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Old Thursday 17th August 2017, 08:47   #1
Arie G
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Digiscoping worth it?

Hello,

I've been photographing birds now for a year, using m43 equipment. Often, when in the field, birds are too far away to capture them well. I've been thinking about buying a scope and trying some digiscoping, I've looked through one once and I was very impressed! However most pictures I see from digiscoping are average at best, I'm afraid image quality will disappoint me, especially when paying €3000 for a decent scope (I've been looking at the Kowa 883 and Swarovski ATX 85). Also the digiscoping setup, especially for the Kowa seems huge and cumbersome, I need to travel alot with it.

Any advice?

Thanks!
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Old Thursday 17th August 2017, 09:00   #2
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I used to digiscope with a Coolpix 4500 through a Swarovski 65 edl scope.got some pretty good stuff, my friend , a pro photographer was surprised at the quality of some of my stuff.it could have been better had I been a more competent snapper.i still sometimes digiscope with an Olympus 3000 tough camera. pretty good on dragonflies. however I use a camera on its own mostly now as I find digiscoping a bit frustrating. if you are a bit of a masochist ...go for it!
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Old Thursday 17th August 2017, 09:34   #3
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Wouldn't recommend digiscoping as a method for any serious photographer. But it's ok for documentation purposes (video, stills) at long distance and stationary birds.
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Old Thursday 17th August 2017, 10:05   #4
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Wouldn't recommend digiscoping as a method for any serious photographer. But it's ok for documentation purposes (video, stills) at long distance and stationary birds.
I second that. Digiscoping is great when you need a scope anyway for observation and perfect images are not your main aim. If photography is your main purpose, you have to get longer lenses (Pana 100-400 or Oly 300) and work on techniques to getting closer.
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Old Thursday 17th August 2017, 11:01   #5
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Thanks for the many replies!

I already have the Panasonic 100-400, and I think I have managed to take quite a few decent images(https://www.flickr.com/photos/142773372@N06/). There are times though when you can't get close, for example when there's a high vantage point or a lake. I have seen people getting nice results, for example see https://www.flickr.com/photos/steveb...57661313598364.
Hard to say though how far these birds were...
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Old Thursday 17th August 2017, 14:03   #6
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Really nice pictures! I just started to use a m4/3 and the 100-400 lens as well, but I am still far from the results you are getting.

A scope gives you more reach indeed. And if conditions are right, you can get nice images.

But there are important limitations to keep in mind:
- You're basically limited to static subjects. Birds in flight are near impossible, moving birds on the ground are difficult.
- For long distances, most of the time the atmospheric conditions don't allow for really sharp images. The best digiscoping pictures usually show birds in close distance.
- The whole set-up is cumbersome, especially compared to a small and portable kit as yours.
- Not cheap: A decent scope, stable head and tripod and adapters cost you easily 3000-5000 €

If the added reach is worth the investment, you have to decide. I'd say, if you also interested in observation and bird ID, then go for it. In the Netherlands, a scope is pretty much a must for birding.

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Old Thursday 17th August 2017, 15:42   #7
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I've come to the conclusion that digiscoping merits consideration if you are in need of a scope for observation (not only for photography) and the best and most affordable photography option is a smartphone with dedicated adapter (e.g. from PhoneSkope).

I have used various cameras and adapters but find them all a hassle to carry and set up, whereas my iPhone can be connected to my scope very quickly and my (low) expectations have been exceeded.

However the fact remains that to get high quality shots you really need to put less distance between yourself and your subject, so perhaps use of a portable hide or focusing on fieldcraft or choosing more approachable subjects should be your priorities.
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Old Thursday 17th August 2017, 17:13   #8
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You know quite well what you are doing,and your work is the proof..I think the Swaro ATX system could be a good option considering the modular nature of the scope and the fact that you can pack it in a compact case..the results you are getting are very good,but you will get excellent quality from either of those scopes and your M4/3 set up.
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Old Friday 18th August 2017, 12:14   #9
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It really depends on your aim, but I don't find digiscoping to ever be particularly worthwhile, and I am not keen on carrying a cumbersome digiscoping setup. If you are truly worried about documenting rare birds in the field, a camera is almost a must. If you want some casual shots of distant birds, something like a phone adaptor can suffice. But I really don't see the appeal of a scope + large digiscoping adaptor for a DSLR or mirrorless camera when you could carry a ~$500 superzoom bridge camera and get better results 90% of the time, or carry a 300-400mm or longer lens and your DSLR, and get better results 98% of the time.

