• BirdForum is the net's largest birding community dedicated to wild birds and birding, and is absolutely FREE!

    Register for an account to take part in lively discussions in the forum, post your pictures in the gallery and more.

Astroscoping, art of the past? (1 Viewer)

cango

Well-known member
Am I right?

With the affordable 150-600 lenses (Tamron/Sigmas) I've seen less and less interest in astroscopes.

They may not be comparable optically - for the same money - astroscopes (apos) being sharper, but I guess the 150-600 are good enough, and user friendlier.

The reason I brought it up is because it was a long time (to me) since "new blood" joined the astroscope section.

I personally have thought changing to one of those 150-600, but since none of those are Olympus mounts, I'm not prepared to trade off som mm on the long end.

And - to be honest - I'm having trouble learning to use AF (with my 70-300 m43 lens) and get shots like the one attached. I can simply not get them without the scope. But the scope has served me well, and if it comes to change it, it will more likely be one of the new apos.
 

Attachments

  • PA030925-BF.jpg
    PA030925-BF.jpg
    542.3 KB · Views: 241

JGobeil

Nature Photographer
Am I right?

With the affordable 150-600 lenses (Tamron/Sigmas) I've seen less and less interest in astroscopes.

They may not be comparable optically - for the same money - astroscopes (apos) being sharper, but I guess the 150-600 are good enough, and user friendlier.

The reason I brought it up is because it was a long time (to me) since "new blood" joined the astroscope section.

I personally have thought changing to one of those 150-600, but since none of those are Olympus mounts, I'm not prepared to trade off som mm on the long end.

And - to be honest - I'm having trouble learning to use AF (with my 70-300 m43 lens) and get shots like the one attached. I can simply not get them without the scope. But the scope has served me well, and if it comes to change it, it will more likely be one of the new apos.

Hello Carlos,

True. only a handful of us are still active on this forum. Your explanation may be the reason.

I switched from Canon to Oly because of weight and I have no regret. I started with a EM-5 and got a lot of photos like the one you show here. Upgrading to the EM-1 with its smaller focus squares fixed the problem. I also got used to the Pana 100-300mm: I now know its strengths and weaknesses and I have good results with it. Even BIF turn out pretty good since the last firmware upgrade.

I still use the SW80ED. I always focus using the Focus Peaking of the EM-1 and it is pretty accurate and fast. With a good TN and extenders, it gives me nice photos up to 2400mm (35mm EQ). Of course, it is quite big, but there is no other solution at a decent price to get to 48X. I bring it with me only when I know that the birds will be far away, like water birds.

Would I go back to a DSLR to get one of the new 150-600 ? No way ! It is too big and heavy to replace my 100-300mm and not powerful enough to replace my SW80ED (horrible results with a TC). I wait patiently for the new Oly 300mm with a TC or the Pana 100-400mm.

Regards
Jules
 

cango

Well-known member
Would I go back to a DSLR to get one of the new 150-600 ? No way ! It is too big and heavy to replace my 100-300mm and not powerful enough to replace my SW80ED (horrible results with a TC). I wait patiently for the new Oly 300mm with a TC or the Pana 100-400mm.

Regards
Jules

Hi Jules,

I guess what you're saying in the quoted part above is true if you have worked with a scope as well as a lighter m43 70-300/100-300.

and I'm sure If I hade a better suited m43 for bif/AF, like the e-m1, or it's successor, I would get better results with AF. But the truth is 9.5 times of 10 I always get the scope out, so I don't get to practise enough, :)
 

DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
From what I have seen the only one of the 150-600s that is at all decent on the long end is the Sigma Sports. The Tamron is mush above 500mm and the Sigma C is not much better. None of them can compete with the big primes like the Canon/Nikon 500/4 and 600/5.6s, and in turn, they can't keep up with our scopes in terms of pure resolution. The new Canon 100-400 II with a 1.4 Extender III is still sharper than any of the three 150-600s. But the best lens is no better than a cheep zoom if the picture is not in focus or if there is too much air in the way.
 

cango

Well-known member
From what I have seen the only one of the 150-600s that is at all decent on the long end is the Sigma Sports. The Tamron is mush above 500mm and the Sigma C is not much better. None of them can compete with the big primes like the Canon/Nikon 500/4 and 600/5.6s, and in turn, they can't keep up with our scopes in terms of pure resolution. The new Canon 100-400 II with a 1.4 Extender III is still sharper than any of the three 150-600s. But the best lens is no better than a cheep zoom if the picture is not in focus or if there is too much air in the way.

agree if we look at it from the resolution etc point. But from what I've seen in picture way, they seem to be "good enough" for what you pay. Those willing to pay for the big N and C pimes never looked at scopes anyway. But those who did because of price and reach, I think have choosed those 150-600.
 

