ZWO Image Capture Instruction Manual

ZWO Image Capture Instruction Manual
SS-one ZWO Image Capture
March 2017
ZWO Image Capture
Instruction Manual
Hutech Corporation
25691 Atlantic Ocean Dr., Unit B-11
Lake Forest, CA 92630
SS-one ZWO Image Capture
March 2017
The SS-one Image Capture system is an astronomical imaging system designed with these main goals
in mind:
Portable imaging -- lightweight, compact, low power, and not requiring an additional computer.
Sophisticated deep-sky imaging -- supporting long exposures, dark and light frame processing,
raw images, and optional GPS time/location tagging.
Supporting astronomical cameras (currently ZWO line) with cooling, filter wheels, and other
advanced astronomical features
Ease of use for field work -- bringing the ease of use of DSLR’s to field operation without
requiring an additional computer, monitor, or keyboard.
Allows for the convenience of remote access when network connectivity is available.
Flexible programmability for advanced computer users.
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Items Supplied
ZWO image capture controller (Raspberry Pi -based) with installed micro SD card containing
Optional items
USB Wi-Fi Antenna (to be used with smartphone/tablet, Chromebook, or PC)
USB GPS receiver (used to save time and location data into each image file)
Additional Items (supplied by user)
USB memory stick for saving image data
Micro USB cable for the controller system power
ZWO imaging camera with USB cable
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Micro USB 5V, 2A minimum power supply recommended. Power consumption will vary with the camera
and number of external devices used (e.g. 450mA when used with ZWO ASI120MM is used).
■ Connect all external devices first.
Before applying power, connect all USB devices such as cameras to insure that the devices are properly
recognized by the ZWO Image Capture application program upon startup.
■ Apply power to the ZWO Image Capture
After connecting all external devices, connect power supply (2A or greater current capability at 5VDC) to
the ZWO Image Capture’s micro USB power input port. There is no power switch in this controller. Upon
application of power the Linux operating system will boot up. Various Linux software components will be
first installed, showing a scrolling list of text across the display before blanking for a few seconds prior to
presenting the ZWO Image Capture’s startup menu:
■ Shutting Down or Resetting the System
Underneath the ZWO Image Capture app is a standard Linux operating system. Like the Windows or
Macintosh operating systems, the Linux operating system ​must be properly shut down before
disconnecting power​.
NOTE: Disconnecting power before a proper shutdown risks corruption of the micro SD
card with the ZWO Image Capture program.
To properly shut down the ZWO Image Capture, return to the opening menu and press [​Shut Down​].
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SS-one ZWO Image Capture
March 2017
Hardware Description
①Micro USB
Connect to 5V power source. 2A or more capacity recommended.
HDMI digital video output. Not used for standard operation.
③Video output
Analog video output. Not used for standard operation.
Not used for standard operation.
USB ports for
●​Memory stick
●​ZWO camera
●ZWO ​filter wheel - EFW
●Optional ​GPS receiver
●Optional Wi-Fi antenna
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March 2017
Example Setup
An example of a setup is shown below. Connected to the ZWO capture controller is a 5V micro USB
power cord (top, right), GPS receiver (1 USB connection), ZWO ASI1600MM monochrome camera and
filter wheel (2 USB connections), and USB memory stick for imaging files.
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Get Started
■ Power On
Be sure all devices and cables are connected to
USB ports first, then connect the micro USB
power cable. There is no power switch on the
controller case. After several seconds, the
startup screen will be displayed as shown at
Press [CMOS] to start the imaging program.
■ Power Off
WARNING: Do not disconnect or turn off the
power source while the controller is
To properly shut the system down, press [Shut Down] from the screen above. You will see the following
confirmation screen.
Press [Shut Down] again, so that the program goes through its shut down sequence. When the screen
turns completely white, you may disconnect the power cable or turn power off at your power supply.
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Main Screen
Text at top left
2017/04/21 09:56 E139.35 N35.59 ​(example)
Current date, time, longitude and latitude. This is displayed only when the optional
GPS receiver is used. The GPS synchronization is done upon startup of the capture
program. You may remove GPS receiver at any time after the location data shows up
on the screen.
