Hopefully someone with more knowledge then I can help me decide which camera to purchase...
I have been imaging with my trusty Meade DSI color (original) for a while now, first on my Celestron 130SLT (unguided), and now on my Celestron 8" f/5 newt (guided with piggyback refractor w/webcam).
Although the DSI has enabled me to learn and develop imaging techniques, the images themselves are good, but not great, as the DSI chip is small, and the pixels are large.
I have been thinking about what I want out of my next camera:
Better pictures! - bigger CCD sensor, more pixels, smaller pixels
Regulated Cooling - managing Darks
OSC (One Shot Color) - I don't want to get into monochrome cameras yet for several reasons. Cost, complexity, nights are usually not cloudless all night to take all required colors, etc.) Please don't try to convince me to buy a monochrome camera. I'm not ready.
For my budget, my price range is max $2,000.
I have narrowed it down to 3 cameras, all having the same CCD sensor.
ATIK 383L+ C ($1,880)
SBIG STF-8300C ($1,795)
In trying to figure out which manufacturer has the best features/design/engineering, I am getting confused, and a little intimidated.
There are differences in how they are cooled (single vs double stage), how fast images download (~10 seconds vs 1 second full frame), the Class/Grade of the CCD chip (ATIK is Class 2, QHY9-C is Grade 1)
So here are my questions:
Do I care about double stage cooling in the Northeastern US, where night time temperatures are pretty much always on the cool side?
Does a 10 second download vs a 1 second download really matter (especially since I plan on taking long exposures, 5, 10, 30 minute exposures)?
Why does one manufacturer list the Class as the quality, and another lists it as Grade? Are they the same thing?