How-to: "Digiscoping" Guide


 

- Digital Photography Through Telescopes and Microscopes

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-adaptor 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 adaptor 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 am using Windows XP

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. I have tried to attach my Canon EOS camera to my 750mm Dobsonian telescope using a 1.25" adapter, but cannot get a focused image on camera. Having watched a few YouTube clips I think it's a common problem to do with what is called 'back focus length', and the focus on my telescope doesn't allow the camera to get close enough. Can you help?

12. How to calculate the magnification of a telescope coupled with a DSLR camera?

13. Can I expect decent results when the Nipon 25-125x92 scope is coupled with my Canon EOS 80D?

14.  I'm new to digiscoping. I have one of your 25-125x92 scopes which I'm very happy with. If I put a DSLR adapter on, do I need to remove eyepiece? Also, if I put say a camera with 60x zoom on the scope, does that mean it's capable of 185x zoom, or if I put say a coolpix capable of 250x zoom does that mean 375x zoom?

Please contact us by email to: support@nipon-scope.com if your question is not listed here.


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, 350x80, 600x50, 450x95 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, for those non DSLR cameras or many compact cameras with non-detachable lens, you can use one of the "Universal camera adapters" to attach your camera to the scope. A range of universal camera adaptors 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 adaptor) 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 adaptor. 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-adaptor 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 is a diagonal lens 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-adaptor tube can be adjusted and then fixed using the screw which is provided with the T-adaptor.

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-adaptor 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-adaptor 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-adaptor & 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, Pentax K, Olympus 4/3, Olympus Micro 4/3, Panasonic Lumix G 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 microscope to 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 adaptor 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 adaptor (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 connecter (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 steady 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 adaptor should I use?

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

Before using these adaptor parts for your camera connection, it is advised that you test your camera to see if you can take pictures through the scope. You can test this by following these steps:

(1) Remove the camera lens from the camera body;
(2) Aim the scope at a distant object and get the object focused on the eyepiece;
(3) Set the camera to manual mode and hold it against the scope eyepiece to see if you can view the image on camera's viewfinder, and if so,
(4) Adjust the scope's focus knob to make the image clearer if necessary, and take a picture

Move the camera a little distance from the scope's eyepiece to see if you can still get a focused image on the camera. This is because that with the Olympus Micro 4/3 camera adaptor plus the T-adaptor tube, the camera will have to be kept some 40-50mm from the scope eyepiece. This may affect the image formation on the camera's viewfinder.

If your test shows that the above assumption is correct, it may be more practicable to use a universal camera adaptor for attaching your camera to the scope. This issue is specific for cameras including Olympus Micro 4/3 and Panasonic Panasonic Lumix G1 models (they share the same lens mount), because the lens adaptor ring for these cameras is thicker than that of most DSLR camera T-rings.

Alternatively, you can use a universal digital camera adapter to achieve the same purpose. One such an adaptor is Type-B universal camera adaptor model.

Q: Hello and thanks for your help to resolve the problem with attaching my Lumix G1 camera to the Nipon 25-125X92 spotter scope. I have carried out all your suggestions and found I can focus the picture on my camera viewfinder screen with the camera lens removed and close up to the scope eyepiece! I have also checked if I can focus the picture on the camera with a space of 50mm from the eyepiece, but although I can, this does affect the image formation on the camera viewfinder. My test shows that your assumption is correct, so I will opt for the universal camera adaptor for attaching my camera to the scope. Many thanks for your help.

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 4/3 Lenses Chart
Olympus Micro 4/3 and Panasonic Lumix G camera adapters for telescopes

7. User experience with the Nipon digital eyepiece/camera (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 am using Win XP.

The digital eyepiece EE300 should work straightaway under the Windows XP system or newer versions, 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 EE300 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).

Information update - for Windows 10, you can use this software driver with the digital eyepiece EE300A. Here is the User Guide for EE300A.

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. I have tried to attach my Canon EOS camera to my 750mm Dobsonian telescope using a 1.25" adapter, but cannot get a focused image on camera. Having watched a few YouTube clips I think it's a common problem to do with what is called 'back focus length', and the focus on my telescope doesn't allow the camera to get close enough. Can you help?

What you have decribed is a common problem when attaching DSLR cameras to some telescopes with relatively shorter focal adjustment range on their focuser (eg. some reflectors), or telescopes with shorter focal length. In most cases, the adapter set shown below would be able to help get the image correctly focused on camera, especially for most refracting telescopes:

 


The image above: this is a 1.25" T-adapter with a compact lens. A DSLR camera T-ring can be attached to the top of this adapter. The compact lens at the bottom of the adapter tube can help to get image focused on your camera. This adapter can be used on refracting telescopes and scopes with longer focal length (eg. Nipon MC800x80 model). Please note that a correct camera T-ring will be needed for your camera make/model. Click the image above to see more details of the adapter, and here is a list of camera T-rings available in this store. This adapter is suitable for most refracting telescopes (also called refractors) with longer focus length (eg. focal length greater than 350mm).

