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PLANETARIUM  -  CALCULATORS  -  IMAGING 

Capture One Pro - DxO Optics Pro - Photomatix Pro - Lightroom - LRTimelapse - PixInsight

DeepSkyStacker - Nikon Capture NX - Autostitch - Viveza - Photoshop - Terragen - Bibble - MIRA AP

MaxIm DL/CCD - PRiSM - ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator - Picture Window Pro - IRIS

 QMiPS32 - CCDPro - StellaImage - PaintShop Pro - Photo-Paint - Photo Editor - Deep Sky 2000 IP module

Image Tool - Image32/Pro - PRISM - MS-Paint - Photo Styler - Anti Blooming

 HF Propagation programs - Ham, DSP and satellite tracking software

(c) 1999-202012

Cyanogen Productions Inc. $199-$599

 

MaxIm DL/CCD

Due to its powerful Maximum Entropy Deconvolution function (MaxEnt) and its ability to driver most of CCD cameras, MaxIm DL/CCD became a product acclaimed by all astrophotographers working with digital images. 

MaxIm DL/CCD includes "MaxEnt", a sophisticated tool able to enhance features lost in blurry images. This tool comes with an automatic Point-Spread-Function (PSF) to extract star image, Gaussian or Exponential curve, noise extraction from models and a wizard to make the tool more easy to use.

MaxIm DL/CCD supplies also standard imaging tools to alter pictures both in geometry and colors (even in false color), it can align pictures for a later B/W or color combination (including LCMY) or extraction, resize with interpolation, remove bad pixels or stretch the image. You can also easily postprocessed your images with the advanced imaging filters like FFT, Kernel, High and Low pass, unsharp mask, all functions including a preview window.

This marvellous software is completed with MaxImDL/CCD Camera Control able to driver with accuracy most CCD cameras and filter wheels (AP, Astrovid, Celestron, Meade, HiSIS, SBIG, webcam, etc). You set the exposure, focus, binning, color sequence (if need) and control the autoguider (even asking it to take some pictures) through a simple menu. Once recorded, MaxIm DL/CCD includes a CCD image Calibrator supporting bias, dark and flat field frames for preprocessing. All these functions make of MaxIm DL/CCD a product I warmly recommend to all CCD users.

For the beginner, MaxIm DL/CCD comes with a powerful on-line help with examples (including 70% of the manual) and a detailed 250 pages manual. 

MaxIM DL/CCD can read RAW images recorded by DSLRs or CCD cameras, and supports in reading and saving 32-bit FITS, 16-bit TIFF, SBIG, PC-Lynxx, PNG, BMP and JPEG formats.

Now at version 5, MaxIm DL runs on all Windows platforms. No update nor upgrade is required for Windows XP, Vista, or Seven.

(c) 2000-2016 

Alcor Systems, US site, 150-330€

PRiSM

Written by Gregory Giuliani, PRiSM is a complete software, including in this new release a planetarium, an image processing tool, a telescope driver, and more. It was selected by several professional observatories worldwide from Pic-du-Midi to MMT and ESO. Version 10 was elected as "Hot Product 2016" by Sky & Telescope.

Polar alignment using the King Method is simple and our pointing model capability will ensure your mount is always on target.

The image processing module of PRiSM allows you to preprocess (background and bias compensation, normalization, dark frame, flat field image, etc) or postprocess your digital or CCD pictures. It includes all useful functions as filtering and trichromy with sub-pixel alignment, without to forget the standard arithmetical and geometrical operations (addition, substraction, enlargment, mosaic, planisphere, etc).

Sophisticated image tools allow easy identification of your best images.

PRiSM also includes photometric and astrometric tools (data reduction and more), on par with MIRA Pro.

In parallel, PRiSM can drive some CCD cameras (Audine, FIERA, Hisis, KAF0400, SBIG, MX5, etc) and telescopes interfaces (LX200, Celestron Ultima, Sky Commander, NGC Max, Micro-Guider, Eureka, Ouranos and is compliant with Very Large Telescope TCS) including PEC support, MCMT encoders and electrical focusers.

