The QHY600 astronomy camera is a 16-bit full-frame camera with a gigantic 61-Megapixel resolution, incredible low noise capabilities, and the possibility to switch between several readout modes depending on the target.
This has been our dream camera since its announcement in late 2019, but the price tag is definitely a setback for many amateur astrophotographers. We are very thankful for the friends we met in this hobby that allowed us to give this product a try, and we'll do our best to cover the most important aspects of this camera in this post!
We have used both color and monochrome versions of the QHY600 over the past several months, and it is now time to share our honest, straight-to-the-point review with you.
See the camera in action by watching our full review video on YouTube [Coming Soon] and view a gallery of images taken with both the QHY600C and QHY600M at the end of this post.
Table of Contents:
Why did we get this camera?
What's in the box?
Filter wheel and filters for the Monochrome version of the QHY600
Specs & Price | Resolution | Readout Modes | Noise
Pros & Cons
Why did we get this camera?
We've been using cropped-sensor (APS-C) cameras ever since beginning astrophotography. Our first taste of a full-frame camera was with the QHY128C (which we unboxed and quickly reviewed on our YouTube channel). From that point on, we were just in love with the extra field of view full-frame cameras offered overcropped sensors!
Last Summer, our friend Mark decided to lend us his Stellarvue SVX130… and as a bonus, also included the QHY600C! It is pretty incredible that somebody would trust us with such expensive equipment, but Mark did and we are forever grateful. We've been using this camera on the SVX130 ever since, and have been getting the cleanest data we've ever had!
The QHY600C is a one-shot-color camera, meaning is it excellent and easy to use for galaxies, clusters and some types of nebulae. The only issue with OSC cameras is that you are not able to image in narrowband with them unless you use a filter (like the excellent Triad Ultra quad-band which we reviewed here). The SVX130's adapters we use for this camera are not really filter-friendly, so we never could use a filter with this camera.
Because of the lack of broadband targets in late Fall/Winter, we asked Dustin Gibson from OPT if he would be willing to let us use the monochrome version of the QHY600, his own QHY600M, to image some nebulae in narrowband. Dustin is also an awesome friend and had no issue saying yes to our request. We once again felt extremely grateful!
The main reason why we really wanted to use this camera is because it is full frame. We made plans to image specific objects in the sky, for example the Orion Region (see our result above!), where the field of view was only possible to achieve if the camera was full frame.
Having said that, QHY also released a cropped-sensor version of the QHY600, the QHY268! Almost identical in terms of specifications and quality, the QHY268C and QHY268M are top-rated APS-C cameras that will simply have a narrower field of view than the QHY600. The good thing about the QHY268 models is that the size of your raw files will be less massive than the QHY600 raw data due to the resolution difference (26MP vs 61MP). Also, it is much cheaper!
What's in the box?
The camera comes in one large box, with the awesome QHY design printed all over it!
Let's go over what exactly is included with the QHY600.
In the box, you'll find:
The QHY600 camera (color or mono)
1 x USB3.0 Cable
1 x power cable extension with lock
1 x cigarette lighter power cable or an AC power brick (depends)*
1 x 5mm M54 to M48 adapter
1 x 7mm spacer
8 x 14mm M3 screws
1 x drying tube with desiccant
1 x card with links to download drivers and to the manual
*We're not really sure if you should expect to receive a cigarette lighter power cable (best when imaging away from home with a battery) or a power brick with an AC cord (best when imaging from your backyard). We received the power brick, but most websites that sell the QHY600 list the cigarette lighter adapter and not the power brick. Either way, it is simple to get one or the other from any online retailer.
Filter wheel and filters for the Monochrome version of the QHY600
If you ordered the monochrome version of the QHY600 instead of the color version, you also likely purchased a filter wheel. The recommended filter wheel to use with this camera is the QHY CFW3. The Large and Extra-Large versions of the filter wheel (CFW3-L and CFW3-XL) can be connected to the camera, but not the smaller versions, so keep that in mind!
The QHY CFW3-L can hold seven 2" filters, the QHY CFW3-XL can hold nine 2" filters, and you can also switch out the filter plate to use seven 50mm square filters instead.
