Digiscoping with an iPhone 5s

Hey Minnesota and Wisconsin friends, my buddy Clay Taylor from Swarovski and I will be at the National Eagle Center on December 7, 2013 for the Optics Expo and if you have any questions about digiscoping or would like to learn more about using your smartphone with a spotting scope, this would be a great day to come down.  I'll have some adapters you can play with to. Speaking of smartphones, my Verizon plan was up for renewal which meant I could finally get a iPhone 5s. I am enjoying using this so much for digiscoping, I'm tempted to hang up my Nikon V1 for good.  I got the new phone right before I left for the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival in early November. If you saw the birding trailer I made for it, that was filmed and edited entirely with the new phone.

When the iPhone 5s was announced, my techie niece was wondering why anyone would care or want to have burst mode or slow motion video on a phone camera. I thought, "Man, birders are going to love this!" I already love the iPhone for its ability to capture images well in low light conditions, but slow motion video could be quite something to aid in identification.

Screen Shot 2013-11-29 at 8.57.27 AM

Clay and I were down to teach a digiscoping workshop at South Padre Island during the festival and we arranged it so we'd not only be able to practice getting photos of birds in the afternoon light, but also play around with getting arty shots at sunset (one of Clay's favorite pastimes). I was eager to see what this phone could do with my scope.



This was the sort of lighting conditions were were dealing with.  You can see a concentration of gulls and terns just off the shore.

SouthPadre Birds

Kite surfers were working the winds and the birds roosting along shore didn't seem to mind them. Above is a black skimmer, laughing gull, marbled godwits, willets and royal terns with kite surfers behind them.  Made for some interesting shots. But it gets fun with the SloMo video feature on the phone. The videos are taken at 120 frames per second. On your iPhone, it will replay back easier, but if you have an older Mac operating system and you upload them to iPhoto, they may show at normal speed. This is easily fixed by opening the movies in iMovie and watching them at 25% speed.

Here's a sample of what you can do with digiscoping through a spotting scope (it looks best if you select watching it in 720p HD or 1080p HD):


This is fun lightweight option to take in the field and with iMovie you have some fun editing options. Heck, one could almost film their own wildlife show with a phone and a good quality scope.

sunset gulls