Note: For software and user manual downloads, please click the Downloads tab above.
Our mid-size Aluma® Series cameras offer performance and features not available in any other scientific-grade imaging camera. This lightweight (2.2 lbs) and compact (4.5″ x 4.5″ x 4″ with handles) camera includes two-stage cooling, USB 2.0 and optional WiFi 802.11 b/g/n interfaces, ultra-reliable even-illumination shutter, and fast low-noise readout. Aluma can be operated from a tablet or smartphone, or from a Windows, Macintosh, or Linux PC.
The Aluma series supports a wide range of accessories, including the 8-position FW8S-Aluma filter wheel with micron-level filter positioning, FW8G-Aluma filter wheel with built-in autoguider, AO-8A Adaptive Optics accessory, and Remote Guide Head.
New! Aluma is now available in two versions – the original with USB and WiFi, and now a lower-cost Aluma U version with only the USB interface.
Check out our package deals below for extra savings!
Aluma 814 – Incredible Sensitivity
The ICX-814 CCD is one of the best optical sensors ever produced, with peak quantum efficiency over 75%, very broad spectral sensitivity, and extraordinary blue sensitivity. It also has very low read noise, large dynamic range, and extremely low dark current. This combination of high sensitivity and very low noise means you get cleaner, deeper images – faster.
Tony Hallas had this to say about the sister camera, the Aluma 694:
“This camera is crazy…
in 60 seconds it can show the blue jet in IC 1182…
now that is blue sensitive…!!!”
Thanks to our supply agreement in place with the manufacturer, we can continue to purchase new sensors through 2025.
Aluma Features include:
- Wide variety of imaging sensors
- Light weight, compact design
- Centered optical axis for optimum instrument balance
- Ultra reliable even-illumination (photometric) mechanical shutter
- Support for iOS, Android, Windows, Macintosh, and Linux
- USB 2.0 and optional WiFi 802.11 b/g/n communications interfaces
- Full frame image buffering eliminates readout artifacts and provides 100% reliable wireless download
- 2-Stage TE cooling with typical -50C from ambient
- Twin variable speed fans with SmartCoolingTM technology
- High accuracy temperature regulation
- Built-in RBI Pre-flash (full frame front-illuminated sensors only)
- External TTL trigger inputs and output
- Included 110V / 220V power supply and optional 12VDC operation
- User-rechargeable desiccant plug
- Built-in 1/4-20 tripod mount
- Support for high precision 8-position filter wheels
- Support for external guide head, self-guiding filter wheels, and adaptive optics
- Bulletproof firmware update capability – virtually impossible to “brick”
Aluma is designed to operate via USB 2.0 and optionally WiFi 802.11 b/g/n. Designed from the ground-up to support operation on any modern computing platform, Aluma is compatible with iOS, Android, Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. Fully-documented and supported drivers are available for all platforms, including ASCOM drivers. The Aluma camera interface specification is fully documented, supporting the development of fully custom interfaces.
All Aluma models ship with MaxIm LT for Windows – a special version of MaxIm DL specific to our cameras. Aluma also supports third-party applications through ASCOM and native drivers.
Compact and Lightweight Design
Aluma cameras measure just 4.25″ x 4.25″ x 4.0″ with handles (3.5″ without handles) and weigh just 2.2 lbs (1 kg).
The Aluma 814 has electronic shuttering, allowing a minimum exposure of just 0.001s. In addition it has a high reliability mechanical shutter, which facilitates accurate dark/bias calibration frames.
High Performance ICX-814 Image Sensor
The Aluma 814 uses the popular 9 megapixel SONY ICX-814ALG sensor. This sensor has 3388 x 2712 pixels at 3.69 microns square, for a 14.6 mm x 12.8 mm optical format.
This is a high sensitivity interline CCD sensor with extremely low dark current and very low read noise. Combining this high-performance sensor with Aluma’s high cooling performance and low readout noise results in exceptionally clean images.
This sensor includes microlens technology that concentrates light on the sensitive area of each pixel. The CCD’s sensitivity peaks in the center of the visible spectrum at 550 nm, and maintains high sensitivity throughout the visible spectrum. The ICX-814 is particularly good in blue compared to other sensors on the market.
All Aluma cameras include our powerful new SmartCooling technology. The two-stage cooler, powerful fans, and advanced heat sink designed using thermal flow simulation combine to produce typical cooling delta from ambient of -50C. This is quite a feat considering the Aluma’s very compact and lightweight package.
SmartCooling automatically adjusts the fan speed to optimize cooler performance and power consumption. The camera’s firmware is constantly monitoring the sensor and heat sink temperatures, as well as controlling the cooler power. When full cooling power is needed – when ramping down or running near full power – the fans ramp up to their maximum speed, resulting in the strongest possible cooling. When less cooling power is needed the fans automatically slow to reduce noise levels and power consumption. SmartCooling also prevents any possibility of overheating by backing off power if the heat sink gets too hot – so you don’t need to worry if your camera is baking in a hot observatory during the day.
Each Aluma camera package includes:
- MaxIm LT software – please use this form to request your license
- Deluxe carrying case
- Universal power supply (110V / 220V, 50-60 Hz)
- 2″ Nosepiece adapter
- USB flash drive containing software, drivers, and documentation
- 15 foot (4.5 m) USB cable
- Tracking interface cable
Optional Micron-Precision Filter Wheel
The optional FW8S-Aluma 8-position filter wheel includes a positive centering mechanism that precisely centers each filter in the exact same position every time. This single-pixel accuracy completely eliminates ghost images of dust spots and other artifacts after flat-fielding.
Positive detent mechanism provides single-pixel filter position accuracy
Precision flat-fielding with utlra-accurate indexing
The left-hand image shows a dust spot on the filters. A flat-field calibration frame was taken, then the filter wheel was rotated several times before taking a second picture, which was flat-field calibrated, at right. No evidence of the dust spot is visible. This high precision results in the highest quality images and excellent photometric accuracy.
The Aluma wheel holds standard 36 mm filters, and inserts are available for 1-1/4″ filters, which are suitable for smaller format CCD sensors.
The Aluma filter wheel replaces the camera’s front plate, resulting in the minimum possible back-focus, ensuring that the camera / filter wheel combination will reach focus on the widest possible variety of optical systems.
Integrated autoguider with adjustable pick-off mirror and focal reducer
For astronomical imaging, the wheel is available in the FW8G-Aluma configuration. This adds a built-in focal reducer and autoguider. The pick-off mirror and guide camera focus can both be adjusted and locked using simple thumbscrews. With the autoguider positioned in front of the filters, optimum guiding sensitivity is provided for all filter slots. Using a built-in autoguider system eliminates issues with flexure, mirror shift, and other mechanical problems that can degrade guiding accuracy.
Interchangeable plates are available to switch your wheel between FW8G and FW8S configuration.
Optional AO-8A Adaptive Optics
All Aluma models can operate with the AO-8A Adaptive Optics accessory. The AO-8A uses a tip-tilt window to quickly and precisely adjust the image position in response to autoguider feedback. With Adaptive Optics there is no backlash, stiction, or lag, and the movements are extremely precise and accurate. This allows the AO-8A to not only remove the effects of periodic error, drift, and wind gusts, but also reduce the effects of atmospheric seeing.
For more information please see AO-8A.