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Old Tuesday 15th March 2011, 21:39   #1
Paul Hackett
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Q: Should I buy a scope and camera or a long lens??

Maybe the Mods can use this at the beginning of the Digiscoping forum? This was posted by my good friend Stephen Ingraham of Carl Zeiss USA on another forum, i think it sums up the question very well which does get asked quite often

Q: Should I buy a scope and camera or a long lens?

You don't buy a scope to take pictures of birds. You buy a scope to look at birds. That is what it was made for. You carry it the field while birding to look at birds. If you have an interest in photography as well, you can attach a camera to the scope to take pictures of birds. It is a lot of fun, will produce some amazingly satisfying images, and adds very little weight or expense beyond what you are already carrying. And, you can take photos of the birds you see from fairly long distances, casually, without much special effort beyond attaching the camera. That's digiscoping.

You don't buy a lens to look at birds. You buy a lens to take pictures of birds. That is what was made for. You carry it in the field while photographing birds. That involves a whole set of skills, mostly centered on getting close enough to the bird to fill the frame. If you want to also look at birds, you carry binoculars and use them when you get close enough (because you certainly are NOT carrying both a spotting scope and a long lens, and you are not getting very satisfying looks at birds through your long lens). With experience and skill your images of birds will be beyond satisfying...they will be stunningly detailed studies of the living creature. That's bird photography.

There are three reasons a photographer might buy a spotting scope and small camera instead of a lens, if he or she is willing to accept the level of image quality possible with digiscoping. Working from a distance, image quality with digiscoping will be as good as and generally considerably better than a long lens working much beyond frame filling distance (arguably, but that is my experience), but it will never equal the quality of a frame filling bird taken at 12 feet with 600mm lens, or even at 24 feet with a 2X extender. The three reasons: 1) indeed, to work from greater distances than a long lens allows, 2) to limit the weight and bulk of the equipment carried (a scope and camera is always going to be lighter and easier to carry than a long lens), and 3) to control expense (Even the best digiscoping rig will cost half what a 600mm IS lens does).

There are no reasons why a birder would buy long lens instead of a spotting scope. :)

Where you see yourself and your desires and needs in all that will answer your question.


Regards

Paul
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Old Wednesday 16th March 2011, 01:29   #2
alphan
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Paul, I agree to your answers but only in part. Telescope or spotting scope comes in different sizes and shape. Celestron rated their Astro telescope as spotting scope because it came with the erecting diagonal and function as spotting scope as well. Your answers will be correct if it refer only to the conventional spotting scope and exclude the Nikon EDG. And only Compact Digital camera (P & S) are used.

Serious photographers are also using Astro telescope for birding only. Serious discussion are ongoing at the "Photography using Astro telescope" section here.
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Old Wednesday 16th March 2011, 07:20   #3
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Alphan, to be fair it's not including astro scopes but that would come under the photography category anyway as it's basically a prime lens. If you wanted to look at the birds then you would likely carry a small pair of binoculars, that's what I do anyway, or I get my kids to carry (fight over) them. You buy an astro scope if you are mainly a photographer and don't want the cost of a 600mm lens but do end up with something equal to or better in terms of image quality than the Canon 600mm (as Fernando's link showed perfectly the other day).

I think one angle where the description above is coming from is where people buy a spotting scope, take off the eyepiece and stick a dslr adapter on it and then use it as a 700mm lens. At that point you have become a photographer and the spotting scope functionality is gone as you would have to take off the adapter, re-attach the eyepiece etc. The spotting scope has basically ceased to be a spotting scope and the person would have been better off with a camera lens.

Paul.

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Old Wednesday 16th March 2011, 07:47   #4
Paul Hackett
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Originally Posted by Paul Corfield View Post
Alphan, to be fair it's not including astro scopes but that would come under the photography category anyway as it's basically a prime lens. If you wanted to look at the birds then you would likely carry a small pair of binoculars, that's what I do anyway, or I get my kids to carry (fight over) them. You buy an astro scope if you are mainly a photographer and don't want the cost of a 600mm lens but do end up with something equal to or better in terms of image quality than the Canon 600mm (as Fernando's link showed perfectly the other day).

I think one angle where the description above is coming from is where people buy a spotting scope, take off the eyepiece and stick a dslr adapter on it and then use it as a 700mm lens. At that point you have become a photographer and the spotting scope functionality is gone as you would have to take off the adapter, re-attach the eyepiece etc. The spotting scope has basically ceased to be a spotting scope and the person would have been better off with a camera lens.

Paul.
I couldnt have put it better Paul, this question does come up time and time again in my email inbox, i just thought that this was a general, genuine, sticky to put up onthe forum if the mods allow

Paul
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Old Sunday 24th April 2011, 21:54   #5
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Newbie's response - For quickness, I'll take my 100-400 with a 1.4x. Trouble is, with lenses, long is never long enough; the tree is just too high, there's too much tick-ridden brush/grass in the way, or they've shut down beach access.

The last happened to me a year ago. I didn't know 'til the trip was on, but every May, New Jersey closes off nearly all its southwestern beaches so the Red Knots can feed on the over-farmed horseshoe crab eggs. There was only one spot where you could reliably see them up "close", and they never got to where I was able to get a good frame and focus on them. Without a digiscope set-up, I wasted precious time driving up and down the shoreline on pot-holed roads, and came away empty except for a busted engine mount I still need to get fixed!

I also got to see how scopers see the world; an SLR viewfinder is no comparison. 'Scope to study, scope or lens to capture, depending on the situtation - and so, I'm hoping to enter a new world this year. Catch you elsewhere on here!

- Chris
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Old Tuesday 15th May 2012, 18:23   #6
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Paul,

Back when Birdforum was in its infancy I remember digiscoping being the majority and dslr's much less - times have changed and now we find the opposite. I've always asked why and stayed the scope/p&s route. What I don't care for in your basic description is the lable photographer = dslr or birder = scope/p&s.

I currently use a kowa 883 and canon s95 with a custom adapter. The adapter is easy on or off but when birds are around it is on, I'm always going for the sweet shot. I'm always studying the light and trying to get a position that will compliment the bird. I'm always looking for equipment that will enhance my ability to get the best possible pic. I love the way a digiscope enables bird study at distance and minimizes infringement on their territory, I think that with less infringement the subject is in a more natural state.

In the 80's I attached a 35mm to a scope, gave up shortly. About 2002 I saw some digiscoped pics on the web and had to try it, it has given me mega satisfaction in both birding and photography.

Joe
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Old Wednesday 16th May 2012, 15:04   #7
lmans66
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul Hackett View Post
.

There are no reasons why a birder would buy long lens instead of a spotting scope. :)




Regards

Paul
Perhaps but not so in my thinking paul.... A long lens allows you as a birder to capture shots of birds (as opposed to bino's) and come back to the computer to not only have memories but also to help in the ID of those same birds.

Case in Point...Ecuador. Wow...a ton of birds and many of them look the same. In the field one cannot easily ID all of the little nuances of each bird to clearly ID the exact bird. So while a person will eventually know the birds in their area, new areas pose issues such as basic ID, hence a photo helps.

But Paul...I like your thinking otherwise...although again, I would never say never. I would change your 'never's' to 'majority of time' ...nicely done, jim
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