The Original ZWO ASIair
I want to share my experience and review of this product since I have had this device for over a month and successfully used it numerous times.
On September 4th, 2018, I received my ASIair direct from ZWO. I paid $20 extra for expedited shipping and it was worth it. It shipped from China to Plattsburgh, New York in 4 days with a holiday weekend in the middle. It was shipped via DHL in a small package and secured in a small box. I opened the package and it included all the essential wires I needed to hook it up including the 5 volt power cable, USB-RS232 cable, 12 volt to 5 volt dc converter, 32GB Samsung microSD card with the OS preinstalled on it, a microSD card reader to plug directly in to the USB port on my laptop, Velcro tape to attach the device to my setups, a quick guide and of course the ASIair. I have no experience whatsoever with Raspberry Pi other than what I previously read in the forums and saw there are other available options which I did look in to. I saw the ASIair at NEAF and liked how it was compatible with my already owned ZWO cameras.
The first thing I did was back the OS from the microSD card up to my computer using win32diskimager. ZWO recommends doing this in case the microSD card becomes corrupt. It took about 30 minutes to do this step. In the meantime I downloaded the free ASIair application from the Apple App Store. I was worried because I use the Orion StarSeek app and I saw all the instructions reference SkySafari. I knew SkySafari and StarSeek are basically the same app just named differently. Before buying SkySafari, I wanted to see if SkySafari would work. Once the ASIair app was finished downloading (I downloaded it to my Apple iPhone X and iPad) and the OS was backed up, I removed the microSD card from the laptop and put it back in the ASIair. The ASIair microSD card has a gap in between the floor plate and the port. I missed the port and it slid in the box. Luckily the sides come off the ASIair and it was easy to get the microSD card out. The next time I was more careful and plugged the microSD card in the port with no problem. The one thing I found the product was lacking was a nice user manual (it now comes with an excellent manual which addresses my initial questions). I used my Celestron CGEM DX Mount with my Orion 8 inch F3.9 Newtonian in my back yard. I connected the hand controller from the mount using the RS232 cable to the ASIair. I used my ASI 1600mm-pro on the scope. I connected the ZWO EFW to the on board ASI 1600 USB hub. I used an Orion Thin OAG with the ASI 174mm for a guide camera. The guide camera plugged in to the ASI 1600 USB hub and to the mount. I ran one cable from the ASI 1600 to the ASIair. To power the ASIair, I used the power supply from my ASI 1600 (12 volt 5amp) with a splitter to power the ASIair and the 1600mm-Pro. Upon plugging everything in, the ASIair powered on. I went to settings on my iPad and selected the ASIair WiFi and the password 12345678. I entered the ASIair application and it prompted me to select my guide camera, focal length of the guide system and the imaging camera and the focal length of the telescope. The ASIair app then entered the imaging screen. I was able to control the WiFi and select either the 2.4ghz or 5Ghz band. With the 5 ghz band I can connect about 20 yards. With the 2.4ghz band I can connect in my house (through walls) and at a distance of about 40 yards (much slower connection though). I could enter the camera settings and turn on the cooling and select the gain. I could enter the guide camera settings and select the gain and control the aggressiveness of the guider. I entered the filter wheel control and instantly had full control of the filter wheel. I entered the telescope setting which I could connect the mount. With my Celestron mounts, I use the SynScan setting to connect with no issues. The first time I set the mount up, I had to do a rough two star alignment. I then entered the storage settings where you can access the storage and delete files. (One recommendation I gave to ZWO was to be able to preview the images from this screen). At this time you can’t preview your captures. Another thing I hope for in the near future is electronic focuser control, which I saw ZWO said will be released soon. On the capture screen, you can have focus control, control the binning, and can bring up a more detailed screen which has the HFD value on a graph. Once the HFD value is at the smallest value, you have achieved focus. I put the focus mask on the scope to compare and my diffraction spikes indicated a perfect focus. I then switched from focus to preview. I took a 4 second preview image and