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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Kowa Spotting Scopes

The production of Kowa spotting scopes began in the early 1950’s and was officially used in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games.

It was then discovered by birding enthusiasts and suddenly gained popularity that spread throughout the community of bird watchers and there is no looking back after that.

The quality and reliability of Kowa spotting scopes are highly appreciated by users worldwide and the brand is a testament to more than half a century of experience, high end development and excellence recognized by millions of users around the world.

In this article we will talk about the various spotting scope models from Kowa and layout the distinct features and specifications each of these models have. We will also give you the Top 5 models and review them to help you appreciate which one is more popular (not necessarily better) than the other.

What Are The Various Kowa Spotting Scope Models?

Basically, Kowa has four (4) series of spotting scopes namely:

  • TSN-600
  • TSN-660M
  • TSN-770
  • TSN-880

Each series have two models which differs only in body type (i.e., either Angled or Straight). There is also one model which is not part of any series, the TSN-82SV, which is of the angled-body type. So, all in all, you have nine (9) models to choose from.

The specifications and other details of all the models can be found in the table below:

Series
TSN-880
TSN-880
TSN-770
TSN-770
TSN-660M
TSN-660M
TSN-600
TSN-600
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Model
TSN-883
TSN-884
TSN-773
TSN-774
TSN-663M
TSN-664M
TSN-601
TSN-602
TSN-82SV
Body Type
Angled
Straight
Angled
Straight
Angled
Straight
Angled
Straight
Angled
Objective Lens Effective Diameter, mm
88
88
77
77
66
66
60
60
82
Objective Lens
Fluorite Crystal
Fluorite Crystal
XD Lens
XD Lens
XD Lens
XD Lens
Normal Lens
Normal Lens
Normal Lens
Minimum Focusing Distance, m
5
5
5
5
6
6
6
6
6
Length, mm
343
329
318
304
311
311
299
298
383
Weight, grams
1520
1520
1330
1330
1040
1020
735
720
1490
Filter Thread, mm
95
95
82
82
72
72
67
67
86
Focus Knob
Dual Focus
Dual Focus
Dual Focus
Dual Focus
Single
Single
Single
Single
Single

What Are The Features And Characteristics of The Different Kowa Spotting Scope Models?

All Kowa spotting scopes are designed to be user-friendly, light and compact even with its large objective lens and they are all manufactured using the best available technologies. Details of each feature is elaborated on the following sections.

1.0 Lenses

Kowa utilizes three (3) types of lenses depending on the model of the spotting scope but all of these lenses are of the Eco-Glass type (which is a type of glass that is environment-friendly, it does not contain lead or other harmful substances).

1.1 Fluorite Crystal (FC) Lenses – Applicable to the TSN-880 Series (TSN-883 & TSN-884)

Manufactured using Kowa’s advanced processing technology that was acquired over a lot of years, these fluorite crystal lenses provide users with the ultimate viewing experience.

The FC lenses achieve optical characteristics that is unattainable with glass. For the real serious and dedicated users, this is the highest standard lens that you can have your hands on. Chromatic aberration is reduced considerably in this type of lens.

1.2 XD (eXtra-Low Dispersion) Lenses – Applicable to the TSN-770 & TSN-660M Series

Next to the FC lenses is Kowa’s XD lenses. The characteristics and performance of these lenses are close to fluorite crystal.

1.3 Normal (Standard) Lens – Applicable to the TSN-600 Series and TSN-82SV

Very clear eco-glass lens that is fitted in the 600 series and the 82SV spotting scopes.

1.4 Fully-Multicoat Processing For All Lenses

All Kowa spotting scope lenses, prisms, and dustproof glass are fully multicoated. This ensures sharp images and a clear visual range for your scope.

1.5 KR Coating (Applicable to the TSN-600 Series, TSN-660M Series and TSN-82SV)

Kowa’s proprietary KR coating process protects the lenses from dirt and other foreign residue that may affix to the lenses during normal use. Even in cases where the lens is accidentally touched, fingerprints or oil can easily be removed through proper lens cleaning methods.

2.0 Body

The magnesium alloy body of Kowa spotting scopes, which are made through a sophisticated thixotropic molding process, are built to endure all types of adverse environmental conditions.

It has the feel and strength of a traditional metal body but with decreased weight when compared to other large-diameter scopes. They are also designed and shaped ergonomically for easy handling and use.

3.0 DF (Dual Focus) Mechanism – Quick and Fine Focusing Knobs

All the high-end models (770 & 880 series) of Kowa spotting scopes come with a dual focus system which makes focusing really easy.