Tord

Well-known member
Having practiced quite intensively for 3 years now (just checked the actuation count on my EM5, it shows 30k+ pictures, most of them with the scope) I have come to a point where I feel confident in most situations achieving at least as good results with my scopes than with any of my lenses, including the 300/2.8. The drawback with the scope as I see it is the form factor and the ergonomics making hand-held shooting tricky. Need to have my fingers grow in length...
 

cango

Well-known member
Having practiced quite intensively for 3 years now (just checked the actuation count on my EM5, it shows 30k+ pictures, most of them with the scope) I have come to a point where I feel confident in most situations achieving at least as good results with my scopes than with any of my lenses, including the 300/2.8. The drawback with the scope as I see it is the form factor and the ergonomics making hand-held shooting tricky. Need to have my fingers grow in length...

yes, you have really mastered the hand held technique! I need a third arm for that...haha
 

DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
Just hitting 40k with mine. If the Adapter works as planned I might get a newer one and sell this one. They are getting quite cheap here now, lightly used with HDL-7 for around €900.
 

DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
Just noticed the Sigma Sports 150-600 for Nikon here for €1666.-, €1699.- for Canon. Quite a drop from the €2200.- they were asking when it came out. I can see how that is getting interesting. There are MANY used Tamrons for sale, but I haven't seen a single used Sigma.
I have seen more and more of the various 150-600s when out and around.
 

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
Here are a few taken with the Sigma 150-600 'C' all at 600mm and hand held and cropped fairly heavily.
The lens is slightly lighter than the SW80 I had and significantly lighter when handholding as opposed to having to use a tripod with the astroscoping. You also have full AF as well.
 

Attachments

  • linnet p.jpg
    linnet p.jpg
    247.2 KB · Views: 208
  • swallow in flight1.jpg
    swallow in flight1.jpg
    167.1 KB · Views: 203
  • stone05.jpg
    stone05.jpg
    168.8 KB · Views: 184
  • swallow02.jpg
    swallow02.jpg
    227.4 KB · Views: 205
  • juv star 2.jpg
    juv star 2.jpg
    209.4 KB · Views: 196
Last edited:

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
The Sigma 150-600 'C' also takes a 1.4x tc very well considering it is at f9 - AF is very good with this combo on both my 5D3 and 7D2.
All these were taken with a 1.4x tc on board. This gives you a 210 - 840mm lens (max 1344 FOV with the 7D2).
 

Attachments

  • curlew1 with tc P.jpg
    curlew1 with tc P.jpg
    236.4 KB · Views: 182
  • gold1 840mm.jpg
    gold1 840mm.jpg
    226.1 KB · Views: 190
  • gold1 at 840mm x 1200px.jpg
    gold1 at 840mm x 1200px.jpg
    267.1 KB · Views: 186
  • curlew 840mm 1.jpg
    curlew 840mm 1.jpg
    278.4 KB · Views: 178
  • gold02 with tc.jpg
    gold02 with tc.jpg
    247.4 KB · Views: 180
Last edited:

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
The Tamron is mush above 500mm and the Sigma C is not much better..
Before I got the Siggy C I had a Tamron 150-600 Dan. Here are a few taken with the Tammy at the full 600mm and hand held - not brilliant I will admit but not exactly mush IMO Dan.
BTW I got rid of the Tammy in favour of the Sigmy 150-600 C because of the AF performance and its ability to AF with a 1.4x tc.
 

