Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Custom Digidapter™! - 28 Sep 2014

I've been in contact with Paul Sayegh, creator of the Digidapter™digiscoping adapter, about building a custom adapter for the 40X W Eyepiece for the Zeiss 85T*Fl Diascope.  I had managed to make a pretty good homemade adapter using PVC pipe and painter's tape so that I could my Digidapter™, but Paul believed that he could do better.  He has!





I shipped my 40X W eyepiece to him on Saturday of last week, and he received it on Monday. By Tuesday he had not only machined a new adapter sleeve, but had it anodized, engraved, and shipped. I received it Thursday. How good is it? I mounted my camera to the stage platform, positioned it for optimal image brightness and sharpness, and proceeded to rotate the stage 360 degrees. The mark of perfect machining is the ability the swivel the camera 90 degrees without any shadowing in the corners of your image, continue to swivel to 180 degrees, then 270, and finally back to 0 degrees with no hint of vignetting or image shadowing.  I was impressed!

With two Digidapters™in my possession I could mount both the Nikon 1 V3 and Sony Cybershot DSC RX-100 III for side-by-side comparison in the field. With each camera mounted to a Digidapter™it would be a breeze for me to swap back-and-forth between cameras while digiscoping the same subjects so that I could get true comparisons of camera quality.  So, come Sunday morning I grabbed the scope, Digidapters™ and cameras and headed out to play.

My first stop was Crosswinds Marsh in s. Wayne Co., MI to look for migrating sparrows. I wouldn't find any sparrows, but did spend some time playing with the cameras. I set each on Aperture-Priority and Auto-ISO 100-800 and proceeded to see how they compared.

With no birds around I did some comparison shots of nearby plants from approximately 30 - 60' away.  This Fall Dandelion was shot at 1/320s at 22mm (EFL=2376 mm) on both cameras. The Sony RX-100 chose ISO 125 at f/2.8 while the Nikon chose ISO 160 at f/5. With focus-peaking the RX-100 III was able to focus on the front of the flower while the V3 slightly back-focused. Otherwise noise properties were indistinguishable. The Sony produced a slightly cooler image while the Nikon a slightly warmer image.

Milkweed, Sony RX-100 III





A nearby Milkweed pod gave me the opportunity to photograph with the camera rotated 90 degrees. The Nikon autofocus did just as well as the focus-peaking of the Sony RX-100 III.20

Milkweed, Nikon V3
The Sony RX-100 III really shines in situations where the background is busy, or when critical-focusing is required. These daisies are a great example. I focused on the top left flower with both cameras, but with focus-peaking the RX-100 III allowed me to get a very sharp image of the flower, while the V3's center-weighted focusing produced a softer image.



After riding around to the south end of the marsh I spotted a Bald Eagle about 300 yds. away near its nest.  Long-distance digiscoping at maximum focal length (2700 - 3240 mm) is challenging, and in this case the Nikon V3 came through. Autofocus was more accurate dealing with heat shimmer / air currents than the RX-100 III and focus-peaking. But the Nikon produced a grainier image shooting at ISO 400 at 1/250s, f/5.6 compared to the Sony's ISO 125, 1/125s and f/2.8.

Greylag, Nikon V3



A pair of Greylag Geese were nearby and provided a bit of a challenge while swimming away from shore. I started w/ the V3 then switched to the RX-100. The Nikon's fast autofocus produced many more keeper images while the Sony's autofocus (w/o focus-peaking) proved to be disappointing. Focus-peaking was necessary to get sharp images, but is difficult to use with moving subjects.

Greylag, Sony RX-100 III

Nikon V3
Sony RX-100 III
Great Blue Heron, Sony RX-100 III
Later in the day I drove down to Sterling State Park in Monroe Co. to look for shorebirds. The large lagoon had low water levels, and good numbers of Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs were foraging about 50 yds. away. Some Pectoral Sandpipers and Least Sandpipers were present, as well. I may have seen a pair of Willet, but could not confirm as they were severely backlit and could have been Greater Yellowlegs.  The bike path that circles the lagoon is lined w/ hedges and brush, so only a few openings were present for me to scope the resident waterfowl. This Great Blue Heron actually permitted me to digiscope it from about 40' away, and the RX-100 III produced the best photos of this little comparison. The Nikon V3 produced equally-fine images of this bird.