The only time I think a digiscoping setup could be nice would be picking through tons of gulls, but again I would just use a cel phone with a phone case or even hand held. On the subject of phone cases, I shelled out for the Phoneskope case for my HTC Android phone and it was essentially useless. Results were not a lot better than handheld, and it required me to remove my phone's current case (pretty painless), snap together a fidgety two piece rigid case around my phone, then afterwards, try to remove the two piece case, which, as it turns out, is actually quite a pain in the butt. In the end I didn't use it much due to the hassle, and the case started to break fairly quickly despite very modest use. So if you do go for a phone case setup, be sure you like the ergonomics! The iphone phoneskope cases that I have seen have been one piece slide in designs which appear to be superior, I was disappointed that the HTC case was not the same.
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Old Friday 18th August 2017, 12:18   #10
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Also to echo others, I think digiscoping at any distance is about 75% reliant on atmospheric conditions and getting the scope very still and the camera centered and still, then about 20% scope quality, and finally 5% camera quality. Honestly, aside from the Swarovski adaptor that mates a scope body (sans eyepiece) directly to a DSLR as a manual focus lens, I haven't seen many good digiscoping results at genuine distance, and I haven't personally seen any reason to use other than a cel phone as there are so many other limiting factors in the chain.
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Old Friday 18th August 2017, 12:27   #11
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..... but when it works the results are well worth the effort.

Have a look at some of the Gallery images: http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sea...earchid=295602

You may need to contact some of the members to find out what equipment they use.
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Old Friday 18th August 2017, 12:51   #12
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Delia and others, apologies if my comments were dismissive of digiscoping - let me say more clearly that that is all just my opinion! However I will say, without reservation, that my HTC specific phoneskope adaptor was terrible :)

Personally, I am awaiting a bit more advancement in the autofocus abilities of the prosumer bridge cameras as I am longing to carry less weight than a DSLR + 100-400 lens.
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Old Friday 18th August 2017, 14:32   #13
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Hi Pbjosh,

Quote:
Originally Posted by pbjosh View Post
Personally, I am awaiting a bit more advancement in the autofocus abilities of the prosumer bridge cameras as I am longing to carry less weight than a DSLR + 100-400 lens.
Hm, have you tried the FZ1000? The autofocus seems to be as good as the one of my old Sony alpha 700 DSLR. Not sure how it compares to a more modern DSLR's, though.

Regards,

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Old Friday 18th August 2017, 16:41   #14
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Also to echo others, I think digiscoping at any distance is about 75% reliant on atmospheric conditions and getting the scope very still and the camera centered and still, then about 20% scope quality, and finally 5% camera quality. Honestly, aside from the Swarovski adaptor that mates a scope body (sans eyepiece) directly to a DSLR as a manual focus lens, I haven't seen many good digiscoping results at genuine distance, and I haven't personally seen any reason to use other than a cel phone as there are so many other limiting factors in the chain.
Diffraction is worth mentioning also.
For example even with the largest scope (ATX95) the f-stop is as small as f9.5 at 30x...
Diffraction for MFT cameras with small pixels seem to start already at f5.6, so diffraction will be limiting on resolution and sharpness.

"Even at 30x magnification, the combination is flirting with diffraction softening, and extending the magnification further reduces aperture to ranges where we're definitely going to see some diffraction softening."

http://www.imaging-resource.com/news...uper-tele-lens

Last edited by Vespobuteo : Friday 18th August 2017 at 17:00.
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Old Friday 18th August 2017, 17:04   #15
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Hi Vespobuteo,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vespobuteo View Post
Thanks, that's quite interesting!

Any idea of how the Kowa telephoto lens fit in?

http://kowaproducts.com/kowa-telepho...Spottingscope/

Considering that Kowa has a wide range of digiscoping adapters for their scopes, I don't quite understand why they care to produce a telephoto lens, too.

Regards,

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Old Saturday 19th August 2017, 01:32   #16
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From my observation, getting a great quality images is depending with your distance to the birds regardless of any equipment. Below is the Black & Yellow Broadbill taken less than 10m away at one of the lodge where I worked. Resized only.

Swarovski STX95 + Nikon V1

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Long distance birds capture with the scope sometimes produced a flat contrast image too. If money is not a problem, I will get myself the 600mm or 800mm lens for serious photography. Digiscoping is good when you can only bring one equipment during birding hahaha
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Old Saturday 19th August 2017, 14:09   #17
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Hi Pbjosh,

Hm, have you tried the FZ1000? The autofocus seems to be as good as the one of my old Sony alpha 700 DSLR. Not sure how it compares to a more modern DSLR's, though.

