Follow Optics Blog:

Monthly Archives: July 2007

31 Jul

I was glad to see that Vortex has added an ED glass option to their already good Vortex Skyline spotting scope. Just makes a good scope that much better.

Do you really need ED? That depends. If you find yourself using magnifications higher than 40x on a regular basis, you will notice a difference between a standard glass version and an ED glass version of a spotting scope. Chromatic aberration (color fringing around an image) produced in a standard glass spotting scope will rob you of some resolution and it is most noticeable at higher magnifications. Birders, like me, who …

Continue reading

30 Jul

Timing is everything in wildlife photography.

Last week, while riding the bike trail, I passed a field where the yellow coneflowers were bursting with blossoms and the Goldfinches were having a feast. Through my Nikon Premier LX 10×25 binocular, I could see the birds perched on the flower stalks and instantly knew it would make a sensational pic – brilliant yellow on both bird and flower.

I went back, yesterday, just one week later, Kowa 663 spotting scope and Pentax A10 camera in hand, with high hopes. Alas, the coneflowers had faded and gone for the season, at least in …

Continue reading

27 Jul

Some folks make digiscoping adapters more of a mystery than they really are. Here’s a few tips.

First, digiscoping adapters have no optics or optical function. Their one and only function is to place a camera over an eyepiece of a spotting scope to take a picture. Period. In the early days of digiscoping, some folks actually just duct taped cameras to the eyepiece or fabricated their own adapters from cardboard tubes. Today, with the advent of image stabilized digital point and shoot cameras, many digiscopers, myself included, actually just handhold the camera over the eyepiece and dispense with the …

Continue reading

26 Jul

We’ve had a few inexpensive stereo microscopes returned lately with the complaint that the microscope would not focus properly. This is a shame, because most of these microscopes are fine; the customer just didn’t know how to use them.

Stereo microscopes are one of my favorite microscopes to recommend for students and youngsters because they are simple to use and you can stick just about anything underneath them, as is, no preparation needed. Just send the kids out into the backyard and have them collect rocks, bugs, twigs – just about anything. Because these objects vary widely in size, stereo …

Continue reading

25 Jul

I’ve been taking pictures with spotting scopes for more years than I like to admit. Let’s just say I was doing it long before there was such a thing as a digital camera. In the “good” old days, your only serious option was to attach an SLR camera body to a spotting scope, which, in effect, turned your spotting scope into a super telephoto lens. Took some great pics this way, but focusing through an SLR focusing screen at high magnifications was always a pain (images never perfectly sharpened and were typically dark) and, inevitably, there would be times when …

Continue reading

24 Jul

One question I get often is, “Can I digiscope with a zoom eyepiece?”

The answer is, yes, though it is always something of a compromise to digiscope when your spotting scope is fitted with a zoom eyepiece. You will get some vignetting (darkening at the edge of the field) or, worst case scenario, portholing (a round frame pic, instead of a rectangular frame). These effects be edited by cropping with your photo program, however.

Of course, not all spotting scope zoom eyepieces are created equal. High performance spotting scope zooms, such as those offered by Swarovski are not only optically …

Continue reading

23 Jul

One feature of a monocular that many people do not know exists, is that a monocular can be used as a magnifier. Simply hold it backwards over an object (look through the objective end, rather than the eyepiece) and you will get some magnification. Like any magnifier, how much magnification you get will depend somewhat on how far you hold it from the object you are studying.

No, won’t always be as good an image as you can get from a standard magnifier, but when out in the field, it can be a useful thing to know. I use my …

Continue reading

19 Jul

Have had a lot of interest, lately, in Dobsonian telescopes such as the Meade Lightbridge and Celestron Starhopper. That’s the good news. The bad news, at least for a Dob lover like me, is that most customers quickly ask how to hook it up to a computer or how to add a motor drive.

Sorry, I can’t help but think that John Dobson, the creator of the Dobsonian telescope, would be shocked and upset to hear this. He originally created his design in the spirit that simple is better, that astronomy should be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their budget …

Continue reading

18 Jul

I was one of the last holdouts for film cameras when the digital age swept in and I defended film gallantly, if I do say so, myself. So why am I an ordinary, garden variety digital camera user, these days? Why am I using a Pentax Optio A10 digital camera, instead of my old beloved Contax SLRs?

I guess it’s a matter of format. In the old days, I was primarily concerned with enlargements and making prints to hang on the wall. Photo quality was everything – no junk was going to hang on my walls or get framed. If …

Continue reading

17 Jul

I talked to our folks in purchasing and they report that Leica will no longer be delivering their long standing and popular Televid spotting scopes. That’s a real shame, as I used an angled APO 77mm Televid for many years and couldn’t ask more from a spotting scope. It was a true master of the shorebird flats.

The good news is that Leica will be coming out with a new spotting scope, but, as of this date, Leica has yet to announce details. Stay tuned.…

Continue reading