With a middle-priced spotting scope such as Kowa's TSN-773 or 664 series, is it worth it to do digiscoping with a good DSLR? Since the image quality is definitely not going to be as good as using a dedicated telephoto lens, can a bridge camera or point-and-shoot actually be good enough for this purpose?

I've seen many sample images/videos out there where people took crisp, sharp high-quality images/footage with digiscoping, but with more expensive scopes (e.g. Swarovski's 95mm ATX), and with a DSLR. But it's also clear that digiscoping cannot compete with the telephoto lens.

In theory then, is it necessary to digiscope with DLSRs?

  • I see. Thanks for the heads up. I'll move my original questions to other places. – Jason C. Jul 3 '17 at 4:26

You've already found Lensrentals's comparison, which is probably the best comparison of a high-end telephoto lens against a high-end digiscope out there, so all we can really do here is to repeat Roger's findings:

  • If you need the absolute best in image quality, then the telephoto lens is what you need.
  • On the other hand, the digiscope is half the price, half the weight, a bit smaller and even more weatherproof than a Canon L lens.

You just need to decide what is more important to you.

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  • Thanks for the concise answer. As Peter pointed out, it might be worth comparing the results myself with some second-handed DSLR – Jason C. Jul 4 '17 at 4:26

I suggest one of the Nikon Earth & Sky spotting scopes. Many spotting scopes have an eyepiece that is angled (not straight with the main telescope tube), these are difficult to aim so I am suggesting you buy the straight models. These allow fast pointing. Best for the field is a 60mm objective lens. The alternative is 80mm, this is a bigger scope that is heavier however the image is brighter plus it allows the scope to support higher magnification. As a rule of thumb, magnification with detail = about 30X per inch of objective diameter. A 60mm = 2.36 inches thus affords magnifications up to 70X. You can mount most any camera so that it peers through the sporting scope. This is called "afocal". Such a lash-up work but is awkward to work with. For this lash-up, you need a scope, an afocal adapter, a camera with lens, and a tripod. Best however will be a telephoto lens mounted on a camera. I think the maximum practical telephoto will be a 500m mounted on an SLR.

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  • thanks for the answer. However, as per inkista's suggestion, I changed the original question, hopefully fitting for SE now. – Jason C. Jul 3 '17 at 4:33
  • I presume 500m should say 500mm, but there are a couple of recent "budget" telezooms which go to 600mm/6.3, and there are Matsukov lens which go further. I have a 1100mm/10.5 which just about qualifies as practical. My back hurt after the second day of walking 20km with it in a rucksack, but there are plenty of shots you can take with less physical exertion. – Peter Taylor Jul 3 '17 at 14:04

In theory it's possible to digiscope with a mobile phone, although I haven't seen a quality shootout between a phone, a compact, and a DSLR.

You said in the original version of the question that "I would like to extend both the magnification and image quality." The question that raises is: what aspect of the image quality is currently a limitation? Is it the low light performance? Noise? Resolution?

There's also the question of how much of your $3000 budget you're willing to spend on experiments. It might be worth getting an adapter and a second hand DSLR which is a few generations behind the cutting edge (Nikon D40 or D3000, Canon EOS 1000D) for about $50 to do your own shootout against the FZ80. If the older DSLR holds up then a new DSLR will almost certainly beat the FZ80; otherwise you can just resell the DSLR and stick with the FZ80. Its sensor is going to be as good as a recent DSLR's so the main differences with a DSLR for digiscoping would be the extra glass in the optical path and the user interface.

There is a third option: rather than use a spotting scope as a camera lens, use a camera lens as a spotting scope. Nikon's original Lensscope is only available second hand and at prices approaching what it used to cost new, but there are third party manufacturers who've seen that the niche was left empty. It's even possible to do homebrew: I purchased my 1100mm/10.5 MTO from someone who had adapted its cap to hold an eyepiece and used it with a 10mm Plössl for astronomical observation.

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  • I see. Thanks! second-hand DSLR might be a good option. My original plan was to replace my binoculars with the FZ80, get a new scope, and a new camera. So using telelens as a scope is not what I thought about. – Jason C. Jul 4 '17 at 4:24

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