Manual Focus - How are you doing it?

CCD’s are always in live view. (they have no shutter). Using sharpcap and it’s fast shutter/exposure setting you do get a live view. I often use it for day light testing. It’s a shame most other software capture has a max exposure of 1 or even .5 seconds. With sharpcap I can set 1/500th for day time (live view) and test captures.
Would be nice if SGP could add these faster exposure options too.

Many CCDs actually do have a physical shutter. I would say the lack of a shutter is actually a fairly new thing, mostly found with CMOS cameras. Almost all CCD based cameras do have a physical shutter.

You can type in whatever you want for the exposure. Our minimum is the minimum that the camera reports it can capture through the ASCOM driver.

As far as how to manually focus I would recommend pulling up the Image History module and running the frame and focus utility. This will give you a large readout of your current HFR on the image as well as show the trend line for the HFR and star count in the Image History module. Should make manual focusing fairly easy to hit your best HFR.


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I stand corrected - thanks - Never seen one with a shutter, though I’m quite new to this. I’m trying to learn your software during the day when it’s tolerably warm here. (Michigan). And it’s been limited by not allowing me to test which higher exposures. I will look for what you suggested!

Making progress with the help of this support area. THANKS. I have setup in garage (looks like rain here in Michigan) surely cloudy at noon). I found another post that said “image history and uncheck enable” this stopped the pause after a test shot while it was looking for stars (during the day there are none). I can enter daytime exposures of 0.05 thanks for pointing out I can enter anything. Since no stars - I loaded a star image, says needs to be grayscale 16bit. I’ll go make one. Making progress with SGP.

Not so fast buddy -
so I take a star image, I change it to 16bit in photoshop and change mode to greyscale in photoshop. I save as a .tif. I go to load it in SGP to experiment with and it says open image error. Value cannot be null. (which value is empty?) then says parameter name: dib. ?

That brings up another question. Say I’m shooting frame and focus shots… my camera is a 071MC. (color) F&F wants 16bit grey for HFR). In other software I can set the capture to RGB or 8 or 16bit raw. But I don’t see any such option in SGP? How do I force it’s required 16bit-grey format and then change back to RGB for my actual color captures?

SGPro can only open uncompressed, single layer tif images. We don’t really recommend this workflow as it strips all of the header information out of your image.

SGPro only ever takes 16-bit grayscale images. Color is only needed during post processing steps.

But I have a color camera? I’m also awaiting narrow band filters, so I’ll do H alpha, and OIII and SII. Those will also be grey scale until color is added in post?

Yes. SGPro only produces grayscale images. Color images are not helpful for any part of the capture process. In addition, all pre-processing on OSC images (bayer matrix) should be completed before any debayering.

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You implied you are using a one shot color camera; if so, then you will not be able to effectively use the narrow band filters. A OSC camera already has red, green and blue filters permanently overlaying the camera pixels. Adding narrow band filters on top of that will virtually block all the light trying to get to the pixels. Ha and SII are in the red part of the spectrum, so they may allow some light to get through the red filter of the OSC but probably not much. If you bin your OSC camera, you loose all color info but you are not then using a monochrome camera – the red, green and blue filters are still there blocking light.


Yikes. I wonder if I can exchange it.
You sure?

HA filters pass Red light. OSC cameras have what is known as a Bayer matrix on top of them. This is a pattern of VERY TINY color filters over a monochrome chip. When a normal DSLR takes an image there is some internal math that is done to compute colors for each of these pixels based on the pixels that are near it and mixing different pixels for proper color balance. Each pixel only has a single color on the chip.

A Bayer Matrix generally consists of a repeating 2x2 pattern of filters. Usually 1 red, 1 blue and 2 green (although some have 2 blue and 1 green…). That means 1/4 of your pixels can “see” red.

I would recommend giving this a read:

So back to our example of using a HA filter. Essentially your CCD will only use 1/4 of the pixels to pickup this data. So you’ll need more integration time.

I wouldn’t. Narrowband is much harder than OSC imaging. It seems like this is all fairly new to you? I would start basic with OSC and go from there. If you’re in this hobby for a while you’ll end up buying and selling gear until you get what fits, so don’t think of it as being “stuck” with this camera. This is just what you’re starting with.

Also it’s worth mentioning that astrophotography can be very difficult. Keep things as SIMPLE as possible when starting out or you’ll likely want to get out of the hobby real fast. Take things slow, add one thing at a time (equipment/software/etc) and learn as you go…


thanks for the time and expertise. I’m slowly coming to that conclusion. (to much to fast). Like I have a SHO filter set and filter wheel on order.
Yes new and its different. I was one of the top portrait photographers in the country (now retired) which means nothing in astrophotography.

