Notes(0) on PC164C and 1004X CCD Low Light camera's

From:  "Charles Allison"  
Date:  Thu Sep 13, 2001  12:42 pm
Subject:  Re: [VIDEOASTRO] Possible new features/mods for pc23c

Hi group,

I've been looking at the pc23c chip specifications again in some spare time
and kicking some ideas around with a few folks and have possibly come up with some 
good prospects. Right now, these have not be done or verified, but they look very 
promising and are fairly simple for what they can do.

First, There seems to be a 1 jumper mod that appears to push out the AGC/manual 
gain by a little bit, increasing sensitivity slightly at the expense of a little 
more noise.

Second, and possibly fantastically, it seems possible to make a fairly small
mod to allow time integration of up to several seconds, making the camera extremely 
sensitive compared to a normal video camera. Initially, this mod will probably 
require using a computer, digitizer and program to run the camera integration and 
only one frame or field will have the integrated image. It should be possible to 
build a small circuit board which can capture this integrated image and continue 
to output it on all frames with only a little more mod work to the camera.

These should allow one to use the pc23c for a video tracker on much dimmer objects 
and permit better imaging of those solar system objects which are just a little too 
dim for video. These mods with image stacking software will possibly even be able to 
achieve deep sky images as well as squeezing out that last little extra bit of exposure 
needed to get a decent image.

It's going to be a while before I can fully implement the system with synchronized 
frame capture software which is a requirement for my use. The basic mod to the camera 
requires making a couple of fairly tight connections adding a couple of resistors and 
cutting a land in a very easy to get to area of the board. It will also require coming 
up with some small prototype board with some small amount of circuitry.

Anyone interested in testing the idea or in additional details, please contact me.


From:  "Charles Allison"  
Date:  Sun Sep 16, 2001  7:01 am
Subject:  Re: [VIDEOASTRO] Possible new features/mods for pc23c


I've been discussing this on qcuiag also. The mod should work for a variety of 
cameras using sony chip sets. I think the pc23c with the cxd2400r offers a better 
solution than the newer ones with the 2463 because the 2400 can do frame integration 
rather than merely field integration. The net result is a full 512x460 (approx) rather 
than 512x230 for the 2400. The 2463 seems to only have field integration so you can do 
it for only 1 field since field integration sums two ccd pixel rows at a time.

At present, I haven't tried to make the integration mod. Although the hw should take 
around an hour or two (mostly to figure out cabling and finding the connector to the 
camera's iris control - since that looks like a good one to use rather than drilling 
holes in the camera body). I have tried the frame integration mode and it seems to work.

best regards,


From:  "Charles Allison"  
Date:  Thu Sep 20, 2001  3:37 pm
Subject:  Re: [VIDEOASTRO] Super pc23c mod test

-----Original Message-----
From: Charles Allison 
Date: Thursday, September 20, 2001 5:36 PM
Subject: Re: [QCUIAG] Modified pc23c cam

>I finally got to try to test my mods on the pc23c video camera. The
>attached images were captured to 8mm video tape and then captured to
>computer via a connectrix usb video capture device at 320x240.
>The camera has my older mods of manual/auto shutter and AGC  auto/manual/off
>which are available on the web from more than one source. The camera was
>set to E Shutter off (default 1/60th second exposure intended to use with
>lenses with electric iris control. The AGC was turned off. Images were
>taken with the room lights off during the day with the windows shuttered so
>it was moderately dim.
>The images are preliminary using an alligator clip to control the extended
>integration rather than a transistor and computer interface.
>int60fld.jpg - camera running at 1/60 second in the fld mode (normal
>default camera mode)
>flfd.jpg - an image with about 1/2 to 1 second manually timed exposure in
>the field mode.
>flfrm.jpg - an image in the frame mode with about 1/2 to 1 second manually
>timed exposure.
>No serious attempt was made to adjust the focus or aim at a target since the
>camera was in pieces on the edge of the work bench.
>The pc23c is a common under 100 $ US b&w camera available in ntsc and in pal
>containing a sony ccd and a sony cxd2400 timing chip.
>Best regards,

From:  "Charles Allison"  
Date:  Tue Sep 25, 2001  2:25 pm
Subject:  Re: [VIDEOASTRO] Possible new features/mods for pc23c


It's been slow, The only photos I have so far are of the finished mods on
the camera card. I've spent the last several days trying to get a new
computer up and running for the wife. Hers is about to bite the dust and
building up a new one is far more complex than just sticking the parts
together and loading windows which was completed saturday and I'm still not
quite finished. (that and moving the wife's office from upstairs to down here.)

