What is Digiscoping?

Digiscoping is a photography technique of using some form of digital camera with a spotting scope or a pair of binoculars to take pictures. Ten years ago it was popular with birders who didn't want to take huge cameras out in the field, but wanted a chance to document a life bird or rarity by lining up a point and shoot camera with their scope. Point and shoot cameras were inexpensive, could fit in a jacket pocket and were great for taking photos of your friends and landscape as well as snapping a few photos with your spotting scope.

From there, some digiscopers gravitated to using digital SLR cameras along with a spotting scope to get fantastic shots of birds. Spotting scope companies started making adapters to get something like a Nikon D40 with a 50mm lens to work the eyepiece of the spotting scope. Allowing you to still look at birds and wildlife through the scope but to also take pictures of what you saw. You use the scope for the zoom and the focus. Digital SLRs are more expensive and require a little bit more camera knowledge than point and cameras, but once you figured out the settings, the possibilities were endless--especially when SLRs started to add the ability to take HD video! Though this photography technique can get you great wildlife shots, it's primarily for people who are wildlife watchers first and photographers second.

I currently use a Nikon V1 with various adapters and my iPhone 5s with my Swarovski ATX scope for digiscoping the images you see me post on this page and on social media. Here are some of the adapters I'm using:

This is my Nikon V1 with the Swarovski TLS APO adapter. 

This is my Nikon V1 with the Swarovski TLS APO adapter. 

I really like the easy way the Swarovski TLS APO adapter slides over my scope eye piece to make it easy to set up for photos. Because the adapter has a lens inside it that this optimized to work with the scope eyepiece, you don't need a lens on the Nikon V1...however, Nikon is not thrilled that you are using their camera body with another company's lens for photography so in order to get the camera body to recognize the adapter and take a picture...you have to purchase a bit of plastic from Nikon that has electronics in it and tells the camera body that it is ok to work with this adapter.  Well played, Nikon, well played. 

It's aluminum so it's study and lightweight. It also makes a cool sound like a sword coming out of a scabbard when you take it off the scope eyepiece.

Digiscoped American bittern digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85mm spotting scope, with TLS APO adapter and Nikon V1 camera.

Digiscoped American bittern digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85mm spotting scope, with TLS APO adapter and Nikon V1 camera.

This is the Digidapter and my Nikon V1 on my Swarovski ATX spotting scope.

This is the Digidapter and my Nikon V1 on my Swarovski ATX spotting scope.

Another adapter I've played around with is the Digidapter is a sturdy aluminum camera adapter which works with many different cameras and quite a few spotting scopes. It slides easily over the eyepiece of my ATX, I like how the red screws act as a marker so you always know where to attach your camera. 

Tufted titmouse digsscoped with Swarovski ATX, Digidapter and Nikon V1.

Tufted titmouse digsscoped with Swarovski ATX, Digidapter and Nikon V1.

I also use the Swarovski i5 adapter for the iPhone 5s with my ATX scope.

I also use the Swarovski i5 adapter for the iPhone 5s with my ATX scope.

The camera I use the most these days is my iPhone 5s because it's light and compact and does really well in low light conditions. This adapter is super easy to use and works as a case on your phone. Swarovski currently only makes this for the 5s so if you have a different type of phone then I recommend you check out PhoneSkope. The site asks you what type of phone your have and what type of scope and then comes up with an adapter system for you. Rumor has it that if you give the code Birdchick13 you get a discount as well. 

Yellow-bellied sapsucker digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85mm spotting scope, i5 adapter and iPhone 5s.

Yellow-bellied sapsucker digiscoped with Swarovski ATX 85mm spotting scope, i5 adapter and iPhone 5s.

Here are some more digiscoped images taken with either camera. Click the photo to see the next one in the gallery:

Now, smart phones have changed everything. With a little practice, it's easy enough to handhold your phone up to your spotting scope, however, companies like PhoneSkope (if you use Birdchick13 you can get a discount when you order), Swarovski Optik, Meopta and others make cases for smart phones that will attach them to spotting scopes. When you consider that you can have maps, field guides, bird natural history and more on a smartphone, they are fantastic tools to have in the field to document life birds and rarities. Here's a quick video tutorial on how to handhold and iPhone to get a shot. Keep in mind that the sun had already set when I took this video. iPhones in particular work very well in low light conditions (though a good quality scope like a Swarovski helps too):