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Legacy Lenses Discuss the use of older lenses, using adapters, from the Olympus OM system, Leica M and R-series, and the millions of others too.

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Old 14th April 2014
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Scope setups

Below is a more comprehensive description of my scope setups.

Scope
  • Lens cell.
  • Tube. Various makes exist, the degree of finish and mechanical precision varies as does the material (metal or carbon fibre). These can be combined with various lens cells. For terrestrial photography and the short exposure times we are talking about (in opposite to astro-photography) a light tube is preferable, and furthermore we don't have the issues caused by temperature shifting over long exposure times.
  • Dew shield/lens hood. Scopes come with a dew shield designed to prevent fogging. This dew shield also serves the purpose a lens hood would do on a telephoto lens, keeping stray light out and protecting the front glass. Some scopes come with retractable lens hoods, some with detachable.
  • Focuser. There exist several designs, e.g. Crayford and rack-and-pinion. From cheapish to high end precision focusers (the latter are expensive). Most are dual speed but there are cheaper single speed as well. For a lightweight camera such as m4/3 a 2" focuser will be enough. If you use heavier bodies e.f. full-frame or very long extension tubes then the torque on the setup may call for 2.5" or even 3" focusers that are capable of handling much heavier loads. Crayford focusers are smooth to operate, require minimum maintenance and are precise enough for our application area (terrestrial photography).
  • Some people will build their own scopes or order customized solutions. For our purpose it probably makes sense to buy a scope with all bits and pieces assembled and tested prior delivery.

Scope attachment
  • 2" diameter extension tube. 2" comes from the standardized diameter of the rear port. The length of tube is depending on the length of scope tube vs. its focal length, how long you can extract the focuser how close you want to be able to focus. Typically you will need 80 mm length, but some designs will call for shorter tube. These tubes are cheap. Too long tube means you will lose ability to focus at infinity. Too short means you will not be able to focus close enough. With close enough I mean down to 6 or 7 meters.
  • Camera adapter. There are two ways to go: Either a one-piece solution with m4/3 fitting, or a T-ring system with m4/3 fitting. Both do the same thing. The one-piece is more expensive but risk of failure is nil (you need to check and tighten the screws on the T-ring from time to time, to avoid risk of fropping the camera.
  • Camera adapter, alternative solution: use a DSLR adapter with any fitting (4/3, Nikon, Canon...) and then adapter to m4/3. This solution adds length but has the advantage being able to use teleconverters should you want to.
  • The male part of these adapters (that goes into the 2" extension tube) comes in two designs; with or without undercut. I like the undercut, a cheap insurance against dropping the camera, should the screws that tighten the brass compression ring get lose. Some people dislike the undercut.

Scope support
  • You will need support. 600mm focal length and the design of the setup implies it is meant to be operated with support, likely tripod. What I quite often do is also shoot from the car using beanbag. I have taken handheld pictures at times (BIF) and it works, but the ergonomy is not great. I have tried monopod but it is not great.
  • For ease of operation on tripod I recommend a gimbal head. I use a two-way Lensmaster (UK made, good quality at competitive price) and I am very happy with it. For a cheaper solution you can use a one-way gimbal but then you lose the advantage having the scope automatically striving to return to the level position, but you gain some rigidity on the other hand. You can also use a ball head but a gimbal is better, period.
  • The scope comes with rings that are meant to hold it firmly in place. These rings are quite heavy (overkill for this application area), I have seen people replacing them with lightweight rings made of hose clamps and some DIY. I have also read about people drilling holes in the tube.
  • I recommend a long quick release plate, e.g. Arca-swiss. 140 or 150mm will provide enough length to enable balance at all working distances. By adjusting the plate +/- 1cm you can counter the effect caused by extraction of focuser (the total extension is typically in order 10 cm), and/or adding teleconverter. With a two way gimbal head tightened just about right this compensation is hardly necessary since the rotation point is below the centre of gravity of the setup and strives to bring back the scope towards level.
That's "all" you need.


In addition to above needed I recommend flocking the inside of the tubes and adapters to eliminate reflexes and increase contrast. You can use self-adhesive velvet for this, remember to give the tubes a good workout with the vacuum cleaner before mounting them on the camera. The scope tube is baffled and painted with matte black paint inside and does not need any further actions/improvements.

