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This will be my first real-world experience using a Camera Quark and currently, this review is limited to my first few days of solar visuals and imaging sessions. I will expand this article with updated images as soon as my other equipment arrives. For images taken with the Quark, I will include comments as to what camera, lens, and mount plus additional solar-related information to allow you an opportunity to make your decisions.
Before the purchase I did my basic research as many of you do my research was performed on-line and reading what Daystar has posted (as of 7/1/2017), also I viewed a couple of other videos, found one video produced by Daystar featuring Tiffany Messerschmidt. Because I already own a couple of DSLR & CMOS cameras, and one compatible Nikon lens, I decided to give the Camera Quark Chromosphere version a try. I bought mine through B&H Photo, an exceptional company; and if you live on the East Coast, shipping is fast.
What I received In the Box:
- The Camera Quark with end caps, wrapped in foam inside a twist tube.
- Two extension rings in-case you require extra back focus.
- The A/C power adapter with various international plugs - A/C to USB out.
- One short USB cable
- A free pair of solar glasses, the cheap cardboard version but free never the less.
- One tripod/foot for mounting.
- One small manual, how to, info, tips, warnings, etc.
- One large AD flyer of other Daystar items.
In the Hand: During the visual inspection of the Camera Quark, it feels well made with the parts having a black and red anodized coating. The weight of the quark without lens or camera is around 2.3 lbs with the included vixen mount attached. If you strip away the camera components the Quark itself is made rather well and is quite sturdy. The camera lens attachment flange is a weak link in this setup, a little too weak for my taste. When I have my 100-300 Nikon lens attached the lens will drop down about 1/16th of an inch due to the tolerances between the lens and the mount; with some imaging experience I know that could lead to poor image acquisition issues, visually you can re-adjust focus on the affected areas. Otherwise, the Camera Quark is of high quality and good build characteristics.
Some Personal Notes:
- The video produced by Daystar does not mention any need for an energy rejection filter. Also, the video shows adapting an eyepiece but unfortunately, the eyepiece holder / diagonal and the adapter is an item you need to purchase separately. I found out Daystar will ship you one at no cost if you contact them. So, if you plan on using your with a standard eyepiece you need optional parts.
- The on-line Daystar AD recommends for the lens over 80mm you should consider adding a red or yellow filter to the front. The included manual shipped with the Quark filter states a red or yellow "Energy Rejection Filter", leaving me to wonder what I really need for my camera lens of choice. I used my 300mm zoom for several hours without any filter and no heat issues at all.
- Not all lens are compatible. Going into this project I knew this; a newer "electromagnetic" controlled aperture lens is closed by default and the Camera Quark requires an "old school" manual aperture lens, but even that is no guarantee it will work properly. My original planned lens would not mount to the quark although it is a Nikon lens, so I visited eBay and bought a used zoom. More on this setup below.
- Most DSLRs are not well suited for Solar imaging due to internal filters and they are color sensors, so only a handful of DSLRs would provide optimal results. For best images, a true monochrome CMOS dedicated camera is best which requires a Tablet or PC running software next to your imaging rig. The point is unless you have a specialized DSLR your results will not be as detailed as that of a dedicated CMOS camera, links to a CCD camera buying guide are in the links below. This is not the fault of Daystar just a reality of solar imaging with the current run of the mill DSLRs.
- You need about 10 minutes to warm the Daystar Quark up for optimal viewing/imaging. To Daystar's credit, the knob in the up position is the pre-tuned HA location. Keep in mind, if you turn the knob the Quark will need time to re-adjust, but you can still view it while it is happening.
No real problems concerning my notes above just some observations I wanted to share.
In In The Field Using the Quark: I bought a small portable battery offered by Daystar which should power the Quark for a couple days between charges. Although I mention the battery is rather expensive, you should be able to find one at half the price if you look around, keep in mind you need 2 Amps. There is one other battery you need to consider and that is your DSLR battery, I found that using this Camera Quark it was almost a necessity to run the DSLR camera in live view, which will drain your battery rather fast, I recommend you have a spare if you are planning a day outing.
I bought two batteries, one to power the Quark and the other the Mount. Last for a full day at least!
The Camera Quark is rather simple to set up; All you need is your DSLR and a compatible lens and a tripod, initially I used my Nikon D500 coupled with a 300mm f/4.5 zoom, and that setup provided full disk views. Keep in mind the Nikon D500 is a 1.5 crop factor making the lens appear as a 450mm If you are not familiar with the term crop factor a link is below. Daystar allows mounting the vixen foot either forward or backward, depending on your mount and lens one will be preferred over the other direction to accommodate proper balance, I was able to balance the Quark, camera, lens combo on my CEM25P without issues, tracked like a boss once it was all set up.
Views and Imaging:
Nikon D500 used with a Daystar Camera Quark for Solar imaging
Live view showing what the quark is seeing.
