Everything You Need to Know About Digiscoping

Want to capture images with your powerful spotting scope? No problem! All you have to do is combine your digital camera, GoPro, or smartphone camera and you can take photos that are unreachable from a short distance.

Uses of Digiscoping

Digiscoping is used by nature photographers to shoot pictures of dangerous animals from a safe area, far from the animals. It’s also beneficial for taking photos of landscape scenes. Birders usually use a combination of scope and camera that have 20x to 80x magnification powers, so that they can go beyond the typical digital camera zoom with focus and clarity.

Skilled photographers also use this method for Microbiology and astrophotography. Thanks to the light absorption and magnification abilities of top-notch scopes, astrophotographers can just use digital cameras to take photos of star clusters, planets, asteroids, and even distant galaxies! The technique is also used to capture the ever-famous super moon.

Essential Equipment

To capture photos of wildlife, sky objects, and birds, you need the right digiscoping equipment. Settling with inferior instruments will just result in distorted, blurry, and horrible images. So before testing your photography skills, consider investing in quality equipment to get the best photography experience.

Camera

If you want to capture quality photos, you should think about getting a high-quality scope too, because the whole point of digiscoping is to take pictures of faraway objects using a magnifying device. The initial act you’d want to do is to select a device. Are you going to use a tablet, a smart phone, or a DSLR camera? GoPro and point-and-shoot cameras can also be used for digiscoping. If you’re a novice, I suggest you start with your iPhone or Android phone since it can be coupled with a scope for nature and astrophotography. We all know that smartphone cameras are more affordable. Besides, you won’t need an expensive camera yet if you’re a beginner. However, if you already have a point-and-shoot camera or a DSLR, then use it. You can pair them with a powerful scope after you install an adapter.

digital camera

Remember than if you’re about to choose a camera, you don’t have to bother yourself much about how impressive its magnification power is. It’s the scope’s job to provide the magnification power you’ll need for digiscoping. That being said, you can just rely on a camera with 3x to 5x optical zoom. This zooming range will make sure that the black ring surrounding your scope’s lenses can’t be seen in photographs. Ironically, cameras with high-magnification features will just blur your photos, so any camera with more than 5x zoom power isn’t needed. Plus, most cameras with high-magnification power are costlier than your smartphone and a point-and-shoot camera.

Before purchasing a camera, you should inspect its settings first. Auto-mode usually gives poor images when it comes to digiscoping photography, so it’s best if your camera offers a manual mode, program mode, and aperture priority mode.

Nikon Digiscoping setScope

After choosing the camera, buy a scope. For digiscoping, it’s recommended that you use a spotting scope. Although some photographers opt for telescopes and binoculars, the first choice is still the best. Read reviews about the best spotting scopes and make sure you purchase one that agrees with your budget. Spotting scopes will be useful throughout your digiscoping career, so make sure to invest in a high-quality one.

Adapters

Chances are you didn’t purchase a scope specifically for your camera. If that’s the case, then you need to buy an adapter that will enable you to fix the scope to your camera. There are universal adapters on the market for the different phone sizes, but it’s easier to find one if your phone is iPhone or one of the Samsung Galaxy series. Adapters are essential because they can connect the spotting scope to the lens of your phone.

Although an adapter isn’t required for proper digiscoping, it’s better to invest in one because a camera plus scope combination with an adapter can produce sharper photos. Using an adapter will prevent aberrations and tiny vibrations to be noticed since they build a stable and tight connection between the camera and scope. In case you didn’t know, digiscoping applies great magnification to images, that’s why irregularities and small shakings show up.

I’m confident you’ll buy an adapter after reading the rest of this article, so let me give you a wise tip: Carry your camera or phone with you when you’re about to buy an adapter. This way, you can test the adapter before purchasing it and avoid returns and future complaints.

Shutter

A lot of digital and phone cameras aren’t equipped with shutters that improve the quality and clarity of images. If you’re one of the unlucky ones, don’t be brokenhearted just yet. There’s an alternative for you—a Bluetooth camera shutter. You can use a Bluetooth camera with any digital camera and phone, so you don’t get left behind. Using a remote shutter, you can just leave your digiscoping camera in a secret location while you patiently wait for the perfect timing. It’s an effective method to shy wildlife and track sunsets.

Aside from that, shutters can also give you the power to decrease shaking, because pressing the shutter button manually can cause your scope and camera to shake. And no one wants a shaky, blurred photo. A hands-off shutter, therefore, can grant you better images and can remove your worries about unclear, distorted images.

If you’re a little picky, thinking a Bluetooth camera isn’t suitable for your needs, then you could use a cable shutter instead. However, you have to be warned: Cable shutter systems do not work well with most digital cameras, even popular ones. You can modify your camera using a cable-release arm and a wing bracket. This will enable you to set up a cable shutter for your beloved camera. If this is a bit too much and taxing, I suggest you simply buy a remote that’s compatible with your camera.

If you have a limited budget, though, but you’re still worried about the shaking or the need to hide, then you can just utilize the timer on your camera. This is useful if you’re not planning to take pictures of moving objects like birds. With a three-second or 10-second delay, your camera will have sufficient time to stabilize after you press down the shutter button. This timer method is recommended for astrophotography and landscape scene photography.

Tripod

If you’re serious about digiscoping and you want to take your skills to the next level by applying the method on a remote mountain or perhaps in other wilderness areas, then you need to consider the rain, the wind, and other weather conditions. This is where the tripod enters the picture.

Using a sturdy tripod will allow your camera to focus on the image which is magnified with your spotting scope. It’s important to remember that for digiscoping photography, a lightweight tripod isn’t recommended. Light tripods can be bothered even by small vibrations and movements, making it difficult for you to take a good-quality image.

You have to account for the drastic weather conditions because the buffeting of winds can challenge your photography skills. To overcome this test, you can lessen the height of your tripod to the lowest setting. Why? Because your tripod’s ability to be steady increases as its center of gravity approaches the ground. If that trick isn’t enough, you can extend the legs of your tripod to the widest possible setting.

The tips mentioned above will help you stabilize any tripod unless it’s a light one. Light tripods will give you more headache during rough conditions. Many birders prefer an 11-pound tripod, but if you want to minimize wind risks, better choose a 22-pound one. Sure, heavy tripods can be more inconvenient to carry and more expensive, but if you want a stable platform for your digiscoping needs, you’ll invest in a heavy one.

spotting-scope-supported-by-a-tripod

Moreover, if you want to capture photos in extreme weather conditions, you have to upgrade the current default head of your tripod to a gimbal-mount head or a ball head.

Ball heads enable photographers to make a lot of adjustments to achieve the correct angle for an image. This type allows the user to pivot his scope and camera on a 360-degree axis.

On the other hand, a gimbal-mount head may not have a broad range of motion as that of a ball head, but it provides a higher level of stability. This type of head compensates for the gravity effects, allowing large cameras to depend on the head without pointing towards the ground. A gimbal-mount head also rests your camera’s center of gravity on the center of your tripod. In fact, many digiscopers claim that this is one of the most efficient head types for countering vibration effects.