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DigiScope or Camera/Lens?

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Old Thursday 14th June 2018, 08:02   #1
Troubador
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DigiScope or Camera/Lens?

Visiting nature reserves in the UK and Germany I notice a big increase in folks carrying DSLR cameras and long lenses rather than digiscoping.

Looking forward over the next couple of years or so, which option will you be using and why?

Hopefully your answers will explain whether this trend is real or whether I am mistaken and if it is real, what the reasons behind it are.

Lee
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Old Thursday 14th June 2018, 15:50   #2
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Hi Lee,
Although I don't do digiscoping, I have used both long lenses, some very long, and eyepiece projection with very long lenses or telescopes., which is I think the same as digiscoping.

The quality achievable with just a lens may be somewhat better, but one sacrifices the scale achievable with digiscoping.

I suppose there is a desire, maybe unjustified, in trying to get superb quality at a smaller scale.
This used to be the realm of the professional photographer.

Military long distant photography also employs very long lenses or enhanced eyepiece projection.

Horace Dall, I think, pushed his 16.5inch Dall Kirkham's focal length to 1,100 metres if my memory is correct, for a photo of Mercury. This is rather insane, but it got results. He also invented the atmospheric prism corrector, which is available nowadays as a commercial copy. 1,100 metre focal length lenses are not available.

The 4 inch resolution at 250 miles from the 70 inch aperture big bird telescopes needs image enhancement
somehow.

Digiscoping needs a smaller package than long lenses, and is cheaper.
Also the long lenses used for birdwatching are not long compared to astro equipment.

I saw two Astro Berlin refracting lenses at the old Calumet headquarters and asked if one was for sale, but the owner said no. One was 2,000mm f/11, the other 2,000mm f/10.
Nikon, Zeiss and Minolta had large 1000mm mirror lenses. Olympus a small 1000mm mirror. There was also a 1600mm mirror and a 2000mm mirror.
Usually these very long lenses are mirror lenses as CA becomes very difficult with refracting lenses.

I had the Zoomatar 2,000mm f/14 mirror lens, but basically I think it was junk. Impossible temperature effects with a very odd design in unsuitable material body. It was made for cine, but I cannot see how it was any good.

TTH had 30x T.V.and cine zooms with 25 to 30 lens elements. That is why they needed their patented tunable multicoating, around 1960, which was essential to make them workable.

Last edited by Binastro : Thursday 14th June 2018 at 16:01.
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Old Thursday 14th June 2018, 16:20   #3
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Refracting lenses longer than 500mm or 600mm focal length are difficult to make even with modern glass.
A zoom lens may be a bit easier as this is employing some enhancement of basic focal length.

I had an excellent Tewe 600mm f/5 lens, which was very high quality.

Also a Dallmeyer 24 inch f/5.6. Someone wanted to buy it, but I didn't want to part with it. Eventually I relented and I am pleased I did, as it went to a disabled photographer who needed it for indoor theatre work on a medium format camera, maybe a Pentacon Six. There was little available at the time at any sort of affordable price.

Pentax made an 800mm lens, maybe f/4 and also a better regarded f/6.7? for the Pentax 6x7 camera.
I had a Pentax 1000mm f/8 refracting lens, which was fairly O.K. and easy to adapt to Minolta with a Minolta to Pentax 42mm screw adapter.

I also had a large cricket wooden camera. I can't remember the lens focal length.
One of these was used for a coronation photo, maybe 1930s?

The Ross 50 inch f/8 refracting lens was very good, but again CA becomes a problem.
There were longer military refracting lenses. I can't remember if the 144 inch f/8 for 28 inch square format film was refracting or not.
There was an enormous 30 inch or 32 inch aperture lens that surfaced in a Finnish magazine but went back to classified.

The Wray series 3 lenses designed by Prof. Wynne, c. 1960 maybe, were really excellent. In 12 inch, 24 inch and 36 inch focal length. Probably rare nowadays.

The 40 inch f/5 lens designed by Baker in the U.S. is reportedly superb.

Modern long lenses can cost upwards of $10,000.

Last edited by Binastro : Thursday 14th June 2018 at 16:53.
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Old Thursday 14th June 2018, 17:01   #4
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As always you are a mine of fascinating info.

Stephen Ingraham commented on this general topic and this is posted as a sticky on this forum:

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.

Lee
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Old Thursday 14th June 2018, 21:28   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troubador View Post
Visiting nature reserves in the UK and Germany I notice a big increase in folks carrying DSLR cameras and long lenses rather than digiscoping.

Looking forward over the next couple of years or so, which option will you be using and why?

...

Lee
Some quick guesses:
1 - DSLR (also mirorless...) and their big lenses continued to improve (e.g. high ISO noise reduction), and their prices became more accessible... In the case of lenses was also because of Sigma and Tamron - I'm remembering the 150-600mm lenses - these also explain the decrease of the use of astro-telescopes as telelens;
2 - Top quality spotting scopes continue to increase cost - a 150-600mm lens cost less than a alpha 85mm scope...;
3 - increase in numbers of people interested on bird photography as main interest - birding comes after photography.
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Old Thursday 14th June 2018, 22:13   #6
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I used to digiscope but to be honest the weight of it all when carrying while out birding, got to be too much for my shoulders and it seemed like i made quicker responses in catching a bird with a camera and a long lens. Yes, you can get some awesome images through digiscoping but I just felt I was more capable with birds in flight holding a camera rather than tipping or turning the scope on a tripod.
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Old Friday 15th June 2018, 11:02   #7
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Hi,

in my limited experience I would not talk about a trend from watching and digiscoping towards pure photography - it really depends on the occasion, I think.

If it's just your normal walk across some patch, there's hopefully bins for everybody and usually a spotter or two and sometimes sb with a long lens. Sometimes people have a small cam or phone for proof or ID shots through the scope, but I think you don't have the time for serious digiscoping in a group.

Of course, if there is a chance of seeing a rarity, the number of hardcore imaging people usually rises sharply, and you can see lots of long lenses and the occasional digiscoper too - everybody else queuing for a nice look through my old Kowa...

I personally have to say that I did try taking bird pictures a few years ago (some were even acceptable), but after I had the chance to enjoy a nice long and close-up view through a good scope, I saw what I had missed before while messing around with the camera.

So for me it's a scope with the occasional phone image though it. Plus you can share the experience (as long as the bird sits still) easily while showing around even a price-worthy bird image on a small camera screen is not a lot of fun...

Joachim
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Old Friday 15th June 2018, 12:58   #8
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Originally Posted by jring View Post
Hi,

in my limited experience I would not talk about a trend from watching and digiscoping towards pure photography - it really depends on the occasion, I think.

If it's just your normal walk across some patch, there's hopefully bins for everybody and usually a spotter or two and sometimes sb with a long lens. Sometimes people have a small cam or phone for proof or ID shots through the scope, but I think you don't have the time for serious digiscoping in a group.

Of course, if there is a chance of seeing a rarity, the number of hardcore imaging people usually rises sharply, and you can see lots of long lenses and the occasional digiscoper too - everybody else queuing for a nice look through my old Kowa...

I personally have to say that I did try taking bird pictures a few years ago (some were even acceptable), but after I had the chance to enjoy a nice long and close-up view through a good scope, I saw what I had missed before while messing around with the camera.

So for me it's a scope with the occasional phone image though it. Plus you can share the experience (as long as the bird sits still) easily while showing around even a price-worthy bird image on a small camera screen is not a lot of fun...

Joachim
Thanks for your input Joachim.

Lee

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