Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Digiscoping Dilemma

My present ‘standard’ digiscoping set up with the Leica apo-Televid 77 is: a B32 WW eyepiece on the scope and a Digilux 1-Televid adapter connected via a 49-46 stepping ring to a Panasonic Lumix LX5 camera. To fill the frame and minimise vignetting with this set-up the camera has to be on maximum zoom (19 mm). This gives me a 35 mm full-frame camera equivalent focal length of 2675 mm. I use an attachment made by Richard Franiec that fits into accessory shoe of the camera and allows a standard cable release to be used to press the shutter button.

Panasonic Lumix LX5 with Digilux 1 adapter
stepping ring attached to 32 WW eyepiece on
apo-Televid 77

However, the LX5, introduced in 2010, does not take full HD video and the whole set-up with so many glass surfaces is inclined to flare. Travelling abroad means having to carry another camera, charger and the Digilux/stepping ring adapter. For most distant shots my superzoom Nikon bridge camera (1000 mm full-frame equivalent) is fine. It is only for the really distant shots that the digiscope offers an advantage.

I have been trying the Phone Skope system for digiscoping with my iPhone 6 to see if that would be a better bet for carrying when travelling. The dedicated phone case (only just available in UK from Newpro) and special adapter for the Leica 32 WW eyepiece work very well. The video from the iPhone 6 with its Sony sensor is of high quality and, of course, full HD. The disadvantage of the set-up is the maximum effective focal length that can be obtained: 960 mm and effectively the same as my Nikon superzoom camera. (For incorporating stills into full HD video, I do of course, have the option of only using 1920 x 1080 of 3264 x 2448 pixels of the i-Phone image, thereby gaining extra magnification by what is a ‘digital zoom’.) However, I can see occasions where I shall use the Phone Skope set-up. If the scope and tripod are locked on a bird then it is a matter of moments to attach the Phone Skope, and start the video or take a still using a remote release or the volume control on the ear-phones.

iPhone 6 in Phone Skope case and adapter for 32 WW eyepiece

Without my Lumix LX5 set-up I would lose the capability to go beyond 1000 mm full-frame equivalent focal length. Should I get a new superzoom camera with an even greater maximum focal length which could take raw stills and full HD video, and ditch the LX5 and Digilux adapter, its lack of hull HD now being a major disadvantage? The gain in optical quality and greater depth-of-field might offset that loss of focal length that my present digiscoping set-up can achieve. For travelling abroad that might be the best bet, with the iPhone (which goes abroad with me anyway) and very light Phone Skope to latch onto the Televid if necessary.

Decisions have to me made…