Leica digiscoping kit (D-Lux 4 camera, adapter and APO Televid 82 telescope)


“Why do I need to buy a complete digiscoping kit, when I can just buy bits from different manufacturers?” Good question, but if you choose to buy, or already own, a Leica telescope and eyepiece, perhaps you might as well carry on and see how good the rest of the kit is? Plus, you know it’s all made to measure and meant to be used with everything else.

My review kit comprised of a Leica APO-Televid 82 telescope – the angled version – and 25-50x eyepiece (reviewed in Birdwatch 202: 48), the Trica tripod (reviewed in Birdwatch 212: 42), a D-Lux 4 camera and photo adaptor. The camera is a 10 MP compact, with the 35 mm equivalent of a 24-60 mm zoom lens, ISO 80-3200, various exposure programmes and metering modes and shutter speeds of 1/60th-1/2000th sec; just about most of the features you would find on a mid-priced DSLR.

I shot in JPG for this test because most digiscopers I know use this medium, so I felt it made more sense to follow that trend rather than shoot in RAW. The file size at the Fine setting was around 3.15 MB, depending on scene detail.

I have to confess to finding digiscoping quite difficult; it is totally different from the bird photography I have known for the past 30 years. Using a DSLR and a telephoto lens is as familiar as driving – everything fits where it should and the controls are second nature. With digiscoping you have two choices: either look through the telescope to find the bird, then attach the adapter, with camera already fitted, and take the photo, or pan the camera attached to the telescope while looking for the bird on the camera’s screen. I find both difficult.

Panning while looking at a screen and trying to align the telescope is not easy, but if you find the bird with the telescope first, there is no guarantee that it will still be there when the camera is attached seconds later! But I did persevere and I have to admit that after a couple of days’ practice I was actually becoming quite adept at finding the target bird on the screen, and was also taking decent photos.

The quality of this digiscoping kit is superb; the camera consistently produces excellent images, with very accurate colours and one of the best automatic white balances I’ve used. At first I was taking single photos, but a quick look at the instruction manual (read it before you use the camera!) showed a setting that allowed me to take continuous shots until I took my finger off the shutter.

Auto exposure was also accurate, but being of the old school, I worked in my usual way and exposed manually for most of the time. Why blame the camera when you can blame yourself? Adjusting the aperture or shutter speed was a simple enough task (once I’d read that manual), so try it and see if the results are better than with auto exposure.

The telescope is a top-of-the-range model, and delivers sharp images without any colour cast. I did try the eyepiece at a higher magnification, but this led to vignetting above the 30x setting. This can be cropped out later if there is a distant mega rarity that you need a record shot of, but for the best images I left it at 25x magnification.

Overall, this is a very impressive digiscoping kit that is capable of taking excellent images, but like most top-quality optical and photographic equipment it comes with an equally impressive price tag. If you do choose to buy, though, I cannot see anyone being disappointed with the results.

Tech spec

Prices: Leica APO-Televid 82 (angled) telescope with 25-50x WW ASPH eyepiece: £2,970
Ever-ready case for APO-Televid 82: £165
Leica Trica 1 tripod with DH 1 fluid tripod
head: £539
Leica digiscoping adaptor for D-Lux 4: £85
Leica D-Lux 4 digital camera: £630
Further information: Contact Leica Camera on 020 7629 1351 or visit www.leica-camera.co.uk or www.leica-storemayfair.co.uk