The new version has a fully automatic observation function from opening the dome or roof, cooling the camera, auto focusing, auto centering the target, and capturing images. It can even warm up the CCD camera, park the telescope and close the roof or dome. It will even monitor your weather station or cloud sensor to make sure you get as many observations as possible from your imaging system.

See also the software part of this review for an overview of the planetarium module (version 4).

The two first screenshots at left are those of version 10 advanced, while the third screenshot is the one version 9 advanced.

Now at version 10, PRiSM runs on all Windows platforms.

(c) 2010, ESA/ESO/NASA, freeware and open source

ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator

ESA/ESO/NASA FITS Liberator is an image processing software supporting only FITS and PDS formats and saving only in TIFF format. It uses is thus limited for amateurs and mainly reserved to those taking LRGB images.

FITS is the raw image standard used by all professional observatories like ESO VLT, CFHT, NRAO, AAT, space telescopes like Hubble (HST), Spitzer, XMM, and planetary probes like Cassini–Huygens or MRO without to forget your personal FITS images recorded with your CCD camera.

FITS Liberator includes a faster and more streamlined workflow than the previous version. The CPU-intensive calculations have been optimised, allowing time savings of up to 35%. For large images the savings in efficiency are even more pronounced, also thanks to a delayed application of stretch functions.

To sustain the future development of the software the entire source code -about 30000 lines of code - is being released as open source, and anyone wishing to contribute to future versions of the programme may do so.

FITS Liberator is now at version 3 and works on MacOS X and all Windows 32-bit and 64-bit platforms.

The program is 5 MB in size and installs in a few seconds. Note that for a same resolution, a FITS image is usually 3  to 4 times larger than a RAW image recorded by an DSLR.

You will find FITS images on the CFHT Science Data Archive. Here is a sample FITS image of M57 (2.3 MB).

Note that FITS is most of time not supported by amateur software, not even by Photoshop CS and any viewer, excepted in adding them a plugin. So, if you are searching for a software supporting FITS format, for viewing or editing, you will find additional tools and converters on the GSFC-NASA website. FITS format is also supported by MaxIm DL, MIRA and IRIS among others.

(c) 1997-2002

Digital Light & Color, $89

Picture Window Pro

This program is suited for both pure photography and astrophotography processing. A context-sensitive help is always available as well as an electronic manual in Adobe Acrobat format.

This particularly interesting application is able to load multiples files doing a multi-selection. It includes basic image editing functions to alter images (geometry, color or luminance) but also more powerful tools like perspective correction, photomontage with scaling and warping.

Beside standard arithmetical functions there are some dedicated to pure photography. Various retouching tools for example allow you to work with scratched negatives or prints. You can paint and clone features to remove imperfection, lighten or darken selected areas of an image. A color correction transformation adjusts skin tones in a portrait without altering the others colors in the image, tint transformation colorises B/W images, Red Eye tool lets you suppress the red pupil when a flash is used, etc. 

The Mask dialog box contains a Color Similarity tool able to erase undesirable features by dragging an input color or range of colors over another region of the image. The Light Falloff transformation allows you to compensate light for the tendency of some lenses to produce unbalanced image. The Color gradients fades smoothly one color in another. The lasso tool and similar masks allow you to suppress undesirable backgrounds. At last like in many similar products some special effects tools are available including vignetting, distorting, embossing, edge enhancement, spiral, etc.

For astrophotography and post-processing purposes, other functions like an image blinking comparator is provided to find moving or new objects, a Stereo transformation prepares pairs of stereo photographs and, last but not least you can create composite by accurately registering and aligning all images so their data be combined pixel by pixel to create a high resolution B/W or RGB composite. This tool includes a preview mode and various filters to lighten, darken or add, blend, etc your composite.

Compared to the previous releases 2.5, version 3.x support color management too, a color match output, a new smart brush mode, new support for displaying and editing file comments added by digital cameras, a web slide show and new transformation tools (rotation during cropping, fan effect, shadowed text and more).

Picture Window Pro supports 16-bit B/W and 48-bit color images and can exchange data in numbers of formats including BMP, FITS, GIF, JPEG, RLE, TIFF with full Photo CD support and TWAIN-compatible scanners.

