How to image - Digiscoping

DIGITAL PHOTOGRAPHY THROUGH TELESCOPES AND MICROSCOPES

 

Index:

1. Can I attach a digital camera to telescopes or microscopes?

2. What is the digital eyepiece/camera for telescopes and microscopes?

3. How to connect a DSLR (or digital SLR) camera to telescope for digiscoping?

4. I wish to attach my Nikon DSLR D3200 camera to the Nipon biological microscope to take pictures of samples. Could you please advise on how to do this?

5. I have got the Nipon 25-125x92 spotting scope which is very good and powerful. I also bought the T2 connector (T-adapter set) for my Sony A380 camera. But when I connect it to my camera, it says 'No lens attached', 'shutter is locked'. Why is this?

6. I wish to connect my Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 4/3 DSLR camera to the 25-125x92 scope. Which camera adapter should I use?

7. User experience with the Nipon digital eyepiece/camera (Model EE300) for digiscoping under Windows Vista system

8. Why do I only see a white image when I try to take pictures of the full Moon using my Nipon digital eyepiece/camera?

9. When I tried to load the software 'Fireworks.exe' from the CD that came with the EE300 digital eyepiece, it came up with a message 'this application has requested the run time to terminate it please contact the support team for more information'. I have up-to-date Windows XP system with plenty of memory and speed.

10. My EE300 has a threaded section on the 'eyepiece' that allows the lenses, by rotation, to be moved closer or further away from the chip. What is the effect of this adjustment? There is nothing in the User Guide to explain this adjustment.

11. Photography through the microscope.

12. Some digital pictures taken through the Nipon 25-125x92 spotting scope
 

13. How to block the light coming through the openings of the T-adapter?
 

14. How to image the Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars?

 

1. Can I attach a digital camera to telescopes or microscopes?

There is an increasing requirement for attaching digital cameras to telescopes or microscopes to take pictures of distant objects or microscopic samples. You can achieve this by hand holding the camera, for example, or by mounting the camera on a tripod next to the telescope or microscope eyepiece, by building or buying an adapter to hold the camera over the eyepiece, by using a universal camera adapter or a DSLR camera adapter. You can also use a digital eyepiece which can take pictures and video footage through the scope and save the image to your computer.

Most NIPON telescopes have got standard 1.25" (31.7mm) eyepiece holder (also known as "Focuser") (eg. Nipon MC800x80, 350x70, 350x76, 350x80, 700x60, 700x76, 400x80, 500x114 scope models). For these telescopes, you can either use the digital eyepiece/camera for digiscoping, or fit a range of DSLR camera adapters (with 1.25" fitting) to connect your DSLR cameras to the scope.

Alternatively, especially for those non DSLR cameras, you can use one of the "Universal camera adapters" to attach your camera to the scope. A range of universal camera adapters are available for selection, depending on the camera and scope types.

For digiscoping through microscopes, you can either use the digital eyepiece/camera as mentioned earlier, with a special adapter for this purpose, or use a DSLR camera. Please read Question 4 for further information on this topic.

It should be understood that digiscoping is sometimes not as straightforward as you might expect, and the focus systems of the camera and the telescope or microscope will need to match and carefully adjusted. If you are keen on this issue, please read the questions below for more information.
 

2. What is the digital eyepiece/camera for telescopes and microscopes?

This is a digital device which can fit a wide range of telescopes as long as the scope has a standard 1.25" (31.75mm) diameter eyepiece holder /focuser. The device connects the scope to a desktop/laptop computer through a USB cable. You can see a distant object on the computer screen, adjust the scope's magnification power from your computer and take pictures. You can also make a video recording of distant scene and save the video file (.avi) into the computer. This digital eyepiece can also be connected to microscopes (with a purposely made adapter) for image recording.

This digital device comes with relevant software programme and it works under Windows 2000, XP, vista, win7 and win8 (on both PC and Mac computers).
 

3. How to connect a DSLR (or digital SLR) camera to telescope for digiscoping?

Digiscoping is becoming increasingly popular nowadays as people try to combine the function of powerful telescopes with advanced digital photographic technology. This note is prepared to point you in the general direction for digiscoping using DSLR cameras.

There are basically two methods to connect a DSLR camera to a telescope. The first method is to attach the DSLR camera body (without the camera lens) to the scope using a DSLR camera adapter. The second method is to use a universal camera adapter.

With the first method, the scope effectively becomes a telephoto lens of your camera. Traditionally, this is achieved by using two separate components: a T-adapter tube and a camera T-ring (also known as T2 mount). The T-ring is connected to the DSLR camera in the place of the camera lens, and the camera is then connected to the scope's eyepiece holder through the T-adapter tube.