The Chromosphere Camera Quark did provide fine details of the sun's Chromosphere during my first outing and testing, with easily detectable prominence which I was pleased to see. Visually speaking the views were appealing showing good contrast and detail of the Sun's surface with enough details to easily pick out various features. Image-wise the results can be outstanding but in my case suffered due to my DSLR is not the best choice for a Solar Imaging rig. As most of you know color sensors made for land photography are a poor choice for HA imaging. I highly recommend a dedicated mono CCD camera if you want the best images with a little more work in the processing and field setup. The DSLR, of course, is an all in one solution - simple. Please excuse my initial images here as they are just that, starter images to get familiar with the equipment and become familiar with tuning and tracking more so than running the quark through the gauntlet - that will come in due time. Some of the gallery photos were a mix of images taken using the Camera quark with a DSLR lens and others as adapted to my telescope - you can buy adapters to use your camera quark with a telescope if you wish - link below.
My limiting factor was my lens and DSLR, even when I used the lens for the intended land-based photographs it is far from sharp, so I was not expecting much in the way of detailed photographs as a solar setup using a nonsolar camera. I was impressed with this lightweight portable Daystar HA solution and the quark itself. With the right camera lens combo, I am positive the results will be fantastic and that is what I will be working toward. There is not much more to say about the Daystar Camera Quark, except it works, is portable, and fun to use. I do recommend one if you wish to try out an HA setup. I can also state that if you have a small refractor telescope you can buy the adapters and use the quark with your Telescope as well, as I did.
Focusing the lens and quark: Others have mentioned this, it is a tedious task, to say the least as your sharp focus point is so hard to achieve due to the narrowed focus sensitivity, like trying to thread a needle in a wind storm. It is doable, but proper focusing takes practice, I eventually broke down and resorted to using my LCD Loupe. I admit my lens is crap so that may be a factor as well, but again others have mentioned the same experience, not a problem with the quark but the optical requirements have a very very narrow focus point.
My Next Updates Ahead:
The Daystar Camera Quark with camera
Using a CEM25p to support the camera and quark setup was no problem.
- Lens - I need a "better" lens, the one I am using was not all that sharp even in its heyday, a 500 zoom would be ideal I think. The solar disk is a bit small on my camera sensor, so having a 500mm zoom should do a better job of filling the frame.
- Power - I went ahead and bought the Daystar Quark battery from B&H and has plenty of power for days of use.
- Adapters - Convert your Camera Quark for your Telescope; Yep, why not. I ordered the adapters to turn the camera quark into a normal Quark for telescope use, and visuals using a camera lens - see the article I wrote on that, link below.
- Another round of imaging - more images to come.
My Imaging Rig Setup:
- The Camera Quark with a good quality Nikon Lens Mounted
- Daystar external battery pack & Second Battery for Mount power
- iOptron CEM25P Mount
- Microsoft Surface Pro Tablet with USB 3.0 support (not needed if you are using a DSLR)
- ZWO ASI178 (for optimal imaging)
First Light & Images: What makes the Daystar Camera Quark enjoyable is the portability. Using a grab and go system you can be set up and be tracking the sun in about 15 minutes. One thing I learned in life, if it is portable it will get used. Obviously, taking pictures with a DSLR could not be more simple.
The mount and Quark
No comments on the plastic still being on the legs....I was in a rush. :)
ISO & Exposure: I recommend an ISO setting of 100 - 400 ISO to keep your noise down since you are limited by your lens F stop your exposure will depend on your combination of ISO and the lens. With a DSLR you have the luxury to dial it in on the fly so to speak. Slight overexposure will bring out the hidden prominences and you can merge your final images with other properly exposed images to show both surface details and the prominences in one single image. It is all fun to do, and with a DSLR quick and easy.
Things that Daystar could improve on:
- The quality of the lens mount, the one supplied is weak and sags a bit under the weight of the lens.
- Include the screw-on eyepiece adapter = which I heard they are now doing so.
Overall recommendation: Recommended for anyone interested in taking images of the sun in HA or visuals and also desires a portable, simple, fuss-free HA solution. The Daystar "camera quark" is obviously targeted to Canon and Nikon users, but others such as myself can appreciate adapting the camera quark to a telescope with the addition of the adapters, so I can enjoy my Quark either way. Adapter links are in this review below.
Other Items you may want to consider: I also threw some additional money on this project to buy a diagonal adapter to allow me to do visuals using a common eyepiece, as well as the nosepiece to convert the camera quark to a standard quark as mentioned, giving me the option to use it on a telescope or my DSLR with lens.
When choosing your lens I would suggest you go with a longer 400mm or even a 500mm; my 300mm only filled my sensor less than 1/4 size, and with a full crop of the 24mp image rendered a reasonable level of detail. I feel a 400 or 500mm lens would be much better suited for the task. Also, to keep everything portable, consider a modified DSLR for solar imaging for optimal results. Overall, this is a keeper and fun to use, see you outdoors!