The aim of this page is to help those looking for a solution to photograph colour marks on birds, to find the “best” combo for their budget and their needs. There are several solutions:
With time I will develop the introduction but usually is better to have a camera with bigger sensor (potentially better image quality), and that can take much photos per second - you maximize the chance of getting one where you can read the code...
Regarding costs, there are solutions that can cost 100 Euros or less (phonescopy or digiscopy with a low cost compact camera, hand held, if you have a spotting scope or a binocular or/and a suitable smart phone with camera), and others that can cost tens of thousands of Euros - traditional photography with a top class DSLR (or mirorless) and telelens.
I started with film photography but present digital cameras expanded much the potentialities for getting the right cr-codes from a bird!... Within the digital Era, I started with a slow compact camera but my present Sony a6000 takes 11 fps, adjusting the focus within each photo, has 24 Megapixels and is almost pocketable... With this camera I can do traditional photography, digiscopy or astro-telescope photography of cr-birds. There are more recent, better and more expensive cameras...
It's one of the easiest ways of getting good photos of cr-birds but to obtain the best results is very expensive.
Using a top DSLR or mirrorless and a top telelens, with 400mm or more you can obtain great results of cr-birds flying, that can be useful when you want to control cr of birds entering or exiting a colony, using autofocus.
If you don't have a telescope or even a binocular, a super zoom bridge camera can be the lower cost solution. The image quality will be not so good as with a camera with bigger sensor but nowadays there are this type of cameras with >1200mm equivalent focal length, which allow reading CR codes at a good distance. Be aware that the biggest magnifications aren't necessarily obtained with the cameras with higher zoom factor. You have to choose cameras with the higher equivalent maximum focal length (i.e. there are cameras with high zoom factor but the lower magnification power is very low so the maximum magnification isn't as big as it seemed...). Also with this cameras still isn't easy to get photos of birds flying, although technology is always improving...
See http://www.birdforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=111 for examples of different combinations and results.
This solution use the scope and eyepiece, as well as the camera and camera lens. It's usually done with a compact camera (usually work better with cameras with around 3x zoom, about 30 to 120mm), but can be also done with a mirrorless camera or even a DSLR. You can use the auto-focus of the camera (after focusing the bird in the telescope...), but sometimes you must focus manually, if the camera allows...
On my Optolyth TBG 100 I adapted the Nikon FSA2 ring for digiscopy with the FSBs (just unscrew the zoom ocular rubber ring, put the FSA2 and screw the rubber ring again - it results more practical than with the Nikon zoom... You can do the same with the fixed eyepieces).
You can learn more about digiscopy solutions at http://www.birdforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=243.
Photography using birding telescopes (Last updated 23-04-2017)
Within this solution you use the body of a spotting scope, but not the ocular, and a camera without the camera lens (the scope works as a teleobjective...). Usually there are adaptors from the spotting scope brand to allow this, but can be expensive. The focus must be manual.
I found that I could use the Nikon FSA-L2 with the TBG100, after an adaption of the Optolyth Astro-adapter to T male and using an adapter T to Nikon F (a version with reduced length). It works directly with Nikon DSLRs but can work with other brands by using the proper adapter - below a photo with a Sony NEX5 - it works as a 630 to 2205mm telezoom, that with the 1.5x crop factor of the Sony APS-C cameras results on a equivalent 945-3307mm!
There are hybrid solutions of certain brands as is the case of Swarovski X telescopes + TLS APO adaptor - this adaptor is in fact a fixed lens to use with a camera and needs the use of the eyepiece of the telescope - manual focus and fixed aperture.
I developed an adapter to use the Swarovski X lens modules as astronomical telescopes that also allow it's use as a telelens. It might be interesting for those that want lower magnifications than those allowed by the TLS APO and it's also not so expensive...
I still didn't made a real test comparing it to the use of my TMB92, but learned that the X lens modules are made to be corrected by the eyepiece X module, so the better results could be obtained if Swarosvki will develop an adapter with correcting lens for the X lens modules to work as telelenses. Like that would be possible to get a 560mm telelens with the X95, and a 952mm using the 1.7x extender that Swarovski is releasing on early May 2017...
(Last updated 22-04-2017)
As I use astro-telescopes for cr-birding (see http://www.pt-ducks.com/cr-telescopes.htm), I use often this solution for cr-bird photography and general duck photography and is the solution with which I obtain the best results in terms of image quality, at closer distances.
With time I will include on this section my experience but for now you can have a look at:
Many information about this technique can be found at http://www.birdforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=657.
Phonescopy (Last updated 22-04-2017)
This solution use the scope and eyepiece, but instead of a camera is used a smart phone with camera - the phone cameras have improved greatly during last years and can produce very good phonescoped photos. See http://www.birdforum.net/forumdisplay.php?f=716 for examples of setups and results. It's the most economical solution foe those that have a suitable smart phone.