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Astroscoping, art of the past? (1 Viewer)

DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
Roy,
Have a look at Meopta. Great quality for a good bit less than Swaro. We have an older 75mm APO S and it is quite good. Cost us less than half of what a Swaro would have cost.
Digiscoping is a waste of time, I think. Something like the Nikon P900 has tons of reach and amazing picture quality and more than good enough for documentation. However, I can see times when people like our avid birder friends spot something in the scope, and then simply whip out a P+S and hold it over the eyepiece and shoot. Also has its merits.

My big problem is that I need two different setups, one for walking/traveling and one for car based trips where weight is not a concern. I can't see traipsing around the Outer Hebrides all day long with a 7D II and a Sigma Sports attached (3770g). I find my E-M1 with the Canon 400/5.6 attached (1747g) tiring enough come sundown, even though I have made a good shoulder strap to take the weight off my hands (and the camera!) most of the time. Even the 7DII+Sig C weighs in at 2860g, and 7DII + 100-400 II + 1.4x Extender hits 2725g. Still, I would rather carry the weight and get the shots I want than be frustrated or resort to a P900.
As for the other, well, I have really enjoyed using my scope in spite of the frustration in trying to nail birds on the move. There an S or even something like a 500/4 vI (for 2.5 times the price!) would do fine. Any way you look at it it will cost me a packet and I might have to start lifting weights! The problem is deciding what will work best for what I need.
If the Metabones adapter works as I hope, the E-M1-400/5.6 rig is fine for the hiking part, but otherwise, still quite limited.
Paul, it is not a question of letting the camera do all the work. It is a question of not having to worry so much about focusing and being free to concentrate on other aspects of shooting. One big stress factor less wouldn't bother me a bit. The technology is there, and is getting better and better and cheaper all the time. Why not take advantage of it? Besides, it is very easy to tweak the focus manually any time you feel it has not hit the desired point.
 

JGobeil

Nature Photographer
Roy,
Have a look at Meopta. Great quality for a good bit less than Swaro. We have an older 75mm APO S and it is quite good. Cost us less than half of what a Swaro would have cost.
Digiscoping is a waste of time, I think. Something like the Nikon P900 has tons of reach and amazing picture quality and more than good enough for documentation. However, I can see times when people like our avid birder friends spot something in the scope, and then simply whip out a P+S and hold it over the eyepiece and shoot. Also has its merits.

My big problem is that I need two different setups, one for walking/traveling and one for car based trips where weight is not a concern. I can't see traipsing around the Outer Hebrides all day long with a 7D II and a Sigma Sports attached (3770g). I find my E-M1 with the Canon 400/5.6 attached (1747g) tiring enough come sundown, even though I have made a good shoulder strap to take the weight off my hands (and the camera!) most of the time. Even the 7DII+Sig C weighs in at 2860g, and 7DII + 100-400 II + 1.4x Extender hits 2725g. Still, I would rather carry the weight and get the shots I want than be frustrated or resort to a P900.
As for the other, well, I have really enjoyed using my scope in spite of the frustration in trying to nail birds on the move. There an S or even something like a 500/4 vI (for 2.5 times the price!) would do fine. Any way you look at it it will cost me a packet and I might have to start lifting weights! The problem is deciding what will work best for what I need.
If the Metabones adapter works as I hope, the E-M1-400/5.6 rig is fine for the hiking part, but otherwise, still quite limited.
Paul, it is not a question of letting the camera do all the work. It is a question of not having to worry so much about focusing and being free to concentrate on other aspects of shooting. One big stress factor less wouldn't bother me a bit. The technology is there, and is getting better and better and cheaper all the time. Why not take advantage of it? Besides, it is very easy to tweak the focus manually any time you feel it has not hit the desired point.

Very interesting discussion ! I feel the same way as Dan. I also think Paul is somewhat right when he writes that " limitations of the scope is mostly an age related thing". For some people, like me, it definitely is. And Roy, from the photos you have shown us, your 150-600 C seems like a great alternative if one doesn't mind the weight.

I'm now almost 72 and weight is a major problem - so is manual focus - so is price.

I don't enjoy staying at the same place for a long time waiting for a bird. I like to walk around, get some exercise, enjoy the nature and see things. I enjoy photographying everything, from landscapes to insects, even if my main interest is birds. I got rid of Canon a few years back because my 50D + 300mm + TC + 24-85mm was becoming way to heavy and I centainly won't go back. I now use a M43 setup that is less than half the weight and I'm willing to live with any drawbacks it represents because it allows me to pursue my hobby. I use the SW80ED only when more reach is needed, when the weather is nice and when there is not too much walking to do.