Attachments

  • dunlin 09.jpg
    dunlin 09.jpg
    211.9 KB · Views: 199
  • lg02.jpg
    lg02.jpg
    198.3 KB · Views: 201
  • gold1 at 600mm 1200.jpg
    gold1 at 600mm 1200.jpg
    185.6 KB · Views: 180
  • dunlin13v2.jpg
    dunlin13v2.jpg
    253.6 KB · Views: 190
  • chaff1.jpg
    chaff1.jpg
    252 KB · Views: 194
Last edited:

DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
Roy,
On a 5DIII it is, as you say, not that bad, as it is on the D800. Larger pixels! On a 7DII/D7200 it is mush... ok, quite soft ;) above 500mm. I have seen a lot of samples, studio tests and field tests. Even your samples show the difference between the two bodies with the same lens, with or without the TC. Little pixel sensors shine with better quality lenses with larger appertures.
Do you notice any difference in sharpness with the Sigma C? It looks to be a bit better on the long end where the Tammy is better on the short end. Which TC do you use with it? The new Sigma is supposed to be quite good.
The Sigma S seems to be somewhat better than both on the long end. Still a bit short of the big primes, but hey! A 5-7 year old Canon 500/4 runs around €4000-€4200, and the S can be had new for €1666! That is only €555 per kg! o:)
But... the Canon 100-400 II beats them all, though those extra 200mm do come in handy.
 

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
Roy,
On a 5DIII it is, as you say, not that bad, as it is on the D800. Larger pixels! On a 7DII/D7200 it is mush... ok, quite soft ;) above 500mm. I have seen a lot of samples, studio tests and field tests. Even your samples show the difference between the two bodies with the same lens, with or without the TC. Little pixel sensors shine with better quality lenses with larger appertures.
Do you notice any difference in sharpness with the Sigma C? It looks to be a bit better on the long end where the Tammy is better on the short end. Which TC do you use with it? The new Sigma is supposed to be quite good.
The Sigma S seems to be somewhat better than both on the long end. Still a bit short of the big primes, but hey! A 5-7 year old Canon 500/4 runs around €4000-€4200, and the S can be had new for €1666! That is only €555 per kg! o:)
But... the Canon 100-400 II beats them all, though those extra 200mm do come in handy.
Sure a full frame like the 5D3 is bound to yield better results than a crop Camera, albeit at the expense of a lot of reach (I have both the 7D2 and 5D3). Four of those Sigma 150-600 C shots at 600mm were taken on a 7D2 Dan - if they are mush/soft then goodness knows what a lot of the astroscope samples on this forum are ;).

The main trouble with a lot of the Sigma 150-600 C samples you see online is :-

a) An awful lot of the users are very inexperience with long lenses (whereas the Sport tends to attract the more experienced photographer).

b) Most people have not even bothered to optimized the lens via the USB dock . I have even seen some so called professional reviews who never even bothered to change the AF priority to 'Focus' (the default is between speed and priority). Changing to dynamic OS also makes an enormous difference if handholding as does stopping down a tad to f8.

At 400mm the 100-400 II is probably a bit better than the Sigma, most have said that it is similar to the Canon 400/5.6 prime at 400mm. I have tested the 400/5.6 prime extensively against the Sigma C. At 560mm the Sigma will most certainly beat either Canon lenses for fine detail. The Canon's are also slower at f8 against f6.3 when using a converter.

As for the Sport v Contemporary argument I have seen very little evidence to suggest that the sport is optically much better than the 'c'. The main difference between the two is the weather sealing/ build quality and weight but even Sigma themselves say that the two are very similar optically. For me there are three reasons to prefer the 'C' over the 'S' and that is weight, weight and weight.

Obviously none of these third party 150-600 lenses are up to the big Canon or Nikon primes but at 20% or so of the cost you could not expect them to be. For the money they are superb value IMHO.

BTW Once optimized I think the Siggy 'C' is a far better lens that the Tammy - at the long end there is not a lot in it but the Siggy has a far better AF system and being able to use a 1.4x tc and still get a good AF performance is a bonus. I use a Canon 1.4x tc MII with the Siggy (apparently neither the Sigma 1.4x tc or the Canon 1.4x tc MKIII work as well).
 
Last edited:

DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
Thanks Roy,
Good comments.
The dock is a real bonus, for sure. You just have to be willing to take the time and test.
Bummer about the Extender III not working, but hey, if the II works I can always sell my III and downgrade. Supposedly not much difference in the 1.4s anyway. The biggest difference is in the 2x III over the II.
 

