How useful are Video cameras for Photometry

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Alex Pratt

Hi Alan,

Analogue video cameras, such as the Watec 902H2 Ultimate and the more sensitive Watec 910, give 8-bit output, a brightness range of 256 values. They can measure accuracies to 0.1 mag., such as this light curve of a minimum of the eclipsing binary, RZ Cas

obtained using a Watec 910 camera and an old 50mm f/2 SLR lens. Thin cloud caused the large amount of scatter at minimum. Of course, using a telescope would reach fainter targets.

Video dark frame and flat field recordings can be made and used to calibrate the data.

Members of the Variable Star Section use CCD and CMOS cameras for photometry and produce estimates accurate to 0.01 mag. This is because they are using 12-, 14- or 16-bit sensors, with much larger well depths, supporting a significantly greater range in brightness, giving better accuracy. Exoplanet observers take photometry to an even higher level.

It depends what you want to do. Video photometry is useful for transient events with large magnitude drops and for estimating times of minima of eclipsing binaries, but I suggest looking at the VSS webpages and its Members’ Pages if you wish to do good quality UBVRI photometry.