The following is a comparison of five variations of bird photography:
- Digiscoping with a point-and-shoot [Nikon Coolpix 5100]
- Digiscoping with a digital SLR camera [Canon EOS Rebel XTi]
- Telephoto with Swarovski TLS800 adapter and digital SLR [Canon EOS Rebel XTi]
- Telephoto with 100-400mm lens [Canon]
- Telephoto with 100-400mm lens and 2x extender [Canon]
The subject is a stuffed Pileated Woodpecker in our White Pine at about 33 feet. The conditions were sleeting and cold with some wind (perfect for photography!) and the purpose of this is not so much image quality as distance comparison and ease of use. Below the photos are some thoughts on what works best.
Nikon Coolpix 5100 at no zoom [12.9mm]
Nikon Coolpix 5100 coupled with Swarovski 80HD STS spotting scope at 20x zoom
Nikon Coolpix 5100 coupled with Swarovski 80HD STS spotting scope at 60x zoom
Digital SLR digiscoping – Canon EOS Rebel XTi with 50mm lens and Swarovski 80HD STS spotting scope at 20x
Digital SLR digiscoping – Canon EOS Rebel XTi with 50mm lens and Swarovski 80HD STS spotting scope at approx. 60x
Telephoto with Swarovski TLS800 adapter and digital SLR [Canon EOS Rebel XTi]
This is what the TLS800 looks like on the scope [from Swarovski’s website]
Telephoto with 100-400mm Canon lens [100mm]
Telephoto with 100-400mm Canon lens [400mm]
Telephoto with 100-400mm Canon lens and 2x adapter [100mm with 2x = 200mm]
Telephoto with 100-400mm Canon lens and 2x adapter [400mm with 2x = 800mm]
The Nikon point-and-shoot does a surprisingly good job at digiscoping but has the drawback of not being able to shoot successive shots (quickly) and takes a long time to focus on the subject (an obvious problem with non-stationary subjects).
The Canon SLR method works well especially at lower magnification (on the scope) and allows for rapid shooting and fast-focusing.
The Swarovski TLS800 is a bit hard to use. It requires removal of the spotting scope’s eyepiece making the scope useless for searching for birds. Once the TLS800 is attached to your camera, you have to hook it to the scope which creates an awkward (and comical) bit of maneuvering.
Once the whole setup is ready we found that the camera settings had to be adjusted a great deal more than with digiscoping. We never could get the settings right and the photo shown was the best we could get after numerous attempts.
The shots with the 100-400mm lens are more for comparison. This method of bird photography is better for general hiking or birds in flight shots as it allows for free movement and less adjustments.
Overall, we prefer the “true” digiscoping setup over the TLS800 telephoto adapter. The Swarovski Digital Camera Adapter can be used with virtually ANY camera so even if you upgrade, you’ll be ready to digiscope.
TLS800 Rating: 3 of 10
Swarovski Digital Camera Adapter Rating: 10 of 10