Philips SPC900NC/00 Webcam for Astrophotography

Philips SPC900NC/00 web camera for astrophotography

The Philips SPC900NC/00 was regarded as one of the most popular cameras used in imaging planets when it was introduced in 2003. By attaching the web camera to a telescope using a special type of adapter, it is now possible for amateur astronomers to take high-quality photos of planets. With some circuit modification, this camera may also be used as a guide camera for autoguiding purposes. Its main imaging sensor is a CCD, which is far more sensitive than the CMOS sensor used in other web cameras.

For a prime-focus setup, we need to remove the camera’s lens and then replace it with a webcam-to-telescope adapter. In most cases, the lens may be easily removed by unscrewing it from the camera’s main body (turning it counter clockwise until it finally detaches). In this particular camera however, the lens is held securely in place by a plastic stopper which apparently serves also as the focus adjustment knob of the camera.

WARNING: I will not be responsible for any damage caused to your equipment. This procedure will void the camera’s warranty. Follow instructions at your own risk!

Using a minimum amount of force, pull the the focus adjustment knob until it detaches. Once removed, turn the lens clockwise until it finally detaches. Removing the lens exposes the camera’s CCD sensor (Alternatively, if you are worried that the web camera might get damaged by pulling the adjustment knob, you may opt to open the camera’s housing instead.).

The image below shows the lens and the focus adjustment knob removed from the camera.

The web camera’s lens will then be replaced by a special type of adapter called a webcam-to-telescope adapter.

Connecting the web camera to a telescope is simply a matter of inserting the adapter into the eyepiece barrel of the telescope’s focuser.


The camera is now ready for planetary imaging! In my next post, I will describe in detail how to image planets using webcams. Clear skies!

Jupiter_February2,2014
An image of Jupiter taken with an SPC900NC/00 web camera. For more sample photos, click here.

Related Articles:
Imaging Planets Using Webcams
Planetary Imaging

For featured photos, click here.
For tutorials on how to get started with astrophotography, click here.
For DIY astronomy projects useful for astrophotography, click here.
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© Anthony Urbano (Manila, Philippines)

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21 thoughts on “Philips SPC900NC/00 Webcam for Astrophotography

  1. Hi Eteny,

    First of all thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and in such great detail. I am benefiting from it quite a lot.

    On this article of removing the lens and replacing it with the adaptor, I just bought the camera and pulled the plastic stopper, it came off, I put it back and pulled again and it came off very easily. then just unscrewed the lens and screwed in the adaptor. May be I just got lucky that I did not break anything, but saved me all the effort of removing and putting together the casing.

    Thanks again and keep up the good work.

    Regards,
    Maneesh

    • Hi Maneesh,

      In my case, I was a bit hesitant to resort to that method since anything that involves brute force is something that I try to avoid as much as possible. But then again simply pulling the plastic stopper works, so I think it is a simpler yet equally valid solution :) I am glad I was able to help you with my post. Thanks!

      Regards,
      Eteny

    • Maneesh,
      I was at a mega meet in Hamburg, Penna when I had a Philips webcam Like the one shown above. And I couldn’t see with it when connected to my 8″ Meade I also had it connected to a HP laptop computer . A person at the same mega meet came over and ask me how I was doing , and I told him about the web cam. And he took it off my eye piece holder and I think he did the same thing as what you did. And put a different adapter on the front and put it back into the eyepiece holder. And it worked perfectly. It only took about two minutes to do it, and it was dark outside too.

      • Sorry Eteny, but that time with my webcam was over six years ago. But unfortunately my laptop hard drive decided to quit working on me. So the pictures on it are lost. I know about having hard drive recovery , but the cost of the process isn’t worth the images and having them recovered. The only image that I took was a video of the planet Jupiter for about five minutes or so. But I didn’t give up on it either.

  2. Hi Eteny,

    I’ve just come across the nightskyinfocus.com web site which is packed with useful info – thanks very much!

    I’ve read your article on photographing planets which has inspired me to have a go, but firstly I need to get myself a webcam. The Philips SPC900NC doesn’t seem to be available in the UK anymore but I can get a Logitech Pro 4000 fairly easily, but the article to modify it for astrophotography is much more involved than the one above, and well beyond my capabilities. However, I assume this is because it is for long exposures only?

    Is there another article for modifying the Logitech Pro 4000 for basic astrophotography, along the lines of the above?

    Many thanks

    Mal

    • Hi Mal,
      If the intention is to use the webcam for imaging planets, then any webcam should work. You only need to acquire an adapter (as discussed above) that will allow the webcam to be attached securely onto a telescope’s focuser. SPC900NC and Logitech Pro 4000 (and 3000 models) have been known to perform well because they are equipped with a far more sensitive sensor: a CCD (and not CMOS, used in most other webcams). While there are also other webcams that use CCDs, I can only recommend these two since these are the only webcams that I have tried and tested myself, and was able to achieve satisfying results. The Logitech modification was intended for another task (for autoguiding) which is not required for imaging planets :) You’ll find more info here.

  3. Hi Eteny,
    Thank you for this article and all the others.
    I also did the same as Maneesh to pull the plastis stopper only with my hands and not using great force at all. Just note this at the beginning of your article and let people to try to remove it first by hands.
    Best regards!
    Dimitar Jakimov

    • Hi Dimitar,

      I am sure pulling it to pry it out will work as you and Maneesh have described. But then again, I feel hesitant to recommend that method. As I have said before, anything that uses brute force is something that I try to avoid as much as possible. :)

  4. A few months ago, I found an SPC900nc at sulit and immediately contacted the seller and purchased it. Went through steps stated above and have the camera moded without problems. I only have one question, should I put an IR blocking filter or not? The camera works but with funky colors particularly during the day.

    • Hi Dean,
      If IR light were allowed to reach the camera’s sensor and not filtered out, it would result to fuzzy images in any optical system that uses lens (e.g., refractors) because with lenses, IR light does not focus at the same point as the visible light. It would also result to capturing images with reddish hue since IR light registers in camera sensors as deep red hue. The IR-blocking filter serves two purposes: (1) block out IR so that crisp images can be obtained, and (2) correct for the reddish hue so that proper white balance is achieved.

      If you intend to use the webcam as an imaging camera for planets, do not remove the IR-blocking filter.
      If you intend to use the webcam as a guide camera, you may remove the IR-blocking filter to achieve greater sensitivity (but take note it will no longer perform well in planetary imaging).
      To achive better results, you may opt to remove the IR-blocking filter and have it replaced by dedicated UV-IR filters that you may screw in anywhere along the optical train. Goodluck!

    • While this web camera is by all means outdated, I still have not come across a more sensitive web camera. I measure sensitivity (qualitatively) by the web cam’s ability to detect faint targets. The model that I have uses a CCD sensor, which is far more sensitive than CMOS types found in other cameras. The only camera which I think is better than SPC900NC is a Logitech Pro 4000 (because it is more sensitive). Should I come across newer web cameras that could potentially work for planetary imaging, I’d be posting about it :) Unfortunately, my observation is that manufacturers no longer produce good “stand-alone” webcams, maybe due to the fact that most camera’s are now integrated in phones or other gadgets. Using DSLRs do not help either, because the sensors in this decade-old webcams are still more sensitive.

      Maybe using Go Pros, Experia phones, or Iphones could work, but I do not have access nor luxury to do any actual testing :)

      • Hi,
        I found your site and think it is great and so easy to follow, i have bought a SPC900 for £40 new, but what i need to know is will it work on Windows 10.
        Thank You
        Peter

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