Large Digits
16 1:00​ (example)
This indicates the number of frames and exposure time for each frame. In the
example shown, the capture program is set up for 16 frames of 1 minute each. Each
digit can be changed by pressing the “Up” or “Down” text above and below the digits,
respectively. The minimum exposure time is 1 second.
Green and red
indicators at
lower right
These indicators show up only when the ZWO EFW filter wheel is connected. Press a
number to select the corresponding filter. The number of the filter currently in the
optical path is highlighted in red.
Text at lower
ZWO ASI120MC(Color)​ ← Camera model
1280×960​ ← Resolution
Temp=22.2(Target=25)​ ← Current camera temperature (Setpoint target
Bottom Menu
Basic main menu buttons. Detailed descriptions follow below.
Right Menu
These buttons along the right edge change the camera operating mode. Details are
described below.
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ZWO Image Capture Mode
The image capture screen is categorized into 3 different modes.
Displays the current imaging setup data and allows modification of the setup.
Used for composing the image and focusing.
Play Mode
Allows viewing recorded images.
Bottom Menu (Main Menu)
Starts the imaging sequence. In LiveView mode, this button changes to [Flat].
Changes to LiveView mode.
Play mode. The latest image (light) frame is displayed.
Drops into the imaging parameter setup screen
Turns on the display of additional image data (e.g. histogram) in LiveView and
Play modes.
Exit to the initial bootup menu.
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Basic Imaging Operational Flow
Set the desired cooling temperature (for cooled cameras)
Select a filter (for camera filter wheel)
Focus and compose in LiveView mode
Start the imaging sequence
Review the image taken in Play mode
Setting Camera Cooling
Set the desired temperature of the camera first (for cooled cameras only). Press [Cool] at upper right on
the Main Menu screen to enter the screen below.
[Live temperature] ​shows the current​ ambient tempe​rature. Set the desired camera temperature using
the ​[Target Temperature] Up/down buttons. Set ​the target absolute temperature (Celsius) instead of
the difference. The above example sets the target temperature to -10 degrees Celsius.
[Difference] shows the difference between the current ambient and the target. Check the difference value
to insure that the camera cooler’s specification is not being exceeded. Finally, start cooling by pressing
[Cooler On]. This will exit the cooling menu and return to the main imaging menu.
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Focus and Compose in LiveView Mode
Press [LiveView] to go to LiveView mode.
Right-side Menu:
Press to repeatedly zoom into the live image. Press one of display corners to move
(pan) the zoomed area.
Press to repeatedly undo the zoom into the live image.
Display the center 640x480 pixels only. This functional is used to speed up the live
view refresh rate which may be slow on high-resolution cameras.
Press once to have the controller automatically select one star near the center and
zoom into it. Press once more to switch to 5 area focus mode. It shows 5 stars,
selected from the center and 4 corners.
Allows adjustment of the exposure time and gain (for LiveView only).
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Setting Exposure for LiveView
To set the exposure for LiveView, while
LiveView is activated, press [Gain]. This
will bring up the Gain/Exposure/Gamma
setting dialog shown at right.
Image amplifier gain: 1 to 25.
Exposure: 1/1000” to 8”.
Gamma: 1 to 10. The recommended value is 5. Lower the gamma if the screen image is
still too bright even after reducing the gain value.
Note: These values apply only to LiveView mode. They do not affect imaging mode.
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■ Focusing
The ZWO Imager has two focusing methods - standard focus mode [Focus] and crop mode [Crop]. The
latter option is recommended for high resolution cameras.
Focus mode
Press [Focus] on the right menu to activate standard focus mode. Press [Focus] again for 5-area
focusing, and press again to exit focus mode.
While in [Focus] mode, zoom in by pressing [Zoom], or zoom out by pressing [Wide].
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Crop mode
To get around the time required to download the full image from a camera with a large number of pixels,
use [Crop] mode. This speeds up the frame refresh rate by downloading only the central 640x480 pixel
Press [Crop] for 640x480 pixel view. Press [Zoom] to enlarge the image. By pressing each of 4 corners,
the crop area pans to the selected area.
