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Celestron AllView Motorized Head - Software Updates & new Developments

PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 6:47 pm
by RobSherratt
Functionality of the AllView SynSCan controller


The functions for panoramic photography provided in the dedicated controller are summarized below. The exact details are shown on pages 15-21 of the user manual. The L bracket for portrait mode camera mounting is included in the package.

Here is the user manual:

Here's the promotional leaflet:

Latest version of the AllView controller firmware (currently version B18):

PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 6:55 pm
by RobSherratt
Powering the AllView Controller
Batteries are not included, nor is a mains power supply for that matter!

You will probably want a 12v portable rechargeable power supply for use with this head, instead of buying rechargable AA batteries. I ordered mine from ebay here, most 12v DC Lithium Ion battery packs for CCTV cameras will work fine:

This particular battery pack is 6500 mAH capacity. The AllView head draws 100 mA quiescent and 1A when in constant use with both mounts rotating at maximum speed. The battery pack will power the head for about 12 hours from a full charge. It also has a USB power output for charging cellphones etc, which is handy!

PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2012 7:04 pm
by RobSherratt
Is Papyizard necessary with the AllView mount?
Reminds me of the joke: "<Knock knock>. Who's there? <Isabel> Isabel who? <Isabel necessary on a bicycle>"

The AllView product is supplied with a sturdy tripod, the motorized head, adjustable rails for mounting any camera in portrait or landscape mode, and a controller with an LCD display. Whereas originally Celestron supplied a version of the controller for use controlling telescopes, the AllView controller firmware also includes functions for taking panoramic photographs. One of things it does not do is generate a "Papywizard-compatible" positioning specification file (XML format) which is needed to align the images when you load them into software such as AutoPano Giga and PTGui Pro.

Because of this some users have decided to use a separate controller comprising Papywizard software running on a separate PC or mobile device. This has implications of cost, battery life, and complexity. I did not want to go down this route myself, because there is an alternative solution which I am working on right now.

Kilian Eisenegger very kindly sent me a German language version of his VBA/Excel Papywizard-compatible "XML generator" spreadsheet. This has the potential to generate the correct "Allview Compatible" and "PapyWizard compatible" XML files for use with AutoPano and PTGui ... that is, assuming the AllView controller firmware issues will be resolved by Celestron.

I'm at the moment modifying his VBA software to accept as input parameters the exact same parameters that are displayed on the AllView controller. I've already translated everything from German to English and made some of the necessary changes. Then I have to align the XML generated image coordinates with the image coordinates generated by the AllView controller, for which I will need the positioning specification I requested from the AllView developers. Once the job is done once, the spreadsheet will work with all combinations of "Easy Pano" and "Preset Pano" settings on the AllView controller. All the user has to do is to make a note "in the field" of the settings used for any shooting sequence, and then when "back home", enter the settings into the new version of Kilian Eisenegger's XML generator, and use the resulting XML code with either AutoPano or PTGui to align the images exactly.

I am hoping Kilian will agree to make this freely available to users of the AllView motorized head and the AllView controller. If he agrees, then I am willing to provide the necessary support for the VBA code/ spreadsheet to English Language users. Obviously it requires the user to have a version of Microsoft Excel to open and use it. I will publish more details after development is complete and it has been tested for exact alignment of images with the AllView controller.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 5:57 pm
by RobSherratt Firmware Upgrade
(Original test published by Celestron, some clarifications added by me)

The original AllView firmware had a limit on the number of images per level that caused a problem for some photographers. This has been fixed in the latest firmware update to the SynScan controller, allowing 128 images per level and up to 9999 total images in a panorama. The update process starts with preparing for the update and then running it on the AllView’s SynScan hand control. First go to the link below to download the zipped firmware fix file named Save it to your desktop or other easily locatable folder.

Next create a new folder called AllView on your desktop. Now right click on the zipped file. Choose “Extract all…” and then in the new window that opens, browse for the location of the AllView folder you created on your desktop. Click OK, then click the Extract button. Next visit the Sky-Watcher website to download the SynScan Firmware Loader:

Save it to the desktop. Now right click on the zipped file. Choose “Extract all…” and then in the new window that opens browse for the location of the AllView folder you created on your desktop. Click OK then click the Extract button. Preparation for the update is now done. Running the update starts by plugging the RJ-11 end of the PC link cable that came with the mount into the jack in the middle socket on the hand control. Push the connector into the hand control until it clicks into place. Plug the opposite end of the cable, the DB9 connector, to the RS-232 port on your PC.

