With the winter months slowly falling behind us I thought it time to get another review done.
Its never easy trying to review digiscoping equipment in the winter as poor light makes for harder photography!
So, with this decision made I asked Zeiss if I could review their 85mm DiaScope and the accompanying digiscoping systems that go with this scope.
Owning a pair of Zeiss binoculars, and having already tried the Zeiss Photoscope I was eager to see if these digiscoping systems matched up to some of the excellent Zeiss equipment that I had already used.
ZEISS DIGISCOPING WITH A
A box arrived from Zeiss containing the scope body, eyepiece & DSLR digiscoping adapter.
The equipment, as always felt very well made and was nicely presented as you would expect from a top of the range optic manufactuer.
The scope is the 85mm version of the DiaScope range. Flouride coated lenses for chromattic abberation correction, a light body and a single focussing wheel made up my initial impressions of the scope.
The eyepiece was again well made, and as you would expect, it complimented the scope perfectly.
The DSLR digiscoping adapter is quite small when compared to a similar adapter such as Swarovski's TLS 800. The adapter gives the scope an overall focal length of 1000mm owing to the 85mm objective of the scope. The TLS 800 gives an 80mm Swarovski scope a focal length of 800mm for comparisson. But, would it work as well?
Getting connected is often the most confusing part for so many people new to digiscoping.
I really like it when systems are simple to put together. For a beginner it means that they can concentrate on the more difficult aspects of digiscoping, such as using their camera, without worrying about parts falling out of line with each other.
As illustrated in the picture above the whole system fits together very easily. There is an adjuster on the side of the DSLR adapter that can be loosened to align the camera. When the camera is attached it could be out of line, so a quick adjustment makes everything level again!
My only slight concern here is that the thread on the scopes body is very fine so care must be taken when attaching the DSLR adapter so as not to damage these threads.
Apart from that I was ready to digiscope in around 5 minutes!
DSLR Field Test
Having used the Zeiss Photoscope I was hoping that this system would perform as well.
With the Photoscope costing the best part of £5000 I was also hoping that the big reduction in cost wouldn't reflect in the quality of the images. Ultimatley pictures are what any digiscoper wants and quality is often comprimsed for cost.
I had reasonably sunny weather for most of the test, but it did snow once!
As with most DSLR digiscoping set ups the whole system is a little back heavy owing to the weight of the camera. I off set this by adjusting the position of the scope on my tripod head. This didn't cure the problem, but it did help.
Something that took me by surprise was the 2 stage focussing wheel. For major adjustments the wheel would feel heavier, and then once focus had been found the wheel would become lighter and would fine focus instead. Its hard to describe exactly how this felt to use, but I found it a little odd. Usually there is a seperate wheel for fine focussing. It didn't hinder me, but being used to scopes without this feature I found that sometimes I was only fine focussing when more adjustment was needed. I got used to it, its fair to say, quite easily in the end.
The overall focus was pin sharp though, and field of view was still quite good even through the cameras viewfinder.
I prefered the larger focussing wheel on the Photoscope if I'm being totally honest, but the DiaScope focussing wheel worked ok.
The Diascope also has a near focussing distance of less that 5 metres (16.3 feet) which is in line with the other top brands of spotting scope. I always look for this when choosing a scope to digiscope with. Theres not much worse than getting a subject up close and then not being able to focus on it!!
With the DSLR adapter attached the system works on a fixed aperture basis. As the adapter replaces the eyepiece in the system the size of the scopes objective makes the whole system around f12, which is pretty dark. The Swarovski TLS 800 makes an 80mm Swarovski scope aperture around f10, so they're both pretty relevant really.
F12 isn't an impossible aperture to work with, but it does make better weather more of a must unless higher ISO's are used to bump up the shutter speed. Its ok to do this, but it does result in noisier (grainy) images. Still, as with the focussing issue, it didn't take me long to work out how to get good exposure on my images using this set up. A smaller aperture can help with depth and detail, so its not a bad thing at times...in good light!
I always think that regardless of the maths in a set up the only question that really needs answering is "Can I get pictures with this equipment?" as thats whats important when good money has been spent!
The results & final thoughts
I actually found it very easy to digiscope with this set up once I had become familiar with the amount of light that I had to work with. Thats a pretty common thing to have to work out when attempting to digiscope with unfamiliar equipment, but its important that things like this can be worked out easily. No one wants a set up thats confusing to use!
The set up also worked like many other DSLR & adapter set ups that I have used over the years and it stands up very well against those other set ups.
Cosmetically it could be a bit more pleasing on the eye, but thats just me being picky!
Ultimately the quality of this equipment is of a very high standard, and thats what matters.
Price wise things aren't so bad for a top end manufacturer. The scope body with cost you around £1700 and the DSLR adapter will cost around £400. Add the cost of a DSLR, around £400 the whole digiscoping set up will cost around £2500.
This may sound like a lot, but in comparison the new Swarovski ATX 85, ocular module, TLS APO and DSLR will cost over £3000.
The eyepiece for the DiaScope would cost around £500, but this wouldn't be needed if you wanted to only DSLR digiscope with your equipment.
Remember though, with any set up that spending lots doesnt guarantee good results straight away. It still takes time to learn.
So, whats possible with the Zeiss DSLR digiscoping set up? You be the judge!!
The Shag in the picture to the left was taken in good light.
I couldn't get the picture that I wanted in the right light as the bird was moving quite quickly and I was still getting used to using the focussing wheel at this point.
There is no doubt though that when in good focus and light that the DiaScope can produce excellent images.
This Great Northern Diver has been frequenting a dock near my home for a few weeks now but I'd never seen it in good light.
A decent picture of this bird made it a high pressure situation for me, and I was taking a risk using new equipment on such a bird.
Luckily, and not surprisingly the Zeiss set up worked very well and my worrys were soon set aside as I snapped away on this stunning bird!!
Going back to this photogenic Shag I thought that this picture showed some nice depth in the feather detail. This is more than likely down to the aperture of the set up so it goes to show that smaller apertures serve a really good purpose in good light. I was really pleased with this shot!!
Overall I was very pleased with the way that this set up was put together, and also very pleased with how it performed in the field.
Zeiss equipment is quality, make no mistake there, and their digiscoping equipment, though often not seen in the field, is as good as some of the more commoner digiscoping solutions in the marketplace.
If you have the money, and the time to learn, then Zeiss equipment should be on your list to try before you make any firm decision. Its too good to be overlooked!
Compact set up review available HERE!!