The first mass-produced webcam, the black and white Quickcam made by Connectix, shared many similarities with dedicated astronomical CCD cameras in production at the same time, including the type of CCD used and the control method, which used the computer's printer connector to directly control the
sensor. Sadly the software that was supplied with the webcam had a bug that prevented the camera taking the long exposures required for deep-sky imaging. Dave Allmon started the first wave of interest in deep-sky webcam imaging by writing a control program for this web camera that allowed long exposures and the imaging of faint objects. Dave's first deep-sky images were of the Andromeda galaxy, with many fainter objects such as the Horse Head nebula soon following.
From this starting point, developments in webcams and astronomical CCD cameras have driven these products in very different directions. Astronomical CCD cameras have maintained a relatively high price and have aimed for precise digitization of the signal from each pixel of the CCD at the expense of image download time. Webcams have strived to achieve high frame rates of brightly lit subjects from color CCDs, quite often at the expense of image quality. To use modern webcams for deep-sky imaging we need to address a number of issues including exposure time and image quality. The solutions are a combination of hardware and software modifications and specialized image processing techniques.
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Compared to film cameras, digital cameras are easy to use, fun and extremely versatile. Every day there’s more features being designed. Whether you have the cheapest model or a high end model, digital cameras can do an endless number of things. Let’s look at how to get the most out of your digital camera.