Regarding the choice of scope
I am not an expert but here is what I have read and my experience after nearly two years use confirms this.
  • I would recommend a lens with focal length around 600mm and diameter at least 80mm. 600mm gives quite powerful reach, a clear step up from 300mm. 500mm is a bit too short, but it depends on the field conditions you will face, how close you will get, size of species you are targeting etc. 80mm gives high resolution power and at 600mm is F/7.5 which is OK. You could of course select a scope with 90/100/120 mm lens diameter but that will drive costs and weight. For instance I have a 700mm/102mm (F/7) scope that produces wonderful, punchy images but it is not so portable (at 6-7 kg), so the operational range from the car is limited. But once deployed it is outstanding and a joy to operate.
  • I don't know about your willingness to carry around a heavy setup, how much walking distance is involved etc. A scope weighing 2.5 kg on a CF tripod is perfectly acceptable in my opinion, the weight is comparable to a high end telephoto lens and the setup can be carried around over shoulder for a longer session without too much effort. (But that's just my opinion).
  • Lens cell must be ED glass. Glass quality should be FPL-53, not FPL-51.
  • A doublet achromat may suffice. You will get even higher quality (contrast and CA) with FPL-53 triplet (apochromat) lens but this drives costs. As example, many pictures I have posted on this forum are taken with the Skywatcher ED80 which has a doublet FPL-53 lens cell.
  • Single speed focuser works OK, I started with this. The very final focusing requires dexterity, dual speed focusing helps here (depth of field is shallow and for perfect results you need to be precise). But quite often you will not have time to fine focus anyway when capturing subjects on the move.

Camera
  • m4/3 is an excellent choice. The small sensor size specified by 4/3 means you will not have any issues with vignetting and the angle of field will be narrower than when using cropped sensors such as Canon/Nikon. I have been using EM-5 the past year and it was a significant step-up compared to 4/3 thanks to the EVF making it easier to focus (except for BIF where regular DSLR is better in my opinion). The EVF magnifier (5X) is handy for fine focusing and the IBIS stabilized image will make it even easier to fine focus.
  • 4/3 is viable too. I started with the E620, got some good results but focusing at F/7.5 through the small viewfinder was a bit of a challenge. The E5 is much easier from that point of view but it's a heavier camera and pushes the centre of gravity when used on smaller scopes towards the rear, a bit tricky to compensate. For unknown reason the E5 over-exposes about 1EV but once you realise and accept it the remedy is simple - underexpose with -1EV as baseline.
  • And I forgot to mention that all E-system cameras support using A exposure mode with manual lenses, which is nice.

Below are some pictures of my scopes to give an idea. Pictures taken with a P&S camera suffering from barrel distortion which gives an illusion the setups are bended, in reality they are absolutely straight.

The tripod is a Manfrotto 055 carbon fibre and the head a lensmaster gimbal.

Skywatcher ED80 80mm F/7.5 (600mm focal length). My first scope. Achromat doublet lens, attractive price point, excellent performance pound for pound. Still going strong, very popular among "digiscopers".

The thicker part to the left is the lens hood (originally detachable, but semi-permanantly wrapped in camo tape, so no longer detachable).
The black parts to the right are: 2"port, 2" 80mm extension tube and m4/3 single piece adapter (barely visible)


Detail showing the focuser slightly extracted and camera attachment parts.


Skywatcher, focuser fully exctracted (close range, ~7 meters)


TLAPO804. 80mm F/6 (480mm) (scope tube only). High quality apochromat scope with triplet lens in compact form factor with retractable lens hood. I bought it mainly for travel purpose; it fits easily in the hand luggage being only 318mm long when transported. Wonderful color rendering and vey nice bokeh. This scope has special design since the tube is splittable for easy insertion of focal reducer. The design forced me to wrap the split with a discarded piece of neoprene and not camo tape (in case you wonder what the black thing is)



TLAPO804 deployed, closest focusing range (4-5 meters), showing the double speed focusing knob.


TS102 102mm F/6.8 (700mm).
My preferred scope, this is the one I would use whenever possible from practical point of view (it weighs 6kg, scope alone). Triplet apochromat 102mm diameter means high performance. Very well corrected for CA and delivers crisp, punchy images. It's a heavy beast, fitted with a 3" focuser so very capable of holding heavy loads e.g. full frame camera bodies. A friend borrowed the lens for use with his Nikon D4 and was delighted by the results). The picture shows the scope deployed, lens hood extracted and at infinity focus.