But that’s fine, I always love learning new things. Once I get good at them I often move on to something else. That will take some years in this hobby.
Being successful and retiring early means I have the funds… so I dive in head first. I think in the past 2 months I’ve spent around 8-10 thousand
in gear. And last night (my 3rd time out) after 2 hours of frustration trying to get things going, I thought to myself… maybe I need to go to backyard eos
and my DSLR for a while then branch out.

I’m also learning in to many directions. I still don’t seem to have PHD2 working. But those problems are probably better in another forum.
I was also forced to use sharpcap after I had little to no success with SGP. (which I find incredible capable) but it seems to always hit a brick wall.

I went to shoot a frame and it errored and said I had to set exposure between 0 and 0 (or some such msg). No way past that I rebooted it and that
went away. I then wanted to take a snap and got errors about PHD not tracking. (I didn’t want do to huge series of shots, I wanted to peck off a few snaphots.
I did manage frame and focus, but the process was incredibly slow. I didn’t see a easy gain control so I had to do 30 second exposures to see current focus.
After I did focus, shooting shots (I tried sequence of 1 step) and again it said no - no tracking or some other facet of the program wasn’t working so another brick wall.

Frustrated I couldn’t just shoot some simple pics, and wasn’t alllowed to shoot RGB - I went into sharpcap and pulled off several exposures of a few clusters that were available to me. I had hoped for a nebula, but seems nothing was up this time of year or at least nothing about the tree’s that surround my site. = (

I know mono cameras are better all around, but I didnt want to put that much time into shooting. I like instant results. A friend has a SonyA7 camera OSC and uses a Halpha filter. He gets great results with even one frame aquired. I figured I’d by mast my DSLRs (since they may need a mod, and special sized in body filters). And went with the ZWOASI071MC-C. I also bought a ASI290MM which is a smaller mono. (no cooler) as my plan was to use it for guiding. Your right in that I see gear SELLING on numerous sites and selling FAST at what seems like top dollar for used. So I shouldn’t panic if something doesn’t turn out to be the best choice for me. I also got the recent 15% off price and if I exchange I’m sure I won’t get that… so yes, keep what I have… maybe put it in my case and revert to DSLR and the simple EOS backyard software for a year. I thought that packing up last night and well - I find your post today saying the same thing.

I really piled it all on. If I simplify the software (backyardeos) then I can concentrate on learning PHD, and later upgrade my software for more automated use. I have experience with fork mount scopes. (easy) I went HEQ6pro and I’m finding the EQ mount to be a very different animal. Frustrating to find that UP DOWN LEFT RIGHT isn’t necessarily so when viewing a target and trying to center it in the FOV.

Thanks for the time to respond with excellent advice.

I use Nebulosity, very easy to manual focus. Big display so you can see it from the scope.

Hi Ron, can you let us know how things are going with your equipment. I am in the same position as you (somewhat) when it comes to hitting brick walls… it seems every time I try to start a sequence, something else is warning me about one thing or another ;() … we will find our way thru tho. … I’m no quitter :wink:

Wow - OLD post. about a year later. I found great results in my bortle 5-6 with using NB. (not hard as Jared suggested) just install the filters.
I THINK that old post said I had a 071. I had problems with that freezing up and ZWO took it back in exchange for a 1600mmc. I would NOT RECOMMEND OSC to start with (if you’re serious about the hobby). I would suggest it if you’re not into diving in head first and want to spend a hour a month at night taking PITCHERS. = )

My initial issues were OSC (not good in LP) and a so so mount. 1200. Isn’t a good mount at least not the atlas pro I had. I rebuilt it and it was better… but still not good enough. I found a local seller selling a mount and scope… I paid 250. I sold it for 2500 a couple weeks later. That was a sign… “DO IT NOW”. So I sold my EQ6 and replaced it with a Mach1. So a 1600mm and NB filtes and a good mount and I was on my way. Jared’s reply above said he thought it was new to me. IT WAS… but I’m a retired world known photographer so the concepts are well understood).

Being someone that doesn’t like to work to have fun… the setup and tear down was a DRAG. I found myself sitting in my SUV in the front yard to stay away from bugs and dew. I quickly found NexDome and ordered and put that out in my small hole in the tree’s in my front yard. I had great results with mono - learned to process (which I don’t like to do). Won a world wide astro photo competition with one of my nb mono shots. (sigh, winning photo competitions became boring for me decades ago).

