Astro cameras – look in preprocessing controls. Note that this doesn’t include webcams (but you can use dark subtraction for webcams within live stacking). Also, don’t select dark subtraction both at the camera level and within live stacking. It won’t end well…
  • Focuser position line drawn on focus score graphs if you have an ASCOM focuser selected. This helps you spot the focuser position where you achieved the best focus. Maybe this will form the basis of an autofocus feature in a future version.

Finally, there are the usual improvements to camera support. This time the big news is the addition of support for Celestron/Imaging Source cameras. Once again a big thank you to F1 Telescopes who were kind enough to arrange various sample Celestron cameras for me to work with – without which this would have been impossible.

Additionally, there are improvements to the support for the following cameras

  • QHY cameras – new SDK integrated which will work with a much wider range of QHY cameras. Support for upcoming QHY5III cameras added. Support for QHY ColdMOS cameras coming soon. Thanks to QHY for help and sample cameras to improve SharpCap.
  • Altair cameras – new SDK, updates to support upcoming new camera models and bug fixes. Thanks to Altair Astro for providing access to production cameras and development models.
  • ZWO cameras – again, new SDK, bug fixes and changes to support new and upcoming models including ASI***COOL cameras. Thanks to ZWO for providing help, feedback and access to cameras to test and develop with.
  • Basler cameras – updated to a new version of the Pylon SDK (5.0) and fixed a number of issues arising from some Basler cameras having slightly different names for controls like Gain and Exposure (sigh…). Also there is a new experimental option for Basler cameras, which updates a lot of the Basler code to be in line with the more recently supported cameras. I hope to add LX support to this experimental option in SharpCap 2.8 and then withdraw the old Basler camera code.

One more thing worth noting is that SharpCap 2.7 is going to be the last version of SharpCap that will work on WindowsXP. SharpCap 2.8 will require Windows 7 (well, it might run on Vista, but I’m making no promises and nobody uses Vista anyway…)

Finally, a bit thank you to everyone who uses and enjoys SharpCap, particularly those who take the time to report a bug, get in touch, like SharpCap on facebook or otherwise contribute. I’ve fixed dozens of bugs while developing 2.7 as a direct result of bug reports, so keep those coming!

This installer can be found on the downloads page.

Hopefully the last 2.7 Beta build – 2.0.2095 now available

Probably the most significant new feature in this build is the ability to perform dark subtraction when using all Astro cameras (QHY, ZWO, Altair, iNova, ASCOM, Basler, etc). This functionality can be found in the ‘preprocessing’ section of the camera controls – you just need to select a dark frame which matches the resolution and colour space that you are using to capture. Dark frames can be in PNG or FITS format (8 or 16 bpp). SharpCap will perform basic fixes when loading a dark frame – for instance a 24 bit (8 bit depth RGB) dark will be converted to a 32 bit (8 bit depth ARGB) dark (or vice-versa) if required.

General purpose dark subtraction is not yet available for cameras being used via webcam (DirectShow) drivers. Supporting this would require significant changes to the way webcams are handled and I’m not convinced it could be done without introducing other issues. Dark subtraction *can* be used with webcams if you are using the live stacking functionality however. One thing to be aware of is that you shouldn’t use two lots of dark subtraction (in the camera controls and in live stacking – there’s currently nothing to stop you from doing this, but the result’s probably won’t be pretty!).

Final words on dark subtraction – it affects both the preview of the frame as seen on the screen and the frame as saved to any output file when capturing.

Other significant features in this build:

  • In live stacking there is now a graph of the FWHM of recent frames (on the filter tab) – this can help you set a sensible value for filtering out poor quality frames
  • The main focus score graphs for FWHM and Contrast detection now have an extra line which shows the focuser position if you have an ASCOM focuser selected – this should help you easily spot the value that gave the best focus measurements.

Bugs fixed include

  • Fix UI lock up during single frame capture which made it hard to cancel single frame sequences
  • snapshot could save to PNG when preference was for FITS
  • stop capture profile being loaded during capture

Note: The original build 2089 had a bug which sadly disabled live stacking (2 lines of code in the wrong order). 2095 corrects this as well as fixing a few other small issues.

SharpCap 2.7.2027 Beta now available

The big news of this release is the addition of support for Celestron/Imaging Source cameras. A big thank you to f1telescopes for organising some cameras for me to work with, which is really the only practical way to support a new model of camera. SharpCap should offer pretty much full control of these cameras now, including ROI, binning, 12/16 bit modes, RAW output etc. Obviously I’ve tested with just a couple of models, so there could still be gremlins lurking in other models in the range – bug reports welcome.

Another improvement to camera support in this release is a further update to the new QHY SDK, which, along with some bug fixes in the SharpCap code, means that more QHY cameras should be supported correctly now. I’ve had reports of pretty much the whole QHY5**** range working correctly. Thanks to Modern Astronomy for the help in getting this sorted.

ZWO owners need not feel left out – particularly if you are lucky enough to have one of the new cooled models which now will show the thermal stats in the status bar for easy reference. Additionally there have been a few more bug fixes in both SharpCap and the ZWO SDK.

To round off the ‘cameras with an updated SDK’ list, Altair and Basler cameras also both have updates. Basler cameras now need Pylon v5 installed and have had a few bug fixes applied to make sure they work nicely with the new UI for exposure.