The quick focus has the larger yet easy to turn knob. It will focus from infinity to 5m in two (2) revolutions. The fine focus, the smaller knob, has a smoother movement and pinpoint accuracy. It is extremely useful at high magnifications and for digiscoping systems.

4.0 EL (Eyepiece Locking) Mechanism

This is a standard feature with Kowa’s eyepiece bayonet mount which is used in these spotting scopes. The locking mechanism is provided to keep the eyepiece in position and prevent it from getting lost or falling out unexpectedly.

5.0 Tripod Mounting Screw

An insert to the tripod mount of the scope is provided to allow the scope to be secured to both ¼ and 3/8 inch mount tripods.

6.0 Completely Waterproof Structure Filled With Dry Nitrogen Gas

The housing is made waterproof in accordance to JIS Protection Class 7. The inside of the scope is purged with air and filled with dry nitrogen gas to prevent the lenses from fogging.

With all these excellent features, you would see that Kowa’s scopes are designed and built for users so that they can enjoy more of what nature has to offer.

Which Are The Top 5 Most Popular Kowa Spotting Scopes?

With its high-quality and great features, Kowa scopes are pretty popular with users and hobbyists and to give you some ideas on which one to choose, we have listed here the top five (5) models:

In 5th place is the TSN-82SV. It has an 82mm objective lens with outstanding light gathering power and a very bright field of view.

The main body length of this scope is 383mm (or 15.1 inches) with a weight of 1490 grams (52.5 ounces).

The image below shows the scope’s basic parts.

The eyepiece mount is of the “bayonet” type which allows the eyepiece to be easily attached and removed.

Available eyepieces compatible with the 82SV are the following:

  • TE-14WD (Eye relief = 20mm)
  • TE-17HD (Eye relief = 32mm)
  • TE-9Z (Eye relief = 16.5 ~ 16 mm)
  • TE-9WD (Eye relief = 15mm)

The focus knob allows a smooth and accurate focusing. Turn the knob clockwise for distant focusing and counter-clockwise for close focus. The minimum focusing distance of this scope is six (6) meters or twenty (20) feet.

The objective lens has a “sliding sunshade” feature that you can use to protect the lens from exposure to rain or to keep direct sunlight from entering the scope.

There will be times that an object is difficult to find. In these instances, you can use the sighting tube mounted on the side of the scope to aid you in viewing these objects.

The tripod mount makes it easy to fix this scope onto a tripod – which makes sense utilizing if you’re going to use it for a long time. Note also that the tripod mount can be rotated to allow the scope to be set at various angles by loosening the lock screw provided.

The 82SV comes with the following standard accessories:

  • Objective Lens Cap
  • Eyepiece Mount Cap
  • Instruction Manual

Some User Comments About The TSN-82SV:

  • “It was so much clearer, crisper and brighter than any other scope I had tried before”
  • “Very nice glass for the money. Crisp sharp image all the way through the zoom range… you can’t go wrong with this scope”
  • “A nice piece of equipment”
  • “Very good quality. I like the versatility and the ability to digiscope with it”
  • “Considering this is not Kowa’s top of the line HD scope, it is much better than my old Nikon scope. I am happy with my purchase and would recommend it…”

The 82SV has been in production for more than 20 years and improvements in glass lenses and coating procedures were incorporated in this scope through the years giving you spectacular views and images.

Users are also very happy with this scope so you’ll be rest assured that the 82SV will give you a great performance in the field.

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The TSN-602 model is occupying our 4th place. It is a high-performing scope in a straight, lightweight body which makes it very easy to carry and handle in the field.

The 602 has a 60mm objective lens with fully multi-coated optics so images are really clear and crisp with this scope.

The main body length is 298mm (11.7 inches) with a main body weight of 720 grams (25.4 ounces).

The objective lens has a sliding hood (sunshade) to prevent unnecessary light and raindrops.

The focus knob operation is similar with the 82SV, clockwise for farther focus and counter-clockwise for close focus.

The aiming line is helpful for quick sighting when you are using high magnification or when the subject is pretty small and hard to see.

The eyepiece slot is also of the bayonet type to ensure easy and quick replacement. Note that the product being reviewed here has no eyepiece so you have to buy it separately.