Regards,

Henning
I haven't used it but have seen results and have discussed it with an owner. Ditto the Sony RX10iii, and I've played with the Canon SX60. I think the FZ1000 probably leads the pack on autofocus, and the Sony has the best lens. They are both a LONG ways from the autofocus performance of my Canon 7DII. I don't need that good most of the time - I would keep the Canon and my IS lens for seabirds but for carrying in the field, a superzoom bridge is almost there for me. I think one or at most two more product cycles and I'll get one. I really am not looking for the ultimate in image quality, it's mostly ability to document birds, so I'm more worried about low light and autofocus performance than ultimate sharpness and pixel count!
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Old Saturday 19th August 2017, 14:50   #18
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I used to digiscope all the time with a variety of cameras with my Swaro scope.

For fairly static birds you can get very good results and 2000mm - 3000mm reach easily achieved with a x3 camera mated to the scope.

However, as others have indicated, the setup is a bit cumbersome and carrying a fairly heavy tripod and scope in the field takes some doing especially if you are also lugging along a DSLR or equivalent setup with a long lens.

With advances in camera technology and long lenses being somewhat more affordable than they used to be, one can get quite decent pictures with for example m43 + 100-400. The equivalent focal length is 800mm and then one can use an in-camera crop-zoom to take it to 1600mm and still have some room to crop further in post processing. But looking at your great pics, I'm sure you have gone through this already.

In 2017, I would probably consider a later version of the Nikon P900 as a better option to Digiscoping for very long zoom, and stick with m43 for any bird in the 1500mm range.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arie G View Post

Hello,

I've been photographing birds now for a year, using m43 equipment. Often, when in the field, birds are too far away to capture them well. I've been thinking about buying a scope and trying some digiscoping, I've looked through one once and I was very impressed! However most pictures I see from digiscoping are average at best, I'm afraid image quality will disappoint me, especially when paying €3000 for a decent scope (I've been looking at the Kowa 883 and Swarovski ATX 85). Also the digiscoping setup, especially for the Kowa seems huge and cumbersome, I need to travel alot with it.

Any advice?

Thanks!
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Old Tuesday 22nd August 2017, 19:53   #19
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If you don't need auto-focus have a look at the "Photography using 'Astro' telescopes" section
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Old Tuesday 22nd August 2017, 20:58   #20
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I'm quite happy with digiscoping with a similar equipment (Olympus micro 4/3 EM-10+ ATX 85 + APO 23mm). I'm not a photographer, neither I would dedicate a day in pay-for hides (not the best scenario for digiscoping, otherwise). I just (quickly) switch between birding and taking photos in public access areas and I think the result is quite good in terms of relationship cost/quality and diversity of species & situations photographed.

I always stay in the lower end of magnification (x25 in my scope), working around 1200 mm equivalent focal length, croping if necessary rather than using more magnification in the scope.

That said, obviously everyone has its own objectives and quality expectations in wildlife photography. Mine were widely overcome. Digiscoping results are good enough to put them on 50 x 70 cm paper format

Some examples:
https://www.flickr.com/photos/136473006@N08/albums
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Old Wednesday 6th September 2017, 03:40   #21
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If you don't need auto-focus have a look at the "Photography using 'Astro' telescopes" section
Yes, this is the way to go where you use a prime lens setup. I have tried my hand at digiscoping many times, and the results are always blah. This includes using a Celestron Regal 100ed along with a variety of much better eyepieces than what came with the scope. Now there is nothing wrong with the scope. Instead, there is something wrong with the method.

Unfortunately, spotting scopes are not made with prime focusing in mind, and it is impossible to get the camera closs enough in prime mode. Even when using a Sony e-mount camera with only 18mm flange to sensor distance. You just cannot get the camera close enough.

Astro scopes, on the other hand, privide for a very broad focus range, and it becomes easy to achieve focus.

Now be aware that cheap astro scopes are no better than spotting scopes.

I do have an Explore Scientific 102ed that has FL of 714mm and produces razor sharp images. But its big and heavy.

An alternative might be to look at Astro Tech. They have some very nice Astro Scopes in a variety of sizes and at reasonable prices. I have one with a 60mm objective and 360mm focal length that is outstanding. I had bought it to have a small scope with half the focal length of the Explore Scientific 102ed.

Once you have tried prime focus, there is no going back to digiscoping.

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Old Tuesday 12th September 2017, 14:57   #22
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Yes, this is the way to go where you use a prime lens setup. I have tried my hand at digiscoping many times, and the results are always blah. This includes using a Celestron Regal 100ed along with a variety of much better eyepieces than what came with the scope. Now there is nothing wrong with the scope. Instead, there is something wrong with the method.

Unfortunately, spotting scopes are not made with prime focusing in mind, and it is impossible to get the camera closs enough in prime mode. Even when using a Sony e-mount camera with only 18mm flange to sensor distance. You just cannot get the camera close enough.

Astro scopes, on the other hand, privide for a very broad focus range, and it becomes easy to achieve focus.

