Astronomy Cameras with FireWire or USB 2.0?

Blogged by Jonathan Maron on April 1, 2008 and tagged with FAQ, Resellers.

The question of whether FireWire or USB 2.0 is a better choice for an astronomy camera gets raised time and time again in our support and pre-sales departments.

One of our German reseller - Intercon Spacetec - has published a brief overview of how they see the situation. With their permission, I have translated the following from German into English for our global audience:

The speed at which data can be transferred across the FireWire bus and the USB bus is almost identical. In practice, FireWire seems to have a very slight edge. However, as the maximum frame rate of both the FireWire and USB series of astronomy cameras is identical, this advantage is purely academic.

Customers who are looking to run their astronomy cameras on Linux will have an easier time with the FireWire series, as the standard IEEE-1394 driver works fine. USB, on the other hand, requires a specialized driver [see these blog posts for details].

Users of Windows are better off using the USB series, as the cameras' handling is easier than that of the FireWire astronomy cameras.

Power is also an issue to look at when debating whether FireWire or USB is better suited to the task. Normally, both FireWire and USB cameras draw their energy over the cable. An external power supply unit is, therefore, not necessary.

One (very important) exception is when running the cameras on laptops: The FireWire connectors on laptops typically have only four pins and thus cannot power the cameras. It is, therefore, necessary to power the cameras using an external power supply unit, which, out in the field, is often somewhat cumbersome.

Deploying USB cameras avoids this inconvenience.

German and French versions of this text are also available.

  • What do you think?
  • Which do you prefer?
  • FireWire or USB?
  • Why?

Please post your opinion in the comments section below. Thank you!