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
Thanks Roy,
Good comments.
The dock is a real bonus, for sure. You just have to be willing to take the time and test.
Bummer about the Extender III not working, but hey, if the II works I can always sell my III and downgrade. Supposedly not much difference in the 1.4s anyway. The biggest difference is in the 2x III over the II.
Dan, a few people seem to have had success with the 1.4x mkIII whereas a lot of others have not, seems hit and miss for some reason whereas the 1.4x MkII is very reliable. I agree 100% with your thoughts on the converters - not much difference between the 1.4x 's but the mkIII 2x is supposed to be a fair bit better than the MkII.
Attached a few more snaps with the relatively cheap and lightweight 150-600 C. While it certainly has its limitations I still think it is very reasonable for the money, especially seeing it is easily hand hold-able.
 

Attachments

  • swallow 01.jpg
    swallow 01.jpg
    254.1 KB · Views: 152
  • young robin2.jpg
    young robin2.jpg
    229.8 KB · Views: 179
  • young dun1.jpg
    young dun1.jpg
    236.1 KB · Views: 157
  • stone02.jpg
    stone02.jpg
    214.4 KB · Views: 181
  • black1.jpg
    black1.jpg
    240.4 KB · Views: 163

DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
Absolutely!
Our scopes, even the Skywatcher 80/600, can out resolve even the big white monsters any day of the week. The SW has a Strehl value around 0.92, my triplet has 0.97. 1 is optically perfect. The highest I have ever seen in a scope is 0.98. Canon and Nikon are very eager to keep such measurements under the blanket. No wonder when they are good if they can hit 0.80. No astro-photographer in his right mind would buy a telescope with such a Strehl measurement. That is why you never see them using the Canon or Nikon lenses. My friend at the telescope shop does a lot of astro work, and bought a Canon 300/4, a famously sharp lens, for such things as the Andromeda Nebula. What a shock he got. More or less OK in the center, but around the edges all the stars had mustaches! Totally useless! So he tried a 300/2.8 that costs four times as much, and it was even worse! Horses for courses....
It boils down to four basic things when comparing our apples with oranges. The scopes are far sharper, but at what cost?
1. Can't stop down.
2. Bokeh is poor, not at all "creamy" the way we like it, (as if astro jockies give a hoot about Bokeh!;) )
3. Not hand hold-able.
4. Manual focus!!! OK, there are times when it is better than AF, but not often with nervous birds. The sharpest lens on the best camera is useless if the picture is not in focus, (or for that mater, if there is too much bad air!). Certainly not with what we do where feather detail and sharpness in the eye is so important.

So to me there is now wonder at all that people are buying up the Tamrons and Sigmas like hot cakes. Add the new Nikon 200-500 (about the cost of the Sports, very sharp, but no weather sealing) to the mix, and there is temptation everywhere!

At 71, I am basically tired of the strain of manual focus, even with the E-M1 which has made it MUCH easier. If you can get it right, you can't beat the scopes for optical quality. Getting everything right is not always all that easy.

Here is a good site for lens comparisons:
http://www.the-digital-picture.com/...meraComp=453&SampleComp=0&FLIComp=7&APIComp=0
You can select lens, camera and f-stop in the drop down menus. Check out the S vs.C version with the 7DII at 600mm wide open, also the difference between the 7DII and the 1D IIIs they use. Such tests are at times brutal, and you have to think how the results will translate into real world situations.

Like the low light studio tests on dpreview. Select the cameras you want to compare, and the ISO and download the raw files. Then select the area on the lower left and bring them up about 1.6EV, and balance the WB on the white arrow. No NR or sharpening. Pretty revealing!
027A0224-5.jpg DSC_0623-5.jpg P9120014-2.jpg

What does this prove? Bringing up the underside of the wings of a dark eagle against a bright sky by even more than 1.6 EV is every day procedure, and something that is a real problem with the E-M1! Without heavy selective NR it gets "dirty" quite quickly. It shows me where the limits are of what a sensor can handle, and what you have to work with in PP. But this opens up another big can or worms....;)
 

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
Yes, I have know about and been using the Digital picture lens comparison site for many many years Dan (and the test on dpreview) :t:. It is OK as a rough guide but I would not put too much emphasis on it - I have tested different lenses in the field (or in my garden) against each other using a good tripod/head and remote cable release or Camera timer and I have not always come up with the same conclusions as the digital picture findings. With the Sigma 150-600 lenses for instant they do not even use the dock to change the AF priority as far as I know so that nullifies any results for me!
I have seen thousands upon thousands of samples from the 150-600 sport on umpteen different web sites and even from some folks who have owned both lenses and I would fully agree with Sigma that there is little difference optically between the S and C. For me the 'Sport' is just too heavy to cart around for hours so the lighter weight 'C' suits me fine.

