A Guide to the Atik Cameras Range

By Jo on

When you’re looking to buy anything, from an astronomy camera to a car, there’s one thing that helps to be clear on – what do you want out of it? If all you want is drive to the office everyday, you’re probably not going to be looking at a Porsche. However, if you’re also about to embark on a side career as a street racer, perhaps a Porsche would do nicely after all.

The same is true of cameras. If you want to see a little more in the night skies than you can through the eyepiece and share those things with family and friends the next day, our Atik Infinity camera would be perfect for you.

However, if you’re gunning for the next APOD and plan on selling large scale prints of your work, you might want to skip the Infinity and take a look at something like the Atik 16200.

Let’s take a closer look.

Video Astronomy and Simple Imaging

The Atik Infinity is the first Atik Camera that was designed for video astronomy. You might also hear it called Electronically Assisted Astronomy (EAA), near real-time viewing (NRTV) or a variety of other acronyms, but they all hinge around the same principle – using a camera to observe the night sky.

This means it’s great for anyone looking to see a little more than you can visually. It’s a very social camera as it cuts the queue to the eyepiece and means everyone can explore and discuss objects at the same time. So if you enjoy observing with family and friends, or are involved with outreach work, it’s a great choice for you.

See it in Action

Perhaps the best way to get a feel for the Infinity is to take a look at some of the videos people are making with it.

Results like this require a quick, highly-sensitive camera and some clever software to be at its most effective. The Atik Infinity has faster read-out circuitry than the rest of our range to achieve this, and it uses the incredibly sensitive Sony ICX825 sensor to get stunning, low-noise results in short exposures. It also has its own unique software that stacks images on the fly and has some basic on the fly image adjustment so the longer you keep looking, the better things get.

You can save the results to share as they are, or process elsewhere, which also allows you to use the camera as an entry-level imager.

The other brilliant thing about the Infinity is it’s one of our most versatile cameras. Traditional astrophotography generally requires the use of quality equatorial mounts. However, the Infinity also works on alt/az fork-mounted scopes and so long as you have reliable tracking capabilities, you can start getting results.

The main restriction of the Infinity is that the camera isn’t cooled. This is fine if you’re doing short exposures because the camera is so quiet, but if you’re looking to do longer exposure imaging, it’s probably not the best choice for you.

Best for:

  • Seeing more than you can visually
  • Ease of use and quick results
  • Fun!

Less good for:

  • Long exposure imaging

 

Long Exposure Imaging and the 4-Series

The 4-Series contains a number of flagship Atik cameras, like the Atik 460EX. The defining feature of this range is that they all use Sony sensors and share the same slim, cylindrical profile.  They all share similar signature Atik low-noise circuitry and the narrow body makes them fantastic for HyperStar or Fastar systems where body size is critical.

They’re cooled CCD astrophotography cameras designed with long exposures in mind. This makes them a great option for anyone looking to create beautiful, high-quality images of the night sky. They’re also excellent for scientific applications such as spectroscopy and photometry. If you think this is something you’d like to explore at some point, then a monochrome 4-series camera would be an excellent choice for you.

The difference between cameras within the 4-Series is the sensor. They have a range of physical sensor sizes, and a range of pixel sizes. These differences then lead to slight differences in specification for things like read-noise, gain factor and full well capacity.

What’s in a Name?

The 4 at the start of a camera name denotes it’s from the 4-series, then the next number reflects the megapixel count of the camera. You’ll want to pop a decimal before the last number in the name and there you have it! If the name’s followed by an EX, the sensor is embedded with Sony EXview HAD CCD II™ technology, which improves sensitivity and quantum efficiency. So, the Atik 414EX, is from our 4-series, has 1.4MP and has Sony EXview HAD CCD II™ technology. The Atik 4120EX – 4-Series, 12.0MP, Sony EXview technology. Simple when you know how.

To see the other technical differences, take a look at our specifications tables. See the Atik 460EX and the Atik 490EX? Both of their sensors are physically the same size. However, the 460EX has 4.5µm pixels while the pixels in the 490EX are 3.69µm. This means you can fit 6 million of them on the sensor of the 460EX, while their smaller size means you have space for an incredible 9 million of them on the 490EX.

The other pair is the Atik 414EX and the Atik 428EX. These again share a sensor size, but the 414EX has less, larger pixels.

The key to choosing a camera within the 4-series is balancing the best pixel size for your setup against your budget – it’s kind of as simple as that.

