Digiscoping with superzoom or DSLR? (with spotting scope)


TPF Noob!
Jul 2, 2017
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I'm new to here. So I'm not sure if asking this here is appropriate. If not, I would appreciate it if somebody is willing to give a link to the proper place(s)!

Thanks for help in advance!

I'd like to ask for advice for choosing my gear. My main purpose is birdwatching and am considering buying a spotting scope + camera for digiscoping. The budget is around $3000, so I'm not considering expensive telephoto lenses. The scope will be used directly too -- i.e. viewed by human eye. So I'm also not considering "cheaper" lenses like 500mm or below. I want the magnification and actually photography is second.

I already possess a Panasonic lumix FZ80 superzoom camera, but I would like to extend both the magnification and image quality.

So a possible choice would be: - Kowa TSN-773 + eyepiece (TE-11WZ) + adapters + tripod = $2700+

(Swarovski's scopes seem unaffordable to me...)

Because I have no experience in digiscoping with "good" equipments, I'm not sure if the scope I'm choosing and the camera I already have match each other in terms of the product image quality and so on.

In other words, the questions are

(1) I'm not sure if I need to buy a DSLR to replace my FZ80. Or does FZ80 suffice to serve as the photographic device for the extra zoom from the scope? Perhaps digiscoping with TSN-773 simply wouldn't require another better camera?

(2) If the camera is too crappy for the scope, what would you recommend to buy for a DSLR? I think a pair of camera + lens summing up to ~$800 is still okay for the budget. In this case, would replacing the scope with a smaller-aperture one, say TSN-664 be worth it? Basically I'm trading off scope's aperture size and the quality of camera here. For direct observation purposes, a 6x mm scope is probably still good enough

(3) I also need help on choosing tripod. The range of cost out there is too confusing for me. First, I believe I can use one for both my camera and scope, when using them separately. But I think I can't afford a carbor-fiber one which can be almost as expensive as a scope. So I'm looking for aluminium ones. For the heads, would you recommend a 2-way head or ball head. I guess 2-way head could ensure better stability?

Thanks a lot!! Any advice would be much appreciated!
This is a photography forum. We like big cameras with big lenses. You would be much better off asking on a birding forum, where there will be a lot of people doing digiscoping.

Sent from my 8070 using Tapatalk
Over the years I've experimented with digiscoping using a number of budget scopes (all under £200 used)

Prime focus results (with those I could remove the eyepiece from) where acceptable but not any better than a modern telephoto lens. With some of the scopes my DSLR could not get close enough to focus beyond ~50m, This was not a problem for my mirrorless camera.
One of the scopes has an attached zoom eyepiece & came with a T2 adapter for Afocal digiscoping. The full zoom range was usable for direct observing, but with a camera mounted the zoom was effectively useless - no increase in detail even on a 6MP DSLR. (The system apparently equates to a 1000mm f/16 to a 4000mm f/64, It's highly likely that diffraction was responsible for the lack of any detail improvement - F/16 is about the diffraction limit for APSC).

There's no control of aperture when digiscoping so as a photographer I've not found it worth the hassle. Better detail being available (& easier) with a telephoto lens. FWIW fitting a molocular converter makes the telephoto lenses quite reasonable as telescopes :)

Online images suggest the quality of the scope may make a HUGE difference, with loads of quality shots managed using a phone & a good scope. I doubt the camera itself will make much difference.
I won't say that no one here knows about digiscoping, but like John's point I agree that you might find we don't have as many users with experience of it. If you want you could stop by at BirdForum - The Net's Largest Birding Community, Dedicated To Wild Birds where (if you scroll down a fair way) there's a good section on digiscoping that might have the answer and users who might be more experienced in the matter
Thank you all for the suggestions! petrochemist's post has been useful, but I'll ask birders too.

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