Let’s see. Sold a 127 I bought used and never really tried… replaced it with a new ES152 APO. (NICE SCOPE - but very narrow FOV is limiting). Used it for 9 mo and swapped out a 11" RASA. Without planning - I somehow ended up with a fully remote control obsy. It’s 100 yards away out in my front yard. I sit in this computer chair in the house and power it, open it - point and shoot it… leave it running and go to bed to wake up to it closed up and all tucked away nicely. (Using a cloudwatcher).
The RASA has new challenges. It was delivered out of culmination so I spent 10 minutes and at least roughed it in to eliminate the edge stars that looked like comets.
I had a couple custom parts made by Precise Parts - to do what I always do (the undocumented or insane). I installed a EFW and OAG on the front of the RASA. Much like the studio equipment I use to build out of nothing… and of course it worked.

I’m not getting much done since there were numerous nexdome software issues. Several people tried to rewrite the firmward and driver and well I appreciated their help but no one was really “ready for prime time coding”. Lots of issues persisted.
I finally found a 2.11E version that is fairly stable… and I’ve been asked to alpha test the latest… NexDome finally hired a top notch automation programmed in the UK to totally redo firmware and ascom driver from scratch. (it’s looking great).

Other issues “software”. I like SGP but it’s very … LINEAR? It is coded to do ONE THING - ONE MISSION and if you have another missing in mind - it’s a fight to the death. It’s mission… automated everything as a routine and do not deviate.

Problem is - my entire life is nothing but deviation. I want to pull a few on the fly shots of this - and scoot over there and pull a few subs of that and well - SGP don’t like that. I tend to turn on and prefocus and plate solve just as a boot up procedure but then if I run a sequence it wants to focus and solve and center AGAIN and trying to stop/abort it is futile. I had several months fighting with it to get some shots under my belt, but deviation invades once again and I’m checking out new software.

Prism - pretty slick, had issues with guiding and nexdome. I really enjoyed it but after a couple months demo had to shelve it.

KSTARS/EKOS. Wow this is a gem. The most feature laiden software for astro work I’ve ever seen… pheaking amazing and FREE. (similar but better than Prism which sells for 499). I’m great at finding bugs and spent a couple months working with the primary developer getting things cleaned up. ONE problem. It’s linux. I gave myself a crash course in linux and really enjoyed the separation from windows. Problems arose in that I could not view my IP cameras in the dome via linux, and could not use other tools via linux that I was use to. (cloudwatcher) for one. So I learned I could run the INDI server on linux (I moved from my NUC dual boot) to a PI computer (39.00). Again nothing is ever perfect (4 2.0 USB ports) sigh… but I could run Windows in the house on the desktop with windows versions of Kstars/Ekos which would control my dome via indi server on the PI. SLICK. But lots of instabilities… and a somewhat crude fit viewer and cumbersome sequence system. (how come one program can’t have it all and be perfect - there is always SOMETHING wrong with each one).

I recently learned that the Kstars/Ekos on windows isn’t stable and to try linux to PI indi server. I just installed Linux on my laptop to try this. It almost seems as if I need to run two computers to image the way I want to. One with windows and one with Linux. (YES I’ve tried virtual machines and though they kinda work they kinda don’t).

Let’s see… what else. While waiting for nexdome software to get redone I found myself bored with months of winter clouds in Michigan. So I decided to put together a portable setup. I had picked up a new ASI094MC (OSC) as I’m sick of the processing) and again found my light pollution a problem. So a portable to use at my daughters house (Bortle 4) popped into my head. So far I have used it there one night. The system is small and (Fairly light) I moved it all “setup” in the trunk. I plunked it into the yard and installed a ASIair on it. (if you’re new to this and are asking how I have advanced over the past year) I would say “SKIP TO THE ASIair” pronto.
It’s EASY and it works! and it has restored the FUN of astro imaging. I can set it in the yard (It evolves and recently I installed a Bogen dolly under it to roll it out into the yard). I can then sit on their deck or in the house and image with the ASIair app on my ipad. (laptop or phone). IT IS FREAKEN COOL. And guess what! It shows my subs debayered. (doesn’t save them as such it saves a nice .fit mono file that needs to be debayered in processing) but I see my shots in their glory in wonderful full color from the ASI094. That first light - session from my daughters house resulted in a 28x90 second stack of the North American nebula. (in my collection). I do find the over all red someone mono looking color from a OSC camera a real let down compared to the wonderful range of color from nb filters. (hubble pallet). But it’s fast and easy and a nice break. If all is working well at the dome… I can log in from anywhere on the planet and image with my observatory setup as well. But the jury is still out on that. (in search of software). While SGP has it’s limiations - it tends to be the one I keep going back to. (maybe because I know it best of all? I can just get things done but not without a fight). UPDATES/WISHLIST suggestions to the guys (as everyone knows) tend to be rejected. I did manage to get them to add a SLAVE check box in the docking window for the dome. (thanks Jared).
But other requests (debayer preview, make a dark skin, add “F” temps to the “C” read outs for us US folks… all get shot down as unprofessional. = (