I do have some benchtop 1 sec nominal manual exposured timed images to the
vcr (mostly an upside down view of the rear of my office chair and some crud
on the floor in a moderately dim room taken with agc off). The mods do seem
to work as expected and don't appear to negatively affect the camera in its
normal operating modes. I think it will make for a really great all around
b&w camera and a very fast and accurate autoguider. It's a lot less messy
and complicated to work with than my cookbook camera and it should allow
reasonable video quality images of just about anything the cookbook cam can
do but it's not going to replace the cookbook for the ultimate best possible
image and data collection capability that only one of those cooled slow data
capture/transfer ccd cameras can do.

I have had the camera modified with the lid on since thursday but the two
transistor mod circuit to tie to the serial port that goes in my controller
box has been there on the bench in pieces since thurs. Even today was a
bombout since I had to go get a fan belt for the lawnmower halfway across
houston and tonight is a class (3 more left). Hopefully, I've got all the
blackwidow spiders killed off in my observatory hut and the horrible reign
of terror from the skies (or the lawn - where ever those giant mosquitos
hide) seems to also be over and I can actually go outside without losing a
quart or two of blood to those little vampires.

I'm beginning to feel like that guy from the lil abner cartoon strip with
the cloud that perpetually stays over him raining continually.

On the brighter side, I got 2 of those new Vesta Pro cams for $25 ea from
Egghead sw and the mods for them on QCUIAG seems to be going great guns with
images coming in to the group. At the current rate though, I'll get mine
modified by the year 2220.
Anyway, I have hopes of being able to finish the pc23c mods this week and
put a bit into my guider program to get it running. I'll also have to try
to get an option going to save the images to disk in that program. It is
possible to do it to a video tape in a totally manual mode and it was not
difficult to capture them to my connectrix usb capture device.

Also - the new computer now has my wingotv card up and running in it so I'm
back in decent video capture capability again.

Hopefully, things are going to settle down some again and I'll be able to
start doing some things on the bench and in the observatory soon.

Best regards,


From:  "Charles Allison"  
Date:  Mon Nov 19, 2001  2:15 pm

Hi all,

I have finally gotten enough time to finish (or at least reach a useable
intermediate state) my imager projects and to document them.

They can be reached by going to my astronomy web page and going to the
downloads page.

PC23C Modification

What is there is an Acrobat PDF describing the modification for the PC23C
video camera. Version 4 of the modifications include not only manual
control over the Gain and shutter speed, but also contain a time integration
mod which will allow the camera to integrate frames for quite a few seconds,
either with or without a computer present. It's possible to even use a
pushbutton to manually time the exposures while recording to a VCR.


VideoView is a simple image capture program which will work with both the
PC23C for direct video capture and it will work with Steve Chamber's long
exposure Vesta Mod. The program will either run long exposures or a rather
slow video stream capture from either cameras. It is possible to turn the
video capture to disk on and off and to save currently captured to
CAPTURE.AVI images to another file name and location. There is a TXT file
describing the basic use which must be downloaded separately.

Please feel free to download them and send me your comments and suggestions.
I do not know when I can get back to making improvements on either but they
should be functional.

Best regards and Enjoy,

Charles Allison

From:  "sc285"  
Date:  Thu Jan 10, 2002  10:19 pm
Subject:  Fwd: Supercircuits PC-164C experiences and information

Here is an initial review of the PC-164C as reported by David Dunham.
Rob Robinson - VP of Occultations Services - IOTA

--- In IOTAoccultations@y..., Joan and David Dunham  
In previous messages, usually with information about individual 
events, I have given some information about the amazing PC-164C 
camera sold by for $130, less than half 
the cost of the similarly sensitive Watec 902H camera. The PC-164C 
easily recorded the 11.0-mag. star that was occulted by (712) 
Boliviana on December 19 when I used it with an 8-inch Schmidt-Cass 
and f/3.3 focal reducing lens at a rather dark site near Hancock, 
Maryland. Even 12th-mag. stars were faintly visible. Last night, I 
tried to record a graze of an 8.8-mag. spectral type M star with the 
same system from nearby Damascus, Maryland. It easily recorded the 
star at a cusp angle of about 12 degrees with the 52% sunlit Moon, 
which produced considerable glare with some thin clouds; that was 
right at the start of the graze period. Features could still be 
seen on the Earthlit dark side of the Moon at that first-quarter 
phase. Unfortunately, the clouds rapidly thickened, causing both 
the lunar dark side and star to disappear, so the graze was not 
recorded; of course, about 5 minutes later, the clouds passed and 
the Moon was in the clear for at least half an hour more. Next 
month I will record a faint-star graze with the system; there are 
many nearby opportunities.