Once focusing is complete, press [LiveView] to go back to Main Menu screen.
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Recording Images
Double-check the date, time, latitude and
longitude shown at the top left of the imaging
screen (if GPS is connected). Also check the
camera temperature. Delay starting actual
imaging until the temperature of the camera
has reached the target value.
Set the parameters for your imaging set:
number of frames, exposure time, and press
[Gain] to pop up the dialog to allow setting
the parameters for the images. ​Note that
this is independent of the values set for
the LiveView mode.
Gain value: 1-25.
Offsets the illumination value: 1-10. Use this to isolate the illumination data from noise. The
recommended normal setting is 3.
Gamma:0-10. Normally set to 5.
Generally it is recommended that you adjust only [Gain]. The gain value you use will depend on sky
conditions, camera, optics, and many other factors. Take several test shots to determine the best value
for your conditions. Press [Close] to dismiss the [Gain] dialog and return to the main imaging menu.
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Starting Imaging
To begin imaging, press [Shoot] to bring up these imaging options:
Automatically shoot a frame set of up to 99 frames. To set the interval time, move
back to Main Menu and press [Menu], then select [Time], which allows setting the
inter-frame interval time. If the image download time is longer than the interval time,
the download time is automatically used for the inter-frame interval.
[One Shot]
Take a single shot using the parameters set up for the imaging set.
Take a test shot using the test exposure parameter. The exposure time parameter
(seconds) is set from the main imaging menu: select [Menu] / [Time]. All other
parameters are the same as those used in [One Shot].
[Color Test]
Not functional in current version
[RGB Rotate]
Not functional in current version
After shooting a frame, the most recent image shows up on the screen with the file name displayed in the
top-right corner. You may select other frames using the [Next] / [Prev] buttons on the right side of the
screen or zoom into or out of the displayed image using [Zoom] / [Wide].
While exposing a frame, the ​ [Shoot] button turns into [Stop]. Press [Stop] to abort the exposure. The
shortened exposure is saved as a file and may be examined like any normal exposure.
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Review Saved Images in Play Mode
Press [Play] to review saved images. If imaging is in progress, once the first frame has been taken
[Play] mode will automatically become active, allowing inspection of the frame saved.
In [Play Mode] the file number shows up at upper right. A close-up is shown at an inset at lower left. The
software automatically picks a certain star around the center and enlarges it for inspection. This is helpful
for monitoring focus or guiding status during imaging.
Right Menu [Play] mode
Press once to enlarge 1 step. Press again to enlarge further. Press one of the 4
corners to pan the enlarged area.
Press once to decrease magnification by 1 step.
Select the next image file
Select the previous image file
Delete the currently viewed image file
When in [Play] mode, exit by pressing [Play] again.
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While viewing a recorded image, additional data may be displayed about the currently selected image.
Press [Info], so that the histogram shows up first. For color images, each of the colors will be separately
Press [Info] again to display additional data.
The date, time, latitude, longitude, and map* show when the optional GPS receiver is used.
*Map is not available in the international version.
Press [Info] for a third time to turn off the display of the additional image data.
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File Naming
All of imaging data are saved into the USB memory stick connected to the imaging system. The file
naming convention is as follows;
●​Monochrome camera
For monochrome camera images, the files are named in the form: SSxxxxxx.tif where xxxxxx is a
sequential 6-digit number. When the ZWO filter wheel EFW is used, “_n” is added to indicate which filter
was used for the image.
SSxxxxxx_n.tif​ (n: filter number)
●​One-shot color camera
For one-shot color cameras, two files are saved.
SCxxxxxx.tif​ R​AW file
COLxxxxxx.tif​ Debayerd color file
●​Original file
When real-time dark and flat mode are turned on, if the option for saving the original raw file is turned on,
“org_” is added as a prefix to the file name.
