Re: Photography and Spotting Scopes

Subject: Re: Photography and Spotting Scopes
From: (Kim Sterelny)
Date: Wed, 12 Aug 1998 17:34:31 +1200
>Can anyone relate their experiences in the use of spotting scopes to take
>bird (and other wildlife) photos? I'm particularly interested in the use of
>the Kowa TSN-8 series together with the Kowa Photo attachment (TSN-PA2C). I
>have a Minolta 600si SLR.
>Any thoughts on straight versus angled spotting scope for photography, or
>Fluorite (TSN-823/TSN-824) versus normal multi-coated objective lenses
>David Cook
>(02) 6289 3439.

I have used my Swarovski 80HD for photography (with a Canon EOS) and am
very happy with the optical quality of some of the photos (though I do use
fast film - 400 ASA). It gives me a lens of an effective focal length of
800mm. So it makes it possible to photograph birds that would otherwise be
just black dots even with a fairly long lens (I have a Sigma 400 which I
also use a good deal). There are the drawbacks one would expect - the depth
of field is very shallow; you can easily have the front end of the bird
crisp and the bum out of focus - but that would be true of any
super-telephoto lens. And you need plenty of flight - I use it mostly for
wader photos. The optical quality of the Swarovski is such that there is
plenty of light through the view screen for focusing; when I was using my
Celestron 90 for the same purpose it was VERY hard to focus precisely, not
just because the big centre focus system was quite clumsy and a little
stiff, but because the image was dark. So you do need a high quality
telescope with very sharp and very user friendly focusing; nothing but the
best will do here.

 The main drawback I have found is with the quality not of the
Swarovski-made camera adaptor but the T-ring and T-mount to attach the
camera to the adaptor. These seem to all be made by third party suppliers
and be poorly made: the connection must be rigid, and these mounts all seem
to loose their rididity where the T-mount fits into the T-ring after
relatively little use, when they become useless. It is not all that
expensive to buy new ones (about $30) but its extremely annoying especially
if they go loose when you are out taking photos. For all I know, this
problem may be specific to Canons. (Indeed, if there is anyone out there
with a Canon who have found a good quality T-mount I would be pleased to
hear of it).

In sum: I find the Swarovski very much worth having as a telephoto lens as
well as a telescope. It allows me to photograph birds, sometimes with
results that I have really enjoyed, that I could have photograhed no other
way. I would not however (i) recommend having this instead of a mid-size
lens of about 400mm, since you are much less mobile with the scope for you
do need a serious tripod, whereas with a shorter lens you can use a monopod
or even handhold if you do not mind a fair percentage of duds; (ii) I
suspect you need very good optics in the scope.


Kim Sterelny
Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600, Wellington
New Zealand

phone: 64/(0)4/4721-000
Fax: 64/(0)4/495-5130

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