I have long been interested in testing out some of the different manufacturers equipment.
There are many different combinations!!
Luckily for me I have been loaned some equipment by Opticron.
Opticron have produced some really innovative digiscoping adaptors to compliment their higher end spotting scopes, and have really started to take digiscoping seriously.
I have been loaned a HR80 GA ED Spotting Scope, 40215 Telephoto DSLR adaptor, 41111 push fit adaptor and a 40810 HDF T Eyepiece.
I will be trying out both DSLR & Digital Compact set ups using a combination of the adaptors & scope provided. Hopefully I can provide a little insight into digiscoping from all perspectives using some of the best equipment available.
Below are my thoughts and findings of this complete digiscoping range.
The HR80 GA ED Spotting Scope
Firstly, I am not reviewing the spotting scope itself, however I thought that a few facts about the scope may be useful.
The scope itself is a good size, with an 80mm objective lens. The scope feels very robust and well built, with rubber armour.
It also has the latest coated optics and quite importantly ED glass. ED glass helps to reduce chromatic abberation (purple fringing) around the edges of the target. This will also help to reduce noise and improve the clarity of images seen through the scope.
The scope has a minimum short focusing of 8 meters, and weighs in at 1.7kg and has a moveable mounting foot.
There is a good range of eyepieces to accompany this scope, which are screw fitted to the scopes body.
Altogether this is a very nice scope & extremelly well priced at between £750-£800.
The Opticron 40215 DSLR Telephoto
This adaptor directly connects your DSLR to the scope.
The adaptor screw fixes onto the scopes body, whilst your camera attaches via a T2 mount, that screws onto the other end of the adaptor.
The adaptor replaces the eyepiece on the scope, and gives an overall focal length of 900mm.
The adaptor itself is very well made, and is without doubt Opticrons version of the Swarovski TLS 800
Both are used to connect DSLR style cameras directly to the body of the scope, and both adaptors can adjust to allow the camera to move between landscape and portrait orientations.
The main difference between the two adaptors is strength. The TLS 800 has a magnification strength of 20x whereas the 40215 is approximately 25x. For me there are clear advantages & disadvantages of this greater zoom capability. The main advantage is being that little bit closer to the target, whereas the main drawback here is aperture. The extra magnification means that the aperture through the adaptor is fixed at f11.3, which isn't great. The slightly smaller magnification of the TLS800 results in a aperture of f10.
Regardless though, this isn't a disaster, and can be worked around using the settings on the camera.
Once connected, you will be ready to take pictures straight away. There is no "vignetting" as the scope acts as the cameras lens.
This adaptor is very simple to use, and at around £80 is extremelly affordable to anyone, considering that Swarovskis TLS800 is £400!
It is my opinion that many probable digiscopers are put off by some of the huge prices asked for these adaptors, so Opticron have really set a benchmark here for making a top quality adaptor available for a fraction of the price of the Swarovski or Nikon (FSA-L1) alternative.
The Opticron 40215 Test.
Upon setting out on my first trip I was under no illusions that, as always with new equipment, that it would take me a little while to learn how to get the best out of it in the conditions given.
The day was bright and sunny, but it was windy, which always makes things more difficult!
I had decided that, as I was working with a fixed aperture of f11.3 that I must choose a sunny day to give me a good chance of getting a fair result. F11, for those of you that are not sure is quite a dark aperture, meaning that not much light would pass through the adaptor to the camera, thus making shutter speeds quite slow, which in turn will result in blurry, over exposed images.
Usually with digiscoping I like to work with an ISO (added whiteness) setting of between 200-400. This usually helps to increase shutter speeds without over exposing on white parts of the image.
Upon finding a target I turned on the camera and found that shutter speeds were slower than I would like, so I increased the ISO from 200 to 400 to double the shutter speed. In bright conditions I was working with shutter speeds of between 1/125-1/250th sec, which over a distance of up to 20 meters is perfectly acceptable.
The target bird (a Reed Bunting) was swinging in the reeds, with a beakful of goodies for its young. It was a risky shot, even for me with some experience. Usually with digiscoping its better to have a still subject to help with the slower shutter speeds. However, I needed to start somewhere and really put this adaptor and my experience to the test!