This new release is sold with a discount on IT8 target and software, a complete color calibration bundle for scanners, previously used in the graphic art industry.

Now at version 3.5, Picture Windows Pro runs on all 32-bit Windows platforms. A 24-bit display adapter is highly recommended. 

1999-2010, Christian Buil

Freeware

IRIS

"Here is" a small but excessively powerful tool easy to use to enhance and process your digital astronomical images.

Created by the french CCD expert Christian Buil from CNES, this program needs no more than 2 MB on disk, but includes all major functions you need to post-process your pictures.

IRIS supports RAW images from various recent DSLRs as well 48-bit FITS and PIC formats. It also imports BMP, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF images. Images can be saved in RAW Photoshop, TIFF and PNG formats.

IRIS provides rare "all-in-one" features like color or B/W isophotes mapping, 3d display or ramp (tricolor).

It supplies a dynamic threshold, some geometry alterations plus usual filters and last but not least an unsharp mask.

It can also be connected to external databases on CD-ROM as GSC, TYCHO-2, USNO-A, QMiPS32 or MicroCat.

At last IRIS has capabilities to manage astrometry and photometry datas and includes a built-in module to drive a LX200 mount (guide, center, find and slew) or a webcam throug a COM port.

Now at version 5.8, IRIS only runs on Windows platforms. A complete tutorial is available on Christian Buil's website.

1998-2000, Christian Buil

Freeware

QMiPS32

This application was created by the french experts Christian Buil in collaboration with Alain Klotz and Eric Thouvenot, known for their know-how in the field of CCD Astronomy. It is delivered with the HiSIS CCD camera.

Running under DOS protected mode, it only requires a 80386 or higher processor and 16 MB RAM. This product hid however a 32 bit program including all pre-processing operations and a professional looking GUI. Among its most astonishing commands there are photometric analysis, planetary cartography, polarimetric analysis, wavelets analysis, astrometry when connected to an external CD-ROM like the Guide Star Catalog, blink comparison for moving or new objects seraches like supernovae, asteroids or comets.

Advanced CCD users will find its numerous advanced filters very useful. There are for example the classical arithmetical functions like add, substract, average (median sum), functions like logarithmic scaling and unsharp masking but also the famous Maximum Entropy or Lucy-Richardson restore functions and a Radial Gradient to enhance the sharpness and details of your pre-processed images. This program can also read the Buil-Thouvenot CD-ROM Atlas (BT-Atlas) and import 8 or 16 bits FITS, SBIG, BMP, TIFF and ASCII format, plus a convenient raw format.

QMiPS32 runs on 80486 processors and higher with at least 8 MB RAM. I warmly recommend it.

(c) 1999-2000

CCDSoFT France

CCDPro

This program is quite similar to Picture Window Pro and comes with a very convenient help menu as well a computer status.

Its main advantage is to use dynamic tools or toggle which display in real-time the effects of an alteration, the number of pixels replaced, etc. It includes standard alteration functions on images geometry or color saturation and provides a small pixels editor. Layers can also be sent back or in the foreground and a text can be add to your images.

Some pre-processing features like Dark & Frame use offset, dark frame and flat field images to substrat all errors when using a CCD camera. Of course this option is a time-processor hungry even of fast Pentium III systems. It is completed with a Kill Warm and Cool pixels function.

Written by imaging experts, there is a specific Operations menu which includes filtering functions like Convolution and Out-Range and the famous Maximum Entropy and Lucy-Richardson restore algorithms, both using the PSF to compute the stars profile.

Last but not least, CCDPro allows you to split a color picture in its RGB components or to create color composites from accurately aligned B/W layers, to modify the contrast, brillance, the size or even the X,Y shift of each of your layers.

Minus sides, by definition the RGB split cannot extract the luminance channel although the Multi-Layers submenu can create a LRGB picture. The zoom is limited to a range 8:1-1:8 and there is no gamma corrector excepted by creating a mask. The pixel editor replaces only pixels by averaging its neighbors values and 16 colors mode is not supported.