The CFW3-L sounds perfect, it is smaller than the XL version and can hold all your filters, but because we got the QHY600M as a loan, we received the XL version of the filter wheel instead (which is fine!).
We have to admit though, that there are two things we dislike about this filter wheel:
1) The filter washers (little round plastic thingies that help mount filters to the wheel) are such a pain to use… and they include so many of them!
We had some light leak using these and we don't understand why QHY didn't simply include full size filter covers as they almost cost nothing. We had to buy our own and it was just $10, but the fact that it was not included in the box was frustrating and wasted our time.
2) The filter wheel needs its own power source. We're not 100% sure if this is due to the size of the wheel, or if other brands have the same issue, but the filter wheel will not work unless it has its own power source. This means you cannot simply connect the USB cable to your PC or hub, you also need to plug in a power cable to the battery. It requires so much power that we cannot even use the fourth port on our Pegasus Astro Pocket Powerbox or it stops working… So we have to bring a separate battery every time we go image just for the filter wheel. You may be able to bypass this by using a 4Pin cable and connect the filter wheel directly to the camera. We just ordered one and will try this soon!
You can find more information on each filter wheel available on QHY's website.
Troubleshooting: If you are unable to connect the filter wheel to your laptop, do the following:
Install the correct drivers for this filter wheel.
The CFW3 has two interface modes: 4PIN and USB. If you are connecting the wheel using the USB cable, you need to activate the USB interface mode on the filter wheel. To do so, use a pin to click the tiny button near the base of the filter wheel. The indicator light should flash red for one second, telling you the wheel is set to USB mode. If the flashing light is green, the wheel is still in 4PIN mode.
Specs & Price
As usual with all our reviews, we don't plan on going into too much detail as it can quickly become confusing. Instead, we'll go over the general specs of the camera and tell you what we think about its performance. For those of you who want to go deeper into the specifications, we have attached a full list of specs, performance graphs, and more as screenshots below.
Sensor: SONY Full Frame IMX455
Pixel Size: 3.76um x 3.76um
Mega Pixels: 61 Megapixels
Pixel Array: 9576x6388
Effective Image Area: 36mm x 24mm
Full Well: 49ke
Read Noise: 2.1e
Peak QE: >80%
Anti-Dew Heater: Yes
Telescope Connection: M54
Back Focal Length: 17.5mm
Weight: 1.7-2.1 lbs (depends on model)
And below are the full specifications taken from QHY's PDF files:
The 61 Megapixels is absolutely massive, and the raw files are of course huge in size, in our case, 123.3MB for each! This means you need to make sure to have plenty of space on your imaging computer. We once ran out of space around 1AM while imaging all night, and SGP did not tell us until sunrise and kept saving 0KB files…
The size of the files also means your processing computer must be able to handle it all while stacking and processing. We now do our best to keep our exposures as long as possible so that we have less files to stack.
Besides star clusters, where we do 30 second per shots for only one or two hours, we now force ourselves to take 10 minute exposures when imaging a deep sky object all night long. This is the only way we can avoid having too many frames to stack and crash our computer.
An interesting feature about the QHY600 is that you can change the readout mode. Different readout modes offer different advantages or disadvantages to the performance of the camera.
The QHY600 currently has 4 modes:
Readout Mode #0 - Photographic Mode
Readout Mode #1 - High Gain Mode
Readout Mode #2 - Super Fullwell Mode
Readout Mode #3 - Extend Fullwell 2CMSIT Mode
We recommend you read more about these modes on QHY's website, where you'll find some graphs similar to the one above, as well as more information on what mode to pick depending on your target. Honestly, this is a lot of gibberish to us and we simply stick to Mode #0 when imaging in broadband and Mode #1 when imaging in narrowband.
A field where the QHY600 excels is noise! Unless you go crazy with the gain, you will be speechless when checking the quality of your raw data coming straight from the camera. You will need to zoom in a LOT before seeing any noise, and that is just incredible.
To illustrate that, we have attached a couple of example shots below, but note that these are not in full resolution and were heavily reduced in size.
I remember the first time I zoomed in on our raw data of Messier 45. I haven't even processed the image at all, meaning I did not go through any noise reduction instance, and yet I was absolutely speechless because there was virtually no noise on our stacked image. See below. Shot from a Bortle 4 zone.
