SharpCap supports Altair Astro GP Cameras

I’m delighted to announce that SharpCap is now supports the new GP (Guiding and Planetary) cameras from Altair Astro – that is the GPCAM MT9M034M and the GPCAM AR0130C. A big thanks to Altair for providing me with samples of the cameras to get SharpCap up and running with them.

Full support is in SharpCap build 2.6.1671 (which you can find, as ever, on the download page). Earlier builds have had preliminary support, but please update to the latest build to avoid possible issues.

You can find drivers and other information about the cameras here.

What’s New in SharpCap 2.5 Beta

Here’s a bit of a write up of the new features in SharpCap 2.5. You can find the latest beta builds on the downloads page.

Settings Dialog
I’ve moved a lot of the random menu options that controlled various parts of the program out of the menus and grouped them together in a new settings dialog – this can be found in the File menu. I had resisted having a settings dialog for some time both for design reasons (a settings dialog encourages more tweakable settings, which makes software more complex and harder to learn) and for pure laziness reasons. However, the improved options for output file naming really forced my hand, so now SharpCap has a settings dialog.

Capture File Organization
As I’ve just mentioned, much better control over where capture files are saved and what they are named. Previous version of SharpCap would save capture files to the Desktop by default (this was because in other capture programs the question of ‘where did that file get saved?’ often needed asking). This version of SharpCap changes that default to a new subfolder on the Desktop called ‘SharpCap Captures’. If you have previously customized the folder your captures are saved to, it will not be changed in the upgrade. If you have left the default of ‘Desktop’, it will be changed to  the new default. It’s now possible to get SharpCap to organize captures into either zero, one or two levels of subfolder by object name and date. This should make keeping track of captured files much easier.

Mount Control
if you have an ASCOM compatible mount (for example EQMOD), you can cofigure SharpCap to connect to it when a camera is opened so that you can tweak the mount pointing from within SharpCap. Currently control is fairly basic – left, right, up, down and a spiral search function. This may get further improvements based on feedback.

Improved Exposure Control
For cameras that give fine control over exposure (everything except webcams, basically), SharpCap now has a new, enhanced, exposure control in the UI. There are 2 modes of operation for this – normal and LX mode. Note that LX here has nothing to do with the LX modification for SPC900 webcams, it’s just an indication of whether the sliders etc are optimized for exposures of many seconds or minutes (LX mode) or milliseconds (normal mode). In addition to a slider (which is now wider to give finer control and has tick marks), there is the familiar text box where you can type in an exposure in ms or s and a new ‘Quick Picks’ drop down which allows you to select common exposure values easily – 1/30s, 1/15s, 10s, 30s, 60s, etc.

Full Screen Support
Want to fit that bit more preview area on the screen – you can hide the menu and toolbar and go full screen from the options menu. Just move the mouse cursor back to the top of the screen to re-show the menu in this mode.

Improved FITS output
Far more FITS header fields are now filled in when writing to FITS files, so programs like DeepSkyStacker will be able to pull the right information straight out of the file. This is somewhat camera dependent at the moment with the best support in ZWO cameras, but will be moving on to all cameras capable of long exposures as time allows.

Improved ZWO camera support
SharpCap 2.5 uses the new ZWO SDK version 2, which provides better control over the cameras, particularly for newer cameras and easier control of long exposures.

Scripting Support
SharpCap now has a built in programming language – IronPython – which can be used to write scripts to automate SharpCaps features. It’s even possible to add new buttons to the toolbar and have them run a script function when they are pressed. This is very much a geek-zone feature and is work-in-progress too. You should be able to do pretty much everything you can do by pressing buttons in the UI by using the IronPython scripting – please let me know about stuff that is impossible or just doesn’t work!

Bug Fixes
Yes, as usual a whole range of bug fixes and minor improvements and performance tweaks. But, this is a beta release, so it’s quite possible that I’ve introduced new bugs too. Do remember to do a quick test *before* going outside to observe, because I’d hate to be to blame for stuff going wrong for you on a rare clear night…

What’s not in SharpCap 2.5?
I’d really hoped to do a complete UI refresh after 2.0 – remove the menus and toolbar and replace them with a ribbon (like Microsoft Office). While the ribbon hasn’t been universally popular, I think it would be a good fit for the small number of menu/toolbar options that SharpCap has. This was going to go along with a change in the UI technology from Windows Forms to WPF. I even have a very basic application called ‘SharpCap.New’ that has the ribbon and can open and close camera previews, but it was just taking too long to make these changes. Instead I decided to add new UI in a more piecemeal manner (the new settings dialog, exposure control and mount control UI are WPF) and also concentrate on tidying up the code behind the scenes which will eventually allow for the big UI changeover to be made easier, as well as allowing the scripting feature to be added.

As usual, feedback on the new version is very welcome – please report bugs either using the builtin bug report form or by contacting me on the forums, looking forward to hearing from you 🙂



SharpCap 2.0 is released!

Well, it’s finally happened – SharpCap 2.0 is finished, or at least finished enough 🙂 One of the big features I have added is an auto-update facility, so it’s going to be much easier to make sure that everyone gets new versions with features and bug fixes in future.

