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Speaking of birds I've been experimenting with digiscoping, that is taking pictures through a spotting scope with a point and shoot camera. Here is one of an Eurasian Wigeon I took yesterday at Farmington Bay WMA. Taking pictures this way is like using a super telephoto lens on a DSLR this one is equivalent to a 1500mm lens on a DSLR. Why digiscope, a 600mm lens for my Nikon 300S would cost nearly $10,000 a point and shoot camera and a scope considerably less than that. The bird was approximately 85 meters away.

Eurasian Wigeon_2011_03_23_10-41-25



re: The Perfect Predator

Oh my. What a great video. At first I saw the dome the picture, I thought it St. Peters, and the "Perfect Predator" in the title, and thought we were talking 'bout the Vatican.

I haven't seen Peregrin Falcons here on the farm, though we do have Golden Eagles, and (rarely) Bald Eagles, also resident Red tail Hawk, Northern Harrier and Osprey. I love watching those big birds, especially on warm summer days when they catch an updraft chimney and go circling up up up til they disappear, I think they go sailing like that just because they can. I always worry for a while while the little chicks are learning their way around outside, for they are small enough for a good catch by hawk. Usually once the chicks are grown up, the hawks don't bother them. The Osprey tried for a bass from the pond the other day, miscalculated completely and got a cold water bath for it's troubles. I think it was pretty embarrassed about the miss when it noticed me laughing.

Hi Norm, Tried to email you about this, but I'm guessing it got stuck in the spam filter. I'm an editor at Encyclopedia Britannica, and we'd love to feature your bird pictures on our blog (and, if you'd be interested, in the online version of the Encyclopedia as well). If you're at all intrigued, drop me a line. If not, no need to reply, and I'll just recede back into the depths of lurkerdom.

Photography lenses indeed are very expensive, and have gotten even more these past few years.

Which digiscope are you using Norm, and how are you getting the equivalence number?

My scope is a Nikon ED 82A. I chose it as being the least expensive of what I consider the top tier of spotting scopes, if money had been no object I would have probably chose a Kowa. I normally use a Nikon P5000 as the camera for digiscoping. Cameras that have zoom no more than 4x seem to work the best for getting a picture without vignetting, though I recently purchased the new Nikon P500 wanting something light to take with me birding that had pretty good reach, the P500 has 810mm 35mm equivalence and wondered if I could use it in a pinch for digiscoping. On a good digiscoping camera you zoom out to about 3x to get rid of all the vignetting. I was trying different zoom points on the P500 and I think I shot that photo with no zoom at all it had some vignetting which I cropped. As to your question of how I calculated the equivalence number. I took the magnification of the eyepiece in this case it was 30x and multiplied that times what I think is a normal lens 50mm and thus came up with 1500mm had I used any of the zoom I would have multiplied the result by the p&s zoom factor so if that was 3x the equivalence would be 4500mm. I quite new to all this so perhaps I've got it wrong, but I think I understand it. I've been following digiscoping conversations on the Yahoo digiscoping group. The consensus seems to be that the results get a little dicey if you use too high a power lens on the scope.

Oh, I see, so you're using the eyepiece as well. I thought those scopes had adapters so you don't have to use an eyepiece.

You can probably see the focal length the camera lens is at, even if the camera doesn't tell you right away, on the exif metadata. That way you can get a more accurate equivalence.

But have you compared to what you can do with your D300 and your long lens? Is there much difference? The $10000 600mm lens is very expensive, but since you're willing to put up with loss of light and perhaps some loss of resolution, maybe a cheaper 300mm f/4 lens plus a 2x teleconverter could be a higher quality option. Don't know the availability of those for Nikon though, I'm a Canon guy.

I have both the adaptor to attach the camera directly and a 300mm with both a 1.4 and 2.0 extenders, the results with the 1.4 are good, but even with the cropping factor that is only 630mm equivalence. the 300 with the 2.0 is 900mm (results have been mixed) the camera with the attachment is 1500mm (again with mixed results). I've taken some fair pictures using the adapter, but not great and it's a pain to remove the eyepiece of the scope and attach the adaptor and then go back for just scoping. In addition I've gotten better results as far as quality using the point and shoot and the scope, though it's taken a bit of practice to get it right. I still think there is room for improvement for me, but I'm quite enjoying the ease of using the scope and the p&s compared to the alternatives. I think it's Kowa that's coming out with a setup to attach their scopes to camera with the added reach that looks promising, but again that's $. The digiscoping is a good solution for those real long distance ID questions that come up especially with gulls, ducks etc that are often hundreds of yards away. In the final analysis whatever method you use the closer you can get the better quality you get.

I've seen some quite amazing pictures some people have taken digiscoping even with 60x lenses and when you add the magnification of the p&s 3x you're getting the equivalent of a 9000mm lens.

The results I got at Farmington turned out better than another fellow who was using a Nikon 600mm with a 1.4 extender.

cool, that's good to know. I don't do birding though, partly cause I don't have the patience, and partly cause long lenses are expensive!

Thanks for the peregrine video, Norm! I had forgotten how amazing these creatures are. One of my favourite stories as a child was 'My Side of the Mountain', and my deepest, most secret desire is to have a peregrine falcon as my best friend, and then to one day set it free into the wilderness.
End of the video brought me tears of happiness. It is a good day!


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