I found that the magnification of the adaptor made finding the subject a little harder than usual, as the greater magnification reduced my field of view, so I really had to work hard to align the scope in direction of the subject. But once on the subject it appeared clearly through the viewfinder of my camera, and, after a bit of focusing I could clearly see the detail of the feathers. This proved the quality of the glass in the adaptor. I had no doubt that had the bird been still that I would've been able to take some excellent close up pictures.
But, because of the wind, I had to settle for some reasonable debut pictures. I was impressed by how little I had to do to get used to the adaptor. Even though the aperture was considerably less than I was used to I was still able to take some pictures, and was more than happy that I could only get better over time.
Also, it is easy to forget that this adaptor only costs a fraction of its competitors, but quality has not been sacrificed for cost as far as I can see. There is no doubt for me that this adaptor makes telephotography a real possibility for anyone with a DSLR and Opticron spotting scope.
I had learned a lot from my first experimentation with this set up. It was important that the light was good and that the conditions were still, to help with the poorer aperture of the adaptor and to reduce camera shake.
I took the set up out again in better weather, and tried to use the extra magnification to my advantage, basically, I was trying to take pictures at a greater distance, my idea being that not being so close to the subject would increase my chances of them not being put off by my presence!
This was very much the case with a pair of Wrens that were performing feeding flights. The perch that they used was just above their nest, which made for easy digiscoping. The birds remained still enough, for long enough to be able to produce some good pictures.
The camera was set on ISO 800 and produced a shutter speed of 1/80th sec, which was fast enough for the small distance I had to cover, but I would've prefered it to be slightly higher.
The set up worked well in the sunnier conditions than the previous test. It performed best at about 1/800th sec. Anthing over 1/1000th sec left me with underexposed images as the fast shutter speed and poor aperture meant that there wasn't enough light getting through to the cameras sensor.
My summary of the Opticron 40215 Telephoto Adaptor
As far as this adaptor goes it does what it says on the tin!
It is a simple to fit and easy to use adaptor. The simple, yet secure connection process means that the camera is secure upon the scope and the picture taking process can begin almost immediately.
The adaptor is more than reasonably priced in comparison to its competitors, and the quality of the manufacturing has not been comprimsed to accomodate this reduction in price.
The only small drawbacks that I can find is the fact that magnification has been increased at the expense of aperture. Light is the most important medium for any photographer. Also the increased magnification does reduce the field of view. Thats alright once you are on the subject, it just makes finding it a little more difficult! One other smaller point is the fixed aperture. F11.3 isn't great as apertures go, and although it isn't un-workable it does mean that higher shutter speeds will leave the user with under exposed pictures as not enough light can make it through to the cameras sensor in time. This is a problem for any set up with a fixed aperture.
As an experienced digiscoper I didn't find it too difficult to work around these issues, but I feel that a beginner would find it a little difficult to start with. That said, it only took me a few trips to get the Wren picture, which would be a good picture for any photographer, so it really proves good digiscoping is possible with this adaptor.
All in all, this adaptor is a very good buy. The smaller price tag should encourage people to buy one. It would've certainely been on my shopping list had I known about it when I started!
The size of this adpator means that it can fit easily into a camera bag or pocket, so the conversion between digiscoping and spotting scope only takes a minute or two. Also the small price means that they are affordable to replace should you ever have to.
In terms of review there isn't too much more that can be said. It really is a case of trying it out in the field and learning about how to get the best out of it, like all hobbies!
I'd give this adaptor an 8 out of 10!
The Opticron 41111 Push Fit Digiscoping
The Opticron 41111 Push Fit adaptor has been designed for use with either a digital compact camera or a DSLR style camera.
This concept of this adaptor is very simple. Simply push it over the eyepiece of the scope, tighten the tightening collar and then attach a camera of your choice to the other end!
As the picture to the left shows connection is simple. There is a 42mm thread for connecting a stepping ring or T2 mount. Use a stepping ring to connect a compact camera with a suitable filter thread or for a DSLR attach a T2 adaptor suitable for your camera brand.
