I am a PixInsight user and have been on the beta test team for many years. This is in my opinion, the top of the heap when it comes to astronomical image processing. Nothing else that I have seen, even comes close.
But, this incredible array of processing functionality comes at the cost of complexity. PI requires a serious learning investment. Many have criticised it's lack of a user manual, however I honestly think this perceived drawback is more than compensated-for by an incredibly supportive group of people on the PI team that are more than willing to help anyone get the hang of it, the large number of tutorial videos being produced and the ever-increasing number of examples on the PI site. Realistically, this software is so rich in features and functionality that a complete user manual in the conventional sense would end up having a biblical number of pages.
PI is a shift in many of the conventional understandings of IP software. It's interface is initially, unconventional, but once you get the hang of it, it makes so much more sense than the way conventional software deals with images.
Having said all of that, I still use CCDStack for the majority of image processing and Photoshop to get the images to screen and paper. These are comparitively easy to use and strangely, more expensive to buy, but PI can do everything that these apps can do and a whole lot more!
The only reason I haven't switched completely to PI is that I had already developed a standard operating procedure and find it difficult to initiate a full switchover from the already-familiar. But starting out in image processing, though it may appear a little daunting, I think learning IP the PI way would be a great move.
I'll agree there was some degree of a learning curve with PI for me initially. Indeed,
there is no documentation for what is, at first, a complex application. As they say on
the website, a reference documenting all features and processes of the program
would be difficult and time consuming, and the result difficult to navigate due to the
sheer size. I originally did all of my processing in GIMP and so I was used to some
level of complexity, but having invested some time with PI, I honestly wouldn't use
another application again.
The numerous tutorial videos which are being produced were where I really got
going with some of the more complex algorithms and procedures. I found them to
be far more informative of real-use examples and they encouraged me to experiment
in the right direction. Now that I've perfected my processing chain, it's nearly second
nature and the inhibitions which plagued me in the beginning when I didn't understand
much of the processes have now disappeared.
To conclude, I would highly recommend the programme to anyone into AP. Sure, there's
the price tag, but it's a lifetime investment and an invaluable tool. The forums are
really helpful and the PixInsight team themselves are a very dedicated bunch. Juan, a
developer on the team has even answered my queries in the depth of night on public
holidays - that's dedication. In short, without sounding like I'm shamelessly plugging
the software - Buy PI, you really won't regret it.
I use Pixinsight. First I used the free LE release and now I've tested the core 1.6 version. It works really well clearing the light pollution gradients using the DBE function. Good tools to sharpen structures like HDR wavelets. Also is really flexible making masks.
well i stack in deep sky stacker always 2 then i open up in nero and do some croping and minor adjustment mayb take out a lil noise 3 then load up in nebulosity 2 and mayb take out a lil more noise with median reducer just a lil and tighten up the star edges 4 then i go to gimp 2 .6 and hit levels and curves and sometimes unsharp mask take care of any vignetting if i have any usually i crop that out but not always and then upload thats my round cool thing here buddy i see we all have a lil diff order of things but close to eachother on a lot of it
I use CcdSoft for grabbing, CcdStack2 for calibrating, registrating and combining my deepsky images. Finally i do the finishing touch with APS CS2.
For high resolution i use for grabbing the DMK software (comes along with the camera), for stacking i use Registax 5 and again the final touch is done with APS.
I also use Nebulosity, Noise Ninja, Images Plus and various plug ins.
My best planetarium/atlas program is Guide8. I use it for framing my future deep sky piccies. And it is great fun to plan these under the (mostly) cloudy sky in the Netherlands.
I work on an i7 27" iMac, equiped with WinXP, Ubuntu and MacOS.