Since switching to TheSkyX as my primary control application, I have tried its built-in @focus2 autofocus routine a couple of times, but I missed FocusMax, which I used to use and really liked. Last night it was clear enough for focus testing, and I reinstalled FocusMax.
To my surprise, the software has been acquired by CCDWare, and is now a commercial offering. It’s no longer free, but I have found CCDWare’s other products to be excellent and well-supported, and I don’t mind paying a bit for reliable, low-hassle software.
As hoped, the commercial V4 is a major improvement. The original free package worked well when it worked at all, but it was always a challenge to install, integrate with various versions of the OS, configure drivers, etc. With the new version, after figuring out the initially complex user interface, it just worked, no hassles. Using the convenient “first light wizard” I did several V-curve calibration runs, and it’s giving me great focus easily.
Now that I have excellent focus it’s clear that I have a Collimation problem with my guide camera. When I get pinpoint stars off the main camera, an image through the attached guider is giving very elongated stars. Calling them “ovals” would be an undeserved compliment – they are long streaks. I assume this indicates that the pick-off mirror in the QSI camera’s WSG guide port is not properly collimated to be exactly 90 degrees to the light path.
While stars don’t have to be pinpoint for good auto guiding, since the software calculates the centre of each circle, I am pretty sure they should be round, or at least ovals. It must challenge the software to guide on little line segments. Next chance, that will be my next maintenance project.