If you don’t have an RS-232 port on your PC then you will need to get a USB to Serial (RS-232) adapter, readily available on eBay, Amazon and in many computer shops. Install the device driver software for the adapter on your PC and then plug the device into a spare USB port, Windows will automatically configure it for use so long as you remembered to install the device driver first!

Apply power to your AllView mount and disconnect the cord to the SynScan controller. On the SynScan controller, Press and hold down the key “0” and “8” simultaneously, and then plug the cord connecting it to the AllView mount, thus applying power to the controller. The hand control will beep, indicating a successful start up. The SynScan will display: “SynScan Update Ver.1.x” on the LCD screen.

Inside the AllView folder on your PC, run the SynScanFirmwareLoader.exe software by clicking on the file. Once the program is launched, you should see a window as shown in the image below.

NOTE: The “HC. Version” button provides the version number of the hardware, firmware and database of your hand control. It is for your reference only and is not a necessary step for performing the update. The versions displayed may be:

Hardware 3.06 Firmware 3.06 Database 3:28

Click “Browse” to select the AllViewV0309AZPanoB18.ssf file in the AllView folder. Then click “Update” to start downloading the new firmware into your SynScan hand control. You will see the percent status of the update below the “Update” and “HC. Version” buttons. You will see a message “Erasing FLASH ROM”, this is the first part of the firmware upgrade process. When the firmware upgrade is complete, the status will show “Update Complete” within a green highlight. To verify the firmware upgrade, press the “HC. Version” button in the SynScan Firmware Loader application, it should display:

Hardware 3.06 Firmware 3.09 Database 3:28

Close the firmware upgrade application and disconnect the “AllView” cord to the SynScan controller. Then plug the cord in again, thus re-applying power to the controller. The hand control will beep, indicating a successful start up. The SynScan will display:

>>AllView Pano<<


1) Generally it takes approximately 30 seconds to update the firmware. It may take longer if you are using a USB to serial (RS232) converter.

2) If the error message “Cannot connect to a SynScan hand control” is shown, check the cable connections and the PC link cable. Make sure the cables and connections are good. Close all applications that may be using the RS-232 port and try again.

3) If you receive the error message “Firmware update failed…,” reset the hand control by removing the connecting cord to the AllView mount and reconnecting it. Repeat the update procedure.

PostPosted: Thu Oct 25, 2012 6:17 pm
by phill.butte
I'm now starting to see a clue to the problem with the internal math used in the controller. A "level" is equivalent to a row of images. In their software they allow up to 128 images per row, which in a full 360 circle with 25 % overlap is equivalent to about 3.5 degrees. And the problems with using the "Easy Pano mode" on the controller start with lenses that have a horizontal FOV of less than 3.5 degrees. And apparently there's no error checking to say "FOV too small!". If they bump it up to 256 images/level, at least my 400mm lens would work, but I don't think I could use an extender on it.

PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 7:26 pm
by RobSherratt

I think you have accurately diagnosed one of the problems and come up with a work round, thanks. However that does not explain the other problems about irregular spacing of images. Have you tried the SynSCan controller with a FoV corresponding to your lens at 200mm? I did some 360 x 180 panorama tests with the supplied firmware and then after installing latest firmware release.

Whereas the original firmware was predictable in its behaviour, the latest version is not. What are your conclusions?


PostPosted: Fri Oct 26, 2012 11:36 pm
by phill.butte
I have not tried the 360x180 on the AllView. I have a Gigapan Epic 100 upon which I use a Canon Powershot S100 for the 360 shots. I can get way more resolution than I can ever use in a 360 with this setup and it works flawlessly!

I did try Easy Pano mosaics at 100mm, 250mm, 300mm and 400mm. It seemed to work correctly through 250mm but not for anything longer.

I'm convinced that the problems with the AllView revolve around poor programming and testing practices. When the programmer doesn't error check the input data for max ind min values, there are lots of other things he/she is not doing. And they clearly don't have an effective testing process. I've worked with projects and entire companies like that, the problems don't go away until you replace the development and testing managers.