In no particular order, the new features in 2.0 (compared to 1.5) include

  • Support for QHY Cameras
  • Improved support for ASCOM, ASI, Ximea and Basler Cameras
  • Filter wheel support
  • Improved focus score calculation
  • Enhancements to the reticule – including the option of a circular one
  • Automatic updates and bug reporting
  • Dozens of bug fixes

The installer for SharpCap 2.0 can be found here

Yet more SharpCap Beta versions

Getting SharpCap 2.0 out of the door is taking longer than I’d hoped. Right now there are only a couple of things left that I want to fix before release – these are

  • QHY camera support – it’s working for a lot of cameras now, but needs some tweaking either in SharpCap or the QHY SDK for a few – feedback welcome!
  • Auto update notification – nothing too intrusive, just a way for the program to check for a newer version online and give you the option of downloading it.

Hopefully I’ll get onto those fairly soon now (especially if the weather cools down a bit!)

Anyway, I’ve just finished working my way through a bunch of bug reports that have been uploaded and have managed to fix about three quarters of the reported problems, which I’m quite pleased with. The new (almost bug free?) beta build (1.99.744) is available from the downloads page.

New Beta Version Available

Sharpcap 2 beta (build 1.99.710) is now available.

Lots of improvements in this build

  • Many small bugs fixed from crash reports received (thanks to all those who submit their crash reports!)
  • Improved ASI camera support (you should be able to use the WDM drivers if you want now, as long as you choose the WDM driver as the first camera you open after starting SharpCap – If you want to switch between the Native and WDM drivers, close and re-open SharpCap)
  • Improved QHY camera support – includes updates to the QHY SDK that fix a number of issues and support for the WDM drivers as for ASI cameras above.
  • Updated Ximea SDK – may give some support for newer Ximea cameras (I don’t have a Ximea camera to test with, so can’t be sure…)
  • Sensor temperature reported on devices where this feature is available (some QHY, ASI cameras)

Download from here.

Beta support for QHY Cameras

I have been meaning to get round to this for ages, but been a bit busy recently… Anyway, there is a beta build of what will become SharpCap 2 available to download that should support the QHY5LII and other QHY cameras.

Sharpcap 1.99.623

In theory this build may support the following cameras :

IMG : 0S, 0T, 0L, 0X, 1S, 2S, 3S, 5S, 1E, 3T, 2P
QHY : 6S, 8L, 9S, 5, 5II, 5LII, 5TII, 5RII

At least the API that I am using supports the cameras in that list. I’ve only tested it with the 5LII colour – other test reports welcome. I expect it will work with the Mono cameras more easily than the colour cameras to begin with (the colour cameras will need me to wire in their bayer pattern to get raw modes working for certain).

Updated Beta Build

I’ve just uploaded a new beta build for SharpCap 2.0

Improvements include

  • A circular reticule is now available as well as the cross hairs
  • The focus score calculation is improved – should give useful indication of focus now, just try to get it as high as possible
  • Fix for Basler cameras not working in recent builds
  • Fix for SharpCap crashing when connecting to a non-connected ASCOM camera

Things to note

  • Don’t try using the ASCOM simulator cameras – they are buggy and may crash SharpCap
  • New focus score UI coming soon hopefully

Anyway, here is the download. (The download link is now fixed).

New SharpCap Beta Version

SharpCap 1.99.404 Beta is now available. This is the first beta release of what will become SharpCap 2.0.

It’s all been quiet on the SharpCap front for quite a while now as I’ve had other things occupying my time. I was also hoping to build a new, Ribbon based, UI for SharpCap 2. Unfortunately I wasn’t making much progress with the new UI, so I have now decided to keep the existing UI for the 2.0 version. I’ve kept a lot of the changes that will help me build a new UI in some future version though.

So, what’s new in this build?

* Filter wheel support (ASCOM compatible wheels)
* Automatically select highest resolution on camera initialization
* Remove old DirectShow code
* Build on Microsoft .NET framework 4.0
* Fix a number of minor bugs
* Install as a separate product to v1.5 – that means you can install both versions side-by-side

Anyway, please remember that this is Beta software, so try it out before you use it on a clear night!

The new version can be downloaded here.

SharpCap 1.5 now in Maintenance Mode

I’m now working on SharpCap 1.6, so 1.5 is in maintenance mode – this means that I will fix bugs that are stopping it from working properly but new features will go into 1.6.

1.6 will require .Net Framework 4.0 to be installed – don’t worry, it’s a free download, and it works for versions of Windows back to XP. This means that SharpCap will no longer work on Windows 95/98 or Windows 2000, but I seriously hope that no-one is using these any more!

SharpCap 1.5 Now Available

In some ways, not much change is visible in version 1.5, but behind the scenes there has been a lot of work, particularly for DirectShow cameras which have a completely new preview/capture implementation with a number of advantages :

  • No more ugly (and annoying) stop/start of preview when switching to/from capture mode
  • Much less code, hopefully less bugs!
  • A new frame divisor filter to drop all frames but 1 in N.
  • Ability (in future version) to apply transform filters to the AVI output if desired.

The pre-release versions have been out a while and no-one has reported any significant bugs with the new DirectShow implementation, so I’m hoping it’s solid. If it does break, please report the problem in the usual way, and anyway you can go back to using the old DirectShow code by looking further down the cameras menu.

Anyway, enough of that. The download link can be found here.