There are different types of T-rings for different camera models, but the T-adapter is designed to fit a range of T-rings and scopes. The image below shows how the DSLR camera is connected to NIPON 800x80 scope through a T-ring and a T-adapter:

 

 

How to connect camera to NIPON scopes

From left to right: Camera, T-ring, T-adapter, scope's eyepiece holder with 1.25" diameter
 

Please be aware that in the above setting, because the camera lens and telescope eyepiece are removed from the system, the image you see from the camera viewfinder would be upside down. This does not affect the result in astronomical photographing, but can be inconvenient for viewing objects on land. There are diagonal lenses that can be used to convert the image right side up. However, adding a diagonal lens would make the connection more complicated.

Alternatively, you can insert a telescope eyepiece into the T-adapter tube, before attaching the camera (as illustrated below). The image you see on the camera's viewfinder would become right side up when the telescope eyepiece is included in the setting. For image focus, the position of the eyepiece inside the T-adapter tube can be adjusted and then fixed using the screw which is provided with the T-adapter.

This method is also useful for some spotting scopes with zoom eyepieces which are not easily removable from the scope body.

 

Picture below: A telescope eyepiece can be inserted into the camera T-adapter tube for a right-side-up image and for various magnifications:

How to connect camera to NIPON scopes
 
Picture below: NIPON 800x80 or 350x80 scope fitted with a large T-adapter and T-ring set for DSLR camera connection, with the scope eyepiece in place (eg. PL26mm or PL32mm) for right-side-up images on camera.

How to connect camera to NIPON scopes
 
Picture below: NIPON 25-125x92 or 30-90x100 spotting scopes fitted with a large T-adapter & T-ring set for DSLR camera connection.

How to connect camera to NIPON scopes


 

More recently, other types of DSLR camera adapters have become available, combining the T-ring and T-adapter into one compact component. Such an adapter is available for some common DSLR camera brands such as Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus 4/3 and so on. One of the major advantages of these compact adapters is that they can fit a wider range of products (eg. the Nikon adapter can fit almost all Nikon DSLR cameras and almost all types of telescopes with a standard 1.25" eyepiece holder), and you only need one of them for digiscoping. In any case, please remember to set your camera to "M" (Manual) mode if the camera lens is removed.

The second method of connecting a digital camera to scopes is to use a universal camera adapter. These adapters enable you to attach a digital camera (including both SLR and non-SLR cameras) to a scope's eyepiece. You do not need to remove the camera's lens in this setting.


4. I wish to attach my Nikon DSLR D3200 camera to the Nipon biological microscopeto take pictures of samples. Could you please advise on how to do this?

To connect your Nikon DSLR camera to this microscope, you would need a Nikon DSLR camera adapter with 1.25" fit for scopes and a 1.25" eyepiece adapter for microscopes.

Here are some technical advice which may be useful for you when using the microscope for the digi-scoping with your camera for the first time.

(1). Set up the microscope and put the microscope eyepiece into the eyepiece holder of the scope.

(2). Place a sample slide on the stage and fix it on the clips.

(3). Check to see if the microscope's objective lens marked with 4x (the shortest lens of the three) is facing down as this lens will make the observation easier at the start (rotate the lens disc to select this lens if necessary). Adjust the stage position so that the sample is moved directly under the lens.

(4). Switch on the microscope light and select the switch mode so that the light underneath the stage is on.

(5). Adjust the focus knob of the microscope while looking through the eyepiece until the image is clear, slightly adjust the slide position if necessary. (Note: care must be taken not to overturn the focus wheels when the stage gets close to the end of its movement or the mechanical adjustment system can be damaged).

(6). If you wish to take pictures of the sample with your Nikon camera, remove the microscope eyepiece and insert the 1.25" eyepiece adapter into the eyepiece barrel.

(7). Remove the camera lens and connect the Nikon camera adapter to the camera body. Remember to set the camera mode to "Manual" (M). Remove the small lens at the end of the adapter (when provided) as this lens is for use when attaching DSLR cameras to some telescopes.

(8). Insert the 1.25" tube (attached to your camera) into the 1.25" eyepiece adapter that has been placed on the microscope in step 6. (Note: Please do not let go with your camera, but hold it with at least one hand. Because the camera body is quite heavy and it sits on top of a long eyepiece tube at 45 degree angle. It can pull the microscope over and get the equipment damaged if the camera is not supported. You may be able to support the camera in some way if you need to take lots of pictures, but just be careful about this.

(9). slowly adjust the focus knob while looking through the viewfinder of the camera and take pictures. Adjust the lighting and slide position, as well as your camera's exposure setting if necessary for better image quality.

Follow-up - message from the customer who initially raised this question: "Thank you for these instructions. I have just taken few sample photos to learn the microscope setup and appropriate camera settings, and I'm pleased how they turned out. Everything seems to be in order, so thank you very much!"
 

