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New to digiscoping - scope advice (1 Viewer)

Bulbul87

Active member
Hi,

I do not have a very extensive background in birding, being limited primarily to my back garden and the local nature parks. I have taken a few shots with my Canon 40D and 100-400 EF lens (purchased particularly for nature) which were not too bad, but the reach of the lens was often inadequate. Wanting to extend this, I tried adding a proper Canon EF 2x converter, but the results were poor as it was difficult to focus properly, the images were dark and far too soft if not completely out of focus most of the time. The other disadvantage was that the setup was rather heavy.

A friend of mine who is an avid birder mentioned digiscoping so I have been looking into what this is all about. I already have a Lumix LX5 compact camera which I understand is suitable for this but am not wondering what scope to buy. Since I also come from an astornomy background, I initially looked at the Celestron Regal and Ultima scopes which also take astronomy eyepieces and would make the scope 'dual purpose' - birding and wide field astronomy. My friend however suggested a secondhand Kowa.

Of course, I realize that the requirements for a daytime terrestrial scope are very different to a nighttime celestial one. I also note from some comments on this forum that 80mm seems to be the minimum recommended aperature for digiscoping. So I guess my question is whether it is viable to use a dual purpose scope such as the Celestron? Will a Kowa be better for digiscoping? Will it take 1.25in astro eyepieces - do spotting scopes in general?

We already have an astro scope so good quality digiscoping rather than astro work would be my primary concern in this case. Are many of the budget scopes (£90-200) suitable for this or do I need to spend considerably more on a APO/ED type scope to get decent results?

Note, I can't really afford a Swaro or Leica, nor am I seriously enough into birding yet to justify such an expense. I would prefer to start with something at the budget end that is viable for digiscoping and would give me encouraging rather than frustrating results. I might consider something something in the £200-300 as a long term investment. I have a Slik Diamond 88 tripod which I am hoping will suffice for this purpose?

I would also need advice on how to connect the camera (LX5 to the scope).

As you can see, have many questions to any comments will be appreciated.
 

Tord

Well-known member
Hi,

I am not sure if I got exactly what you are looking for. A spotting scope designed for observation that suitable for digiscoping (using a compact camera and taking pictures through the eyepice)?

To end up with good results you will need a spotting scope with ED lenses, and as you write 80 mm lens diameter. Look at Swarowski, Kowa, Nikon, Leica, Zeiss... If your budget is limited then I would avoid cheaper, non-ED scopes (unless you accept results with mediocre image quality).

I also read you already have a DSLR, and you mention you are considering a telescope for dual purpose. I would recommend looking at this forum where you can read about using telescopes as super telephoto lenses:
http://www.birdforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=657

I would start by looking at these threads:
Setups: http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=194800
Gallery: http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=194789

I took the plunge some months ago and must say am happy with the results I have achieved so far. Considering the moderate cost (300€ for a new scope with ED glasses + focuser), 50-100 € for extension tubes and DSLR adapter) you will end up with a setup with longer FL than your AF lens, very high optical performance, capable of very sharp pictures. Look for scopes around 600mm FL and 80mm diameter.

You will also need a tripod and head that allows easy operation, reliable attachment could involve some easy DYI.

/Tord
 

Bulbul87

Active member
Thanks Tord. Your reply has been helpful. So I have confirmed:

- ED type scope
- 80mm aperature or above
- 600mm focal legth
- tripod
- head with easy adjustment

I was considering selling my 100-400mm Canon lens as this can fetch around £750 on eBay, but only if there was an advantage. I don't use it for photography much in a professional sense, only very ocasionally for nature. If a digiscopinging setup would allow me to do the same either with my 40D or LX5 I might consider that an acceptable trade with the bonus that a cope can be used visually (lens can't) and with the extra cash I can get a better scope.

Just going over to have a look at the threads you mention. Thanks for poiting them out.

Not sure what you meant by extension tubes though?
 

Tord

Well-known member
Not sure what you meant by extension tubes though?
If you attach a DSLR to a refractor scope originally intended for astrophotography you need to position the camera sensor at distance from the optics in order tobe able to focus at useful distances (read: close enough, something like 5 meters or so). This is similar as mounting a macro extension tube between the lens and the camera body. The extension tube is essentially a cylinder with a 1.5", 2" or 3" diameter that you mount into the focuser. The tubes exist in various lengths, typically a 75 mm length tube would be about right.