But CCDPro supports 8 bit/pixel palletized (256 colors) and 24 bit/pixel (true color) BMP formats. It saves in ST7, FITS, BMP or JPG format. Black & White images are exported using a 256 levels gray palette and 8 bits/pixel and color images are exported using 24 bits/pixel.

Now at version 1.1, CCDPro is available for most Windows 16 or 32-bit platforms.

(c) Astroarts, 1999

StellaImage

By chance, surfing japanese websites, I found this program. This is a relatively complete product with colorful icons including all basic image processing of cooled CCD images (dark-frame and flat-field correction, level adjustement). A special digital develpment function allows you to show natural tone in CCD images by sharpening edges according to the brightness in the image. This tool emphases details in images by using an hyperbolic function to convert the gamma characteristic. 

The image processing functions ensure various adjustments  that complete standards alteration functions (resize, shift, rotate, adjuste tone curves of  B/W or RGB channels, alter brightness and contrast).

There are some filters like a quite simple unsharp mask, bluring and sharpening, enhancing edges and masking (color emphasis). StellaImage can also combines images to reduce the noise, adjust the input pixels to darken or highlight areas and combine RGB or LRGB images to create color composites. To interpret a contrast, an histogram of image tones is available as well as a palette to create a four false colors image.

Not all functions display a preview and the undo is hidden in the pull-down menu. StellaImage can directly control Twain scanner and read normal photographs. Now at version 2, StellaImage is provided without support and runs on all Windows 32-bit platforms.

(c) 1991-2010

Jasc Software, $69.99

PaintShop Pro

Easy to use, full of  icons it is pleasant to use at first run. Although it looks like MS-Photo Editor it is more powerful than its concurrent. Its interface is accessible to all even to beginners without much brainstorming.

Plus sides, PSP on-line help is very convenient and answer to all your waits. More easily than probably some other products, it can alter images, both in size and colors, create special effects, adjust hue of a specific layer or extract the outline of an object (magic wand) to create masks, etc. You can also place a text on a path and bending it to any custom shape. It contains all paint tools you need, use vector drawing tools, a color gradient editor and a capture module. 

You can also add watermarking for embedding and reading copyright in your images. PSP manages thumbnails too in various sizes, an easy way to browse your subdirectories in place of using the standard explorer searching for a specific image. 

PSP comes with a second application call Animation Shop2 able to use AVI and Autodesk animations formats. At last through its Twain interface, it provides direct support for many of the most popular digital cameras.

Now at version X3, PSP can export in transparent GIF and JPEG and supports PostScript and Adobe Photoshop PSD formats.

(c) 1988-2010, Corel, $89

Photo-Paint

This program was included in the Corel Ventura 8 package. Now it is sold separately as PaintShop Photo Pro

This program is pleasant to use and really powerful. It looks as if it was designed with the end-users requests in mind. For example, the menu toolbar is user definable and many tools can be extracted from the toolbar and moved on your desktop if necessary. In case of problem you can always take a look at the on-line tutor, not complete but useful for inexperienced users. 

As many modern products it can directly acquire images from scanner or digital camera. It uses all standard image alterations tools and give you also the opportunity to manipulate 3D models. Masks and transparencies haven't be forgot. You can create them, add them to your original and enhance this way your images in a few mouse clic.

A Scrapbook is also available to drag-and-drop objects from your CD or any FTP site, to find files and folders. All images can be displayed as thumbnails.

Among its unusual qualities it can create movies and save them in AVI or GIF format. That means that it can also read animations GIF and alter its individuals frames as any other picture. Among its special tools you can select a part of an image and transform it as you want or use the predefined special effects. All tools you are using open a small floating windows in which you can optionally see a preview of your alteration. You can also use a scripting module to automatically create text or background with special appearance. Color and printing are spectacular as it is able to manage up to 48-bit RGB images, to convert to NTSC or Adobe Postscript3. It can load or save in over 70 files format. 

At last Corel gives you access to his on-line newsgroup to get a free flow of information and a technical support mainly driven by Corel volunteers.