Compatible eyepieces are listed below for the TSN-602:

  • TSE-16PM (25X magnification, 16.0mm eye relief)
  • TSE-17HB (25XLER magnification, 31.5mm eye relief)
  • TSE-15WM (27XW, 11.0mm eye relief)
  • TSE-10PM (40X with 10.0mm eye relief)

You can also use the following high-grade eyepieces for the 602:

  • TSE-21WB (20XW, 17.0mm eye relief)
  • TSE-14W (30XW, 17.0mm eye relief)
  • TSE-Z6 (20X~40X, 18.5~15.0mm eye relief)
  • TSE-Z4 (20X~60X, 22.0~11.0mm eye relief)

Here are some user comments about the TSN-602 spotting scope:

  • “The Kowa TSN-602 is bright and razor sharp at max power…”
  • “It is lightweight and does a nice job gathering light in low-light conditions…”
  • “The scope is awesome and the optics are very clear and sharp…”
  • “The big plus with this scope is the relatively small size and light weight which makes it possible to use a lower cost, lower weight tripod which can then be easily transported…”

High quality spotting scope with a lightweight design makes the TSN-602 a very good companion for hunting and digiscoping. Price is really cheap as well which makes it really a great deal!

In 3rd place is the TSN-883 Prominar, one of Kowa’s supreme models. It features pure Fluorite crystal lenses for optimum optical material which reduces chromatic aberration, providing you with the ultimate viewing experience.

The 883 model is an angled-body type spotting scope with an 88mm objective lens. It has extraordinary light gathering capability which supports observation during dusk and during dawn. It looks like the image below:

The 883 model has a main body length of 343mm (13.5 inches) and a main body weight of 1,520 grams (53.6 ounces).

The magnesium alloy body is made from a sophisticated molding process called thixotrophic molding which has the feel and strength of a traditional metal body with decreased weight when compared to other large-diameter scopes.

With its ruggedly structured body, it can tolerate the severest conditions and provides confidence and a sense of security for the user.

The objective lens has a built-in alignment sight that you can use to view difficult to find objects. Same as the other models, it also has a sliding hood feature to protect the lens from rain and direct sunlight.

The 883 also features a dual focus mechanism (Quick and fine focusing). The quick focus, with a large and easy to turn knob, will focus from infinity to five meters in two revolutions while the fine focus, with smooth movements and pinpoint accuracy, is extremely useful at high magnifications and for digiscoping systems.

The eyepiece is of the standard bayonet mount but it has a locking mechanism to prevent the eyepiece from getting lost or falling out inadvertently.

The release button is pressed when removing the eyepiece. It is important not to remove the eyepiece without pressing the release button as it can cause damage to both the spotting scope and eyepiece.

A protective accessory ring that is attached to the accessory mount is also provided. This protective ring must be removed before attaching any accessory. Note that you can only remove this ring when an eyepiece is not attached to the scope.

Some user comments about the 883 scope are outlined below:

  • “…Hard to see how there can be a much better scope out there than this one… I would recommend highly…”
  • “The Kowa 883 produces a bright, ultra sharp image to the edge of the field at all magnifications… My wife and I both agree that this is an amazing product…”
  • “Best spotting scope I have ever looked through… Scope is clear and bright everything I thought it would be…”
  • “This is the class leader of the class alpha scopes… I cannot imagine Kowa could improve on the optics of this absolutely stellar performer… There is zero chromatic aberration and the picture from edge to edge using the TE-11WZ eyepiece is razor sharp…”
  • “My wife and I have had this scope for about a year. Love it. Great combination of reasonable weight and size with excellent optics and pleasurable view…”

The TSN-883 is a really great, high-end spotting scope that is built with Kowa’s top-of-the-line optical technologies. Compare to other brands that offer you the same quality at a higher price, the Kowa TSN-883 Prominar is indeed an amazing product at a highly competitive price.

In 2nd place is the TSN-664M spotting scope. It has a 66mm objective lens which has 120% more light gathering capability than a 60mm scope ensuring a bright field of view during observation.

It is a high-performance spotting scope with a rugged construction, high-end specifications, and Prominar ED lenses that makes it perfect for bird watchers, hunters, and target shooters.

The main body length of the 664M is 311 mm (12.2 inches) while its body weight is only 1,020 grams (36 ounces). It is constructed from a strong, lightweight polycarbonate materials, with a rigid structure which makes it very durable.

It is also ergonomically shaped and has a rubberized coating and with its compact and lightweight design, it is very easy to carry and handle.

Refer to the image below for 664M’s basic parts:

The objective lens with a sliding hood, the rotating tripod mount, bayonet eyepiece mount, dust protection glass and accessory mount protective ring are all features similar to other models.

