Update: I'm now using the Leica C-Lux 2 camera. Other than re-positioning my cable release, everything else works the same with my digiscoping rig as described below...
Note equipment update here...
I'm feeling like I have my new digiscoping rig dialed in now. While I prefer to use my DSLR rig (Nikon D2x + 200-400mm f/4 VR, etc.) for bird photography whenever possible, there are many situations where digiscoping still rules. For example, last weekend my dad Jim & I re-found a young Brown Pelican that has been hanging around Colorado's northern Front Range all summer. The Colorado Bird Records Committee wants documentation of this rarity, a process always made easier with a photo. Unfortunately, we were seeing the bird from over 1/2 a mile away, well beyond the practical range of the DSLR. While it won't make the next cover of National Geographic, I could obtain an identifiable photo even at that extreme range with my digiscoping rig.
A couple of months ago, the supportive folks at Leica Sport Optics sent me their C-Lux 1 camera and Digital Adapter 2 to hook up with my APO-Televid scopes. The camera is pretty amazing- super fast start-up & focus speed, virtually no shutter lag, no vignetting beyond the widest zoom stop (and only minor corner vignetting then...), etc. Plus the LCD screen is really wide & bright, the camera is small, the pics are sharp, battery management is really good, and so on (can you tell that I like this camera?) The adapter is a little bulky but light, very easy to set up, and goes on and off the eyepiece quickly with a one-screw lock. Basically, once you have a bird in view it is only a matter of a few seconds to have the camera mounted and shooting. Here's an example of a preening Long-billed Curlew taken with this rig (and not at 1/2 mile away- more like 70 yards.):
Still, there were times when I missed the ability to fire the camera remotely. On a previous set-up, I had used a cable release bracket made by EagleEyeUK to fire my Nikon Coolpix 4500. After using the C-Lux 1 / Digital Adapter 2 rig for a while, I realized that by adding a simple aluminum extension on the top of the adapter, I could use a cable release to accomplish hands-off digiscoping (and thus minimize shake, the ultimate enemy of high-magnification photography.) To accomplish this on my new rig, I just used some thin aluminum bar stock, riveted it on the top of the adapter, and drilled a hole above the shutter to accept the cable release. I put a spot of self-adhesive felt on the shutter button so the cable release actuator wouldn't slip around, and used a small wood screw to taper the hole and have some starter threads for the cable release tip to bite into. Lastly, I slightly bent the aluminum bar down towards the shutter to compensate for the tendency of the cable release to push the thing up.
So now I'm feeling like I can worry about the bird, and not my equipment, when I'm digiscoping- a state of photographic nirvana. Jeff Bouton coined the term, "digi-schmokin'" when we were blasting pics left and right on our World Series of Birding digiscoping big day. I like the term, capturing the gestalt of digiscoping with confidence and success. With my new rig now dialed in, I'm confident I can get in the digi-schmokin' zone whenever I've got birds in my sights.
Honduras Birding for Conservation Tour
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