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Help - Best Scope Type and Camera Set-up for Oceanside Bluff Home (1 Viewer)

Compsci

Member
United States
Hi there! I’ve done a ton of internet browsing on multiple occasions, attempting to answer my question. Unfortunately, I’ve just been going in circles trying to figure out what my best option is. Upon my searches, I’ve been brought to this forum multiple times, so I’d thought I’d just post here instead and hopefully have one of you experts pick my set-up for me. I am looking to spend no more than $3,000 total. If I can keep it around $1500 or lower, even better.

Here’s my situation: I live in Alaska and my backyard is the ocean, literally. My house sits on a bluff about 300 feet above the water. From my living room, I can see 4 separate volcanoes, the closest one is situated around 30 miles away, with only ocean between it and myself. I also get pods of whales which cross the ocean, probably starting at about 2-5 miles offshore. The main migration channel for these whales is roughly 13 miles off shore. There are bald eagles that sit in trees in my backyard and also just on the beach.

Here’s what I want: The MAIN purpose of the scope will be to look out at the ocean for whales and to hopefully get high quality photo and video of them, all from my home. So, I’d love something that can get close up and personal with these whales from 15 miles out. The ability to feed close-up, high resolution video of bald eagles in my backyard is not a requirement, but a bonus. I realize a smaller scope may be needed for this. If possible and if it makes sense, I’d like something I can have sit outside that I can control (zoom/turn) via a remote from inside.

I couldn’t decide if a spotting scope or refractor telescope was the way to go. Then I got to reading how with digiscoping you may be better off just getting a long lense for a regular camera? So I am totally lost on what to do. Do I go the route of getting a nice camera with a long lense, a spotting scope with a camera and mount, or a refractor telescope with a camera and mount?

What are my best options?
 

Compsci

Member
United States
After further research, I’m saying the 15 miles is going to be too far with the atmospherically distortion. Realistically, I can see these whales with the naked eye. So maybe I’m going to set my main view goal at 6.5-7 miles.

Based on my current findings, I’m seeing that maybe a Celestron C8 could be an answer. However, the remote mounting systems are quite pricey and seem to throw off my pricing target… not even considering needing a couple of different eye pieces and then the camera system.
 

Compsci

Member
United States
A Nikon P1000 or a 3000mm Spotting scope also seem to be in the wheel house
It seems that’s the big debate these days. Are there any true 3000mm spotting scopes than can easily be interfaced with a camera to take higher res photos/videos than the P1000 can? What’s the price? Is a P1000 better than a spotting scope? Can you get remote mounts for spotting scopes?
 

Richard D

what was that...
Supporter
United Kingdom
Spotting scope wise I don't think you can do what you want to do within your budget for that sort of magnification - to get a bright enough image for digiscoping you'd be looking at a 115mm objective and using a 70x eyepiece e.g. : Swarovski ATX 115 Complete Spotting Scope (30-70x) that would give you 2940mm add to that you'll need a very heavy duty tripod and I've no idea how much a remote controlled mechanism would add to the cost.
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
If you want to be able to sit inside and control it then you need to go down the security market route rather than the astronomy/nature route. There are numerous products aimed at the security market that are designed to do what you want, usually aimed at watching people rather than wildlife. You need to look for "outdoor", "ptz (pan, tilt, zoom)", "long range". Can't give you actual product recommendations but this sounds more what you are after.
 

Compsci

Member
United States
If you want to be able to sit inside and control it then you need to go down the security market route rather than the astronomy/nature route. There are numerous products aimed at the security market that are designed to do what you want, usually aimed at watching people rather than wildlife. You need to look for "outdoor", "ptz (pan, tilt, zoom)", "long range". Can't give you actual product recommendations but this sounds more what you are after.
The security cameras are a good suggestion. I looked into that a bit. It seems that the best options are only about 48x zoom though and 3x-4x the price as a P1000. With the P1000 having 125x zoom, I'm not sure a better option is available, at least in the compact world. List of superzoom compact cameras - Wikipedia
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
A P1000 would give you more reach and you can get a Bluetooth remote for it. But then you would need to get a powered pan and tilt head for your tripod. Run separate power for the camera and the head plus HDMI to view the image. And then somehow contrive a weather-proof housing for it all. All this is doable, but I might go for an off the shelf alternative.
 

Compsci

Member
United States
A P1000 would give you more reach and you can get a Bluetooth remote for it. But then you would need to get a powered pan and tilt head for your tripod. Run separate power for the camera and the head plus HDMI to view the image. And then somehow contrive a weather-proof housing for it all. All this is doable, but I might go for an off the shelf alternative.
Do you have any recommendations for the powered pan/tilt heads and tripod mounts that are going to be good for the P1000 and stable enough for the 120x zoom?
 

glennd

Member
United States
hi compsci,
if you are willing to experiment, you might learn quite a bit about your application. i do think that at the distances you're suggesting it becomes difficult to pick out your subjects. the good news is your elevation above the ocean helps, but the angular size of a good size whale at 10 miles is less than 0.1 degrees which ignores any issues with transparancy or seeing. volcanoes are a little bigger though.

does it make sense to turn the problem around and get a good piece of gear and then find out what you can do with it? it sounds like you live in an absolutely spectacular place! My Kowa highlanders would be right at home there on a good tripod!

you mention that you would like to control the telescope from indoors. you might consider something like a celestron evolution mount which is fully capable of remote operation. then add an appropriate camera set up for wifi transmission. the evo mount utilizes the vixen standard dovetail which can be attached to any ota. they are marketed with a few different sct ota's like the celestron C8. maybe try the C6/evo combination to see if it's a one size fits all solution. for terrestrial viewing you would need a suitable prism for correct images. combinations of accesories for visual and imaging would be different.

one limitation of the sct approach is that the focal length of these instruments prohibit low power, wide field use. for that, you could buy a reasonably priced spotter to get those 2 or 3 degree low power views which are so lovely.

good luck in your choices!
glenn
 

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