Aside from a number of issues reported via the online error report submission, one fix of note is that when I added support for RGB to the SER file format a while back I didn’t notice that the byte order was actually BGR, which means that the red and blue channels are swapped in RGB SER files up until this new build which fixes the issue. SharpCap still writes BGR format to SER, but now flags it correctly in the header. I wouldn’t necessarily advise using RGB/BGR SER output if you have RAW available, since there is no gain in quality and the file is 3 times bigger…

Finally, you’ll notice that SharpCap has a new installer. This is needed because the Celestron/Imaging Source SDK needs a Microsoft component to be installed to work properly and rather than just warn you that it was missing I thought that the right approach was to install it automatically. To be honest, lots of people will have this component installed already as many different software packages rely on it, but in that case the installer will happily skip over it, and if you don’t happen to have it, everything will just work. The new installer needs a bit of love and care applied to its UI – probably by the next release.

Anyway, as usual find the download here.

SharpCap 2.7.1954 Beta

What’s new in SharpCap 2.7.1954 Beta?

  • Live Stacking – make Test Camera available in released code for experimentation with these features
  • Live Stacking – much improved handling of reading dark frames – will convert bit depth and 3/4 colour planes as required
  • Live Stacking – add options to save stack as a dark or as viewed (ie including histogram adjustments)
  • ZWO cameras – Bug fixes to SDK – fix crash on selecting low resolution (ie 800×600)
  • ZWO cameras – fix issue where selecting custom resolutions and binning could lead to a crash
  • Altair cameras – SDK update – support for updated GPCAM versions
  • QHY cameras – new SDK – support for more cameras and extra features
  • Timestamp frames – Fix bug where frames were being timestamped incorrectly in some compressed modes (YUY2 etc)
  • Frame grabbers – attempt to operate if driver has no media control interface
  • Handle disk filling up in a more rational way (ie report a message rather than ignoring or freezing)

Note that the live stacking feature does not yet support alignment of 16 bit depth images (and the test camera doesn’t yet support the rotation/offset functions on these images either).

As always, the installer can be found on the download page. Note that you should be able to install this version alongside 2.6, so no need to uninstall 2.6 first.

SharpCap 2.7.1885 Beta

This build brings a lot of new improvements in the Live Stacking feature, including…

  • Alignment and derotation tab – Alignment is now enabled by default (and can be turned off on the alignment tab. Alignment requires at least 3 stars to be detected in the image – if 2 or less stars are found then the frame is not stacked, so turn this off for non-astro images.
  • You can tick the ‘Highlight Detected Stars’ check box to see what stars are being detected. Yellow highlighted stars are being used for alignment, other detected stars are highlighted in red. Adjust the minimum and maximum star width and try the reduce noise option to alter the star detection parameters.
  • The levels of the stack view can be adjusted by changing the black level, grey level and white level sliders on the histogram page. Also the gradient slider can be used to increase the maximum slope of the levels transfer curve. Note that when the stack is saved these levels adjustment are *not* applied to the saved file.
  • Apply a dark field subtraction to each frame before stacking by selecting a dark frame on the darks tab (note: only PNG files can be loaded as darks at the moment).
  • Filter stacked frames by FWHM – turn this option on on the Filtering tab and then set the maximum FWHM to be allowed. Frames with a FWHM bigger than this will be dropped.

All of these features are very new, so please report any issues that you find. The UI for controlling these features needs further improvements – please just work with it for now!

As always, builds can be found on the downloads page.

SharpCap 2.6.1835

This is an interim release that fixes a number of issues and adds some minor improvements to the live stacking functionality. Bigger changes to live stacking are coming soon, in particular much of the work for auto-alignment is done but there is still another week or two of changes and testing to do before this will be ready to release.

This release also contains a significant change if you have a ZWO ASI174 camera – ZWO have released a new version of their SDK which massively reduces the amp glow that has been experienced in the past with this camera when taking long exposures. The difference is really very impressive, as you can see in some test dark shots that I took here. The flip side of the coin is that the new operating mode for the camera that gets this noise reduction can only extend exposures to 100s Overall I think this is a big improvement as the amp glow was getting pretty serious beyond 100s exposures with the old SDKUpdate: A further ZWO update has extended exposures to 300s while keeping the noise level incredibly low.

Full changelog:

  • Live Stacking – Enabled for webcams, now disabled while capturing, other tweaks
  • ZWO cameras – updated SDK with much reduced noise on ASI174 models, better handling of changing exposures when exposure >2s
  • Frame Timestamps – now more accurate as the timestamp is recorded as soon as the frame arrives and uses a more precise clock source
  • Non-webcam AVI files should now view the right way up
  • (Non Astro Feature) Stop motion animation support – select from the FX dropdown
  • Bug fixes for some ASCOM camera drivers
  • Try again to fix crash when ASCOM mount fails to connect
  • Stop capture sequences if device is lost/disconnected
  • Don’t allow resolution/binning/colour space etc to be changed during capture
  • Fix other crashes from submitted bug reports

As always, the installer can be found on the download page.

SharpCap 2.6.1768

This release is largely a maintenance release, fixing a number of minor bugs that have either crept in recently or been lurking undiscovered in the code for a while. The only new feature is the extension of the frame timestamping option to some DirectShow cameras (only currently supported for MONO8 and RGB24 colour space capture). There are also some minor tweaks to improve usability.

Other changes include

  • Set default values for some properties on QHY cameras more sensibly when camera is first started
  • Improve control layout for iNova and ASCOM cameras
  • Fix bug with some USB video grabbers which would not start due to trying to select highest resolution when starting camera
  • Fix bug when selecting 2×2 binning on Altair GPCAM cameras; updated Altair SDK
  • Fix bug leading to creation of capture profiles with duplicated entries and failure to re-load them later
  • Fix failure to limit captures by frame count correctly for certain DirectShow cameras
  • Fix various crashes from submitted bug reports

As always, the installer is available from the download page.