The PC-164C looks different from, and is smaller than, the 
inexpensive PC-23C camera that is made in Taiwan. The basic 
connections for those two cameras are the same, although the PC-164C 
back end connections are on wires rather than built into the body of 
the camera like the PC-23C. That is, the front is a C-mount, so a 
C-to-1.25 inch adaptor, like the one sold for about $35 from 
Adirondack Video, is needed to use with a telescope. The video out 
is a male BNC, so a female BNC-to-female RCA connector is needed to 
use with standard (male) RCA jacks. The 12-volt power connector 
available from Radio Shack is also the same as the PC-23C.
My PC-164C is nearly as sensitive as my Watec 902H, with the 
Watec camera being only a few tenths of a magnitude more sensitive, 
probably just because the Watec has a 1/2-inch CCD while the PC-164C 
has a 1/3-inch CCD, like the PC-23C. If you have a Schmidt-Cass 
telescope, I highly recommend using it with a focal reducing lens, 
especially the Meade Series 4000 CCD f/3.3 focal reducer, available 
for $145 from and probably other Meade 
dealers. It will increase your field of view by a factor of 9, and 
since any star's seeing disk falls on fewer CCD pixels with the 
focal reducing lens, each pixel sees more of the star's light and 
the star appears brighter, in spite of some loss with the additional 
optics. The gain is nearly a magnitude.

Neither the PC-164C nor the Watec 902H cameras have built-in 
microphones, like the PC-23C. If you have a PC-23C, you can use it 
for the audio, in which case, you need to have two power cables and 
two small batteries (or one with a "Y" connector, with which I have 
always had problems). Otherwise, you need to either patch the radio 
signals directly to your VCR or camcorder, or use a microphone and 
mixer (to boost the weak microphone signal) for audio. However you 
connect your video components, as Scotty Henderson has stressed many 
times, good cables and firm connections should solve most of any 
problems that arrise; a spare cable is always welcome if one fails 
in the field.

The PC-164C is just Supercircuits' designation of this camera for 
their distribution within North America (NTSC version). On the 
camera itself, it only says "KT&C CCD Camera" and "Exview". Anton 
Paschke searched and found that 
KT&C = Korean Technology & Communication (a South Korean company)
but he could not find a web page for them. He found the camera 
mentioned on Web sites in Ukraine and Russia, so a SECAM 
version must exist, but I don't know about PAL. It is possible that 
will come later; the NTSC version has been sold in the USA for only 
a month now. 

In any case, this rather inexpensive camera should encourage 
more observers to videorecord asteroidal occultations, providing 
more robust imaging and more accurate timing than can be done 
visually. Eliminating errors of reaction time estimates helps 
analysis of observations of most asteroidal occultations 
considerably. And the camera can record many more lunar events. 
Hopefully, they will encourage more observations of grazing 
occultations by making it possible to make good recordings of grazes 
of fainter stars. Hence, there will be more opportunities closer to 
you, making it easier to find events that fit your schedule. Good 
luck with your observations, which are always welcome, however they 
are made.

David Dunham, IOTA

Dear persons; 

I am working on a hack of a SuperCircuits PC-23C I recently puchaced. I've
seen photos on the web of pictures of the planets taken with this camera 
atteached to different telescopes, and would like to be able to do something 
similar. The problem I've run into with another board camera (Circuit Specialist 
cheapie with a SHARP chipset) was that the automatic controls (iris, shutter, 
blah-blah,) tend to reference to 'black' (or optically black pixels) and the 
'subject', a simple bright object with a mostly black background, becomes 
'clipped', or over exposed. Loss of surface detail on the planets was the end 
The PC-23C appears to handle such objects better, but I figure if I can 
control shutter speed or iris manually, videos of this nature could be 
So, here's where I am so far; 