I used to have perfect eyes and manual focus was not a problem. I remember the good old days with my Nikkormat and focusing was not a problem. Now, I can't rely on my eyes anymore to focus and I have to rely on outside help like AF or Focus Peaking. Because of this, using the scope is much more difficult and slow. I don't do BIF with the scope unless I can pre-focus.

Being retired, price of equipment is a major concern and there is a limit to how much I am willing to invest. Of course, it would be nice to have 2 rigs: a light one to carry around and a 5D3 + 600mm for long range work. Unfortunately, I cannot afford it and I decided to go with a poor man's cannon, the SW80ED, which I don't regret at all because it allows me to take nice photos that wouldn't otherwise be possible with my budget.

Depending on the reviews and the price, I may very well get rid of the scope for the new Oly 300mm + TC, the Pana 100-400mm, the Metabones adaptor or any other solution that would give me more reach than the 100-300mm as long as it is not too heavy.
 

Swampy Sam

Well-known member
I'll be shooting through my 80ed for along time. I'm just now getting used to shooting through it. It is a bit of a challenge to shoot moving targets but that's what makes it worth it.:t:
 

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DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
I have focus peeking set on my "movie" button where it is easy to engage. A half press of the shutter button turns it off. I use it a LOT now, though there are times when it is counterproductive. I hear you about your eyes! Wish mine were better. My wife got new lenses last year and now sees everything perfectly. Her doctor checked me out and said, sorry, no cataracts!;)
I get all the exercise I need on my racing bike or on the ski slopes, so I don't mind a bit sitting is one good spot and waiting, though if I have my mobile rig I feel more like moving around. A lot easier to sneak up on something with a mobile rig, that is for sure.
 

JGobeil

Nature Photographer
I have focus peeking set on my "movie" button where it is easy to engage. A half press of the shutter button turns it off. I use it a LOT now, though there are times when it is counterproductive. I hear you about your eyes! Wish mine were better. My wife got new lenses last year and now sees everything perfectly. Her doctor checked me out and said, sorry, no cataracts!;)
I get all the exercise I need on my racing bike or on the ski slopes, so I don't mind a bit sitting is one good spot and waiting, though if I have my mobile rig I feel more like moving around. A lot easier to sneak up on something with a mobile rig, that is for sure.

Yey, I use the Preview button, which I never used - the lower one of the 2 buttons in front, right of the lens. It is a good idea to have it on the Movie button; I may try that.

The bad news is that we are getting older each day. The good news is that we are still able to do things we like like photography, birding and hiking. Great !
 

DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
Here is a case in point, a situation where the new 300/4+TC or the Metabones adapter might have shone. Beginning of June, isle of Mull (Scotland), after the sun had gone down behind the trees, about 8:00 PM. I had seen this juvenile White-throated Dipper fly up and down this little stream an previous days, and had even waited for him on several occasions with no luck. That evening, just as I was getting ready to pack up because the light was getting so bad, he showed up and started digging around in the stream. I was sitting on the wet ground above the stream on an embankment below a small bridge, as low to the water as I could get.
No tripod, just resting my left elbow on my knee. E-M1 with the Canon 400/5.6, no TC, IS1 on. After digging, he came in quite close and stayed still long enough to get this:
P6030361.jpg
ISO 1600, 1/60 second at 5.6.
So when there is time, that combination can really deliver. But, some of my favorite shots in the series, like this one,
P6030279.jpg
ISO 800, 1/200 at 5.6.
where he was hopping around and doing his dipper number, ended up in the trash because the focus isn't bang on the way I wanted. Peaking was problematic; bad light, darkening of the VF when using peeking, and the movement in the water and the bird made it very difficult to concentrate on his movements and try to compose a nice shot. I can't help but think that the 300/4+TC or the adapter with the Canon would have handled this, who knows... for me, once in a lifetime situation. I tried again during the next few days, but he naver came back. C'est la vie!

Yeah, Jules, as a friend of mine says, "Somehow I don't think any of us is going to make it out of here alive." Best to enjoy while we can.
B o:D
 

JGobeil

Nature Photographer
Dan, we bird photographers all remember situations like the one you describe here. Even a bag full of lenses and $$ doesn't solve the problem because these unique situations seldom last long enough to change lenses. Why didn't you use the 75-300mm ?

When birding, I use the 100-300mm and it does the job in most situations. My basic settings are ISO 800, f/5.6, Mode A, S-AF. These settings are usually optimum early in the morning when I start. As light improves, I lower ISO and sometimes I will move up to f/7.1 if I don't need a soft BG. I also try to lower the Zoom to about 275mm or less if the birds are close. Depending on where I am and the type of terrain, I will attach a flash and Better Beamer. I like to carry 2 lenses, the 100-300 and the 12-40mm as well as auto extenders for macro work, 2 or 3 batteries and a spare memory card.

I have 3 settings in memory: one for general use, one for static birding and one for BIF. I have them assigned to ART, SCN and PHOTO STORY on the mode dial. That way, I am never more than a click away from the settings I need.

