Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Review: Nikon ED50 FieldScope

Having received a new Nikon ED50 Fieldscope, courtesy of the good folks at Wildbird Magazine and Nikon*, I decided to put it to the test as a digiscoping setup. The scope came with a 13 – 30X eyepiece, but I tested the unit with the 27x DS eyepiece. I used my current digiscoping camera and adaptor (Nikon Coolpix P5000 and homemade adaptor, which consists of a Canon LADC58F and Teflon tape dispenser cap – see my blog post regarding the setup) as it fits very well over the eyepiece and provides proper spacing between camera lens and eyepiece. The following settings were used for the camera: ISO 100, Exposure Compensation = -0.7 unless otherwise specified, Auto White Balance, Center-weighted Metering, Image Size = 3640x2736, Aperture-Priority, Continuous Shooting Mode, Macro Setting, In-camera sharpening set to Normal. My first test was an American Goldfinch at the thistle feeder in the window. From 30 feet away I captured several images at magnifications roughly equivalent to 1X, 2X and 3.5X zoom on the camera. This translates to 27X, 54X and 95X. With the 27X eyepiece the view through the camera viewfinder at 7.5 mm (or 1X) is the same as the view through the eyepiece. With proper orientation of the camera there is no vignetting even at the lowest camera setting. From 60 feet away I then found a willing subject in the form of a female House Sparrow. From this distance I was surprised that chromatic aberration was minimal at best. Only areas with extremely high contrast and/or blown highlights showed slight CA. To test CA I focused the scope on the sunlit white siding of the house. At 30 – 40’ I could not find significant CA associated with this eyepiece. With a steady hand it is possible to digiscope w/ the ED50 without the need for a shutter release or the self-timer. However, I can see that digiscoping in anything but direct sunlight will be difficult since fast shutter speeds will be at a premium. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to keep this scope since I am so happy w/ my Zeiss Diascope 85T*FL. However, this lightweight compact offers a bright, sharp view with a wide FOV and good eye relief. Although I also liked the 13-30X eyepiece I found eye relief to be less forgiving and felt like I had a bit of tunnel vision while wearing glasses. Thus I’ll stick to the 27x DS eyepiece and keep this sweet little beauty for travel. Thank you WildBird, and thank you Nikon! * - First Place in the Digiscoping Category of WildBird Magazine’s 20th Annual Reader Photo Contest (Aug/Sep 2008).

1 comment:

The Paraclete of Caborca said...

Jerry

I bought one of these a couple of months back—my previous scope had bitten the dust and my local dealer was offering the rose champagne version of the ED50 at a special price, so it seemed a no-brainer, especially after I'd lined it up on the finches and tits on their feeders 50 yards away and been wowed. I summoned my girlfriend, who'd waited in the car whilst I checked out the possibility/price of getting the old scope fixed, and she was wowed too, which settled it. She isn't that wowed that often, at least by optical equipment and fishing rods.

Brightness and resolution are outstanding, better than many middle-range scopes with 70mm-80mm objectives; I'd have to pay a lot more and go up to the big-brother ED82 or Swarowski to see a real improvement, I think, and I suspect that would only be evident at very high magnifications. Do I want to lug one of those and a commensurately beefy tripod about the Pyrenees or the Scottish Highlands? Not really. It's actually practicable to hand-hold the ED50 at low-to-mid magnification, especially in a hide. I'm thinking of marrying it up to a Cullman rifle-stock for when I'm out on my own.

I think I'll invest in the 27x WA in the near future, particularly for digiscoping, which I've just begun. The old model zoom the ED came with is a very nice lens, but the small exit pupil doesn't seem ideal, although I did manage a couple of semi-acceptable efforts.