5. I have got the Nipon 25-125x92 spotting scope which is very good and powerful. I also bought the T2 connector (T-adapter set) for my Sony A380 camera. But when I connect it to my camera, it says 'No lens attached', 'shutter is locked'. Why is this?

Reply: Your camera displays this message because the camera lens has been removed. You need to set your camera to "Manual" (M) mode in order to take pictures through the scope. Adjust the image focus using the focus knob of the scope.

Q: Thanks for the advice. It's taking pictures now, but the photos have all come out black. I don't know why. The scope is great, but my camera skills are not. Can you please advise me on what settings I need to use for taking good pictures?

Reply: The black image could be due to the exposure setting on your camera. Your camera's exposure time may have been set too short thus very little light comes into the camera through the telescope. Some user experience suggests that the image quality is best when the exposure time is set around 1/8 seconds. Please check to see if you can adjust this value on your camera and try it. By the way, your camera and the scope must be kept very steady when taking pictures through telescopes, or the photos may not be sharp because any small movement would be magnified by many times.

Q: Thank you so much, that has worked. I now will consider getting a large steel tripod in order to stop the wobble of the scope and camera.
 

6. I wish to connect my Panasonic Lumix DMC-G1 4/3 DSLR camera to the 25-125x92 scope. Which camera adapter should I use?

For your Panasonic camera model, its lens mount is compatible with the Olympus Micro 4/3 DSLR camera T-ring. This T-ring, when combined with a T-adapter tube, can connect your Panasonic camera to the 25-125x92 scope. The adapter set can be found here.

Further information:
The Micro Four Thirds (4/3) system was developed jointly by Olympus and Panasonic. The Micro 4/3 lenses are designed to fit cameras that use the Micro Four Thirds mount, namely the Olympus PEN and Olympus OM-D models, together with the Panasonic LUMIX G Series compact system cameras. Some Sony/Minolta DSLR cameras may also share this lens mount feature (eg. Sony NEX), please check your product specification for details.

Here are some relevant information sources:
Micro 4/3rds Photography
Micro Four Thirds system cameras
Olympus Micro 4/3 and Panasonic Lumix G camera adapter for telescopes


7. User experience with the Nipon digital eyepiece/camera (Model EE300) for digiscoping under Windows Vista system

A customer has recently provided some feedback information about his experience in using the Nipon digital eyepiece on his laptop computer which runs the windows vista system. This information could be useful for people who are interested in digiscoping.

When the digital eyepiece is connected to your PC through a USB slot, the computer should be able to automatically recognise this device and install the software driver. There is no need to install anything from the software CD which comes with the digital device. You should then be able to see a camera icon in "My Computer" programme. This is true when your PC runs Win 2000, Win XP or Win 7. However, in Windows vista, the camera icon becomes invisible. In fact, it has been reported that Win vista does not show other types of digital cameras in the "My Computer" programme. This is one of the problems with win vista.

A solution for this is to install the software programme which comes with the digital eyepiece and to take digital pictures or video recordings from your PC using that software programme. This should achieve the same function as you would otherwise be able to do using a simpler "My computer" programme under win xp or win 7.
 

8. Why do I only see a white image when I try to take pictures of the full Moon using my Nipon digital eyepiece/camera?

The Nipon digital eyepiece can be used to take pictures of distant objects through a telescope. You can see on the PC screen what you would see through the telescope's eyepiece and take that picture (or video footage) through your computer. However, if you point your telescope to the Moon, you may only see a spot of bright light on your computer screen, rather than the details of the Moon surface. This is because that the brightness of the full Moon has exceeded the exposure limit of the camera's hardware chip. You may get a similar result when trying to take pictures of the moon using some other types of digital cameras.

A solution for this: add a Moon Filter to the eyepiece holder of your telescope, before putting the digital eyepiece into the holder. You will get a better image of the moon. This should also help your astronomical observation and digiscoping on stars in the night sky.
 

9. When I tried to load the software 'Fireworks.exe' from the CD that came with the EE300 digital eyepiece, it came up with a message 'this application has requested the run time to terminate it please contact the support team for more information'. I have up-to-date Windows XP system with plenty of memory and speed.

The upgraded digital eyepiece should work straight away under the windows XP system, so there is no need to install anything from the CD. Just plug the device into a USB slot, and open "My Computer". You should see a camera icon on the hardware list. Double click that icon, you can see the image viewing window. This is what you see through the telescope. You can take pictures using the button located on the top-left manual bar of the computer screen.