I estimate that this takes care of about 60% of my needs. The other 40% are:
  1. Low light where the lens is too slow
  2. Birds in branches where focus is difficult
  3. Birds further away than about 20m which is the maximum distance for the lens.
I probably don't keep more than 20% of my shots and I should discard more than that... I crop a lot. LR and PS are essential tools. I can usually salvage a few good ones.

The 300 f/4 or 100-400 would help a lot: more light and more distance. Better image quality would also allow to crop a bit more.

Would I buy a 150-600 ? Not sure. Here is why:
  • Weight
  • Compatibility
  • Performance - how are focus speed and accuracy ?
  • BIF - Can it do C-AF ?
  • Batteries - 1 battery for 100 shots - 10 batteries for a 1000 shots day... That's a deal breaker !
 
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Paul Corfield

Well-known member
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.

LOL, you always had a way with words Roy! You've always been a lens guy though.

I think there are plenty of people using scopes, they just don't get involved in the forums like this one. You only have to look on photo sharing websites to see there are loads of die hards like myself still using scopes and getting great pictures from them too. :t:

Paul.
 

Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
Roy,
Have a look at Meopta. Great quality for a good bit less than Swaro. We have an older 75mm APO S and it is quite good. Cost us less than half of what a Swaro would have cost.
Digiscoping is a waste of time, I think. Something like the Nikon P900 has tons of reach and amazing picture quality and more than good enough for documentation. However, I can see times when people like our avid birder friends spot something in the scope, and then simply whip out a P+S and hold it over the eyepiece and shoot. Also has its merits.
Thanks Dan, I have heard a lot of good things about the Meopta scopes although I am not sure if you can buy them in the UK - I will have a scout around :t:
I agree with you about digiscoping if you are just going to do it for the photo side of it, a waste of time IMHO. I used to have a Canon SX50 which went up to 2400mm (FF eqv) with AF and IS and from what I can see it gave better results than the vast majority of digiscoped pics I see.
Having said that I have seen images from a few superb digiscopers but they mostly use high end stuff costing big bucks and even then they have to be fairly close to get really good detailed images. I actually follow several top digiscopers and some of their stuff is superb (for me,far better than anything I have seen on the astroscope gallery although what is a 'good shot' is of course subjective).

I am looking for a good quality scope primarily for bird watching but would like the option of taking a few pics for record purpose (I have all but given up bird photography these day but just keep the 150-600 C for the occasional snap).

My main purpose in entering this thread was the challenge the view that relatively cheap and lightweight third party lenses like the 150-600 series were just a load of rubbish - having previously owned lenses like the Canon 300/2.8 IS and 500/4 I most certainly know these cheapies are not in the same ball park but in the right hands they are capable of producing sharp(ish) and well detailed images IMHO.
 
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DanC.Licks

AKA Daniel Bradley
Jules, Only got a minute.
Didn't use the 75-300 because it is too short and slower and not near the IQ of the Canon 400 when set to 300mm. Didn't even have it with me.

Roy,
If you do find the Meopta scopes * make sure you check out the 30x WA eyepiece too. Usually those 30x WAs are much brighter and sharper than the 20-60x zooms, and give a much wider field of view. 30x is sort of a sweet spot in the mag range.
I think this has been a fun and informative discussion. Glad you started it!

* They are marketed world wide. Must be in the UK too. Meopta is Europe's largest optics manufacturer and they make a lot of glass for the bigger names, which I will not mention.;)
 
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Roy C

Occasional bird snapper
LOL, you always had a way with words Roy! You've always been a lens guy though.

I think there are plenty of people using scopes, they just don't get involved in the forums like this one. You only have to look on photo sharing websites to see there are loads of die hards like myself still using scopes and getting great pictures from them too. :t:

Paul.
Paul, I entered this thread as I disagreed that the third party 150-600 lenses were complete rubbish and only produced soft mush at the long end. I might have known that you would come in to make comments like "Sticking a lens on the camera and letting it do all the work would make me want to give up photography altogether" this was completely irrelevant and obviously meant to somehow belittle my contribution. Little wonder there are only half a dozen or so main contributes to this forum with attitudes like that.

BTW I do follow a lot of very good digiscopers like Paul Hackett, Robert Wilson and several others from the states and they produce some superb images but they are in the minority from what I can see. In my opinion the stuff they produce is superior to the stuff that I see on the astroscoping gallery although I would not expect you to agree of course.

What makes a 'good image' is subjective and it is obvious that your opinion of a 'good image' and mine are poles apart so lets just agree to disagree and leave it at that.
I have said all I want to say about the third party 150-600 lenses so will leave you to enjoy your little astroscoping forum and unsubscribe from the thread :t:
 

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