●​Dark and flat file
For automatically applied flat and/or dark frame options, additional prefixes are added to the file name.
f_SSxxxxxx.tif :​ Flat-applied file
d_SSxxxxxx.tif : Dark-applied file
df_SSxxxxxx.tif : F
​ lat and dark - applied file
The following calibration files are saved into the folders - dark and flat
DGaaEbbbbPnn.tif -- where, aa: gain​ / ​bbbb: exposure / nn: ​sequential number
FLATnnnnn.tif​ -- nnnnn: sequential number
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Create and apply dark and flat files
SS-one ZWO Image capture may be set to automatically apply recorded dark and flat files.
●​ Creating dark files
1. On Main Menu, set the dark​’s number of frames and exposure time for each frame as if normal
(light) frames were to be recorded. The exposure time of dark frames should be the same as the
exposure to be used for the light frames.
2. Press [Gain] to verify that ​[Gain], [Offset] and [Gamma] are the same as the light frames to be
3. Cap the lens or​ telescope to block all light.
4. Set the camera temperature to match the temperature of the light frames and allow the
camera to reach the target temperature before recording dark frames.
5. Press [Dark]​ to open the dark frame submenu.
6. Press [Create Dark File] to start shooting dark frames.​ Once done, the dark frame is
displayed on the screen. Each successive dark frame is automatically composited so that only a
single dark frame will result. The composited dark file is saved with the following naming
DGaaEbbbbPnn.tif -- aa: Gain​ ​bbbb: Exposure time
Example:​ DG10E0060P12.tif
nn: Ser​ial number
Note: The capture software does not have a function to manipulate these files. Rename or
remove these file when the USB thumb drive is mounted on a computer for post-processing.
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●​ Creating flat files
1. On Main menu, set the number of flat frames as if setting up to take normal light frames.
For flat frames, the exposure time may be ignored since the exposure will be set up separately in
another dialog.
2. Press [LiveView] to move to LiveView mode.
3. Point to the flat illumination target. For the flat-fielding to be effective, the optical setup (including
camera rotation) should be set exactly as used for imaging light frames.
​Press [Gain] to enter a dialog to set [Gain], [Exposure], and [Gamma]. The exposure
time allows exposures down to 1/1000​”.
5. Press [Info] to check the histogram. Adjust parameters until each color histogram is middle of left
side. The controller applies R, G and B channels independently so it is not necessary to manually
adjust each channel to the same level.
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6. Press [Flat] to start shooting flat frames. One composited file is created and saved into the USB
memory stick storage with the following naming convention:
FLATnnnnn.tif nnnnn:​ Serial number
Example: ​FLAT00001.tif
Note: The capture software does not have a function to manipulate these files. Rename or
remove these file when the USB thumb drive is mounted on a computer for post-processing.
Two Methods for Applying the Dark and Flat Frames
The image capture program has 2 options for applying dark and/or flat frames. One is a batch process
used after the imaging session ends. The other is to apply the calibration frames as each light frame is
taken, called “real-time process”.
● Batch process
1. On Main Menu, Press [Op​].
2. Select ​the ​master dark ​and/or flat file from each box.
3. Select ​[​Overwrite Original File] [Yes] if ​file space is limited. For testing purposes, select [​Only
one file] [Yes].
4. Press [Dark] only for dark subtraction whil​e press [Flat] only for flat subtraction. Press
[​Dark+Flat] to apply both. Pressing any of these buttons starts the batch processing.
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The following files will be created as detailed previously. ​If the​ ​[Overwrite Original File] option is set
to [No], foll​owing new files are saved.
f_SSxxxxxx.tif -- flat file
d_SSxxxxxx.tif -- dark file
df_SSxxxxxx.tif -- flat/dark file
Note: The capture software does not have a function to manipulate these files. Rename or remove these
file when the USB thumb drive is mounted on a computer for post-processing.
● Real-time process
1. On Main Menu, press ​[Dark] a​nd select [​ Real Time Dark] on next ​sub-menu.
2. Select [Dark]​, [flat] or ​[Dark+Flat].
3. Using the [change..] buttons​, select dark and flat files to be applied.
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4. To save the original files along with the processed images, ​set [​Save Original File] [Yes],
so that icon turns red.