Left: Single unedited frame (180 sec) - Right: Stacked and processed result (3.8 hours)
And here you can see the bright star Merope, after zooming in like crazy! Remember that this single frame was heavily compressed, but check out the low noise!
180 second raw single shot with no calibration frame - Heavy crop
The amazing thing about this camera is that you can get great images, even if you're too lazy to take dark frames! We of course do not recommend this, but let's say you just finished imaging a target all night and, when stacking, realize that you do not have any dark frames saved in your library... Well, no big deal! Just stack the data without darks! 🎉
The image of the Cat's Eye Galaxy below was achieved without the use of any calibration frames. Oh and also, it was taken from our Las Vegas Bortle 9 backyard! We definitely had to fight quite a lot in PixInsight to reduce the noise, but that was mostly due to the extreme light pollution. In the end, the final result is pretty clean!
A little bit of noise can be seen when zooming in a lot, as seen on the left, but it's honestly not that bad and still very impressive.
Messier 94 from the city - No calibration frames - 7.6 hours total
We made a video about imaging this galaxy from the city, so make sure to watch it if you want to see the camera in action!
Now, what about the price?
The QHY600 is available in several different models. We'll talk about the Photographic model because that is the one any amateur astrophotographer will be happy with. The Professional model is more expensive but has identical image quality and is really not that useful for amateurs.
Both the QHY600C and QHY600M are available for the price of $4.599.
The cropped-sensor versions of the QHY600, the QHY268, is available in color for $2,095 while the QHY268Mono reaches $2,399.
As you can see, the full frame version of this camera is about twice as expensive as the APS-C models.
Pros & Cons
So, what are the Pros & Cons about the QHY600 astronomy camera?
The 61MP Resolution
When it comes to amateur astrophotography camera, a resolution of 61MP is huge! Want to get your images printed on a large format? No problem! The more megapixels your image has, the more you can zoom in before seeing any blurriness or grain. This also applies to prints, where you really are limited in size if your camera doesn't have many megapixels.
The incredibly-low amount of noise
As we said before, we are mind blown by how little the amount of noise is when shooting with this camera! This is an incredible upgrade from the previous cameras we used and it requires us to spend much less time struggling to reduce the noise during processing!
The Readout Modes
It is such a great idea to be able to easily switch between readout modes! Think of these as "pre-sets" where with just one click, you are able to change the settings of your camera for a specific type of object.
Sometimes does not connect on the first try
Using SGP (Sequence Generator Pro), we noticed that the camera would sometimes not connect on the first attempt. We would have to either re-plug the camera or first click on the settings box before clicking on the connect box. Note that this has greatly improved over the last few months, and it might have been an SGP issue. We've only had to unplug and re-plug the camera once in the past several weeks. Either way, it is not a major issue.
The CFW3 filter wheel
The QHY CFW3 is a little bit annoying because it draws a lot of power for doing just a minor rotation of filters. We recently purchased the 4Pin cable, which should allow us to get rid of the power cable and connect the filter wheel directly to the camera, and will update this post if everything works as intended!
So, in conclusion, what do we think of the QHY600?
The QHY600 truly is our dream camera! We really believe that this is a long-term camera that you will not need to replace for many, many years! The Monochrome version of the camera requires a filter wheel with 2" filters, which can raise the total price by quite a lot so keep that in mind when deciding between the QHY600C or QHY600M.
A great and cheaper alternative if you do not care about the camera being full frame or APS-C would be the QHY268: the cropped-sensor model of the QHY600.
This might sound cheesy, but we believe that the QHY600 really is the ultimate astrophotography camera as of today.
If you'd like to purchase this camera and support us at the same time, you can use our affiliate link! Don't worry, there is no extra cost to you at all :) If you have any question about the camera, you know you can count on us to help you out to the best of our abilities, so feel free to reach out to us on social media or through email!
Example Images Taken with the QHY600 Camera
Below are just a few images we have taken using both the QHY600C and the QHY600M. Make sure to click on each picture to see them in higher resolution on our full post and learn more about how we achieved these results!
Our Full Review Video of the QHY600
Want to see the camera in action? Head over to our YouTube channel or watch our video below! [COMING SOON]
Antoine & Dalia Grelin
You might also like...