Digiscoping Comparison: Swarovski Digital Camera Adapter vs. Swarovski TLS800 Camera Adapter

The following is a comparison of five variations of bird photography:

  1. Digiscoping with a point-and-shoot [Nikon Coolpix 5100]
  2. Digiscoping with a digital SLR camera [Canon EOS Rebel XTi]
  3. Telephoto with Swarovski TLS800 adapter and digital SLR [Canon EOS Rebel XTi]
  4. Telephoto with 100-400mm lens [Canon]
  5. 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]
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Nikon Coolpix 5100 coupled with Swarovski 80HD STS spotting scope at 20x zoom
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Nikon Coolpix 5100 coupled with Swarovski 80HD STS spotting scope at 60x zoom
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Digital SLR digiscoping – Canon EOS Rebel XTi with 50mm lens and Swarovski 80HD STS spotting scope at 20x
canon50mm-20x-copy009

Digital SLR digiscoping – Canon EOS Rebel XTi with 50mm lens and Swarovski 80HD STS spotting scope at approx. 60x
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Telephoto with Swarovski TLS800 adapter and digital SLR [Canon EOS Rebel XTi]
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This is what the TLS800 looks like on the scope [from Swarovski’s website]

Telephoto with 100-400mm Canon lens [100mm]
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Telephoto with 100-400mm Canon lens [400mm]
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Telephoto with 100-400mm Canon lens and 2x adapter [100mm with 2x = 200mm]
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Telephoto with 100-400mm Canon lens and 2x adapter [400mm with 2x = 800mm]
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Summary

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

7 thoughts on “Digiscoping Comparison: Swarovski Digital Camera Adapter vs. Swarovski TLS800 Camera Adapter

  1. Eddie, you put a lot of work/effort into this. But it’s great for comparison purposes. Now that you did the work on it, I am more convinced that I should purchase a 300mm lens with an extender. I’m not sure yet if I’ll purchase a 2x or a 1.5x, but it tells me that I would do better portability-wise. I’m not always able to carry around a spotting scope with extra camera equipment and an adapter. I’d only do that if I were in a more stationary spot. Thanks for all the work you put into it and sharing it with all of us.

  2. Eddie: Thanks for the efforts. I have found that the 2X lens causes focusing problems with the automatic focus on my D70 Nikon with a 200-400 Tamaron lens. I would suggest not using any more than a 1.5 X lens. Of course, you must be really good to follow a moving bird with the digiscope arrangement, however, you can do it with a telephoto lens.

    Jack

  3. Thanks, Eddie. When I bought my scope 5 or so years ago, only the TLS was available. I’m anxious now to take a look at the smaller adapter and the camera support. I may get back into digiscoping yet.

  4. Mary – thanks for the wonderful feedback! Digiscoping can be a lot of fun and can get you some great shots but it is a lot easier for more stationary birds (like shorebirds) or stationary spots (like warbler watering holes)

    Jack – You are welcome. The 2x extender totally disallows autofocus on our Canon but I don’t know about the 1.4x (I think that is Canon’s smaller one)

    Wren – The digital camera adapter is a breeze to use as Swarovski (and other companies) has put good effort into matching it with their scopes

  5. Apart from a scope, other esential tools for conducting digiscpoing is an adaptor or bracket, a tripod and an optionally remote release. I’m really interested in digiscoping and want to study about different methods of attachment between the scope and adapter. Thanks for sharing the above comparison.

  6. Thanks for sharing your thought. I know Swarovski TLS800 is a bit hard to use. And I like Vortex Razor HD Spotting scope which is great if you attach this scope with a sturdy tripod.

  7. Great comparison! Your effort made me choose the Canon EOS Rebel XTi . I think it’s a best one of digiscoping. Thanks for sharing such an informative statement of work.

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