In the fall of 2001 I bought a webcam, the Philips ToUcam Pro Model PCVC740K
because I had seen very nice pictures of the planets that were made with this camera. It's price is about 90 Euro so it isone of the more expensive types you can get. It's a USB-camera and at 1/25 sec exposuretime it can record 5 frames a second as an AVI movie. Resolution is 640 x 480 pixels maximum and image quality is high. If you use more frames per second, image quality drops because more compression is used then to be able to send the images over the USB link at high speed.
The first thing I noticed about this webcam was it's high image quality and bright colours. The precessor of the ToUcam Pro was the Vesta Pro, but the latter needs much more light for a noise free image. If you want to make planetary images, the ToUcam is the best choice at the moment. It is fun to see how people get enthausiastic at starparties when they see what is possible with so little effort! Most of them want to try it for themselves.
First you have to take the lens off, that's easy, just screw it off. But beware of dust getting on the CCD-chip. It is very difficult to remove afterwards. Dustspecs are like boulders in the image, no wonder if you consider the size of the pixels: only 5.6 micron square!
Now you have to mount the camera on the telescope, so you need some kind of adapter. You can make something using lenscaps, a lathe and so on like in the picture at the left, or you can order one from somebody who is a specialist.
Now you can put the webcam in the focuser just like an eyepiece. You should try to work at a generous focal length, the images below were made at about 2840mm focal length. To enlarge your focal lenght, use a Barlow like in the image on the right (It's the silver tube between the flip mirror and the webcam), but eyepiece projection works too of course. You also need to fine tune the software settings of the camera.
The images below were made on December 8th 2001 with my 13cm Opticon Schmidt-Cassegrain and a Vixen 2x barlow. Focal length 2840mm effective at F/22. With the (freeware) Iris software a one minute AVI movie was recorded, which was converted into Red, Green and Blue images with the same software. From these the 50 best frames were selected automatically by Iris, and then registered and median stacked. (have a look at the Iris manual). Below, from left to right: one singel frame (1/25 sec), a median stack of 50 frames and the median stack, but now "unsharp masked" and colour corrected in Photoshop. This was my first try, so you can imagine I was very satisfied with the result.