Now at version PaintShop Photo Pro X3, it runs on all Windows platforms.

(c) 1998 Microsoft corp.

Free from Brothersoft

Photo Editor

Probably the most popular imaging tool from Microsoft as it comes with the Office97 Professional package as a graphical option but it not installed by default. Advantage, it is easy to use thanks to its predefined functions with standard thresholds.

This product is rather simple and addressed to all the family. It gathers standard image and colors alterations functions like crop, sharpen, soften, negative, despeckle, posterize plus the always and very useful dynamic balance (brightness, contrast and gamma with independent RGB channels) and a few geometric functions (affine transformation and rotations).

To satisfy young artists, some "painting" effects are added like notepaper, watercolor, stained glass, etc. In case of errors using copy and paste function par example the Undo/Redo is always welcome or simply to see the effect of your alteration.

Because it is light, fast and intuitive, I sometimes use it to soften my artworks or to modify the geometry or the balance of my electronic images. 

Hiatus, most filters have very limited thresholds, there is no arithmetic function, no possibility to register images, no way to merge images or create composites, doing astrometric calibration, no plotting data or way to measure images or creating filters. At last using high detailled images (say larger than 10 Mpixels), the process sometimes stops working at mid-way or is unable to open the file or to display the preview, displaying a "not enough memory". It is also limited in reading to file smaller than about 4.5 MB on disk.

PhotoEditor read and save in various formats including BMP, GIF, JPEG, TIFF or Kodak Photo CD. Frozen at version 3.01, it is included in Office97 Professional Pack and can be downloaded free of charge from Internet.

(c) 1999, Registered

Steven S.Tuma & Dean Williams

Deep Sky 2000 Image processing

Inside the well-known planetarium software featured in another page of this web, there is this IP module that presents some original features. 

Aside of standards imaging functions like colors and image alteration (hue, brightness, size, etc), it includes a shearing option able to stretch images.

Plus sides, it uses a TWAIN source to acquire images and is able to create animations. 

At last it saves in a great variety of formats even exotic ones, from 1 to 32-bits including the Leadtools CMP format which compresses even more than the JPEG algorithm.

Not fully tested.

1995-2001

The University of Texas Health Science Center, Freeware

Image Tool

This a complex imaging software able to process 24-bit images. As many others it uses a TWAIN peripheral to acquire images. Its functions are quite similar to MS-Photo Editor but here stops the comparison. 

Written for medical imaging in mind, IT2 is analysis oriented. It takes a deep usage of special functions like data analysis, tools like elliptical AOI, a spatial and density calibration mode, etc. 

IT2 includes all standard tools. It is able to alter image geometry but rotates images by steps of 90° only, it can adjust balance, smooth, contrast and sharpness, use masks, functions like gradient, mean, stack and merge images, substract quantitiative or qualitative one image from another,... and includes a small pixel editor among other functions.

At last its power comes from its built-in scripting module and it may use plug-ins through dll's loading. 

Being given this is an alpha version there are still some bugs well documented that the UTHSCSA team is currently fixing. Now at version 2c, Image Tool runs on Windows 98, NT 4.0 and Windows 2000.

(c) 1992, CompuScope, $699

IMAGE-32/PRO

There is something common with MIRA in this software. Written some years ago in C and assembly languages, this 32-bit program is the fastest I know, comparable to SUN or VAX workstations and able to display very large images over 2 K-pixels by side, depending your available memory. More expensive than MIRA this is in my humble opinion its only competitor. 

Here are some of its features : X and Y real-time plots, interactive histogram, box sum for photometry, interactive 8-bit false color, tricolor merging, linear and logarithmic displays, histogram equalization and more.

In addition it supports numerous mathematical functions including image arithmetic and functions, high and low pass filters, edge detection, FFT, convolutions with various masks, detector flat fielding and you can also create your own filter kernels.

Aside the standard mathematical functions and filters it offers some photometry routines like a point source function (PSF) to find stars in images, background subtracted aperture photometry given relative magnitude and error estimates.

In fact thanks to its fast manipulation of large data this program is suited for variable star studies, astrometry, supernova searches, optical transient, etc.

