Opticron ES80 GA ED telescope and Samsung NV100 HD camera
WHEN ASKED TO review Opticron’s latest digital compact camera kit, I was immediately taken out of my comfort zone and away from the digiscoping set-up I am so used to. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I got used to this new piece of equipment. I had high expectations in terms of quality too, so I was keen to put the scope and camera combination through its paces.
The overall feel is one of quality. The ES80 GA ED scope has been on the market for a couple of years now, and needs little introduction as one of the most popular midrange options out there. It is a sturdy, smartly built piece of equipment, but weighing in at 1.8 kg it is also relatively large and heavy. The 23x wide-angled eyepiece performed consistently well, producing a clear and sharp image in all but the dullest of light conditions.
Samsung cameras have, in the last couple of years, become a favoured option for digiscopers. As a satisfied NV3 user, it was an exciting and relatively smooth transition to the NV100 HD. With 14.7 megapixels, a 3.6x optical zoom and an aperture range of f2.8-5.9, this camera puts Samsung’s cutting-edge technology to good use. The camera benefits from touch navigation and a large screen; the image that you are taking (or have taken) is more clearly displayed by the NV100 HD than its predecessors. Additional features include a macro function, particularly useful for photographing flowers and insects.
Preparing the adapter and camera was a very simple exercise. The NV100 HD screwed easily onto the camera lens mount and, when assembled, sat tightly on the eyepiece of the telescope. As the DCC adapter is made of aluminium, there is no obvious weight gain added to the already light NV100 HD camera.
As well as testing it out locally in both sunny and overcast conditions, I could not resist taking the kit with me on a weekend birding trip to Ireland. As a benchmark, I often look at a product’s ability to capture white objects (gulls in this case). This set-up produced crisply defined images that were a true reflection of real life colour.
The set-up produced great shots of this first-winter Kumlien’s Gull. A degree of vignetting is unavoidable, but is easily fixed in Photoshop. Photo: Richard Bonser.
The NV100 HD has three main settings – auto, program and manual. The automatic mode is excellent as you can literally point and shoot, while the ability to control both ISO and shutter speed settings on manual mode is an important leap forward from the NV3. Additionally, manoeuvring the set-up while tracking a moving object was fluid and a welcome step up from my current handheld technique.
There are, however, some limitations. As with any telescope, Opticron did not design the ES80 GA ED with digiscoping as the main aim. Therefore, there is an inevitable degree of vignetting on images, and while increasing optical zoom reduces this, there is a compromise on sharpness and picture quality. I found that cropping out the vignetting on the final image in Photoshop back at home achieved the best results.
For those like me with big fingers, the NV100 HD touchscreen menu may be a bit tricky to use, particularly when trying to manually alter shutter speed and ISO settings while concentrating on a constantly moving image. There was also a slight time lag between pressing the shutter and the picture being taken, but this is true of many other cameras, and with a bit of practice, the multiple capture feature on the NV100 HD could help to overcome this problem.
The total cost of the telescope, eyepiece, camera and adapter is less than £800, so if you are considering entering the wonderful world of digiscoping, I would certainly recommend doing some serious research into this package. This piece of kit really does provide a genuinely affordable option to take decent images with an easy to assemble and even easier to use digiscoping set-up.
Price: Opticron ES80 GA ED body: £499; Opticron 23x WW eyepiece: £129; Opticron 50065 DCC adapter: £39; Samsung NV100HD camera: £200