5. Press [OK] when done selecting options.
6. During light frame shooting, dark and flat processing is automatically applied as each light frame
is taken.​ ​ [Play] images are shown post-processed.
Saved light frames will be assigned the same names as light frames recorded when
automatic processing is not used,​ If the [Save Original File] has been set to [Yes], an
additional file with the prefix “org_” will be saved along with the auto-processed image file.
When the real-time dark/flat option is activated, [Dark], [Flat] or [Dark/Flat] is indicated at the upper right.
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From the main imaging menu the button [Menu] allows additional “house-keeping” parameters to be set.
Use [Close] at the lower right corner to return to the main imaging menu.
This menu allows setting up two time-related functions for imaging:
[Interval Time]
Allows setting the interval between exposures. If the camera image download
time is longer than this setting, the interval time will be the same as the
download time.
[Test exposure
Set [Test exposure time]. This exposure time is used for the ​[Shoot] ​/ [​Test]​.
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●[Local Time]
This allows the local timezone offset from ​UTC to be entered. The timezone offset is used with the
GPS time to display and record local time into capture files. Use UTC+0 if UTC is preferred.
●[All Delete]
Delete all image files in the USB memory stick. Flat and dark holders are not removed. Manipulation of
these files must be done on an external computer.
●[Focus Aid]
In [LiveView] as well as [Play] modes, the image capture program will select and display a zoomed
image of a star for detailed examination. Set parameters for the star selection as shown:
First, select the parameters to be adjusted by choosing [LiveView] or [Play], then adjust the Min and Max
star size with the up/down controls on each digit.
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●[File Number Reset]
Use this function to reset the file numbering sequence. A pop-up dialog will appear to allow you to
confirm this action.
●[File List]
This function displays the list of (light) files which have been recorded and allows the deletion of
individual selected files.
Use the up/down buttons to move the file selector through the list. The list will begin scrolling at the
bottom for long lists of files.
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Appendix A.
Updating Your System Software
Currently the Capture software can only be updated by replacing the entire system image. This is held in
the micro SD card inserted in the imaging controller. If you wish to preserve the settings you made
within the image capture program, first use the procedure to save your settings as described in Appendix
Downloading and Creating a New System Image Card
If you are replacing your system software with a downloaded image, follow these instructions to copy the
image to a micro SD card (16GB minimum). These instructions assume you are using a Windows
system with a micro SD card reader or SD card reader with an adapter for a micro SD card.
1. Extract the image file from the ​.zip​ archive file. The image file should have the extension ​.img
2. Use Win32DiskImager to copy the .img file to the micro SD card. Note that anything that was on
the micro SD card will be overwritten.
To replace the system micro SD card, with the system powered off, press the existing card inward to
release it (it should pop out a short ways). It will then be free to be pulled out. Pay attention to the side
containing the contacts of the card so that the replacement can be inserted the same way.
Now insert the new card into the micro SD slot, taking care to orient the contacts the same way as the
card which was removed. Upon booting up the new software, use the procedure in Appendix B to
restore your customized settings before using the software for imaging.
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Appendix B.
Preserving and Restoring your Customized Settings
Currently the Capture software can only be updated by replacing the entire system image. To back up
your customized setup, or to update your system image to a new version, but preserve your settings,
follow the procedure below after making sure your USB thumb drive is inserted into the system.
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Saving Image Capture Settings
1. With your USB thumb drive inserted, boot up the image capture system. From the boot-up
screen, select [Shut Down] to get to the confirmation screen:
2. Select [Customize] to get to some advanced options:
3. Press [Save Config] to save the settings to the USB thumb drive.
4. Press [OK], to return to the shut down menu and press [Shut Down] to turn off the imaging
Now the micro USB system disk can be replaced with one containing the updated imaging software (see
appendix A).
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Restoring Image Capture Settings
1. With the USB thumb drive with the saved configuration inserted into the imaging system, at the
initial boot up screen, press [Shut Down] to get to the confirmation screen:
2. Next select [Customize] to get to the advanced functions screen:
3. Finally, select [Load Config] to restore the settings to the image capture system micro SD card.
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