A note on pixel size

As you’ve seen with the 490EX, smaller pixel sizes mean you can pack more in. This is great for resolution, but not always great for sensitivity. Smaller pixels generally have less light collecting power than their bigger siblings. It’s also worth bearing in mind that the resolution you’ll get also depends on your telescope, and once you get below a certain size, it’s not actually going to make your images any better, but might leave you with bloated stars. We have more about that here.

Best for:

  • Hyperstar and Fastar setups
  • Very low noise to the point where calibration frames are optional
  • Extremely sensitive
  • Narrowband imaging

Less good for:

  • Large format imaging

 

The Atik One

The Atik One astronomy cameras are essentially the 4-Series with an internal 5-position filter wheel, improved cooling and an internal USB hub. They’re also available as an integrated kit that includes a specially designed off-axis guider with an Atik GP guide camera. That gives you everything you need to get long-exposure imaging in one (get it?) simple package.

There are two flavours to choose from – the Atik One 6.0 and the Atik One 9.0. As with the 4-Series, the difference is simply the sensor. The One 6.0 uses the same sensor as the Atik 460EX, while the One 9.0 uses the same sensor as the 490EX. Pick the one that compliments your setup best.

Best for:

  • Starting out in monochrome imaging
  • People who want easily integrated equipment that’s easy to set up and tear down
  • Low-noise, high sensitivity cameras
  • Narrowband imaging

Less good for:

  • Large format imaging

Large Format Cameras

The clue, again, is in the name with our large format camera range – they’ve all got large sensors. In the astrophotography world this begins to become synonymous with cameras using Kodak sensors. Now, the sensors aren’t actually made by Kodak, they’re ON Semiconductor sensors, but you’ll commonly hear them referred to as Kodak sensors.

Large format cameras are best for people looking to create large-scale images, particularly if you’re looking to print out your images at around A3 size and above. However, the Kodak sensors are noisier than the Sony sensors, so these cameras will take more calibrating than their 4-Series counterparts. That might be a concern for you, it might not.

The Cameras

The workhorse of our large format astro camera range is the Atik 383L+. The now-infamous KAF-8300 sensor has a special place in astromer’s hearts and in the history of astrophotography. It started a revolution in low-cost, high-resolution astrophotography and remains an excellent sensor today. Bridging the gap between size and price, it’s a good choice for people looking to upgrade from DSLR cameras.

The big brother to this is the new Atik 16200 camera. It’s something of a successor to the Atik 383L+, though the increased size and resolution comes with a slightly increased price tag. As a 16MP camera with a generous 6 µm pixel size, it’s a great camera for people looking to create large images, whether to print or to zoom around in on a monitor.

The Atik 4000 has a 15×15 mm square sensor housing 4 million 7.4µm pixels. It uses a very high-quality sensor and has excellent full well depth. It’s one of our older camera models, but the quality of the sensor still makes it a quality camera today.

At the top of our range is the Atik 11000. It has a huge full-frame sensor packed with 11 million 9 µm pixels. This gives it incredible sensitivity and resolution for the most discerning astronomers to create incredible images of the night sky.

CMOS Cameras

You might also have heard the news that we have a brand new CMOS camera in development. This is going to be a different thing again, and we’ll add it into this guide once we have an official launch date. In the meantime, take a look at our post on the differences between CCD and CMOS sensors to get a feel some of the key things that differentiate the two technologies. Our new CMOS model looks set to give you 16MP images at an impressive price point, though our existing range still tops the long-exposure imaging game.

Summary

  • Atik Infinity  – best for fun and observing
  • Atik 4-Series – best for low-noise long exposure imaging
  • Large Format Range – best for creating large images and printing

Even if you’re completely clear on your goals, there’s still a lot to consider. You’ll get the best results when all your equipment works well together. This means matching the camera to your telescope, which we cover in much more detail here. The key parts to that are image scale, and field of view. That post also has more information on some of the technical specifications like read noise, cooling and quantum efficiency.

We’d strongly recommend using a field of view calculator to test out different combinations for your setup. We have one as an app exclusively for iOS users, or there are some great ones online, like the calculators available from Astronomy Tools.

More Information

Our dealers are available to help you find the right astronomy equipment and astronomical camera for you. You can also ask us your questions in the comments, see what other Atik users think on our forum or drop us an email with your enquiry.

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