I've determined the manufacture's chipset (Sony) and part numbers 
(CXD2400R Timing controller, CXA1310AQ Processing chip, and 
CXD1250M/N Vertical clock driver,) and picked up the data sheets 
form Sony's web site. (I believe it was at ) 
While reading the data sheets I detemined that GAMMA, AGC and 
White clip are controlled by the A1310 Processor, while the D2400 
Timing chip controls electronic shutter and iris. I opened the camera 
to find that it has a simple board camera mounted on the CS-mount 
end. On that board are five connections that are wired-out to the 
other end of the encloser and the control board. Gound (black), VCC (red), 
Video output (green) Lens Iris control output (lt blue), and Electronic 
shutter On/Off (yellow). In addition, there are nine other points to which 
wires could be connected; three at the end of the row of made connections, 
and six along edge at 90 degrees to the others. 
With an vom I detemined that two of the three next to the other connections 
are Horizontal drive output and Vertical drive output from the D2400R chip, 
respectively as you move away from the made connections. I have not determined 
what the third connection is yet; 
it most likely goes to some discrete control. As for the other six, they 
are (as you move AWAY from the edge with made connections, and ALL related 
to the D2400R,) LCOUT (Pin 47 oscillator inverter out,) 
VR/SYNC (Pin 39 Vertical drive in/composite sync input,) Ground, 
SPUPV/ED0 (Pin 23 Iris shutter speed up/Shutter speed setting,) 
SPDNV/ED2 (Pin 22 " " / " " ,) 
IRIN/ED1 (Pin 17 " " / " ".) 
   (Note: These connection points may just be test points for manufacturing) 
   (Note: Pins 23,17, and 23 can be used to directly set the shutter 
   speed OR directly control the auto-iris, which indirectly controls the shutter.) 
From the data sheet and voltage measurements, I've determined that 
when the external electronic shutter switch is placed in the OFF position, the 
shutter speed may be locking at 1/100 sec., and when placed in the ON position, 
the Iris control signal output by the A1310 is placed in effect, adjusting 
the iris/shutter timing automatically. 
         So, here's the part I need the help on; 
Because of the circuit design Topica (or whoever made the camera board,) used, 
I will be stuck to controling the electronic iris. The problem I'm having is 
that the data sheet shows an 'Application' example (using these three chips) 
that uses two variable resistors to set the set points to tell the D2400 
when to increase/decrease the shutter speed. On the camera board, (it appears) 
that they have used a pair of resistors as a voltage divider to fix those 
set points. What I need help with is deciding whether or not to remove 
(read as; crunch!) those resistors before I add my external controls. These 
are comparator inputs, and my external controls should never come too close 
to each other and NEVER cross each other, as well. 
Does anybody have any advice/comments/flames on these 
problems? Am I on the right track, or did I derail somewhere along the line? 
  Thanks in advance, 
  Dana C. Lawson

Hi Alan,

Referring to the graph, it seems the ExViewHAD device is a bit over twice as
sensitive as a 'normal' device for all wavelengths between 1000nm (IR) and
550nm (Green). It has maximum sensitivity to Green light, whereas a normal
device appears to peak at the blue end of the spectrum. However the
ExViewHAD device is in general more sensitive to all wavelengths.

I chose to use the IR filter because I've noticed that some astronomical
(and indeed terrestrial) objects look significantly different when
IR is included - it penetrates dust better so dust lanes in galaxies
tend not to be so apparent for example. However, in the event my results were not
good enough to warrant having used the filter.

There is a great website that shows various Messier objects imaged at
different wavelengths including near IR, at


PS - the device is rated at 0.003 Lux, not 0.03!

