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QHY533M - Best BEGINNER Monochrome Camera for Astrophotography? Full Review

Updated: May 19, 2023


QHY533M on white background

Long-awaited by amateur astrophotographers, a monochrome camera using the IMX533 sensor is now finally available!


The QHY533M is a 14-bit astronomy-dedicated cooled camera with 9 MegaPixels and a pixel size of 3.76 microns. This camera has low readout noise and does not have any amp glow!



In this post, we’ll put this affordable astro-dedicated camera to the test from our Bortle 9 backyard. We’ll use our basic beginner 7nm narrowband filters and see how the camera performs when imaging a couple of different deep-sky objects. Be sure to watch our review video and download our raw data and example files later in this post!


QHY533M full astrophotography review

The QHY533M camera was designed because of how well the IMX533 sensor was received when it came out on the ZWO ASI533MC. It has high sensitivity, low readout noise, no amp glow, and most importantly, a fair price.


We’ve seen a ton of people on social media wondering if a monochrome version would ever come out, so it’s nice to see that astronomy companies listen to the community and... give birth to this!


Tables of Contents

  • Introduction

  • What's in the Box?

  • Tips for using the QHY filter wheel

  • Imaging the Orion Nebula with the QHY533M

  • Specs | Resolution | Square Sensor | Pricing

  • Imaging the Owl Nebula with the QHY533M

  • Download our Raw Data from the QHY533M

  • Final Thoughts


 

QHY533M - What's in the Box?


We received the camera along with a filter wheel. The filter wheel is the QHYCFW3S-SR which is small and light, perfect for this camera. It can hold a total of seven 1.25" filters. This filter wheel is great for small to medium size cameras that use a cropped sensor. If you plan on upgrading to a full-frame camera in the future, you'll need a larger filter wheel that is capable of holding 2" filters.


As you can see in the picture below, the size of this small filter wheel is definitely night and day when compared to our QHY600 filter wheel which is the Extra Large version.


QHY Small CFW vs Extra Large CFW
QHY Small CFW vs Extra Large CFW

We made a full unboxing video for both the filter wheel and the camera, so be sure to go watch it. But let’s quickly summarize what comes in each box.



QHY533M what comes in the box

In the camera box, you will find:

  • The QHY533M camera

  • A power cable with a power brick

  • A power cable extension cord

  • A USB 3 cable

  • A desiccant

  • Some adapter rings with screws



QHY small filter wheel in the box

And if you also purchased the small QHY filter wheel, you’ll get:



 

Tips for Using the QHY Filter Wheel


If you have never used a QHY filter wheel before, you might be wondering about the included cables. Should you use the USB cable to connect the filter wheel to your computer? Should you use the 4PIN cable to connect the filter wheel to the camera? Should you use both?


To save you some time and frustration, here is what we recommend:


  • Ignore the USB2 cable. Leave it in the box and never use it. Using the USB cable means you will need to connect the other end of the cable either straight to your laptop or to a USB hub. That is one extra cable dangling around we don't need. Also, if using a large filter wheel, the USB cable might not be enough to power the wheel.


QHY533M and filter wheel with 4PIN cable
The camera and filter wheel connected by the 4PIN cable
  • Connect the 4PIN cable from your filter wheel to your camera. That cable is short and won't get stuck anywhere.


  • Grab a tiny pin or another very thin object. There is a small button near the bottom of the filter wheel that needs to be pressed in order to switch the filter wheel mode from USB to 4PIN. Using your thin object, click the button until the light turns green. Green means 4PIN mode, Red means USB mode.


You should now be able to use the filter wheel normally. Don't worry, you will not have to mess with that tiny button anymore after that first time unless you decide to switch to the USB cable in the future.


 


Unboxing the QHY533M and QHYCFW3S-SR


I made a quick video unboxing both the QHY533M camera and the small QHY filter wheel. You can watch the video below!



 

Imaging the Orion Nebula with the QHY533M


Before we go into the specifications and performance of the camera, let's quickly show you one of the two nebulae we photographed using the QHY533M so far: the famous Orion Nebula (Messier 42).


The QHY533M attached to our small refractor telescope
The QHY533M attached to our small refractor telescope

This shot was taken from the city, using 7nm beginner filters (instead of the much better 3nm ones we usually use).


The telescope used, which you can see on the side, was also a beginner-grade telescope, a small 70mm refractor from Meade now discontinued.



Looking at the picture below, you can see that the camera did a really good job at capturing the intricate details, colorful gas, and low-noise background even from our Bortle 9 backyard! The nebula appears blue and golden because of the color palette used, the "Hubble Palette" using narrowband filters.


With just 2 hours and a half of total exposure time, we are impressed with the results!



M42 in narrowband using the QHY533M