Unlike the 770/880 series, there’s only one focusing knob for the 664 which functions similarly to the 600’s & 82SV’s. The aiming line of this scope is located on the left side of the body near the eyepiece end.

Compatible eyepieces for the 664M are the following:

  • TE-9Z (20~60X ZOOM; 16.5~16.0mm eye relief)
  • TE-14WD (30X WIDE; 20.0mm eye relief)
  • TW-9WD (45X WIDE; 15.0mm eye relief)
  • TW-17HD (25X LER; 32.0mm eye relief)

The filter threads in front of the objective lens allow various types of 72mm filters to be attached to the spotting scope.

Below are some of what users say about the TSN-664M scope:

  • “Very Good Scope… After examining a number of other manufacturer’s models that are more frequently seen and less expensive, this is clear case of getting what you pay for. At 20-power, optics are extremely clear and provide ample light gathering in reduced daylight conditions…”
  • “Nice spotting scope. I got the scope from a dealer in Japan and I paid extra for prompt delivery, and that is just what I got too. It was also safely packaged. I use it for targets at the range and spotting wild life. The 25 power eyepiece that I use on it, gives me a clear and crisp sight. I use other scopes, but the Kowa TSN 660 is now my only scope…”
  • “I purchased for sheep hunting and am very impressed with the image quality in low light. It’s a little big and heavy for solo back country hunting but if you’re splitting weight it’s worth it…” 
  • “I have compared side by side with Leica, Swarovski and the image quality is just as good and its 1 oz. lighter…” 

The TSN-664M is a very powerful scope that gives you image quality and great performance in the field that is comparable to other high-end brands such as Leica or Swarovski but at half the price.

You are doing yourself a huge favor if you choose this scope over other brands as you are getting the same (if not better) quality at a much more affordable price.

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And as of this writing, the most popular of the Kowa spotting scope models, in 1st place is the TSN-773 Prominar angled body scope.

The 773 has a 77mm objective lens with a main body length of 318mm (12.52 inches) and a main body weight of 1,330 grams (46.9 ounces) which is about 200 grams less than the 880 series.

This model uses an XD objective lens that has low dispersion properties and is comparable to fluorite crystal lens found in the 880 scopes. That is why there is no noticeable chromatic aberration with the 773’s.

The image below shows the basic parts of the 773 model:

The model 773 is provided with dual focus knobs, the larger one is for quick focus while the other is for fine focus. The fine focus has smoother movements compare to the quick focus.

A locking mechanism is also provided for the eyepiece as a safety feature to prevent you from losing your eyepiece unexpectedly.

Similar to the other models, the body design structure and ergonomics features of the 773 are a result of Kowa’s high-end technology and many years of experience with optics.

Some user statements about the TSN-773:

  • “Simply superb compact spotting scope…”
  • “I’ve been using this scope for several years. It is compact, solid, very well made and optically superb…”
  • “Brightness and image quality are excellent. Crystal clear and razor sharp…”
  • “Excellent spotting scope for birding…”
  • “Great for digiscoping…”
  • “Effectively no chromatic aberration detectable by eye…”

The TSN-773 Prominar is one of Kowa’s top end models and as far as users are concerned, the quality of this spotting scope is incredible, no wonder why it is the most popular model out of Kowa’s spotting scope series!

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How Does Kowa Compare With Other Brands?

If you are going to compare Kowa spotting scopes vs Swarovski, or vs Zeiss and other high-end brands, you will be surprised that the image quality of Kowa is the same if not better, especially with Kowa’s Flourite Crystal lenses.

The performance that you’ll get from Kowa is very remarkable that choosing another just for the sake of the brand would not make sense at all. Because with Kowa, you’ll get two things: great performance and competitive price – so you won’t need to drain your wallet!

Some users that used to have other scopes before also say that images seen from Kowa’s lenses are better than other well-known brands such as Leupold, Nightforce, Nikon or Vortex that is why they enjoy their hobbies now more than ever with Kowa spotting scopes.

Product Summary & Conclusion

With its high-quality design and rugged construction featuring high-end optics, you will be amazed with the quality of images from Kowa’s spotting scopes. Their scopes are logically tailored to meet the needs of the most demanding user so you’ll get to enjoy using it in the field.

Users of these advanced spotting scopes will know that they own an extremely high quality equipment. In fact, people who bought and used them are one in saying that Kowa scopes are indeed superb and will give those high-end brand a run for their money!

Experience the Kowa difference today! Check out the most popular of the Kowa spotting scope models, the TSN-773, by clicking the link below.