In the picture to the right shows my P5100 Coolpix with and adaptor tube and stepping ring so that I can attach it to the 41111 adaptor.
The only drawback is that only cameras with a filter thread can be attached to this adaptor.
However, this adaptor is brilliantly simple, well made and very affordable.
The adaptor needs to be used in conjunction with the scopes eyepiece. I have used the 40810 HDF-T 27x eyepiece.
This is an affordable eyepiece in comparison to many of the leading rival brands. It has a twist up rubber eye cup for glasses wearers, and provides good eye relief.
The Opticron 41111 Test
I knew as soon as I saw the 41111 adaptor that it was going to be easy to use and get along with!
The simplicity shone through, which gave me confidence to believe that anyone could pick one of these adaptors up and use it.
Connecting a camera to a scope can sometimes be a confusing issue when it really shouldn't be!
It is worth remembering that you will need an eyepiece for the scope and a compact camera with a filter thread to be able to use this adaptor.
Also worth remebering is that this adaptor can be used with a DSLR! For me though I didn't feel the adaptor robust enough to handle the weight of a DSLR so I would recommend using this adaptor only with a digital compact camera.
So, how did it handle??
It was really easy to connect my camera to the adaptor. A simple adaptor tube and a stepping ring was all it took to be ready to attach to the scope.
It is a good to remember that when dealing with a threaded connector on an adaptor that you will need a thread to attach it to on your camera!!
The idea of a push fit adaptor is exactly that! Traditionally they "push" over the eyepiece of the scope and tighten using a crude thread.
The 41111 has evolved this by using a tightening collar.
Once the adaptor has pushed over the rubber eyecup the collar is tightened ensuring a good, safe connection whilst not damaging the eyepiece in any way.
The only slight problem I found here was that the collar has a rubber insert which helps by not damaging your eyepiece, does make connection a little slow as it can get caught up on the rubber eyecup! However, this is a minor niggle, not the end of the world!!
I must admit that I hadn't digiscoped using a compact for a little while before doing this review, and was a little aprehensive about my chances!
I picked a good sunny day,a quiet hide (compact digiscoping is easier in a hide as LCD screens are difficult to see in bright sunlight) and, with the light behind me I got down to work!
The adaptor fitted snuggly over the scopes eyepiece and tightened nicely. I was completely confident that my camera was safely mounted and that it would stay aligned.
Upon turning on the camera the usual vignetting occured. Once I'd zoomed in to recify this common problem I was pleased to see that I was able to achieve good shutter speeds. Some of this was due to the good weather, but something must be said for the quality of the scope and adaptor as cheaper scopes simply don't perform so well, even in sunlight!
I was using my camera in full manual mode so was able to get maximum performance. I easily achieved shutter speeds of 1/500th to 1/1000th sec which is excellent for digiscoping, and means that sharpness is achievable even over slightly greater distances.
The camera and adaptor were easily removed as I swung the scope around to look at some more birds on the pool behind the hide. I was ready to use the scope in a few seconds, which was very convienient!
I can honestly say that there is nothing bad to say about this adaptor. I'd even go as far to say that I prefered it to the DSLR set up, and that using this adaptor made me realise how rewarding compact digiscoping can be given the right conditions!!
This adaptor could be considered a great starter adaptor for anyone taking up digiscoping. It is cheap, well made and compact enough to fit in a pocket. It definatley ticks all my boxes and should tick yours!!
Having been lucky enough to be loaned this equipment to test it must be said that I have been very impressed with the high quality of Opticrons digiscoping range.
All the equipment is well made, and very well priced.
Without doubt Opticron excel at keeping good quality optics and accessories at sensible prices. Sure, we all like the big sounding names, but can we really afford them and do they really make the digiscoping experience any better?
By keeping things simple Opticron have ensured that digiscoping isn't such a minefield for beginners. The simple, yet well produced equipment should be for everyone.
I, more than anyone wanted to try this equipment, to see if I could get the results that I wanted, and I feel very happy with the achievements I got.
I would highly recommend anyone to try and buy Opticron digiscoping accessories and optics as they have been designed with the digiscoper in mind, and at a price we can afford.
Thank you Opticron for your equipment to try!!