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.

SharpCap 2.6.1711

The biggest change in this version is the addition of new Live Stacking functionality. More details on this can be found on its feature page.

Additional changes include:

  • Frame timestamp option for ZWO and Altair cameras
  • New ‘Display Controls’ section lets you change brightness/contrast/gamma used for display without affecting saved images
  • Fix gremlins in new control UI including pressing enter now applies edited value
  • Fix bug with Bahtinov mask focusing routine which could lead to poor detection of the bahtinov spikes.
  • Various bug fixes

SharpCap 2.6

SharpCap 2.6 includes a complete re-write of the controls panel user interface. The old controls panel did it’s job fairly well, but was becoming cumbersome as newer cameras add more and more controls that can be adjusted. Not only that, it had an embarrasing flicker under some circumstances when resized or clicked on. It was also fairly awkward to make any minor improvements to the controls without the risk of breaking them. Replacing the controls has been on the to-do list for a long time and now it’s finally done.

Currently, most of the controls look very similar to their old versions, although they have been tweaked to give better use of available space (wider sliders, narrower labels and text boxes). The biggest change is that each group of controls can now be expaned or collapsed to allow you to see just the controls you need to work with. SharpCap remembers which groups you have opened and which you have kept close, so that the next time you run the program your favourite groups will open automatically.

If you have any problems with the new control UI, you can switch back to the old version by turning on the ‘Use Old Camera Controls UI’ in the settings dialog. This will be available for a few releases while any gremlins in the new UI are ironed out, after which the old UI will be taken out completely.

Other features in 2.6 include

  • Better grouping of controls within the camera control panel
  • Ability to control the averaging period used for the FWHM and Contrast Detection focus scores
  • Updated ASI SDK to support ASI178, 185 and 224
  • Addition of a frame rate limit control for ZWO cameras
  • Add support for SER version 3 output (RGB SER file writing)
  • Fix upside down image output in PNG captures
  • Fix various bugs from bug reports.

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

SharpCap 2.5.1548

This is mostly a bugfix release – tidying up quite a few bugs (small and large), some of which have been lurking since the changes between 2.1 and 2.5.

The one new feature is an ‘Auto’ button on the output format control, so that you can either control the output format manually or allow SharpCap to pick the most appropriate format for you. SharpcCap will chose a video file format for exposures of less than 5s and a still image file format for longer exposures. You can choose your preferred video and still file formats in the settings dialog, but in certain cases your preferred option may not be available – for instance SER files can’t contain RGB video data.

Bug fixes include

  • Fix missing DLL that stopped ASCOM mount support from working
  • Fix bug with some DirectShow cameras creating transparent snapshot bitmaps in PNG format
  • Optimize memory usage when used with very high resolution cameras to avoid out of memory problems
  • Fix SER file frame timestamps
  • Fix filter wheel wrong filter bugs
  • Fix capturing a sequence of single frames
  • Fix incorrectly reported dropped frames on ASI cameras

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

What’s new in SharpCap 2.5.1490

The last couple of months have been largely filled with bug-fixing in SharpCap world. Once again a big thank you for those that take the time to send crash reports or to report bugs via the forums or via email. In this version I have added a couple of improvements to bug reporting – a way to submit a bug report without having to have the program crash (it’s in the Help menu) and a ‘Copy Log Text’ button on the Log view window.

Other changes include :

  •         Many UI bug fixes, particularly fixing issues when the camera controls are in auto-hide mode.
  •         Fix Out Of Memory errors when capturing very large resolution frames
  •         Add a menu item to manually report a bug. Also a copy log text button on the Log window.
  •         Fix bug with corrupted single frame snapshots from some DirectShow cameras
  •         Add initial support for Altair cameras
  •         Fixes to scripting support, including a stop script button
  •         Many general bug fixes based on uploaded bug reports

As always, you can download the latest version from the downloads page. I will make it available by auto-update in a few days time.

