Digiscoping with a Questar
Using a Questar Telescope for Photography
Digiscoping - The practice of using a digital camera with a telescope for magnification.
In March 2003 I bought a Fujifilm A303 digital camera to use with my Questar telescope for photographing birds and other wildlife. The A303 is a point-and-shoot camera that doesn't have many bells and whistles, which is just as well – the less time I have to futz with the camera's settings the more time I can concentrate on taking pictures. Besides, the camera does a reasonably good job of automatically adjusting the f-stop, shutter speed, and other settings.
The most popular camera birdwatchers use for digiscoping is one of the Nikon Coolpix models. I decided against buying a Coolpix because of the cost and the fact that it's a big, bulky camera that almost requires an adapter to use with a telescope. By comparison, the Fujifilm A303 is small and using it with my Questar is fairly straightforward and easy: I center and focus the subject in my scope and hold the camera up to the eyepiece and shoot. Unfortunately, the resulting images aren't always stellar, so an image editing program is needed to make corrections.
The main problem I have with using the camera with my Questar is that there's a perceptible delay between depressing the shutter and recording the image, a problem that doesn't occur with SLRs or high-end digital cameras. This delay is most noticeable (and most annoying) when a bird moves out of view just before the image is recorded. Another problem is that the autofocus on the camera sometimes gets confused about what exactly to focus on. This happens, for example, when I'm trying to photograph a bird in a tree and there are branches between the camera and bird. The resulting image has the bird slightly out of focus but the branches in focus. Finally, photographing flying birds is almost impossible – it's simply too hard to follow a flying bird with the scope and hold the camera at the same time. Despite the shortcomings, I've had good results photographing birds and insects with this camera/telescope arrangement. Most of the photos on the Photo Gallery page and all of the photos on the Iceland Gull Photos page were taken with my Questar and a Fujifilm camera.
My Fujifilm A303 died in July 2007. In August I bought a Fujifilm A610, which is similar to the A303 but has more megapixels and a larger LCD. In November I lost my A610 and bought a Fujifilm A820 to replace it. Hopefully I won't lose this one.
*Photo by Kanae Hirabayashi