Using iPhone 7 Plus For Digiscoping

Here I am contentedly digiscoping with my iPhone 6s when a new iPhone 7 family debuts. Insert Krusty The Klown ugh here. How many new gadgets to I need to get. Fortunately, Non Birding Bill was due for an upgrade and got a 7 Plus so I can see if it's worth my while. 

The dual camera lenses that are getting people hot and bothered with an iPhone 7 Plus.

The dual camera lenses that are getting people hot and bothered with an iPhone 7 Plus.

The big deal that has people all a-twitter is the dual camera system with the iPhone 7 Plus. I'm intrigued by the camera, but at the end of the day, I'm not too interested in a smartphone that is bigger than my 6s--I have small hands. The new iPhone 7 comes with a 12 megapixel camera. The larger 7 Plus comes with the same wide-angle camera but also has a 12 megapixel telephoto camera that zooms with the lens, not digital zoom as in other iPhones. There's also "portrait mode" which is supposed to blur your background while focusing on what's up close...something I already get from digiscoping with an iPhone, so not as interesting to me. 

I tried portrait mode--it doesn't work with digiscoping. You keep getting an error that says you're too close to the subject or that there's not enough light to make it work. It's interpreting that the iPhone camera lens is too close to the spotting scope eyepiece. 

So, I tried regular digiscoping. Now, I don't have an adapter for an iPhone 7plus yet--I know PhoneSkope is working on one and they will be out soon and I'm very curious to see how it works based on some of the problems I was having. I headed out to some bird feeders on an overcast day with my iPhone 6s and Non Birding Bill's new iPhone 7 (you know your marriage is rock solid when your spouse will give you a couple of hours with their brand new smartphone outdoors). 

Here is an image taken with my iPhone 6s, PhoneSkope adapter and Swarovski ATX 65mm spotting scope:

White-breasted nuthatch taken with iPhone 6s and Swarovski spotting scope.

White-breasted nuthatch taken with iPhone 6s and Swarovski spotting scope.

I left the image unzoomed so you could see what you're getting without zooming in the scope or camera on the iPhone. It's not the best nuthatch picture ever, but the image is fairly bright for an overcast day. 

Here's the same bird but taken with the iPhone 7 Plus, no adapter and Swarovski ATX 65mm spotting scope:

White-breasted nuthatch photo taken with iPhone 7 Plus and Swarovski spotting scope.

White-breasted nuthatch photo taken with iPhone 7 Plus and Swarovski spotting scope.

This was harder because I have no adapter here, I'm just hand holding the phone. Here are both images cropped and side by side. 

So here are the above images cropped. Both digiscoped with a Swarovski ATX 65mm scope. The nuthatch on the left is the iPhone 7 and the nuthatch on the right is the 6s.

So here are the above images cropped. Both digiscoped with a Swarovski ATX 65mm scope. The nuthatch on the left is the iPhone 7 and the nuthatch on the right is the 6s.

Both images aren't bad for a cloudy day. I'm sure if I had some good sun, I could get better photos. Now I wanted to play with using the telephoto zoom on the 7 plus. When digiscoping first started with point and shoot cameras, you wanted to avoid a point and shoot with more than three power zoom, because then it wouldn't work with the spotting scope lens. I felt pretty good about being able to zoom in with two power and still get a good image from the scope and the phone. You can still digitally zoom with the 7 plus by sliding your fingers, but do to the telephoto zoom, you need to tap the phone where it says "1x" and that will switch to the "2x" telephoto. So I tried that on the feeder birds and here's the majority of the photos I got:

The screen would suddenly go black as I hit the shutter button while in "2x" telephoto mode with the iPhone 7 plus.

The screen would suddenly go black as I hit the shutter button while in "2x" telephoto mode with the iPhone 7 plus.

Just as I would have the shot lined up, the screen went black--several time. I thought maybe I was having trouble handholding it, but what I suspect was actually happening was that the phone was getting confused about which mode to use, that it would just switch back to the original camera which by the time I have the shot lined up, wouldn't be line up with my scope lens. When I came home, I emailed PhoneSkope and asked if they had experienced anything similar. Here's what I got from Tim Schreckengost, "Yes, that's an issue. Try using the Pro Camera app, which allows you to choose which lens you want to use. Our adapter will allow you to choose the camera you want to use at any given time. It's still being engineered, but should prove to be a very useful digiscoping tool."

I don't have an adapter yet, but I'm very curious to see what happens when I do. I'll also have to check out the Pro Camera app--a $3 third party app. 

That's not to say that I didn't get any shots. Here's a junco taken with my iPhone 6s:

Dark-eyed junco taken with iPhone 6s, Swarovski spotting scope and PhoneSkope adapter. Minor zoom with the scope, you can see a tad bit of vignetting in the lower corners of the photo. 

Dark-eyed junco taken with iPhone 6s, Swarovski spotting scope and PhoneSkope adapter. Minor zoom with the scope, you can see a tad bit of vignetting in the lower corners of the photo. 

Same junco with the iPhone 7 plus with 2x telephoto, handheld up to a Swarovski spotting scope. No cropping.

Same junco with the iPhone 7 plus with 2x telephoto, handheld up to a Swarovski spotting scope. No cropping.

When I could get the camera to work with my scope--I got some full frame shots of the junco. It wasn't as crisp as I'd hoped, but that could have more to do with the zoom picking up minor shakes from me handholding it and it was overcast. 

At this point, there are so many smartphones out there with great cameras, any one of those that was made in the last two years will give you some great images when digiscoping if you practice. I really like the size and camera of my iPhone 6s and I'm not sure that I see the benefit yet to upgrade to the 7plus. I don't want a larger phone, portrait mode doesn't fit with my particular style of photography and I'm not sure I need to be any more zoomed in on birds--zooming can be helpful, but on a humid day, not amount of zoom is going to counteract heat shimmer. It may be a different story when I play with an adapter that properly attaches it to my scope. 

And remember if you order an adapter from PhoneSkope and use the code Birdchick13 you get a discount on your purchase.