Check the setup thread.
 

kwikstaart

Well-known member
Welcome Bulbul,

just a few considerations:

1) a smaller scope (50-65mm) can be very suitable for digiscoping. A bigger front lens diameter helps of course in bad daylight and you can start a few minutes earlier in the morning (and go on a little longer in the evening)
2) the bigger the scope the heavier it gets and you also need a heavier tripod
3) ED, HD or APO glass really is preferable: beter light, better colours and no chromatic aberrations are minimised.
4) please consider a fixed magnification eyepiece, preferably a 30x wide angle. 1,25"eyepieces only fit Pentax scopes as far as I know. A zoom eyepiece causes vignetting in 99% of the camera's.
5) With your zoomlens you can photograph birds in flight or moving birds. Digiscoping is primarily for sitting birds (at a distance) and very well possible with a normal small digital camera. Please keep them both!!
6) angled or straight: most birders prefer angled: they are easier to use for birds in flight (mind you: with a good scope you just love viewing through it, it's just a new dimension to your hobbie, also in your garden). And your tripod can be set much lower which is better for stabilisation.
7) You can consider secondhand scopes of Swaro, Zeiss, Leica (PO televid), Kowa (823), Nikon ED82, ED50 or RAI III (60mm)
8) Please buy a good one. it's better to save a little longer as the quality comes with the price, but the pleasure as well
9) please try them out in the field as much as you can, most birders are more than willing to assist you so you can make the choce that fits you

Please share with us what you decide and how it suits you! Good luck with your choice;)

regards,
Kwikstaart (I use a Kowa TSN 883, before I had a Nikon ED82A and a Swaro 65 non-HD)
 
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Tord

Well-known member
PS, does straight through versus 45 deg matter for digiscoping or is this just personnal choice?
Straight is much, much easier than photographing through angled. Locating the subject through angled viewfinder is some of a challenge. Check the setup thread and you will see all are straight.
 

kwikstaart

Well-known member
Straight is much, much easier than photographing through angled. Locating the subject through angled viewfinder is some of a challenge. Check the setup thread and you will see all are straight.

maybe that's true on the objective side but with a little experience the angled version is just as easy. As a scope is mostly used for both viewing and digiscoping the angled version has its advantages while viewing birds in flight and the more stable tripod as it stands lower. In The Netherlands 90% an angled version is used.
 

Bulbul87

Active member
If you attach a DSLR to a refractor scope originally intended for astrophotography you need to position the camera sensor at distance from the optics in order tobe able to focus at useful distances (read: close enough, something like 5 meters or so). This is similar as mounting a macro extension tube between the lens and the camera body. The extension tube is essentially a cylinder with a 1.5", 2" or 3" diameter that you mount into the focuser. The tubes exist in various lengths, typically a 75 mm length tube would be about right.

Thanks for that. I'm familiar with macro tubes although I only used them in photography a couple of times. Something to perhaps consider once I have a scope and have had a chance to experimented with it.
 

Tord

Well-known member
maybe that's true on the objective side but with a little experience the angled version is just as easy. As a scope is mostly used for both viewing and digiscoping the angled version has its advantages while viewing birds in flight and the more stable tripod as it stands lower. In The Netherlands 90% an angled version is used.

Hi,

I agree with this to some extent. Angled scopes are more comfortable for observation, this is true. I use a Nikon ED82A spotting scope with angled eyepiece for observation and started digiscoping 1.5 years back, using that scope. (An excellent scope by the way, reasonably priced considering the performance is rivalling the most expensive high end such as Swaro and Kowa. Check the Scope forum threads for opinions).
  • I use the scope for digiscoping but it is practical only for subjects that are reasonably still. As soon as birds are moving around or hiding in trees it becomes a challenge to target a moving subject with 1200mm F/12.8 focal length, add to this the need to compensate for the angled eyepiece...
  • Since this spring I have been using a 600mm F/7.5 telescope with straight mount for photography purpose. This setup is so much easier to operate, locating subjects is so much easier. If I need extra reach I add teleconverters to turn it into 840 or 1200 mm, but usually I use it without.

I have attached two pictures showing the setups to give you an idea. I have attached my DSLR body to the Nikon scope using a dedicated DSLR adapter (replacing the eyepiece, so the configuration is no longer intended for observation. If I want to observe I need to unmount the adapter and mount the eyepice, since it is a thread mount it takes time and you don't want to do it repeated times). I also have an SRB Griturn generic swing adapter to position a Canon S95 P&S camera to the eyepiece (not shown here). That allows to shift between observation and photography.

My question to Bulbul: do you intend to buy a scope with main purpose observation or photography, or both? This is not fully clear from your start post.