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Alan Daly [mailto:alan.daly@b...]
> Sent: 23 November 2001 09:53
> To:
> Subject: Re: [QCUIAG] Re: The Camera is dead! Long live the Camera!
> Jon, you mentioned you used an IR blocking filter, according 
> to Sony's specs for the EXViewHAD CCD it is rated at 0.03 lux because:
> "(The EXviewHAD) .is capable of detecting with great sensitivity near 
> infrared light region which is unable to be discerned by the naked 
> eye. Light in the near infrared light region which has long wavelengths is 
> converted into photoelectricity deep in the semiconductor's silicon, so in 
> conventional CCD structure, sensors were incapable of efficiently gathering 
> the charge which has undergone photoelectric conversion. This "EXview HAD CCD" 
> structure has made it possible to use as video information the charge of near 
> infrared light which was hitherto invalid. This resulted in a dramatic region 
> improvement in sensitivity. This in turn made it possible to film in the 
> dark by radiating near infrared light which is invisible to the naked eye onto 
> the object being filmed, which opens up applications in a broad range of 
> applications, such as surveillance cameras, on-board cameras and scientific 
> measurement cameras.".
> According to this chart -
> The CCD's sensitivitity is lowest at the 500nm wavelength (1 
> lux) and highest at the 900-1000nm wavelength (0.1 - 0.03 lux).
> Maybe you would have better results without IR blocking? Or am I
> misunderstanding something basic? (Possible, I'm a newbie 
> cramming as much into my head as I can *grin*)
> Alan.
> Jon Grove wrote:
> > I had a chance to try the camera out last night, 
> > piggybacked (i.e stuck with tape) on my motor-driven Europa 150, coupled 
> > to a 70mm lens from an old SLR camera, which was not ideal but I wanted to 
> > try some 'wide' shots. I recorded the output to a VHS recorder and later 
> > captured frames using a Hauppauge WinTV card.
> >
> > I took various exposures of M45 and M31, ranging between a 
> > couple of seconds  up to about 30 seconds. I had an IR blocking filter in 
> > front of the CCD as well.
> >
> > The results show that the long exposure works OK, and the images were not
> > too noisy - probably helped by it being a cold evening. 
> > However in the longer exposures there was a significant amount of what I 
> > guess must be amplifier glow (although it may be the AGC trying to 
> > compensate for a sudden bright frame after a period of dark), so I'll need to work 
> > on that. I managed to get a 'reasonable' image of M45 from the tape, 
> > but no nebulosity was visible. Maybe I was hoping for too much, particularly 
> > with the moonlight and the small aperture lens. M31 showed up as an 
> > elliptical fuzzy blob but no detail visible, and lots of artefacts caused 
> > by the VHS recording.
> > I think I'll give up on the SLR lens idea for now and try using the camera
> > through my scope until I've got a better feel for how it behaves. I'll
> > investigate the amplifier glow/AGC problem, and cooling techniques, when I
> > get the opportunity. Naturally I'll keep the group informed of my progress!
> >
> > Clear Skies,
> > Jon.
> >
> > > -----Original Message-----
> > > From: Dr. S.J. Wainwright [mailto:astrabio@n...]
> > > Sent: 22 November 2001 17:50
> > > To:
> > > Subject: Re: [QCUIAG] Re: The Camera is dead! Long live 
>     the Camera!
> > >
> > >
> > > Dear Jon,
> > > I think that your camera mod has great potential.
> > > I would greatly appreciate details of your modification.
> > > Best wishes
> > > Steve
> > > Dr. S.J. Wainwright
> > >
> > > FAX: UK: 0870 1641692
> > > International : +44 870 1641692
> > > ----- Original Message -----
> > > From: "Jon Grove" 
> > > To: 
> > > Sent: Thursday, November 22, 2001 4:24 PM
> > > Subject: RE: [QCUIAG] Re: The Camera is dead! Long live 
> > > the Camera!
> > >
> > >
> > > The camera is a monochrome CCTV device available in the UK from
> > > model number 1004X. It's a bare
> > > board camera,
> > > suitable for mounting in your own project box or 
> > > whatever. They stock similar cameras ready-housed for a bit more money,
> > > but for my purposes the bare board was ideal. It cost 52 inclusive of VAT 
> > > and P&P, and arrived the day after I ordered it.
> > >
> > > The modification for long exposures is quite straightforward in principle,
> > > although rather tricky in practice. It effectively involves putting a
> > > normally-closed switch in series with pin 5 of the CXD2463R
> > > controller chip.
> > > With the switch closed, the camera behaves like a normal video camera. When
> > > the switch is opened the camera starts integrating, and when
> > > it is closed again a single integrated frame of video is produced 
> > > before resuming 'normal' operation. At the moment it is entirely manually
> > > controlled. If anyone wants to try the mod they are obviously welcome to -
> > > but it might be worth waiting until I've verified that it works on
> > > astronomical objects. The previous (defunct) camera used the same controller 
> > > and worked fairly well in long exposure mode, so I don't anticipate too many 
> > > problems other than hot pixels caused by the CCD being so warm. For results 
> > > from the previous camera, look at my folder in the files section of the QCUIAG site.
> > >
> > > If these clouds clear up for a while I'll try and have a go with it tonight.
> > >
> > > Jon.
> > >