Another in the line of excellent, affordable ZWO astronomical cameras is the ZWO ASI294MC Pro cooled color CMOS astrophotography camera. This camera boasts the Sony IMX294CJK sensor, with a 4144 x 2822 resolution with 4.63-micron pixels. This results in a diagonal measurement of 21.6mm, which is slightly smaller than an APS-C sensor found in many DSLR cameras. This matches well with telescopes of focal lengths 400mm to 1500mm, depending on the chosen target. The back-illuminated sensor has a 75% quantum efficiency (The higher the better).
Like all color cameras, it uses a color matrix of red, green, and blue pixels to achieve a color image in one shot without the use of filters. The advantage is that you can take a single color image, and you don’t need to take separate images of red, green and blue to achieve this. The downside is the loss of resolution that comes with combining a matrix of pixels into one color pixel. But the 11.7-megapixel sensor has plenty of resolution so this is not a significant issue.
Like many astrophotography cameras, the ASI294MC Pro uses a thermoelectric (TEC) cooling system to lower the sensor temperature to -35C below ambient to minimize electronic noise. Although the camera itself can be powered by a USB 3.0 cable, the TEC requires a 12V power supply, which is not included. This can be achieved with the ASIAir (ZWO integrates its equipment very well) or a separate external 12V power supply.
Its 14-bit electronics allows up to 13 stops of dynamic range. The USB interface allows video up to 16 fps at full resolution. The camera head also has a USB 2.0 port for communication with other ZWO or compatible equipment. The camera weighs only 410g (14.5 oz). It also comes with a number of standard thread adapters for connecting to telescopes.
- Strong TEC
- CMOS sensors tend to have low noise
- Versatile mid-range sensor size
- Reasonable price
- Single shot for color
- Separate power supply for TEC (no problem if you have ASIAir already or Pegasus Power Box)
- Relatively slow video capacity
Verdict 4.5/5 stars*
*I would give it 5 stars except for the lack of a 12v power supply. Almost all reviews on AgenaAstro.com are 5 stars.