/Tord
 

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Bulbul87

Active member
1) a smaller scope (50-65mm) can be very suitable for digiscoping. A bigger front lens diameter helps of course in bad daylight and you can start a few minutes earlier in the morning (and go on a little longer in the evening)
2) the bigger the scope the heavier it gets and you also need a heavier tripod
3) ED, HD or APO glass really is preferable: beter light, better colours and no chromatic aberrations are minimised.
4) please consider a fixed magnification eyepiece, preferably a 30x wide angle. 1,25"eyepieces only fit Pentax scopes as far as I know. A zoom eyepiece causes vignetting in 99% of the camera's.
7) You can consider secondhand scopes of Swaro, Zeiss, Leica (PO televid), Kowa (823), Nikon ED82, ED50 or RAI III (60mm)
8) Please buy a good one. it's better to save a little longer as the quality comes with the price, but the pleasure as well
9) please try them out in the field as much as you can, most birders are more than willing to assist you so you can make the choce that fits you

All noted for future purchase consideration.

5) With your zoomlens you can photograph birds in flight or moving birds. Digiscoping is primarily for sitting birds (at a distance). Please keep them both!!

Never thought about thanks. Thanks for mentioning it! Final decision will depend on finances though. Might mean saving for quite a bit longer though.

6) angled or straight: most birders prefer angled: they are easier to use for birds in flight (mind you: with a good scope you just love viewing through it, it's just a new dimension to your hobbie, also in your garden). And your tripod can be set much lower which is better for stabilisation.
Straight is much, much easier than photographing through angled. Locating the subject through angled viewfinder is some of a challenge. Check the setup thread and you will see all are straight.

Two different but interesting views. Would it be possible to attach a 45deg prism to a straight through scope to allow it to be used straight through for photography and angled for visual use? Since a spotting scope presumably has image inverting optics inside the scope barrel (as per a monocular or binocular) I am guessing not because this would affect the orientation of the image but I would be interested to know if such a possiblity exists.

PS, I will have a look at that setup thread.
 

Bulbul87

Active member
My question to Bulbul: do you intend to buy a scope with main purpose observation or photography, or both? This is not fully clear from your start post.
/Tord

Wasn't initially sure myself, but I think the answer is both. Its beggining to look like the ED80 is the way to go as it can be easily adapted to either an observing or digiscoping setup and as a bonus for casual astro use. Its also reasonably affordable and does not require me to sell my Canon zoom lens.

Am I right in thinking that an ED100 would sacrifice too much in terms of portability and at 900mm would become too cumbersome to target?
 

Tord

Well-known member
Wasn't initially sure myself, but I think the answer is both. Its beggining to look like the ED80 is the way to go as it can be easily adapted to either an observing or digiscoping setup and as a bonus for casual astro use. Its also reasonably affordable and does not require me to sell my Canon zoom lens.

Am I right in thinking that an ED100 would sacrifice too much in terms of portability and at 900mm would become too cumbersome to target?

Hi,

You may want to check with for instance Teleskop-Express what the options are to adapt the scope (this is where I bought my scope, German retailer, English spoken, have been very nice to deal with, great support and responsive). I suppose there are reliable UK retailers as well if you prefer.
http://www.teleskop-express.de/shop/product_info.php/info/p5540_Skywatcher-EVOSTAR-ED80-ED-APO-80-600mm-2--FOC-MICRO.html

Regarding the choice of scopes: If you check the Setup forum threads, you will see that most people would use 80 mm scope, focal length 480-600mm, which provides enough performance, provided the glass has high quality. There are several makes, some of them use the same components in a different assembly. I picked the Skywatcher based on the recommendations on that forum and it was a good decision. Raise any questions there and I am sure you will get answers (activity seems somewhat low right now, I suppose impact from summer vacations).

Extension tube(s), M42 threads and DSLR adapters can be sourced from Teleskop Service as well, they seem to be well stocked. Tripod attachments can involve some DIY, again check the setup thread.

I have seen a few people using 90 or even 100mm, at expense of portability and weight. A 80mm scope weights typically 2.5 kg, a 100mm may weigh 10kg! The optical performance and resolution with 80 mm is most likely sufficient for your needs.

It took me some time to get the full picture and understand this new game. Now I am hooked.

/Tord
 

Bulbul87

Active member
You may want to check with for instance Teleskop-Express what the options are to adapt the scope (this is where I bought my scope, German retailer, English spoken, have been very nice to deal with, great support and responsive).

Will check them out.

Regarding the choice of scopes: If you check the Setup forum threads, you will see that most people would use 80 mm scope, focal length 480-600mm, which provides enough performance, provided the glass has high quality. There are several makes, some of them use the same components in a different assembly. I picked the Skywatcher based on the recommendations on that forum and it was a good decision. Raise any questions there and I am sure you will get answers (activity seems somewhat low right now, I suppose impact from summer vacations).

Yes, had a look at Vixen and William Optics as well. Bit more costly, but I guess you get what you pay for. Can't find that Setup thread by the way.