the histogram did an automatic stretch. I could see several stars on the screen. While on the preview screen I pressed the Plate Solve button and it plate solved in 4 seconds. I previously used the Orion StarSeek application with my mount so the settings were already loaded in StarSeek (SkySafari). I have it on Celestron CGEM and German Equatorial in the settings. In the plate solve screen when completed, it gives an option to “sync” when I pressed this it said “success”. I switched to the StarSeek app and connected the scope. The StarSeek app synced to the Plate Solved coordinates. This was my very first time ever plate solving and it was so simple. It actually was awesome. I used StarSeek to slew across the sky. I would plate solve again and sync it. In StarSeek I could create a frame custom to my camera sensor and the telescope so I had the frame of view. I framed helix nebula perfectly centered by plate solving and the goto on StarSeek. Once my target was centered, I pressed the guider button which brought up a blank guide graph. I pressed on the guide graph which entered the guide settings. I changed the guide exposure to two seconds and then looped it. I easily focused my guide camera and selected a star. I then pressed guide and it calibrated on the star. Within 5 minutes I was guiding and had a beautiful and accurate guide graph. I went back to the imaging screen. I selected the automation option in the capture screen and named the target, specified my exposure, filter, gain and number or captures. I then selected another capture (since I have a blacked out dark filter) to capture my dark frames and bias frames. I set it to capture and laid down in bed. I could monitor the live captures and the guiding right from my bed side. It does not do meridian flips, so from my bed, I noticed the guiding went all crazy. I reached the extreme on my mount. I stopped the guiding, selected my target in the StarSeek app and hit goto. I was back on the target and perfectly framed. I did an “assisted meridian flip” right from my bed. I selected the same guide star, recalibrated on it and was guiding again. I continued my imaging session and went back to bed. When I woke up, I went out slide put a white T-shirt over the aperture and went to the preview screen in the ASIair app. I played with the exposure until I got an average of 22,000ADU and captured my flat frames. At the end of the session I put the mount to home position and hibernate (so the next time, I don’t have to bother with my two star alignment, since I am using the ASIair to plate solve and for my goto’s.) I was able to capture all my calibration frames with the ASIair.
If the iPhone or tablet disconnects or powers off, the ASIair box does not shut down. When you power the iPhone or tablet back on, you connect it back to the ASIair and see it is still working. It just acts as a viewer and controlled for the ASIair.
The images are all labeled neatly and saved directly to the microSD card. There are three ways to retrieve your images off the microSD card. You can retrieve them wirelessly, through an Ethernet cord or by removing the microSD card and plugging the microSD card directly to the laptop/computer, using the provided adapter.
I really enjoy the ASIair and the preloaded OS to allow it to be a true plug and play. It is truly a revolutionary device for Astrophotography. I do have to reiterate the ASIair only works with ZWO cameras, excluding the old USB2 ASI 120 camera and the ZWO filter wheels. I can’t use my Orion PIAG camera with it. The ASIair allows me to not have to bring my laptop outdoors and it simplifies my gear while I setup my telescope. It also provides me the remote experience from the comfort of indoors and away from biting bugs.
I truly recommend the ASIair. I also included some screen shots to show the ASIair in action.
I have used the ASIair with my Celestron 9.25” EdgeHd, Orion 8” F3.9 Newtonian, Widefield Pentax 200mm lens, Celestron AVX Mount, Celestron CGEM DX Mount, ZWO ASI 1600mm-Pro, ASI 294 Mc-pro, ASI 174 mm, ASI 224 Mc, ZWO EFW mini and the ZWO EFW. I have also used the guider with my 50 mm guidescope and an OAG.
Update: The ASIair has come a long way since I did this product review and continues to improve every day. It now supports the ZWO Electronic Auto Focuser, Dithers, supports DSLR’s, Automatically Flips the Meridian. ZWO even came out with the ASIair Pro. Stay tuned for the next ASIair where I compare the original ASIair to the Pro and answer the question, “Should I upgrade my original ASIair to the ASIair Pro?”
Here is a closer look with a YouTube video I made going Through the ASIair. https://youtu.be/p1ZgqtYdJKI