Digiscoping

Have you ever wondered taking photos of things afar and hope there’s a way to see them up close without leaving your distance? Especially with those timid birds and other interesting wildlife?

Well, that is where “Digiscoping” comes in and it’s pretty cool but there’s more to it than just that and we shall talk about them in the succeeding sections.

What Does Digiscoping Mean? What Is Digiscoping Photography?

Mandarin Duck – photo taken by Frank Vassen via Digiscoping.

To put it simply, “Digiscoping” is a term coined by a French birdwatcher for a technique of obtaining photographs through the eyepiece of an optical device. In technical terms, the method is called afocal photography.

It is done by using a digital camera with its lens attached to the eyepiece of a telescope or a spotting scope.

The scope magnifies the target image for the camera just as it magnifies the target image during normal use and then the camera is used to take the shot of the image resulting in an amazing photograph of your target.

Compare to the traditional way of doing it, that is, with a long and heavy telephoto lens plus the expensive camera body that goes with it, digiscoping is actually a very inexpensive way to take stunning pictures even for amateurs. That is why it is really cool!

Bird watching, wildlife adventure and other outdoor activities are some of the hobbies that digiscoping is popular but those are not just the applications for it. Some people combine the use of digital cameras and microscopes to capture images of the microscopic world – this is called Micro-Digiscoping.

Different persons have different goals in digiscoping but whatever your goal is, digiscoping is a very handy way to capture a snapshot of that special moment.

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How Does Digiscoping Work?

Digiscoping works by using a combination of a few gadgets as shown by the image below:

The critical piece here is the adaptor between the digital camera and the optical device. Various digiscoping adaptors are available for different kinds of devices so you have to match it with whatever gadget you have.

Here are three (3) things you have to consider to get that perfect shot when digiscoping:

  • Make sure that your setup gathers plenty of light
  • Ensure that the camera lens has the correct distance from the scope’s eyepiece
  • Ensure that you are holding everything steady (using a tripod is highly recommended)

How To Start Digiscoping And What Equipment Do You Need?

Digiscoping is pretty easy and straightforward and you won’t be needing too many gadgets to setup. The only things you really need to start off with digiscoping is a digital camera, a spotting scope and an adaptor.

The adaptor helps to keep the camera steady and prevents blurring, shadowing and/or vignetting. A tripod is also worth purchasing as well to keep you from tiring your arms.

Keep in mind, however, that the combination of scope and camera can be unbalanced when attached to a tripod so you have to do a bit of experimentation and add some weights to the front of the scope to keep it from tipping.

It is also worth noting that with the huge improvements in cameras that come with smartphones these days, it is now arguably the best and most convenient digital camera for digiscoping.

Manufacturers of spotting scopes, like Kowa, Celestron or Nikon, have adjusted to the trend and made adaptors for various popular smartphones which is why they are conveniently available in the market nowadays.

You might encounter terms like “brand + digiscoping”, i.e., Kowa digiscoping — this just simply means the scope and the adaptor is from a specific brand, which in this case is Kowa.

Common Problems And Issues With Digiscoping

Every time you connect one thing to another, there will always be something to work on, issues to face or problems to solve and digiscoping is not without its share of it.

As we mentioned before, digiscoping involves connecting at least 3 pieces of gear (4 if you include the tripod) so you would expect alignment and connection issues to be the major drawback of this technique.

But don’t get disheartened as manufacturers have considered all of these and sussed them all out, we are just trying to make you aware of them and realized that digiscoping requires connecting pieces that are meant for each other.

Some of the common problems when you take images during digiscoping:

  • Vignetting. There are black corners in your photo because the image does not completely fill the field of view. You can always edit your phot and crop the black corners away but to prevent this from happening you have to keep the camera and scope lenses as close together as possible. You may try zooming in as well as this will reduce the effect but it may result in a darker image.
  • Shadowing. This happens when light leaks between the camera lens and the scope eyepiece. Check the connection between your digital camera and the digiscoping adaptor.
  • Dark Image. Zooming the camera lens reduces vignetting but can lead to a darker, fuzzier image and increased sensitivity to vibration. You have to readjust exposure and focus to find that appropriate setting.
  • Blurred Image. Moving the camera when you’re taking the shot or by vibration from wind and other factors will result to blurring. You can get away with this by using a strong and durable tripod or by taking a time-lapse photo.

Summary & Conclusion

Bohemian Waxwing As Digiscoped By Frank Vassen

Digiscoping allows you to capture detailed images of a distant object. The magnification produced by your spotting scope is just what you need to pull your subject in close.

By connecting the scope to a camera with the use of an appropriate adaptor, you can perform super telephoto shooting and capture that perfect moment!

Kowa spotting scopes, Celestron or Nikon are some popular brands of scopes that you can use for your digiscoping hobby.

Digiscoping is relatively straightforward so doesn’t involve much technical details, you just need to have the right combination of associated items and practice in the field.

Compare to traditional setup (long telephoto lenses with SLR camera), the whole digiscoping system weighs far less so you have advantage in portability using this system. It also costs less than their traditional counterpart.

With digiscoping, you can see and enjoy more of the birds, nature & other wildlife and you can cherish those amazing images by taking a snapshot of that once in a lifetime moment.

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