Advice on scope purchase...

For talk about digiscoping with a spotting scope and digicam

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Advice on scope purchase...

Postby mustap on Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:52 pm

I would like to look at purchasing a scope. I am looking for something easy to carry, and relatively strong. While i don't plan to do any photography using the scope, i would like to leave myself open to this option in the future through the addition of a Point-and-shoot. Purpose would be for ID shots of distant birds, rather than any real artistic/pro work.

Can anyone offer advice on what type of scope to consider, brand names, and easy coupling with a point and shoot?

Thanks in advance for any advice.
Peeter Musta - mustap.smugmug.com
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Re: Advice on scope purchase...

Postby karl egressy on Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:17 am

Hi Peeter,

It depends on your budget.
I have an older version of a Swarovski and this is how I started serious bird photography; digiscoping.
This days the Swarovski and other scopes have attachments (just saw them in B&H catalog) and they make your life easier.
Jean Iron post president of OFO uses a Swarovski 80 mm scope, newer vweaion, a fix focus wide angle eyepiece and a spice jar lid to aid the Nilon point and shoot.
Go to her website; www.jeaniron.ca/

Good luck with shopping.
Karl.
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Re: Advice on scope purchase...

Postby mustap on Wed Nov 12, 2008 12:35 pm

Thank you very much Karl. It was very helpful to review the information Jean had posted (especially the $4 adapter vs. the $229 adapter sold in the stores.). I am guessing her setup is the gold standard for digiscoping so to speak (that setup costs more than my camera and primary lens!). This is a useful point of comparison.

It's also very interesting to see the variety of birds/wildlife Jean has displayed on her site, certainly enough to make me jealous (Wheatear, Ruff, Kirtland's Warbler, Walrus, Polar Bears......)
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Re: Advice on scope purchase...

Postby Peter C. on Thu Nov 13, 2008 9:48 am

Think it's a great idea to have a scope for taking ID shots. Many "difficult birds" have only been documented because somebody got a distant digiscoped shot.

I don't own a "good" scope, and have never really been able to "digiscope" (the eyepiece of my current scope is just too small), but I can offer you some general advice about scopes.

First, even if you don't go all out and get a Swarovski, Kowa, or a Leica, I would certainly avoid the low-end models. Some friends of mine bought a cheap Chinese-manufactured scope that, according to the stats, was equivalent to the Swarovski - same objective size, magnification, etc. But I don't believe that it's going to last, at that price I think they'd have to cut too many corners. Almost nothing worse than getting an expensive piece of hardware, and then having so little thing like the mount threading give out! (Speaking from experience). I think the Bushnells are good, but I can't advise you about particular models.

I also think you should go for an angled scope rather than straight, they're probably a lot easier to use for photography (and I know they're better if you're trying to "share the view").

Cheers,
Peter C.
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Re: Advice on scope purchase...

Postby karl egressy on Thu Nov 13, 2008 10:15 am

An other good website for you Peeter;
http://www.mts.net/~acook/adapter.htm
http://www.mts.net/~acook/index.htm
Ann Cook was considered to be the best in Canada, a few years back.
She uses straight Swarowski. I used angled Swarowski.
If I'm not mistaken, Jean uses angled now and used sraight in the past.
An other good digiscoper was; Harold Stiver.
http://www.ontfin.com/
He used Pentax 80
So far I owned the top quality Pentax 80 mm HD, Baush & Lomb Elite 80 mm HD made by Bushnell,
and Swarowski 80 mm HD.
The best was; Swarowski.
The Baush & Lomb Elite was a good scope for birding but not for digiscoping.
The Pantax has excellent glasses, but the field of view is too narrow to my taste.
Brandon Holden and his father Erik own two of the Pentax scopes and they are happy with them.
Brandon is amazing with the scope . He uses it like other people would use a pair of binos.
One of the founders of digiscoping was Andy Bright from England.
I used his website to educate myself on digiscoping back then.
http://www.birdforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=243
Have fun :D with choosing.
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Re: Advice on scope purchase...

Postby Mike Burrell on Thu Nov 13, 2008 2:11 pm

Hi Peeter,

Personally, my favourite scope is the Leica, but Kowa and Swarovski are also way up there in terms of quality. I would echo Peter's advise on not skimping; if you're gong to buy a scope, it's not worth getting a cheapy that will only disapoint you. If you buy a top end scope that will last you for the rest of your life (and should come with a pretty good warranty), so it's worth the investment.

I have the luck to regularly use 3 scopes, my brother has a swarovski, I have the bushnell 80mm elite, and my dad owns an eagle optics (77mm I think). Ken and I have straight eye pieces and my Dad's is an angled. The angled is certainly better for looking at hawks and other things way up (for instance if you plan on birding in the tropics where trees are huge), and perhaps for digiscoping. The straight eye piece makes it easier to quickly find objects in the field (since you are looking straight at them).

I have also done a fair bit of digiscoping, using my Bushnell (it's actually a Bausch and Lomb since I got it before that was totally merged) with a spice jar lid and a nikon coolpix 4500, you can see some of my results at http://individual.utoronto.ca/heidelberg/birds.html (every thing is digiscoped with that setup except the booby, sandhill crane, and Kentucky Warbler).

In terms of my impression between the three scopes I use the quality certainly follows the same trend as price. Optics are just one of those things that you can't really get deals on; you pay for what you get...That being said I am very happy with my Bausch and Lomb (which I got for about $1000), it's just I can see the difference in terms of brightness and crispness (especially at highest magnification) between that and Ken's Swarovski.

A good thing to do is to head to Wildbirds Unlimited or Pelee Wings (they probably have a better selection) and just try out as many models as possible, especially on a dreary day like today when you can see how they perform under low light.
Mike Burrell
Heidelberg and Toronto, Ontario
http://individual.utoronto.ca/heidelberg/
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Re: Advice on scope purchase...

Postby mustap on Fri Nov 14, 2008 1:14 am

Thank you Peter, Mike and again Karl. All very helpful information.

I took a look at your website Mike. You have some awesome shots. I especially liked the gray tree frog on the branch/log, and the ring-necked snake/penny combo. And that's saying alot....normally i hate snakes! :D
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Re: Advice on scope purchase...

Postby Mike Burrell on Fri Nov 14, 2008 7:52 pm

Thanks for the comments on the pictures Peeter.

I wanted to add one more note about digiscoping and another home made tool. This one is a little more high tech but it seemed to work really well. I saw someone who had made it in Algonquin. It was a piece of metal tubing slightly bigger than their scopes eyepiece mounted to the scopes eyepiece with 3 or 4 bolts, so each bolt could be unscrewed to remove it easily from the eyepiece. At the other end of the tubing were 3 or 4 more bolts which could be screwed in or out to fasten onto basically any point and shoot camera lens. I recall the person saying they were a millwright or something so that is why they had made it, but something similar could be easily made (especially if you know anyone with the tools to drill a few holes in a steel tube).

In case that description was horrible I've attached a quick diagram...note that the actual metal tube was proably only a coupele inches long at most.
Attachments
digiscoping adapter.JPG
Digiscoping adapter
digiscoping adapter.JPG (24.94 KiB) Viewed 3221 times
Mike Burrell
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