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ST-402ME First Impressions

Posted by John Persichilli   02/13/2005 12:00AM

ST-402ME First Impressions
First Impressions
John Persichilli

After 4 months on their waiting list my ST-402ME CCD camera arrived from Anacortes. The ST-402ME is based on the ST-7 as it shares a similar CCD chip, but does not include a guiding CCD. I also ordered the special color filter wheel, which is internal.

After opening the box, my first impression was regarding the actual size of the camera body. It’s hard to estimate the stated size of the camera without actually seeing one. It’s bigger and heavier than I expected. That being said, it’s hard to beat this little package when one considers it has an internal filter wheel with a set of RBGC filters and auto dark capability.

The fit and finish of the ST-402ME is excellent which is what I’ve come accustomed to having owned several SBIG cameras over the years. The operator’s manual is clearly written and easy to follow. The writer takes the owner through the steps necessary to get the camera software and hardware working and adds a few tips and tricks just in case there are installation problems, especially with USB ports.

I installed the software on my, well used, Dell Inspiron PII-233MHz 3200 notebook computer with only one USB port, running Windows 2000 operating system. Software installation was from the supplied CD, which includes CCDOPS for Windows and the Driver Checker. Since I am familiar with CCDOPS and the Driver Checker software having already having it installed, this particular installation was a breeze.

Following the hardware steps exactly as the manual states, insured that the hardware hookup was successful on the first attempt. Windows 2000 automatically detected the ST402ME and stepped though the required driver software installations wizards, one to boot the camera and the second enables the computer to talk to the camera.

Starting CCDOPS, the USB port was already enabled and I established a link to the ST-402ME. I enabled the TEC to a set point of -5 Celsius and allowed the TEC to settle. I progressed to take a clear 10 second integration test image, followed by a set of RGB test images. As with every Santa Barbara Instrument Group cameras I’ve owned, the ST-402ME did not disappoint! I still am amazed at how well SBIG cameras perform right out of the box.

I like the fit and finish of the camera body, the threaded power cord connector, the internal filter wheel, ease of installation and robust construction and form factor of the camera as a whole. I’m also impressed with the speed at which the images are downloaded via USB. On the down side, I found the whine of the internal TEC fan annoying and bit louder from what I remember from the ST-9e I once owned. As with all USB connections not being smartly secured, caution is advised so that no one trips over the cable, disconnecting it from the computer.

Overall I rate the ST-402ME (and SBIG) 5 out of 5 stars. Even needing a couple of improvements suggested above, this camera is still a winner! I can highly recommend the ST-402ME as a mid-level entry camera that will not bust your budget. Now if only that darn El Niño will take a break so I can actually do some astro-imaging I will be a happy camper!

Click here for more about this camera. -Ed.