Digiscoping
Help,
Advice & Lessons for All!


Having loaned equipment from some of the so called "larger" optic companies from around the U.K before, I realised that there was a local optic supplier at Halesworth, Suffolk. Living in Lowestoft this was an ideal opportunity to help promote a good, trusted local firm, as well as trying to convince them that digiscoping could be a powerful selling option for them once more.
 
For those of you that don't know Viking Optical currently have the contract to supply the RSPB with optical equipment.
 
As far as digiscoping is concerned they felt that it was just a bit too much, and that they would concentrate on selling what they know, leaving digiscoping to people like me, LOL!!
 
I was introduced to Paul Turrell at school (our daughters are in the same class!) and he was more than happy to help me out with equipment to use and promote in the field.
 
Because of the lack of bespoke Viking digiscoping adapters I have thrown together a very simple set up to help show my readers (and the folks at Viking) just how easy to use and effective a Viking scope can be to use as a digiscope.
 
  

Viking ED Pro 80 Digiscoping

Set Up

The Equipment

 

In the box was a pristine looking spotting scope. Nicely badged, a rubber focussing wheel, with a full rubber bodied scope. My first impressions were very good.

The scope body felt nice and lightweight, with a solid mounting plate.

The eyepiece was the new 25-55x zoom eyepiece. It locks into place with a very nice locking mechanism. The eyecup twists up nicely, and the build felt very good.

One thing I really liked was the screw in objective lens cap. I don't know how many times I've looked for a lost lens cap, so a screw in one for me is a brilliant concept and should be adopted by more manufacturers!

Looking through the scope, the focus is excellent and easy to use and the quality of the ED glass really makes for clean, crisp views.

This scope was measuring up to my Swarovski with ease!

A link to Vikings website with a full spec on the scope can be found HERE

The 80mm scope body costs 749, and the zoom eyepiece costs 249.99. For me the price fits the scope. It all feels very nice, and the views afforded are exceptional. Its definately a mid priced set up with more of a top end feel!

There is also a 65mm objective scope that costs 599 (the same eyepiece will fit this scope to). A stay on case is available at 49.00 to protect your investment!

I think these scope compare very favourably to other scopes in their price range.

Personally, I was already liking it, and I haven't even got the camera on yet!!


Getting Connected

 

I knew when I received the scope that there was no dedicated adapter made to fit this scope and/or eyepiece.

I already had it in mind that I would use a universal style digiscoping adapter that would simply clamp over the end of the eyepiece. This would mean that I wouldn't be able to zoom the eyepiece with the camera and adapter on, but I also knew that this wouldn't matter and that I would be able to take pictures like this.

The universal adapter is made to fit a compact digital camera on. I was going to be using my Canon Powershot S100. Tried and tested on many other set ups I knew that this camera would work perfectly through this scope.

 

In the picture above we can see different shots of the camera, universal adapter and the scopes eyepiece.

Starting with the bottom right image we can see the clamp mechanism of the universal adapter. We can see how it tightens against the outside of the eyepiece. Its best to have the clamp level with the end of the eyecup.

The top left profile shot shows the camera, mounted to a universal shutter release from SRB photographic. We can also see the universal adapter attaches to the tripod mounting screw thread on the bottom of the shutter release.

The left hand main picture shows the rear of the set up. We can see the adjustment screw threads that move the camera up and down, side to side. This is for the final alignment of the camera. The camera can also be adjusted in and out from the eyepiece on the adapter mounting plate.

It is very simple to set up, and an experienced digiscoper can be ready to digiscope in around 15 mins! But would simple mean effective??


 

The Complete Set Up

 


Impressive Test Shots!

 

I always try to take a couple of test shots of something static to check alignment and general quality.

The scopes eyepiece was on its lowest setting, 25x and the camera was zoomed to approx 3x. These pictures were both taken at approx 50 metres in perfect conditions. The picture on the left is cropped, but the picture on the right is uncropped. I was impressed and couldn't wait to test it on something more interesting!!

         

 

Not bad at all for 15 minutes worth of setting up!!

 


The Field Test

On the day of the test conditions were unfortunately overcast, which never helps. It wasn't to windy though, which really helps.

Having already tried a few test shots I was eager to see what this set up could do.

One of the first things I look for is the speed of the set up, or in other words, what is the set ups best aperture. This is determined by how much I need to zoom the camera to get past the vignetting. With this being a standard and not wide angle zoom eyepiece I knew it would reduce the speed slightly. By the time I had relieved the vignette the camera was on f5, so not to bad. My current Swarovski compact set up is f3.5-4, so I was happy with that. Another comparison would be my old Swarovski DSLR set up. It was fixed at f10 and that set up churned out loads of ok images, so f5 with the Viking scope is twice as quick, so to speak!

 

 

The Kittiwakes at Lowestoft Harbour are always excellent subjects as they provide a challenge in trying to balance the white in their plumage with everything else surrounding them. Also, they tend to be reasonably close and sit fairly still!

I actually found the white to be really tricky. Even in overcast conditions I struggled to get a good, crisp outline to the birds head. I did also encounter a little colour fringing (chromattic aberation or CA) which I found surprising for an ED rated scope. I wasn't sure about that, so I took the camera off the scope and viewed the birds without it. I zoomed in and couldn't see any obvious fringing so I think it fair to say that the camera could've caused some of the fringing. It certainely didn't ruin any of the images. White bleeds at the best of times, so I was really happy with the way that the scope performed.

Its worth noting that the focus on the scope is very quick and extremelly precise. I had no problem in focussing on my subjects. Quick focussing is so important to the digiscoper as subjects are often not as obliging as the Kittiwakes.

The headshot above is a good example of how close up the set up can work. This bird was at a range of around 5 metres, and I found it impressive that the scope could work at such short distances.

 

Alignment of the camera as you might expect is key. I found this to be very much the case, especially with a standard angle eyepiece.

Looking at the picture above we was see a slightly darker area to the left, and the main focus (again as you might expect) is very much in the centre of the picture. This isn't so much of an issue, but when working with full frame shots it can leave the outside areas a little fuzzy.

Double checking the alignment is key. The quality of the adapter didn't help alignment matters, but it will do a job for you if you own this scope.

 

One final picture and test was a light bird against a white sky. I was looking for CA and sharpness of detail around the edge of the subject compared to its background.

I'd say this scope passed that test easily, and I was very happy with all aspects of the Herring Gull in this picture!!


Conclusion

 

I have digiscoped with many different set ups, of varying ranges of quality and I feel that this scope ranks as one of the best I've used.

It has a nice feel, is well built and the glass if of excellent quality. The screw off objective lens cap is a really good design.

The only thing that made this set up a little "poor feeling" was the lack of a bespoke digiscoping adapter for it. The universal adapter does "a job" but its nowhere near the league of a Swarovski adapter.

The camera has been tried and tested so I know there is no fault to be found there, so, for me it simply boils down to how camera and scope are connected.

Scope and eyepiece alone is an excellent set up, and will bring you many hours of blissful observation.

Digiscoping is a genuine possibility with a basic set up, but could be so much better with a really good adapter!!

I'd be happy to recommend this set up to anyone, but could I recommend that Viking rethink their stance on digiscoping? ;) Personally I'd love to see some new adapters for the scopes!

Vikings equipment is very impressive, but you don't need me to tell you that, just ask the RSPB!!

My thanks go to Paul Turrell of Viking Optical for his kind loan of such well made equipment.