Leica Q camera & matched adapter (left) Leica T camera with Universal 35 mm adapter (right)
So after weeks of anxious anticipation, I FINALLY received the shipment I’d been eagerly awaiting. The shipment arrived late Friday evening as I was literally heading out the door for a scheduled appointment. On Saturday, heavy rains kept me from being able to test these new beauties and even though under a heavy overcast with threat of rain, I managed to head afield on Sunday at long last with the Leica APO Televid 82 mm spotting scope and two different Leica digiscoping rigs to test and compare. Over my left shoulder I slung the Leica Q (typ 116) camera with the new matched digiscoping adapter and from the right shoulder hung the Leica T camera body equipped with a prototype of our brand new 35 mm objective lens adapter.
The Leica Q (Typ 116) camera has been receiving fantastic press for it’s spectacular noise control and imaging capabilities produced by its over-sized sensor & amazing 28 mm f/1.7 fixed lens respectively. While a stand alone 28 mm lens offers little use for the wildlife photographer outside of wide-angled scenics, it is more than sufficient when coupled with the powerful magnification of a Leica spotting scope. The question I would soon answer was, „How quickly would this camera autofocus and how well would it meter through the scope & eyepiece?“
The Leica Q digiscoping adapter (part #42337) is a simple ring assembly machined to screw directly on to accessory thread rings on the distal end of the Leica Q’s lens. It is perfectly sized to slide directly over the Leica APO Televid’s 25-50x wide-angle eyepiece and securely locked in place by a simple thumb screw. The focal length is changed by turning the scope’s zoom eyepiece between 25-50 power. This style kit is the most simplistic and fool proof of any adapter design as it requires absolutely no mechanical adjustments, once the adapter is screwed to the camera, the lens will always be perfectly centered on the eyepiece!
Like most point & shoot cameras, the Leica Q (Typ 116) camera’s extreme wide angle 28 mm (~0.5x) lens, showed some vignetting at the edge of the field with the scope zoom at minimum (25x) power as the image above shows. This was the image I saw the very first time I mounted the camera behind the eyepiece.
The Leica Q offers 35 mm and 50 mm equivalent imaging modes at the touch of a button and the white lines on the screen above shows what the image will look like at a 35 mm equivalent (note the „35“ in the lower right corner of the white rectangle). By utilizing these crop factors one could achieve vignette free images out of the camera even at 25x magnification on the spotting scope. Of course, one could easily do this at home by cropping the images on their computer, but for the individual who doesn’t want to mess with post processing this allows great versatility with focal lengths ranging from 700 mm equivalent to 2,500 mm (up to 4,500 mm if one adds the 1.8x extender accessory to the spotting scope). For the benefit of these tests, I utilized these crop factors to test the functionality of the camera alone and did not use post processing to eliminate vignetting.
To gain some perspective on the levels of magnification, the image above shows the location of aquatic vegetation as it appears to the unaided eye at an approximate distance of 120 feet (based on Google maps satellite imagery).
By comparison, the image above shows the same vegetation as seen 50x larger/closer at an ~2,500 mm lens equivalent, with the Leica Q (typ 116) set to 50 mm equivalent and eyepiece zoom at 50x magnification.
The images above & below are exactly as they appeared out of the camera without any post processing. Above the Leica Q was set to 35 mm equivalent at 50x zoom on the eyepiece, below at 50 mm equivalent (larger magnification offered different metering / exposure).
Below is a series of progressively tighter crops (done on computer) of the image above to show image resolution detail. Each time I increased magnification by ~30%.
It will be fun to see what this camera will produce when I try it with sunlight, and work through the varying settings (including a built in „digiscoping“ mode). For starters though, I’ve kept it simpler and just shot in „Automatic“ or „Program“ modes for comparison with the Leica Q & Leica T. Clearly, I will have some fun with this kit and be sharing many fantastic images! The Leica Q (typ 116) camera and the matched adapter are available in the market presently.
The exciting new Leica 35 mm objective lens digiscoping adapter (part # 42308) was just introduced to the marketplace within the past 2 weeks (available for sale by May 2016), and I was lucky to get an early prototype to experiment with! I use the word „exciting“ to describe the 42308 adapter because it offers great versatility, able to mount to any system camera body with interchangeable lenses via a T2 ring mount (including Leica T, M, & SL models). The adapter is comprised of 2 separate parts. The lower portion is a simple mechanical ring with thumb screw machined to the precise diameter of the Leica 25-50x wide-angle eyepiece (as the Leica Q adapter before). The upper portion is where the magic happens as it contains a Leica 35 mm camera lens. The thumb screw on the upper (lens) portion allows you to loosen the lens allowing it to slide forward and backward (~1 cm of travel), to optimize this for use as a stand alone lens behind your camera body (all of which may have slightly different focal points).
The components of the kit are broken down and shown separately above. At front left we see the mechanical ring removed from the camera lens (center) to show this more clearly. These two pieces are joined together (measuring just over 2 inches in total height) when you purchase the adapter. At the base of the adapter is standard T2 threads to which you mount the appropriate T2 ring which will convert this to the proper bayonet mount for your specific camera body. Most T2 rings are less than 1/2″ wide, but for the Leica T camera, this adapter is almost 1.5″ tall (at right) making the kit considerably longer than it will appear on most camera bodies.
The Leica 35 mm objective lens digiscoping adapter provides equivalent focal lengths ranging from ~875 mm to 1750 mm at 25x & 50x eyepiece zoom respectively (however some camera bodies offer crop factors which will make this appear even greater – approaching & exceeding 2,500 mm equivalents).
When the Leica 1.8x extender accessory (part # 41022) is placed between the scope body and the eyepiece, the effective zoom range increases from 25-50x to a whopping 45-90x magnification! Digiscoping with this accessory would offer focal lengths ranging from ~1,125 mm to ~3,150 mm (again perceived higher with varying crop factors on different camera bodies).
The 35mm objective adapter is optimized for digiscoping and shows no vignetting behind the eyepiece. The image above is the same Common Gallinule shown at top with the Leica T digiscoping rig and eyepiece at 25x. Compare again with the Leica Q’s 28 mm lens below as a reminder.
In direct comparison the subject was larger (as expected) in all cases when shot with the Leica T & 35 mm objective lens adapter.
View the video above at full 1080p (HD) setting (click the „asterisk“ symbol at lower right on video tool bar while viewing) to appreciate the full quality of resolution. I was amazed at the quality here, notice the minuscule insects crawling on the log and the ‚gator respectively! Shot with the Leica T digiscoping rig 3/20/16 at near 1,750 mm lens equivalent.
As above, another video shot at 1080p HD with the Leica T camera through the spotting scope and new adapter lens. Adjust the resolution to maximum 1080p setting again to appreciate full quality, this video was shot at near 1,350 mm equivalent.
Conclusion: Both kits perform phenomenally and you can expect to see many more fantastic images and video, which should only get better as I dial in best camera settings and optimize my field craft techniques. In direct comparison on this day, the Leica T digiscoping rig provided higher magnification than expected comparing more to the 50mm equivalent mode on the Leica Q. Also the Leica Q metered the subjects darker consistently than the Leica T (both set to Auto or Program modes). Stay tuned for more exciting results from these two kits though. It seems Leica has hit 2 more home runs in the field of digiscoping here!