Nikon V3
Wood Duck, Nikon V3

This Wood Duck was swimming in the shadows about 50' away. The Nikon V3 did a fine job autofocusing even while the bird constantly swam and fed. The Sony RX-100 III could not keep up, and failed to provide a single keeper image.

Mallard, Nikon V3







Though a touch noisier, the V3 produced a sharper image of this female Mallard, while the RX-100 III produced a softer image (most likely due to slower shutter speed at lower Auto-ISO).

Sony RX-100 III

Great Blue Heron, Sony RX-100 III

With the sun beginning to set I found another Great Blue Heron enjoying the last rays of the evening in a dark corner of the marsh. Both the Sony and Nikon produced wonderful images!


"OK, I'll leave...", Sony RX-100
Nikon V3

Wood Duck, Nikon V3
One last Wood Duck and I had to call it an evening.  Thanks to Paul Sayegh for another wonderful Digidapter™ design I'm able to enjoy digiscoping with both the Nikon 1 V3 and Sony RX-100 III cameras with my favorite eyepiece, the Zeiss 40X W. Both cameras produce wonderful images, and anyone shopping for a new digiscoping camera would be happy with either.  I will say, that in the end, I will continue to use the Nikon 1 V3 as my camera of choice for the following reasons:

Wood Duck, Nikon V3
1. Autofocus is faster and more reliable than the RX-100 III, especially with moving targets. I consistently get more keepers.

2. The V3 is easier to use in the field: The EVF is fixed, while the RX-100 III requires an extra step to  pop-up the EVF and pull it out. Plus, the RX-100 III has more confusing Menu Navigation, which makes it harder to adjust settings in the field.

3. The Power-zoom lens of the V3 provides vignette-free images throughout the entire focal range of 10-30mm. With the camera on the Digidapter™stage I can butt the lens (at 10mm) against the scope eyepiece and zoom to 30 mm without shadows or lens errors.  With the Sony 8 - 25 mm lens, the lens at 8 mm is extended at its maximum, so if you mount the camera with the lens butted against the eyepiece at 8 mm, you'll get shadowing as you zoom out to 25 mm. So I mount the camera so that the lens butts agains the eyepiece at about 13 mm for shadow-free imaging throughout the zoom range, but it requires me to slide the Digidapter™ sleeve out to avoid crashing the lens into the eyepiece should I zoom below 13 mm. Its something that I can do easily enough in the field but still requires that extra step to move the Digidapter™ sleeve in and out to avoid a lens error.

The Sony RX-100 III shines in two categories:

1. Focus-peaking is wonderful, and ensures that optimal feather detail will be obtained.
2. The Zeiss Vario Sonar 8.8-25.8  f/1.8-2.8 lens allows for faster shutter speeds and lower ISO settings compared to the Nikon V3. Though noise properties are similar between the two cameras at similar settings, these extra lower ISO settings will give cleaner images.

Either way, though, either camera is a winner.  And so is the Digidapter™!




Sunday, September 14, 2014

August Digiscoping - 31 Aug 2014

Some various images from the month of August, in no particular order. All digiscoped w/ a Zeiss 85T*Fl, 40X W eyepiece, Nikon V3, and Digidapter™.

Great Black-backed Gull, 2nd-cycle

Short-billed Dowitcher

Stilt Sandpiper

Wilson's Phalarope


House Wren



Great Black-backed Gull, 2nd cycle

Great Egret

Pectoral Sandpiper

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Digiscoping w/ the Nikon 1 V3 - 02 Aug 2014

I exchanged some messages this morning w/ Mike McDowell, aka The Digiscoper, concerning the Nikon 1 V3. The question was raised as to how it compared to the V1, which we've both used in the field. Since I'd been using the Sony DSC-RX100 III for the past month or so I was trying to remember some of the things about the V3 "I didn't like".

I remembered not liking the seemingly 'over saturated' images coming from the camera when I digiscoped using the Zeiss 85T*Fl and 20-75X Zoom Eyepiece. Images w/ the 20-75X Zoom eyepiece also had a tendency to show serious CA and softness at the edges that proved bothersome, as well. I remembered getting better images using the 40X eyepiece, but that required using my homemade adapter and the 10-30mm lens from the V1.  So this prompted me to steal back the V3 from Robin and test it on the Digidapter™ and 40X W eyepiece now that I have an adapter that fits properly.