Now be aware that cheap astro scopes are no better than spotting scopes.

I do have an Explore Scientific 102ed that has FL of 714mm and produces razor sharp images. But its big and heavy.

An alternative might be to look at Astro Tech. They have some very nice Astro Scopes in a variety of sizes and at reasonable prices. I have one with a 60mm objective and 360mm focal length that is outstanding. I had bought it to have a small scope with half the focal length of the Explore Scientific 102ed.

Once you have tried prime focus, there is no going back to digiscoping.
I fully agree with above. m43 is well suited for this application as the smaller sensor size will enable narrower field of view. The IBIS is also a great asset as it mitigates shake blur which otherwise could be an issue when light is poor.

I have several scopes, ranging from 480mm F/6 to 714mm F/7. Apochromats (triplets) with FPL53 high quality glass and decent Crayford focuser can be bought at a price point starting around 1000€ and they will deliver very nice results, much better results than you will get with afocal digiscoping.

Here a sample taken with the 480mm F/6 scope
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Old Tuesday 12th September 2017, 16:57   #23
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I used to digiscope (though I didn't know what I was doing had a specific name) in order to see far enough to take photos. No option to "get closer" due to protected spaces. So really had no choice. You can look here to see my digiscoping rig; granted not as high-end as others use and even bulkier, but I found the costlier rigs are just as cumbersome from watching other scope- and long-lens carrying folks.

Given the balance between quality, range, weight, price, and portability, I found consumer bridge/superzoom cameras the best option to get away from hauling a tripod and sandbags around and being stuck to a single location once set-up. Once I was free'd from the tripod I really started to enjoy myself so much more.

My girlfriend, who uses a DSLR and a NIKKOR 70-300mm lens can't match my distance; I can reliably reach out to 80-120 meters with the SX60. We've look at longer lenses for the DSLR but they are heavy and then start requiring tripods. Even some of the fixed-apterture 200mm lenses really need a tripod (or weight-lifter's arms!).

So it just depends on your needs, and the compromises you're willing to make.

If I were to move beyond my SX60 HS (see setup here), I would definitely look into micro fourth-thirds cameras to see if they have any good long-distance lenses. The smaller form factor might make the weight-vs-distance tolerable. I couldn't do it with DSLR and enjoy myself. YMMV.

If you decide to digiscope there are only really two decent ways to do it in my research: an adapter for a direct DSLR-to-scope interface or shooting from the eyepiece with a non-externally-zooming lens (fixed lens or internal-zoom lens).

Personally I'm not fond of using smartphones for this purpose. The fisheye and perspective distortion drives me crazy, and that includes the iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung Note 4, and Note 5.

On the upside, I kept all my digiscoping gear because they might get a second life in astrophotography.

DISCLAIMER: I used to read the telescope-photography forum, which is some extreme digiscoping, and you can get nice bird photos over seemingly impossible distances. So don't get me wrong, if you want to digiscope, go for it. Good results are possible with practice and skill.
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Old Wednesday 13th September 2017, 15:01   #24
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Hi, this post is a combination reply and introduction to the forum.

I have been a birder for decades, and for many years I took quick photos as best I could while concentrating on chasing birds. Over time, I gravitated increasingly to bird photography, as I became less a bird lister and got more into the Zen of just observing and photographing birds. I have been fortunate enough to afford, in my dotage, some very good (Nikon system) gear, including big lenses.

I recently have gone on some commercial birding excursions in which the leaders have used and shared their excellent spotting scopes. On these trips I do not take my megalenses, of course, but I do take a tele zoom, as many traveling birders do these days. These experiences have reminded me of how terrific it is to be able to see birds close up through a scope rather than through a camera viewfinder, which degrades the observed image somewhat.

So in recent months I have taken up digiscoping again (I tried it a bit back in the old Nikon 4500 days, then gave it up). Sometimes I go out into the field to observe shorebirds or ducks equipped with my aging Pentax PF80-ed scope, and then in a waist pack I carry my Instant Digiscoping Rig, composed of a Nikon 1 V2 camera, its 18.5mm lens, and a Baader Hyperion 17mm eyepiece. Swapping out the Pentax eyepiece(s) for the camera rig is quick and easy. This way, I get to really observe the birds, and I still get pretty good photos sometimes. The photos are by no means as good as what I can get with a 600mm megalens, but they are good enough to post online.

So, I have found that yes, digiscoping is "worth it," sometimes. I do have the luxury of choice, and I do still go out on excursions and overseas trips that are primarily geared to photography. I have reconciled myself to the reality that I cannot completely optimize both bird observation and photography, but I am trying to do both.
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Old Wednesday 13th September 2017, 18:09   #25
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To GrandNagus50:

+1

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