For some reflecting telescopes (including Dobsonian 750mm scope) and refractors with shorter focal lengths (eg. Nipon 350x70, 350x80), the compact lens needs to be placed further inside the focuser tube. In this case the adapter below is a more suitable choice:


 


The image above: a DSLR camera adapter set (with 1.25" fitting diameter) for telescopes with shorter focus length, or with smaller focus adjustment range (eg. reflectors). There is an add-on extension tube at the bottom of the T-adapter, which helps to place the compact lens further inside the telescope's focuser, thus bring the image to focus on camera. Click the image to see more details of this adapter set.

These adapter parts can be ordered separately if you have already got some of these parts, such as a camera T-ring. For example, you can just order a 1.25" T-adapter combined with a compact lens extension if you have got your camera T-ring (click the image to see the item listing):

 

You can also just order the extension tube with compact lens (as shown below) if you have got both a DSLR camera T-ring and a T-adapter:

Note: this extension barrel cannot be attached to the 1.25" T-adapter as shown in the first image under this question 11, due to thread difference.



12. How to calculate the magnification of a telescope coupled with a DSLR camera?

As described in Scopes FAQ, a telescope's magnification is calculated as: Focal Length of the Telescope Objective / Focal Length of Eyepiece. For example, when a 16mm eyepiece is used on the Nipon 450x95 refractor, it achieves 450/16=28.1x magnification

When a DSLR camera (without lens) is attached to a telescope, the magnification can be calculated as: Telescope focal length / Camera sensor diagonal

DSLR cameras sensor diagonal values can be found in product specifications. For example, Canon EOS 200D: 26.82mm; Nikon D3300: 28.21mm; cameras with 4/3 or Micro 4/3 lens mount (eg. Olympus 4/3, Panasonic Lumix G cameras): 21.6mm; Sony Alpha A300: 28.40mm; Pentax K200D: 28.26mm; and so on.

So when the Nipon 450x95 telescope is coupled with Canon 200D camera, for example, the magnification = 450/26.82=16.8x

You can also work out a camera's sensor diagonal from its 'Crop Factor' (CF), also known as format factor, or focal length multiplier (FLM), which is the ratio of the dimensions of a digital camera's imaging area compared to a reference format, often relative to 35mm film format with 43.3mm diagonal. So for a DSLR camera's image sensor, its CF=43.3 / sensor diagonal. So you can estimate a DSLR camera's sensor diagonal by: 43.3 / CF value.

Here are the manufacturer specific Crop Factors (CF):

Canon: 1.6x
Nikon: 1.5x
Olympus: 2.0x
Pentax: 1.5x
Sony: 1.5x


13. Can I expect decent results when the Nipon 25-125x92 scope is coupled with my Canon EOS 80D?

Thanks for your question. Telescopes are designed to be viewed directly by their users' own eyes, and digi-scoping is only a relatively more recent fashion as a by-product of some scopes when digital cameras and their specially made adapters became available. Image wise, hard to say as this is a subjective issue with people having different expectations, but for close targets, we would say that best results are achieved by using the camera's own zoom lens which is designed for photo taking purpose. For targets which are located far away and even beyond the reach of a normal camera lens, their pictures can still be taken when a camera is well coupled with the scope, using the Canon EOS camera adapter set, for example. It's not only the quality of the image, but also something you would not be able to do otherwise. The scope is effectively used as a camera lens in this case, for long distance shoot. Please set the telescope zoom at its lower level for better image result.

By the way, please make sure the scope is securely supported with a strong tripod and the camera is well connected and balanced over the scope. Hold/support the camera body by hands if necessary to avoid fall over. Hang a load on the tripod's central weight hook, if there is one on the tripod, to make the support steadier.


14. I'm new to digiscoping. I have one of your 25-125x92 scopes which I'm very happy with. If I put a DSLR adapter on, do I need to remove eyepiece? Also, if I put say a camera with 60x zoom on the scope, does that mean it's capable of 185x zoom, or if I put say a coolpix capable of 250x zoom does that mean 375x zoom?

Thank you for your query. To use the DSLR adapter to connect your camera to the 25-125x92 scope, you do not need to remove the zoom eyepiece of the scope, but you will need to remove the camera lens and just attach the camera body to the adapter. So the zoom lens of the camera is not involved in this scenario. Please make sure you select a correct camera T-ring for your camera make/model (eg. Canon, Nikon, etc).

In theory, if you set both the scope's eyepiece zoom and the camera's lens zoom at their top level and put them together, you should get a combined magnification. However, as the magnification is increased, the apertures of the camera and scope are decreased, so is the overall field of view. Thus the amount of light that can reach the camera is also reduced. At higher magnification levels, the amount of light coming into the camera can be reduced to such a level that you can hardly see any light/image on the camera's viewfinder. So, as far as the digi-scoping is concerned, a better image result is achieved by just attaching the camera body to the scope without including the camera lens.


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