Yes the biggest frustration with SGP is exactly what you said above. I call it being TO LINEAR. If you (the user/owner) wants, needs to do something that might be creative… FORGET IT. SGP is set to focus and damn it - ITS GONNA FOCUS or solve and center and solve and center - doesn’t matter that you just did it yourself manually. LOTS OF BRICK WALLS and usually no way out other than ctrl-alt-del and a lengthy process to reboot SGP and its merry band of programs it talks to.

YES stick with it. It still is the easiest to learn though I think it took me a good month.
Kstars/Ekos does so much it will be a year to touch on what it can do. I do love the planetarium software built in so it can offer so much in features because it’s all in one. I feel that will be THE ONE in another year. The cool thing about it is when I suggest something it appears in the next release (usually in 1-2 days). The main programmed lives in Kuwait and logged into my Obsy and hot swapped new code he was writing on the fly and controlling my dome from the other side of the world.

The hobby is FRUSTRATING but I love to learn (I’m self taught in every I know and do) and I’ve come to the realization that the learning and frustrating problems are part of the fun? Well not when I had one system to image with and couldn’t get it working but now having a 2nd portable setup I can roll out of the garage and boot in 2 minutes on my ipad to get my fix has really reduced the frustration issue. I always have a simple setup to “fall back on”. So how are things going for me? EVOLVING… always evolving.

A few of my antics are here

More here (connect if you like).

Hi Ron, thanks for the comprehensive reply… much appreciated… I also have come to the realization that; ““the learning and frustrating problems are part of the fun””
I have an ASIair that I’ve played around with a few times (not many clear nights in my 'hood), but have yet to aquire a ZWO guide cam (doesn’t work with my Altair), and also waiting for them to support my Pegasus Auto Focuser (or any focuser!).
All the best, & thanks again.

This may be the root of your problems with SGP. It is designed to operate in a linear, sequenced way, the clue is in the name. An application with this style may not be for you and your less structured mode of operation. This isn’t saying you are wrong, or that SGP is wrong. It’s just that your needs and what SGP is designed to do are different.

Think of SGP as a tool, a spanner maybe. Any amateur DIYer will have found a need to put in a nail with no hammer. Trying to use a spanner may work, poorly. Criticising the spanner and maybe asking for it to be made heavier, perhaps asking for a lump on the end might make it a better hammer, maybe, but it will definitely make it a poorer spanner.

Another tool, a hammer maybe, will be more effective as a hammer and do that job much better. There’s no shame in using a hammer when that works better than a spanner.

Please don’t take this wrong, I’m trying to help.


Whats youre hood? I’m in Michgan and I think 2 clear nights in the past 40 days. Been unreasably cloudy, cold and rainy. ASIair supports their new EAF - I have one on back order.

But it doesn’t have to be linear. It can offer both. For example simply putting a Focus Y/N (and a user set count down) say 4 seconds. can allow us to skip it. Or simple a clean abort from focus. Those not wanting to waste 4 seconds each event would set it for 0 and it wouldn’t ask y/n. Plate solve? or Center? y/n (4 seconds it defaults to as set). The other annoyance is if a filter wheel is set and it’s disconnected due to a test or different configuration (it will error). Yes we can make a new configuration but that’s a job in itself. I can use control panel and remove it - but not sure if that works or not. It’s quite messy in that it has user control panel, equipment control panel and sequence settings and when we need to alter that. (it’s no quick edit). I have turned off my cloudwatcher to eliminate closing domes (due to testing in semi cloudy conditions) and even with it off - it somehow turns on and closes the dome unwanted. NOTHING should be that linear.

Also a program this age and (well pretty complete) should evolve to be better than its prime directive. To take it to its next level would be to make it suit a larger market. but what the hell do I know, I have no college education and very little H.S. yet I retired from my business at 49 years of age a multi millionaire. Who needs a larger market - bah humbug.

Near Toronto. Thx, I’ll check that out