I have seen a few people using 90 or even 100mm, at expense of portability and weight. A 80mm scope weights typically 2.5 kg, a 100mm may weigh 10kg! The optical performance and resolution with 80 mm is most likely sufficient for your needs.

Suspected as much. Thanks for the confirmation.

It took me some time to get the full picture and understand this new game. Now I am hooked.

Yes, that's why I'm asking lots of questions and why I appreciate the responses.
 

kwikstaart

Well-known member
I am also still learning but I have to be honest: although some of my pictures are quite good, most of them are intended just proof of the visual (mostly rare birds in The Netherlands). Perfectly sharp shots require a lot of time and a lot of pictures of the same bird, just as with a DSLR. The shots you see on websites as digiscooppix.nl are mostly made from a hiding (tent for example).

So you have to make a decision: making the best possible will require equally good alpha-equipment. If not you will always be disappointed. I have a good scope so I know it's my amateurism when the picture is not as great as I hoped ;)

Indeed the Nikon ED82 (A) has probably the best value for the money but the Fieldscope III 60mm is also very good. I am not sure whether these can be bought secondhand but on amazon.com the lowest price for the latter was $ 849 including the zoom eyepiece.
 

Tord

Well-known member
Yes, had a look at Vixen and William Optics as well. Bit more costly, but I guess you get what you pay for. Can't find that Setup thread by the way.
The setup thread I am referring to is this one, where members have posted descriptions and pictures of their setups (not sure if any Vixen / William Optics on display there, though): http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=194800

What you also can do is to navigate to the "Photography using Astro telescopes' forum http://www.birdforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=657 and there perform searches for the makes or models that you might be interested in e.g. Vixen.

Keep the questions coming...
 

Tord

Well-known member
I am also still learning but I have to be honest: although some of my pictures are quite good, most of them are intended just proof of the visual (mostly rare birds in The Netherlands). Perfectly sharp shots require a lot of time and a lot of pictures of the same bird, just as with a DSLR. The shots you see on websites as digiscooppix.nl are mostly made from a hiding (tent for example).

So you have to make a decision: making the best possible will require equally good alpha-equipment. If not you will always be disappointed. I have a good scope so I know it's my amateurism when the picture is not as great as I hoped ;)
Agree. .
In my case my background is more of a photographer, and the past year or so I have picked up bird photography as an area of special interest. I have a genuine interest in and enjoy nature, hiking, fishing, being outdoors but don't view myself as a bird watcher as such. In combination these two disciplines provide an interesting combination and each session is a thrill - you never know what opportunities will be given and it's up to your skills, anticipation and some luck to take the pictures you are aspiring for.

Indeed the Nikon ED82 (A) has probably the best value for the money but the Fieldscope III 60mm is also very good. I am not sure whether these can be bought secondhand but on amazon.com the lowest price for the latter was $ 849 including the zoom eyepiece.
Agree, the Fieldscope III 60mm is a good scope. For photography I would aim for an 80mm diameter scope though.

There was a used Nikon ED82A + 3 EP + case + Manfrotto tripod on sale on this forum one year ago. http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=199488&highlight=nikon+ED82A

And a used Fieldscope III 60mm was sold quite recently. http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=225732&highlight=nikon+fieldscope
 

jimthomson

Well-known member
Hi,

I initially looked at the Celestron Regal and Ultima scopes which also take astronomy eyepieces and would make the scope 'dual purpose' - birding and wide field astronomy. My friend however suggested a secondhand Kowa.

.

Quite few people are using the Celestron Regal scopes for digiscoping (See link below). They can take a 1.25" astronomy eyepiece. With the 80mm or 100mm Regal the 17mm Baader Planetarium Hyperion eyepiece appears to be a favorite.

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=180569
 

Bulbul87

Active member
Quite few people are using the Celestron Regal scopes for digiscoping (See link below). They can take a 1.25" astronomy eyepiece. With the 80mm or 100mm Regal the 17mm Baader Planetarium Hyperion eyepiece appears to be a favorite.

http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=180569

Thanks for that link. At 480mm, the 80mm Regal is a bit shorter than the 600mm that is apparently optimal and only 80mm more than my Camera zoom lens. The 100mm at f5.4 has a focal length of 540mm as opposed to f6.0 for the 80mm one, which is a little closer to the mark on the focal length and a little faster with the greater aperature an advantage for digiscoping but udoubtedly heavier.

Both have an advantage over the Evostar Pro ED80 because they are rubber armoured and waterproof, but the Evostar Pro can be used straight through or with 45deg errecting prism. Either of these scopes can take astro eyepices (of which I have a selection - primarily orthos). Both would probably make decent grab-and-go astro scopes as well.

So then, how much of an advantage is waterproofing? Is it worth sacrificing for additional flexibility of the Evostar Pro for a ruggedised Regal?
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
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