C3 cameras employ the latest generation of Sony IMX CMOS sensors, offering exceptional quantum efficiency thanks to back-illuminated design and very low dark current. Despite relatively small pixels, full-well capacity exceeds 50 ke-. Combined with full 16 bit digitization, perfectly linear response to light and exceptionally low read noise, these cameras are suitable for both aesthetic astro-photography as well as astronomical research.
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Consumer grade sensors. The sensor manufacturer (Sony Semiconductor Solutions Corporation) limits their usage to consumer still cameras only with operation time max. 300 hours per year.
Industrial grade sensors, intended for devices operating 24/7. PRO version.
C3 cameras are equipped with mechanical shutter, which is very important feature allowing unattended observations (fully robotic or just remote setups). Without mechanical shutter, it is not possible to automatically acquire dark frames, necessary for proper image calibration etc.
Mechanical shutter in the C3 cameras is designed to be as reliable as possible, number of open/close cycles is virtually unlimited, because there are no surfaces rubbing against each other. The price for high reliability is slow shutter motion. Luckily, mechanical shuttering is not necessary for exposure control, only for taking dark frames and possibly bias frames — all used CMOS sensors are equipped with electronic shuttering.
Camera firmware optimizes the shutter operation to avoid unnecessary movements. If a series of light images is taken immediately one after another, the shutter remains open not to introduce quite significant delay of the close/open cycle between each pair of subsequent light images. In the case next image has to be dark or bias frame, shutter closes prior to dark frame exposure and vice versa — shutter remains closed if a series of dark frames is acquired and opens only prior to next light frame. If no exposure is taken for a few seconds while the shutter is open (this means after a light image exposure), camera firmware closes the shutter to cover the sensor from incoming light.
Regulated thermoelectric cooling is capable to cool the CMOS sensor from 40 to 45 °C below ambient temperature, depending on the camera type. The Peltier hot side is cooled by fans. The sensor temperature is regulated with ±0.1 °C precision. High temperature drop and precision regulation ensure very low dark current for long exposures and allow proper image calibration.
Standard cooling cameras achieve regulated temperature difference up to 40 °C under environment temperature.
Enhanced cooling cameras can regulate temperature up to 45 °C under environment temperature. Compared to standard variant, enhanced cooling cameras are somewhat bulkier due to bigger heat sink, slightly heavier and somewhat noisier because of more powerful fans.
C3 camera can be optionally equipped with Off-Axis Guider Adapter. This adapter contains flat mirror, tilted by 45° to the optical axis. This mirror reflects part of the incoming light into guider camera port. The mirror is located far enough from the optical axis not to block light coming to the main camera sensor, so the optics must be capable to create large enough field of view to illuminate the tilted mirror.