For video recording, you can install the driver by following steps 3.4 & 3.5 of the User Manual (skip step 3.3). Note: if you use a laptop that has a built-in webcam, there can be a conflict between the existing software for the webcam and the new video driver you try to install. Check to see if you can share the webcam software with the digital eyepiece, or use a computer that does not have a built-in camera system (this is related to video recording function under Win XP only. You don't have this issue with Win 7 or Win 8).


10. My EE300 has a threaded section on the 'eyepiece' that allows the lenses, by rotation, to be moved closer or further away from the chip. What is the effect of this adjustment? There is nothing in the User Guide to explain this adjustment.

The threaded section of the EE300 allows its lens to be slightly adjusted in relation to the chip (light sensor) according to the type of telescopes it is used, so that the image shown on your computer screen is in adequate size and shape. The factory/default setting of the lens is based on telescopes with about 800mm focal length, and most telescopes (with either shorter or longer focal length) can accommodate the image focusing need of this setting by means of the telescope's focusing system. It is advised to keep the digital eyepiece at its default setting (i.e., the middle tube is almost at the same height level of the outer tube, and keep the central lens tube and the middle tube tightened together).

For telescopes with longer focal length than 800mm, if the image display on your PC screen is not ideal, move the lens further away from the chip, and vice versa. But do this only when it's necessary for better image formation on the screen. Image quality can be improved through adequate adjustment to the software setting (eg. by reducing the brightness and increasing the contrast).


11. Photography through the microscope. (Note: this is a pps presentation. You can save this document to your computer (right click the link and 'save link as' a file into your computer).

12. Some digital pictures taken through the Nipon 25-125x92 spotting scope

Camera: Nikon D3200 DSLR. The camera is attached to the scope using the Nikon DSLR camera T-adapter & T-ring set.

Weather condition: mainly cloudy and windy, with occasional sunny spells.

Target distance: chimney approximately 300m (330 yds.); aerial approx 500m (550 yds.).

 

Photos taken at 25x zoom:
 
 
 

13. How to block the light coming through the openings of the T-adapter barrel?

When using this T-adapter to attach a DSLR camera to the Nipon 25-125x92 scope, it is a practical challenge to balance the need for zoom wheel adjustment through the openings of the adapter tube and for light sheltering/blocking at the same time. To get a better image result, a simple and effective method is to place a rubber collar/washer on top of the zoom eyepiece before attaching your camera. In this way you can still turn the zoom wheel through the barrel openings but the light won't be able to enter the camera lens through the gap between the adapter tube and the eyepiece.

A range of collars can be used, but a standard one which is available from the market and has a suitable fit is: 37.1mm (O/D) x 20.9mm (I/D) x 3mm (Thickness).

Note: O/D: Outside Diameter; I/D: Inside Diameter. You can also use thicker collars (or put two together), and use the one with different I/D. (The recommended range: O/D: 36.5-37.5mm; I/D: 17-26mm).

 

14. How to image The Moon, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars?

 

The Moon:

It is important to image the Moon at the right time. You might assume that photographing it when it is full is best because you can see more of it. In fact, it is best to shoot the Moon when you can see a clear dividing line between the light part and dark part (known as the 'terminator'). The shadows created in this region will pick out glorious detail in craters, mountains and volcanic redges. Moon filters can also be useful for a sharper image. Use short exposures (eg. 1/250 s) to avoid overexposed white blobs. See image below.

 

 

 

Jupiter:

Most decent telescopes will give you a great view of Jupiter's stormy atmosphere. If you want to capture its famous Great Red Spot, then look up online whether it will be visible when you want to observe - it is often carried to the other side of the planet by Jupiter's rapid, sub-ten-hour rotation. A webcam is often preferred to a DSLR for planetary observation due to the ability to isolate individual frames from a video ready for stacking. Limit yourself for a maximum of two minutes a video, however, as Jupiter's quick spin will start to blur your images.

 

 

Saturn:

If you are using a DSLR camera to shoot Saturn, you will need a slightly longer exposure time than for Jupiter due to Saturn being dimmer as it is further from the Sun. Something around the 1/5 s should do the trick. You should be able to pick up some of Saturn's moons too, particularly Titan, but you'll need a longer exposure (eg. 1.5 s). Unfortunately this will make Saturn very bright in the image. If you want Saturn and Titan together, take two separate images and combine them later using some imaging software.

 

Mars:

Mars is a smaller planet than Jupiter or Saturn, and so, despite being closer to the Sun, it appears quite small in even a medium-sized telescope. That closer promimity to the Sun also means it is pretty bright too - its glare can be an obstacle to decent images. To combat this, use red and orange filters to tease out Mars' dark markings. While it is possible to take images using your DSLR camera, many astrophotographers agree that when it comes to the Red Planet, a webcam (and stacking) is the way to go. 3-4min videos will suffice.

 

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