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FZ18 plus X1.5 convertor vs. Canon dSLR and telephoto vs. Digiscoping

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Old Monday 22nd September 2008, 19:42   #1
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FZ18 plus X1.5 convertor vs. Canon dSLR and telephoto vs. Digiscoping

On Sunday I had the opportunity to compare under similar conditions my FZ18 with Pemaraal adaptor and Nikon TC-15ED X1.5 convertor; my 10 megapixel Canon 400D dSLR with Sigma 170-500mm Apo telephoto. Additionally I took a few photos through my Kowa 614 scope with TSN X30 eyepiece using a handheld Panasonic DMC-LS2, which is a simple 5 megapixel point and shoot camera that matches the lens diameter of the eyepiece well. The Canon plus telephoto was used on a tripod, the FZ18 and teleconvertor was used handheld though I braced my arm on a fence for most shots. Light was good and sunny enabling short exposures, though at a sharp angle to the birds, causing problems with shadows. Altogether I took about 500 pictures over a couple of hours with various Ruff and a little stint being the more or less willing subjects. They were about 20- 35 ft away. This isn’t meant to be a serious scientific comparison study though the results are quite interesting. Some of the conclusions are blindingly obvious but here they are:

1. Firstly all three setups produced very acceptable results under these pretty ideal conditions.

2. The most important factors in the quality of the pictures were unsurprisingly light, and distance, size and movement of the bird. Getting good pictures of the little stint which is hardly more than sparrow-sized and quickly moving, was a challenge. Through the telescope with a hand held camera it was impossible.

3. The Canon dSLR plus mid price telephoto produced the best results. The pictures could be heavily cropped to emphasise the bird while still leaving enough detail to be satisfying. Cropping of the FZ18 pictures was less satisfactory with the picture becoming noticeably pixelated at a smaller crop ratio.

4. The FZ18 was by no means disgraced by this comparison as I hope the accompanying pictures show.

5. If you want to take pictures of birds that are much further away than about 50 ft digiscoping is the best option.

6. I lugged the dSLR and telephoto the 150 yards back to the car and locked it in the boot after I had taken the series of photos. I carried the FZ18 and convertor round the 1.5 mile walk to visit the rest of the reserve with no problems. I hardly knew I had it over my shoulder. ‘Nuff said?

The sample pictures

These pictures are representative of my more successful efforts. From the left: Ruff digiscoped, camera DMC-LS2 programme mode, X1.5 zoom, F3.3 1/200th sec, 25% crop. Ruff Canon dSLR plus telephoto, aperture priority, full zoom (500mm), F6.3 1/500th sec, 60% crop. Ruff FZ18 plus TC-15ED full zoom, aperture priority, F4.2, 1/1000th sec, + 2/3 exposure compensation, 50% crop. Little stint, Canon dSLR plus telephoto, aperture priority, full zoom (500mm). F6.3 1/200th sec., 70% crop. Little stint Ruff FZ18 plus TC-15ED full zoom, aperture priority, F4.2, 1/500th sec, + 1/3 exposure compensation, 50% crop.
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Old Tuesday 23rd September 2008, 09:46   #2
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Very interesting "real world" comparison. I also have a Canon DSLR set-up, the FZ18 and a little Sony camera for digiscoping. What I take out with me depends on where I'm going and what I'll be doing. The lightness of the Panasonic is a godsend if I'm lugging my scope around for several hours. I've never used it with a teleconverter and, I must say, your results are excellent. Is the Nikon converter reckoned to be the best for the FZ18?

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Old Tuesday 23rd September 2008, 15:34   #3
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I chose the Nikon TC-15ED X1.5 convertor for several reasons. It is light and balances well on the FZ18. I have no experience of the Olympus T-CON17 X1.7 convertor, but my Olympus B300 X1.7 convertor is certainly a lot heavier than the Nikon and when attached makes the camera very "nose heavy". The Nikon got execellent marks in this comprehensive review where the presence of an ED glass element was particularly noted. The Nikon convertor has received good comments on this forum as well. Finally it is (or was?) available at a bargain price on Ebay, I paid just over £30 plus postage for mine. I'm certainly pleased with my first photos with it. Tacked on to the FZ18 it gives a light hand-holdable combination that at least in good light gives a dSLR + telephoto combo costing well over twice the price and needing a permanent tripod, a run for its money.
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