Re: Digiscoping

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Subject: Re: Digiscoping
From: (Danny Rogers)
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2001 11:17:01 +1100 (EST)

Most of the recent birding-aus discussion has focussed on the digital SLR's
now available. Obviously amazing machines, but well beyond my means.
However, it is possible to get quite acceptable  shots with much cheaper
'point and shoot' digital cameras, provided you point them through a
telescope at a still or slow-moving bird. The general technique is known as
digiscoping and there are some excellent websites about it (see earlier
birding-aus emails, especially from Peter Waanders), but I thought a brief
description might be of interest.

APPROACH: Point your scope (or binoculars) at the bird of interest and focus
sharply. Handhold digital camera (or camcorder) to eyepiece, using preview
screen to make sure you are pointing the camera at the bird and not the
barrel of the scope. Push the button. It's done.

RESULTS: Surprisingly good. I've had my digital camera for about 3 months,
and have so far mainly used it on waders at Werribee, where I've been trying
to figure out ratios of juvenile birds to adults; I wanted to document the
post-juvenile moult in waders (especially Red-necked Stints) so I could
figure out where the last remnants of juvenile plumage are to be found, and
when juveniles start to become hard to tell from adults. It has been fine
for these purposes and some of the images look quite pretty to me. You don't
get the amazing depth of field achieved by Tony Palliser with his very fancy
camera, but it is quite possible to get all of the focal bird in sharp
focus, at sufficiently high resolution to print off a nice A4 image. When at
my PC reviewing shots I had taken a day or so before, I was recently amused
to find that I could read part of the band number of a stint which I had
photographed at 10m range, which might give some idea of how effective the
method is. 

Magnification: What you see through your scope is essentially what you
photograph. In addition if your camera has an optical zoom, that works  in
combination with the scope to give you higher magnification. In my case, I
usually birdwatch with a telescope with a 25x eyepiece fitted and my digital
camera has a 3x optical zoom: 25x3 = 75 x maginfication. I'm not sure how
that converts to mm of SLR lens, but it's certainly more powerful than
anything I've ever used before. Some digital cameras and most camcorders
have much more powerful optical zooms (10-20x) so the magnification achieved
through those must be extraordinary.

Field convenience: I quite enjoy bird photography, but what I really like
doing is bird-watching, and I usually do that with a scope. In the past when
I took a standard camera with 300 mm lens into the field it tended to remain
in my pack because I was relectant to stop watching the focal bird or to
take my scope off the tripod. Digiscoping is great for my purposes because I
can fit the camera in my pocket and just pull it out when I see something I
want to photograph; it doesn't take long (maybe 10 seconds from deciding a
photo is needed to actually having the photo taken) and you can review your
shot in the field to see if you've got what you wanted. Obviously it is also
handy that acceptable shots can be taken without taking enormous pains to
get close to the bird.

Light gathering: Remarkably good; even things photographed at night
illuminated in a spotlight have turned out OK. Nor have I had real
camera-shake problems, even though I've just been doing it handheld (some
people make home-made devices to attach camera to scope, probably an
important ploy if using digital camera with more powerful optical zooms). I
don't know why digital cameras need so little light, but luckily you don't
need to understand them to make them work.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers
340 Nink's Road
St Andrews
Victoria 3761

Ph/Fax: + (61) (03) 9710 1345

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