Posted on Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
This last week I have been lucky enough to trial the revolutionary Zeiss PhotoScope 85 FL – a telescope with an in-built digital camera.
When I approached Zeiss a few months ago about whether they could help the GBG with some optics to monitor nesting birds and chicks I had no idea they would stretch their generosity to the point of loaning us the only Zeiss PhotoScope in the country to help us capture the action as it unfolded. Since then it hasn’t left my side and I’ve been out photographing the Bustards, testing the scope to its limits as the Bustards have been particularly elusive with their chicks. However, thankfully some of the other birds around the farm have been more obliging.
As a keen photographer I have tried various methods of digi-scoping over the years (putting a digital camera on the eyepiece of a telescope to obtain telephoto images), partly out of curiosity but largely out of necessity to capture important photographic records of various milestones in the UK Great Bustard reintroduction project. For example, the first ever photographs and moving film of wild Great Bustard chicks hatched in the UK, were obtained by balancing a camera on the eyepiece of a telescope that I was resting against a car window, whilst holding my breath so as not to wobble it all! From balancing a camera to bits of scaffolding and purpose built hinged adapters for top of the range telescopes, all have produced results with some much better than others. I have to say I have never used anything near as easy and quick to use as the Zeiss PhotoScope. Two key principals for wildlife photography are being there at the right time and quick reactions and the PhotoScope certainly didn’t let me down: Out of its case, onto a tripod and snapping a photo took under 10 seconds!
Potentially, the Zeiss PhotoScope is nothing short of a fantastic tool for a project like the GBG, enabling staff to closely watch the birds and their behaviour with incredible detail whilst effortlessly and spontaneously recording reference images and film, without even having to take an eye off the action. I even took it along on a guided tour of the project I hosted this weekend. In the party of visitors was a lady who wasn’t used to using a telescope on a tripod, a skill bird watchers often take for granted. By watching the camera screen I was able to move the telescope in order to keep a walking Great Bustard in the centre of view whilst the lady looked into the eyepiece of the telescope, enjoying incredible views of the bird.
Sadly, the price of £4,000 puts it out of the grasp of the GBG but, if there is a generous reader and supporter out there looking for a way to help us out, the Zeiss PhotoScope would make a very beneficial addition to the project.
Many thanks to everyone at Zeiss Sports Optics for arranging the loan of the PhotoScope.
About the Zeiss PhotoScope 85 FL
The telescope optics are derived from the top of the range Zeiss Diascope range. It has high quality fluoride-glass with an 85mm objective lens and a 15-45X zoom magnification. The image in the eye piece is crisp and light, just as one would expect from Zeiss, with 45X magnification being ample.
The camera aspect of the PhotoScope powers-up in 2-3 seconds and is operated using a remote control, helping to reduce camera shake at high magnifications. It has a 7MP (3032x2264 pixels) sensor that also records AVI moving images (320x232 pixels). The telescope zoom equates to a 600-1,800mm telephoto lens on a 35mm camera. There is a large fold-out screen which displays the image in the telescope live and also the camera’s menu options. There is a fully automatic function, so it can work as a simple point and shoot camera but where it really shines is in semi and fully manual operation.