I've posted some blogs comparing the noise and magnification ranges of the Nikon 1 and Sony RX-100 III.  I've also posted some images taken w/ the V3 using the Zeiss 20-75X Zoom Eyepiece:

Shorebirds w/ 20-75X Zoom eyepiece and 40X

Low ISO w/ 20-75X Zoom

High ISO w/ 20-75X Zoom

The V3 and 10-30 PZ lens mounts nicely on the Digidapter™ stage platform, and aligning was a snap! One advantage that the V3 has is that the 10-30mm lens does not move in and out like the 8-27mm lens does on the RX100 III, so I mounted the camera so that the V3 at 30mm was flush w/ the 40X eyepiece. Zooming out to 10 mm maintains a sharp focal plane through the entire range and requires no repositioning of the Digidapter™to prevent lens crashing.

I took the scope, Digidapter™ and V3 out into the yard to take some test images.

One advantage that the V3 has over the RX100 III (for digiscoping on the Zeiss Diascope) is that autofocus is significantly faster and more accurate! The focus-assist capability w/ the RX100 III is nice, but without focus-peaking the autofocus does not provide sharp images. Focus-peaking reveals that the autofocus is off, and requires that the camera lens needs rotating to bring the bird in focus.

A female Northern Cardinal has been bouncing around the yard feeding a new fledgling so I was able to track her and grab images even in the low light of the overcast, slightly stormy morning. The V3 locks on almost instantaneously and confidence is much higher that the bird is properly in focus.

Because both the V1 and RX100 III use the same 1" sensor the noise properties of the two cameras are comparable. Here is an image taken at ISO 800 blown up to 100% to show the noise properties of an image taken at 1/50 sec.  Addition of NR using Noiseware (50%) cleans up the image nicely.

Regarding 'color' and 'oversaturation' I had wondered if the V3 was slow to maintain proper white balance during the 20fps Continuous shooting mode that I was using.  So I tested the V3 on this coreopsis in the garden using 'Single', 'Continuous', 'Continuous 10fps', and 'Continuous 20fps'. After uploading and reviewing all images they were identical! When I checked the camera I noticed I had the camera set to Adobe RGB so I changed it to sRGB and chose the color pallet for "Landscape".  The colors produced very pleasing images during the morning shoot and I found that I did not need to adjust at all (I've been having to adjust color balance on all of my RX100 III images to date).



One thing I found out while shooting Continuous 10fps and 20fps is that the minimum shutter speed the camera will select in Aperture-Priority is 1/60 sec. So, when I first tested the camera this morning I found that all of my images were underexposed and dark.  When I switch the camera to "Continuous" then I was getting exposures of 1/20 to 1/30 sec and proper exposures.  So, if you decide to use 10fps or 20fps make sure that there is sufficient light to get at least 1/60 sec at your ISO setting and w/ the lens wide open!

After following mama Cardinal around the yard I spotted one of the recently-fledged chicks in the Redbud tree about 25' away.  Though severely backlit the V3 handled highlights very nicely. Notice how little fringing is present at the edges of the leaves and the around the chick.  Happy.

After playing w/ the Nikon 1 V3 a bit and making the proper corrections (40X eyepiece, color scheme, Digidapter™) I've found that this camera is once-again a joy to use.  The EVF is bright and Autofocus is accurate so I don't need the Hoodman Loupe setup like I have on the RX100 III. File transfer is also easier since Nikon Transfer and Nikon View allows me to preview and delete photos much quicker and easier than w/ the Sony software.

So. Tomorrow. I'll be taking the Nikon 1 V3 out to the shorebird flats and leaving the Sony RX100 III  on the charger at home.  I may have to buy Robin another camera to replace this one that is now back in my camera bag...

Monday, July 14, 2014

Early July w/ the RX100 III - 14 Jul 2014

I am seriously loving this camera. Focus-peaking is necessary, but having the Hoodman Loupe on the LCD makes digiscoping much easier! I've posted a short blurb describing the setup on the Digidapter™and RX100 III.