SharpCap 2.5.1421

This is hopefully the first release build of SharpCap 2.5. There are very few changes between the previous released beta build (1406) and this build. Aside from bug fixes, the only major changes are the removal of the time limit that is present in beta builds and the removal of the ‘Preview’ menu button. The preview button was a relic from the days when SharpCap was a based heavily on the AmCap sample code provided by Microsoft. Amcap had a preview button, so SharpCap did too. However it doesn’t really do anything useful all cameras start previewing when you select them, so it is gone now.

There is one significant bug fix in this build. It seems that somehow the auto-update functionality is broken in 2.5.2406 (and possibly earlier beta builds). I still don’t quite understand what changed to break it, but it is fixed in this build. If you have installed a build between the last 2.1 release and this build you may find you need to update manually to this build.

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

(Yes, it did once say 2.5.2421 in the title – that was just a typo)

SharpCap 2.5.1406 – Beta 4

Well, I wasn’t initially planning on any more beta releases, but here we are anyway. A couple of unpleasant bugs fixed with ASCOM mount control (which will teach me that developing against the EQMOD simulator can only get you so far) and a few other issues cleaned up too. Still working on getting the focus score routines to work as well as possible – this time adding a manual black level control that helps exclude the background from the calculation and gives a much better result.  ASCOM cameras have also had some work, re-factoring their code to use more of the common support framework used by other cameras and therefore hopefully be easier to maintain and have more features too.

  • Major update to ASCOM camera support – add temperature controls and improve many other aspects
  • Add black level adjustment to FWHM and constrast detection focus algorithms – improved accuracy
  • Bug fixes and improvements to ASCOM mount support
  • Fix bugs relating to ASCOM Focusers
  • Fix a number of UI bugs
  • Update ZWO SDK to latest version.

As usual, builds can be downloaded from the Downloads Page. Earlier beta builds will also offer this build as an auto-update.

SharpCap 2.5.1378 – Beta 3

A smaller set of updates this time around, some tweaks and improvements to previous features and a number of bug fixes.

  • Improvements to Bahtinov focus assistant when selecting a small area
  • Proper 16 bit image support for FWHM and contrast detection focus scores
  • FWHM focus score will warn if target star saturates or selected area too big
  • Limit rate of histogram update to prevent CPU overload/hang
  • Fix crash when capturing single frame
  • Automatically change to single frame file formats for exposure >5s, video file formats for exposures <5s
  • Disable camera menu while opening a camera from application startup – prevents selecting a different camera while this is in progress
  • Fix install directory to be different to SharpCap 2.0/2.1, so both can be installed side-by-side
  • Moving the transform/histogram/focus ROI while instantly update when exposure is more than 1s, no more waiting until the next frame arrives (Not ASCOM or DirectShow cameras)

As usual, builds can be downloaded from the Downloads Page. Earlier beta builds will also offer this build as an auto-update.

SharpCap 2.5.1362 – Beta 2

Quite a substantial set of changes since the first beta, including

  • Added ‘tip of the day’ at startup. Will slowly add more tips. Hopefully will increase visibility of features.
  • Improved performance when Debayering raw frames from colour cameras – higher frame rates on ASI174MC and lower CPU usage.
  • Provide feedback if you try to adjust a control that can’t be changed (perhaps due to settings of other controls)
  • Give more space to the slider part of controls – more compact ‘auto’ buttons.
  • Make Histogram display full 16 bit range for bit depths more than 8 bits.
  • Better information in the status bar, particularly for long exposures (>5s) and info on time left in capture.
  • Add a selection rectangle control – the selection applies to preview FX, focus score calculations and the histogram.
  • New FWHM focus score routine for focussing on a star (must use selection area). Improved contrast detection focus routine.
  • Control+Mouse Wheel now changes the zoom of the preview area.
  • Many bug fixes.

As usual, find the installer on the download page.