It supports 32-bit images as well as 4 bytes per pixel real images and is able to remap 96-bit colors space to 256 colors. It imports numbers of CCD file formats, NASA IMQ, IMG or IBG format, FITS, GIF, ASCII and binary files. At last it can drive a Meade LX200 and SSC series telescope and control various CCD cameras.

Already at the time of its first publishing, the manufacturer suggested to use a 80386 with math coprocessor or higher CPU, 8 MB RAM and an SVGA 1024x768 display. A 24-bit display adapter is highly recommended.

(c) 1990, Astro Equipment, 1600 FRF (~$250)

PRISM

This is a French product developed by professional astronomers and image processing specialists. Using a professional-like GUI this is a program similar to MIRA but simpler and voluntary dedicated to amateurs. It includes more than 180 functions, among which standard arithmetical and geometrical functions, filters like unsharp mask, Gauss, low and high-pass, gradient, user-defined convolution and more. It is completed with wavelets analysis, image restoration by deconvolution, FFT, rotational gradient to enhance radial structures like comets, black optimization, flat-field frame generator (median filter), polynomial gradient correction and an expert programmation mode. 

The image analysis module is quite complete providing photometric measurements and astrometric analysis (by centroiding calculation and stellar modeling) to extract stars from the continuous background with error estimates and a blink mode to search new objects.

The visualization mode accepts bilinear zooms and B-spline, isophotes, 3D views, trichromy, drawing functions and animations.

Created in the early 90's, this program runs on 80386 and higher processor with 2 MB RAM and SVGA monitor but negative point it only displays a maximum of 256 colors (an 8-bit display adapter is enough). So distracting artifacts can show up in areas of subtle colors variation such as clear skies. Good to know, dozen of raw images are provided with the program.

(c) 1990-2000,Microsoft Corp

Registered

MS-Paint

Supplied with the Microsoft Windows OS, this is a very simple product that a 4 years old kid can use to draw colored circles, box and write text in various sizes and fonts and zoom in. Its rotation tool beeing limited to flip in both directions and rotate at 90, 180 or 270°, I mainly use it for its ease to use, for its capabilitiy to fill in an area with the exact tint, for its free selection able to extract any custom part of the image and to copy it elsewhere, its possibility of superimpose several images, to mirror or reverse it, as many features that are not so easily or quickly accessible in more powerful tools like Picture Window Pro or Photoshop. MS-Paint can also be useful to create small plain color bitmaps for illustrating purposes. MS-Paint saves only in monochrome, 16 or 256 colors bitmap and 24-bit color. The product is included in most Windows OS from 95 to Seven.

(c) 1990-91

ULead Systems, Inc.

Photo Styler

Known for his GIF Animator and other Web tools, ULead published in early '90 this Windows 3.1 product that satisfied me before I bought some more powerful tools. It can really be used by newbies. If you know something about gamma and mask technique, this product is yours. It is able to alter easily images both in colors and sizes and comes with a complete pixel editor. It also includes several distortion functions, 2D and 3D-spatial effects. Only counterpoint, it only supporting TIFF, PCX, GIF, EPS and some old formats in 256 colors.

I mention it if you are looking for a software running on 8-bit OS but it runs also fine on 32-bits OS as Windows NT in a separate memory space. Only problem it cannot read all TIFF images but only the non-compressed and LZW formats.This old application uses also the short file name format when displaying long filenames (6~n.3).

(c) 2000, K.Tanaka, $89

Anti-blooming filter software

This anti-blooming routine of a few dozen KB runs under Windows. This simple but powerful routine is able to suppress strikes on digital pictures taken with a CCD camera not equipped with an anti-blooming filter. It is dedicated to Apogee, Meade and SBIG CCD and read 16-bit FIT images.It can be used standalone or as a plug-on to MaxIM/DL.

Available from Starizona under the name "ABF21-CD". Really, a must.

By the way, Kazuyuki Tanaka is an expert in optics and has collabored to this website in illustrating several reports (about turbulence, in the image gallery, etc).

Take a look at my Digital Darkroom menu for more detail about image processing 

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