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Digiscoping

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/31/2007 at 12:00
RifleDude View Drop Down
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OK, folks, I recently purchased a Leica Televid 77 APO off the Sample List (the SL price is the only way I would have bought a scope that expensive) and am interested in trying out digiscoping.  I'm new to spotting scopes in general and therefore know next to nothing beyond what I've read about taking photos through the scope.
 
I've been reading a lot on the various birdwatching forums about digiscoping, but the information I've read seem to all be at least 2 years old, and digital cameras have evolved quite a bit since then.
 
My question is what makes a particular camera "good" for digiscoping?  Obviously, you want a large LCD screen so you can see the image you're focusing on, and it seems if I'm not mistaken that the higher the number of megapixels the better.  I've also heard that you want a camera with a zoom lens that fits within the confines of your spotter's eyepiece to stay within the scope's eye relief and avoid excess vignetting, and the image stabilization feature in the newer cameras seems like a useful feature to help with image shake. 
 
What else is needed or beneficial to have in a digital camera for digiscoping?  The Nikon Coolpix series cameras seem to be frequently recommended for whatever reason, but why, and what should I be looking for in a camera that will spend part of it's service taking pics through my spotter?  Is there any reason why higher megapixels wouldn't necessarily be better for photo quality?
 
Thanks in advance for any and all advice!
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/31/2007 at 12:15
ND2000 View Drop Down
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Rifledude -
 
You have pretty much hit all the major items (large screen that you can see in all light conditions, zoom lens, image stabilization), particularly if you are not going to shoot professionally.  One thing you didn't mention is shutter speeds (faster) and delay (shorter).
 
This is perhaps obvious, but get a really good tripod.  It doesn't matter what camera you've got, if the spotter isn't stable you will get a poor picture.  Also, you'll find that you will get better pictures at <30x on your scope.
 
Finally, I would encourage you to think about a Leica camera.  They make a couple of models that are optimized to work with their spotting scopes, and obviously they sell the proper adapters as well.
 
That is a nice spotting scope.  I know a lot of people like them because they have the truest color rendition of all the majors (Zeiss, Swarovski, Kowa).
 
ND2000
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/31/2007 at 12:56
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Originally posted by ND2000 ND2000 wrote:

Rifledude -
 
You have pretty much hit all the major items (large screen that you can see in all light conditions, zoom lens, image stabilization), particularly if you are not going to shoot professionally.  One thing you didn't mention is shutter speeds (faster) and delay (shorter).
 
This is perhaps obvious, but get a really good tripod.  It doesn't matter what camera you've got, if the spotter isn't stable you will get a poor picture.  Also, you'll find that you will get better pictures at <30x on your scope.
 
Finally, I would encourage you to think about a Leica camera.  They make a couple of models that are optimized to work with their spotting scopes, and obviously they sell the proper adapters as well.
 
That is a nice spotting scope.  I know a lot of people like them because they have the truest color rendition of all the majors (Zeiss, Swarovski, Kowa).
 
ND2000
 
Thanks, ND2000.  I have the 20-60X zoom eyepiece for general long range viewing, but I also bought the 20X WW and 32X WW fixed eyepieces for digiscoping use, and for times when I want an extra wide FOV, a "brighter" image, and greater depth of field more than raw magnification.  The fixed 20X and 32X widefield eyepieces are supposed to be much better at minimizing vignetting with the camera.
 
I bought the Leica "Digital Adapter 2" that supposedly works with any compact digital camera, and I should receive it later this week, so I'll have a camera adapter.  I'm thinking of maybe rigging up some sort of remote trigger for the camera to minimize shake when snapping the pic, and the faster shutter speed will help in this regard too.
 
I thought about the Leica D LUX 3 camera, which has a large screen, image stabilization, different aspect ratios, 10 megapixels, and lots of other bells and whistles, but it's roughly 2.5 X the price of a Fuji camera I was looking at that has all the same features with roughly the same size package so it will work with my adapter, plus 12 megapixels.  Is there something about the Leica that makes it better suited for use with spotting scopes?
 
As for the tripod, mine seems to be plenty sturdy enough.  I got a Manfrotto 055 PRO B tripod with a joystick style ball head.  I'm not sure if I like the joystick head better than the fluid head or not, but it sure is quicker at acquiring the target and locks into position very solidly once you release the grip.
 
Thanks again for your response!


Edited by RifleDude - January/02/2008 at 00:46
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/31/2007 at 14:06
lucznik View Drop Down
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Originally posted by RifleDude RifleDude wrote:

Is there any reason why higher megapixels wouldn't necessarily be better for photo quality?


Yes.  If you get a camera that has a crappy quality lens, all the megapixels in the world won't give you a good picture (kind of like phase-correction coating crappy prisms won't give you a quality binocular.) 

Also, the Image Stabilization (IS) features on most cameras are designed to combat the effects of hand-holding the camera.  Almost everything I've read about this technology (especially as it applies to digiscoping) says that you need to turn this feature OFF when mounting your camera on a tripod.   My camera has no IS feature so, I haven't had any occasion to test this but apparently, the IS causes problems when there isn't any movement to combat - as would (hopefully) be the case with a tripod-mounted unit.


Edited by lucznik - December/31/2007 at 14:07
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/31/2007 at 14:26
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Thanks, lucznik.  The diehard birders on the various boards I've read have been mixed on the benefits of the IS feature, but I haven't heard anyone actually say it was a detriment.  Jeff Bouton, a well respected birder who represents Leica, produces some beautiful pics with his outfit, and he swears by the IS feature.  You can see the results here... 
Do you know of any specific camera that is better suited to digiscoping use?  I have been looking at the various Fuji FinePix and Nikon Coolpix model cameras with 8 mp or more.  I understand what you're saying with the crappy lens analogy, but I would think either of those brands would be good in that respect.  Or am I mistaken?  If so, would more expensive cameras like the Leica D Lux 3 produce noticeably better pics?


Edited by RifleDude - December/31/2007 at 14:28
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/31/2007 at 15:11
lucznik View Drop Down
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I use a Canon EOS Digital Rebel which I attach directly to my spotting scope by way of a special adapter so; I don't really have a lot of experience with the point-and-shoot setups.  

I would imagine you would be fine with any of the higher end Nikon, Fuji, Canon, etc. cameras.  They seem to be what many "serious" digiscopers are using. 
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: December/31/2007 at 15:23
RifleDude View Drop Down
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Thanks again!  Keep the suggestions coming, as I plan to buy a camera pretty soon.
Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)     Back to Top Direct Link To This Post Posted: January/04/2008 at 21:13
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I'm in the same boat, only I have only the scope and no money. So no problem, other than saving.

But I would get the adapter for the scope you use first, then find a camera that fits. Some adapters handle many brands.

Google digiscoping adapter and Leica.
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