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™!

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