Finally a picture showing the bits and pieces needed to attach the scope to the camera. From left to right:
  • 80mm extension tube. The brass ring is the compression ring that secures the camera adapter
  • Ditto in 50mm length
  • 4/3 DSLR adapter. This particular one has Nikon fitting and Nikon-4/3 adapter ring. It's a long story why I picked Nikon...
  • m4/3 single piece adapter
  • 4/3-m-4/3 adapter (MMF3 in this case). Any mechanical adapter will do, since there is no need for electric connections.
  • EC14 (requires 4/3 DSLR adapter and MMF3. Any TC of good quality will do e.g. Kenko. Have been using EC20 as well with good results, however these extreme focal lengths > 1000mm are not so practical (shaky).
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Old 15th April 2014
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Re: Scope setups

Hi there Tordan!

Thankyou for a very informative post - I haven't bought a scope yet but have thought about it a few times - for the moment I have to make do with my 70-200mm f2.8 and an ec-20 but that doesn't get me that close (I like taking pictures of the moon, but haven't got anything nearly as good as the one you posted a few days ago.)

Cheers,

Ralph.
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Old 15th April 2014
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Re: Scope setups

Informative to the last word. Thanks Tord.
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Old 15th April 2014
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Re: Scope setups

Excellent Tord thanks for taking the time to post so much detail , very interesting I must say.
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Re: Scope setups

You are welcome. After reviewing the post I noticed a labsus - with a two-way gimal, the centre of gravity of the lens/camera assembly is placed below the centre of rotation, not above (you have probably figured it out already).
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Old 15th June 2014
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Re: Scope setups

Excellent thread Tord, very informative thanks for the link. Thats the same method I use for fitting my Canon 1000d to my scopes, I shall look around for a t mount for the 4/3 now.
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Old 15th June 2014
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Re: Scope setups

You are welcome Phil.

Please note that 4/3 and m4/3 have different fittings. (You wrote about fitting E-M10 in the first place, now about 4/3). OMD are great cameras, perfect companion to refractor scopes.

Anyway: I use this adapter http://www.cncsupplyinc.com/index.htm?true2.htm and can recommend it.
It's a very nice design. It costs a little more than T-rings and it is US import means you may have to pay customs/taxes (not in my case, but you never know). It has undercut which I like. I recommend flocking the inside of the adapter, that will improve contrast.

And by the way here is another great forum with a wealth of knowledge and friendly people http://www.birdforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=657
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Old 1st April 2015
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Re: Scope setups

Very interesting as well as informative, Tord. I have a Minox MD-62 scope, which I bought for birdwatching; I tried digiscoping with two or three different cameras, and generally found the result to be poor. However, I used the zoom eyepiece (20-45X) and an adaptor,and I think the zoom eyepiece is useless for digiscoping. Your set-up obviouisly avoids this issue. Ironically, I had been thinking about how I could adapt my MD-62 body to the camera before this; so your information is very pertinent for me! BTW, hte MD-62 does of course have its own focusing mechanism built in.
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Re: Scope setups

That's very interesting Tord. Thanks for posting. One day I'll have a go at this - I really like good bird shots but I realise that having the gear and the technique is essential to get good results. Since I have neither, I leave it to those who have!
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Re: Scope setups

Quote:
Originally Posted by KeithL View Post
Very interesting as well as informative, Tord. I have a Minox MD-62 scope, which I bought for birdwatching; I tried digiscoping with two or three different cameras, and generally found the result to be poor. However, I used the zoom eyepiece (20-45X) and an adaptor,and I think the zoom eyepiece is useless for digiscoping. Your set-up obviouisly avoids this issue. Ironically, I had been thinking about how I could adapt my MD-62 body to the camera before this; so your information is very pertinent for me! BTW, hte MD-62 does of course have its own focusing mechanism built in.
Hi Keith,
To eliminate vignetting you need to use an eyepiece designed for digiscoping, such eyepieces have a wider diameter and fixed magnification usually 20-25X. They can be used for observation as well.

I did some digiscoping shooting through eyepiece and ended up with acceptable results. However the prime focusing method through refractor scopes gives so much better results and is so much easier from a technique and ergonomics point of view - it's similar to shooting through a MF super telephoto lens, though the form factor is different (read: longer, since distance from front lens cell to camera sensor has to be same as the focal length). So from a practical aspect you are limited to focal lengths < 800mm or so, longer setups are less practical.

To adapt your spotting scope to a m43/43 camera body you would need to replace the eyepiece with an optical adapter that focuses the image on the same plane as the sensor. Some high end spotting scopes e.g. Nikon, Kowa, Swarowski support this through the means of an expensive adapter (about half the cost of the scope). I tried that method for a while on my Nikon ED82 scope but will never go back to it.
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