Bluetooth Comes to Video
Having to deal with multiple cables running to the video camera can be a pain. One each for power, video and camera control. Plus, you may have others for control of the mount, focuser and guide scope. Now there is a way to get rid of one of these cables, the camera control cable, at least with some cameras. Astro-Video Systems introduced optional Bluetooth (BT) control for two of its astronomy cameras, the DSO and the MKIV this year. The BT adapter is available as a package or sold separately for $59. To control the camera with BT, just down load either the Android or PC application from the files section of the AVS Yahoo group. According the Matt at AVS, the Android BT application will work with an Android phone or tablet running Android v2.3 or higher. Unfortunately, at this time it cannot be controlled with iPhones or tablets. It is supposed to have a range of 100ft, but I can only verify that I have had it working at 40-50ft with success.
The adapter connects to the "Auto Iris" port on the back of the camera. The receiver/transmitter portion of the BT adapter can be attached to the camera body with Velcro or an elastic band. This is ideal for Hyperstar or Fastar applications on an SCT. That way only the power and video out cables need to run across the field of view. The picture below shows the BT cable dangling, but in actual use I secure it to the camera body so it does not block any incoming light. I do notice that in the Hyperstar position, the metal dew shield can reduce the effect range of the BT signal if the scope and camera are pointed away from me.
I have used the Android application extensively on my Samsung Galaxy S4 phone and have found it to be much better than using a wired PC control. The Android application was written by Charles C, who often posts on the EAA forum on Cloudy Nights. It emulates the 5 buttons on the back of the camera, which means you will still need to see the On Screen Display (OSD) on your monitor to know where you are in the menu. In addition, the MKIV application has sliders to control the Gain (this is not the AGC which must be controlled through the camera menu) and Brightness control sliders . It also has a Freeze frame button and an Exit OSD button. The DSO cameras do not have these additional function buttons since the camera firmware and hardware does not support these features. The Exit OSD button allows one to save all the changes made in the camera menu and exit the OSD with the touch of a single button. This eliminates the need to scroll down to the EXIT/RETURN/SAVE&EXIT command. It also saves and exits without clearing the camera video memory, allowing operation to resume from where it left without interruption after changes were made. Using the SAVE&EXIT command from inside the OSD "flushes all camera video memory buffers and may also trigger some protection circuitry , which leads to a white screen and having to wait for up to 3 minutes to fill up the video buffers again and display a new image".
BT remote control can also be used with a pc. If your computer is not already BT ready, you can purchase an external BT adapter like the one I got from Best Buy for less than $25. The PC application also emulates the 5 camera buttons so that you can change the camera settings while watching the OSD on your computer monitor.
It is also possible to modify cameras like the Lntech 300 and Mallincam Micro to add BT capability. You can read Charles C's post on CN here to find out how to make the modification. Be forewarned, if you modify the camera you will void the manufacturer's warranty.
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