I once had the a SW80ED set-up and got some nice results with it but the number of potential shots I missed because of having to use it on a pod and in manual focus as well as other things like not being able to change the aperture, not being able to easily and quickly dial in some Ev compensation (I know you can change the shutter speed but that can come at a cost) made it a pain in the butt to use.
With the 150-600 I can attache it to my BR strap and walk the estuary for hours (and I am older than you!!) with it being ready to latch onto a bird at a seconds notice - I can very easily/quickly change EV comp, AF area mode, drive mode (although I use back button focusing and servo mode all the time so no need to ever change the drive mode). Like most of these things, providing you work within its limitations, shoot in RAW and know a bit about processing you can get some nice results even with relatively cheap lenses like this.

BTW have you tried a piece of software called 'Piccure plus' ? It can be slow to run, especially on a slower PC but is fairly impressive on some lenses IMO. I have tried it on shots (RAWs) from some of my previous lenses like the 500/4 and 300/2.8 IS and it has little or no impact but on lesser lenses like the Sigma's and Tammy it is very impressive - some even say it "Turns Your Kit lens Into Zeiss Quality" lol. Well worth a read and free trial if you have any 'lesser' lenses although I would not use the sharpening module (you can zero this) as it causes the dreaded halos. I used it as a CS5 plugin although my months free trial has just expired so I am considering buying it.
 
Last edited:

Paul Corfield

Well-known member
I guess the limitations of the scope is mostly an age related thing. I'd guess my success ratio with the scope is higher than 80% in all situations. If I didn't count photos lost to atmospheric conditions outside of my control then I'd bet it would be higher still. I've grown up building optical devices to go on the front of cameras and only ever used manual focus so that's why I enjoy this method so much and get really good success with it. Making something, trying it out on the scope and seeing that it works far better than something that costs vastly more is great fun for me. Sticking a lens on the camera and letting it do all the work would make me want to give up photography altogether. I know my views will be completely in the minority, it's the madcap inventor within me. :t:

Paul.
 

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
I guess the limitations of the scope is mostly an age related thing. I'd guess my success ratio with the scope is higher than 80% in all situations. If I didn't count photos lost to atmospheric conditions outside of my control then I'd bet it would be higher still. I've grown up building optical devices to go on the front of cameras and only ever used manual focus so that's why I enjoy this method so much and get really good success with it. Making something, trying it out on the scope and seeing that it works far better than something that costs vastly more is great fun for me. Sticking a lens on the camera and letting it do all the work would make me want to give up photography altogether. I know my views will be completely in the minority, it's the madcap inventor within me. :t:

Paul.
That's fair enough Paul - each to their own, its is obvious that you enjoy all the playing around with various components and good luck to you.
I have always been interested in trying to get reasonable images from so called inferior/cheaper equipment myself (like the cheapie 150-600 C) but the sheer inconvenience of astroscoping was a pain in the butt for me. I would say that from the somewhat lack of interest/take up in this forum that the vast majority of folks feel the same as the OP has suggested when opening this thread, it is an art of the past!. Although a few die hards like yourself will carry on regardless. With cheaper/lighter long(ish) lenses becoming available the vast majority of people cannot be arsed with astroscoping even if they are optically superior (and that is a mute point with a lot of people anyway).
To say the limitations with a scope is a age related thing is ridiculous IMO - I do not see swarms of youngsters jumping on the astroscoping bandwagon!!. As for success rates it is an individual thing - 'one mans meat is another mans poison' You may well be happy with a high percentage of your shots but that is not to say everyone would be!! A lot of the samples I see in the astroscoping gallery are fairly poor IMHO but if the poster is happy with them that that is all that matters I guess.

Its a similar thing with digiscoping - although I have seen some very good stuff from top end (and expensive) kit from the likes of swaro and Kowa the vast majority of digiscoping images can easily be beaten by a little so called 'superzoom' camera like the SX50 costing a few hundred pounds. For the birder that wants to take record shots its far easier to carry a little superzoom along with his scope - just whip it out of your pocket or bag and you can have your shots in seconds - far easier than pratting around with digiscoping set-up IMHO. Having said that I am looking to get a decent birding scope at the minute as my main interest is the birds these days and not the images.
 
Last edited:

Users who are viewing this thread

Top