Basic Photography/Digiscoping

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Introduction[edit]

Digiscoping is a photographic technique in which a camera (digital or film) is used to take photographs via the image projected by the eyepiece of a telescope or spotting scope. It is generally attributed as a technique first demonstrated by Laurence Poh.

More information exists regarding the technique at digiscoping.

There exist three basic ingredients to digiscoping:

Scope[edit]

Scopes of various types can be used for digiscoping including binoculars, telescopes (refractors, reflectors, cat's and so on) and spotting scopes.

Eyepiece[edit]

Many spotting scopes come with eyepieces, some (like the Pentax 65 and 80 series also use 1.25" eyepieces (like many astronomy scopes). Generally speaking magnifications of 20x to 30x are considered appropriate for digiscoping terrestrial objects.

Camera[edit]

There are a number of cameras suitable for digiscoping.

Threading/adapter: Built-in threading or a manufacturer supplied threading adapter. Many compact cameras, SLR-like and DSLRs now have threaded lenses or tube/body attachments with threading that will allow direct connections to scope eyepieces (via eyepiece threading on eyepieces like the Baader Hyperion) or via another adapter (like the Swarovski DCA attachment). There are also a number of universal digiscoping adapters from William Optics, SRB Film, Baader Astronomy and Swarovski which allow connection via a mounting plate using the cameras tripod threading as a support for those cameras without threading or threaded adapters.

Vignetting performance: Exhibits vignetting when used. If so at what level does vignetting stop? Performance will vary due to scope, eyepiece and attachment configuration

High ISO performance: (>400) ISO film speed performance as noted by various review sites and comments in digiscoping forums. Digiscopers will use higher ISO sensitivities settings which allows both faster shutter speeds (1/250 sec, 1/500 sec) as well as a smaller apertures (f/8, etc..) for greater depth of field and potentially greater sharpness of the object being photographed.

Large screen: Has a large (2.5" or greater) screen (useful for outdoor focusing)

Manual controls: Has at least one of the following manual controls (focus, shutter priority, aperture priority)

RAW image format output: Has capability to output shots in RAW format for post-processing

IS/VR: Has image stabilization (other than being achieved via High ISO) useful for reducing camera shake which can be more pronounced at high magnification levels

Video OUT: Has a Video signal connector (e.g. S-video/PAL/NTSC) useful to view camera scene on external monitor(s).

Compact Cameras[edit]

* Fujifilm F30 (not yet released, some comments below relate to F11) -Threading/adapter: No
-Vignetting performance: Some at lower zoom levels, less with fixed length eyepieces
-High ISO performance: Yes
-Large bright screen: Yes (230k pixels)
-Manual controls: Yes
-RAW output: Yes
-IS/VR: No

* Sony DSC-W100 (not yet released, comments below relate to DSC-W7 which has similar lens) -Threading/adapter: Unknown, one does exist for W70, but conflicting information exists as to if that same adapter will work with the W100.
-Vignetting performance: Some at lower zoom levels
-High ISO performance: Unknown with DSC-W100 which reports ISO's to 1250
-Large bright screen: Yes and reportedly the DSC-W100's is viewable from very wide angles
-Manual controls: Yes
-RAW output: No
-IS/VR: No

* Canon A620 -Threading/adapter: Yes, Canon part# LA-DC58F
-Vignetting performance: Some at lower zoom and higher zoom levels, less with fixed length eyepieces
-High ISO performance: Good
-Large bright screen: No, but swivels which is very useful for digiscoping
-Manual controls: Yes
-RAW output: No
-IS/VR: No

* Fujifilm E900 -Threading/adapter: Yes, Fujifilm part# AR-FXE02
-Vignetting performance: Some at lower zoom levels with fixed eyepieces
-High ISO performance: Fair
-Large bright screen: No
-Manual controls: Yes
-RAW output: Yes
-IS/VR: No

* Nikon P3 -Threading/adapter: Yes, but only for Nikon Fieldscope Spotting Scope eyepieces
-Vignetting performance: None with fixed length eyepieces
-High ISO performance: Good
-Large bright screen: Yes
-Manual controls: Yes
-RAW output: No
-IS/VR: Yes

* Nikon Coolpix 5400 -Threading/adapter: Yes, with adapter Nikon UR-E11 to get 28mm threading for Hyperion SP54/28mm eyepiece adapter
-Vignetting performance: depending on your eyepiece-zoom matching
-High ISO performance: some noise at 400 ISO
-Large bright screen: not exactly large: 1,5" flip monitor
-Manual controls: yes
-Video Output: yes, PAL/NTSC composite video out. -RAW output: yes (with firmware update to last version 1.4)
-IS/VR: No

* Canon S80 -Threading/adapter: Yes Canon part# DCA-LC20
-Vignetting performance: Some at zoom levels under 2.5x
-High ISO performance: Good
-Large bright screen: Yes
-Manual controls: Yes
-RAW output: No
-IS/VR: No

Mid-sized SLR-like cameras[edit]

like the Olympus C-7070 and the Nikon Coolpix 8400 are well-respected for their ability as digiscoping cameras. They are moderately priced and have good overall performance as well as threading to allow for easier scope attachment.


Full-sized dSLR's (and SLR's)[edit]

can be attached directly to many telescopes and spotting scopes with various T-adapters. In this configuration the scopes become, in many respects, a manually focused and metered telephoto lens. Full-sized SLR's hold a distinct advantage over many compact cameras in that they generally perform better at higher ISO levels. Some recent popular models are the Canon Rebel 350 series and the Nikon D2/50/70/80/200 series.