Digiscoping
Help,
Advice & Lessons for All!



 

Celestron Scopes. A great choice for a beginner digiscoper.




A few photos taken with a this kind of set up.
They were taken as a beginner, so don't be too put off!!
 
 

Hello all,

 

Let me introduce myself. My name is Danny Porter. Originally from South Norfolk, I now reside in Lowestoft, Suffolk. I have always had a passion for all things wild, but particularly birdlife. It is through birding that I discovered Digiscoping, which for those who don’t know, is the taking of telephoto style pictures through a spotting scope using a digital camera.

 

The Power of Digiscoping

 

Picture taken using standard compact camera. Distance 25 metres

 

 

The same picture taken using the same camera through a scope!!

 

 

I have worked with Swarovski and Opticron, testing and reviewing their equipment, and have been a digiscoper for around 4 years. This is how I started off!!

 

It is possible to digiscope using either a digital compact camera or a DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera. However, seeing as this is an introduction to digiscoping for beginners I will be giving advice on how to get going using a compact camera style set up, as this is most commonplace. If you'd like to know more about DSLR digiscoping then take a look at the DSLR Digiscoping page.

 

The great thing about digiscoping is that it is a hobby that anyone, especially birders can try out. It is a way of producing some incredible telephoto images whilst only costing a small fraction of a professional telephoto camera set up.

 

It is important to understand that, like with all hobbies, digiscoping requires lots of patience and practice to be able to do it well. To describe the full technique would take a long time, and could become confusing for a beginner, so I will try to offer the right advice in a simple manner. Your own technique will evolve naturally as you progress with your digiscoping career!!

 

So tell me, what do I need to get going?

 

Getting started couldn’t be simpler, all you need is a compact style camera, a moderately priced spotting scope, a means of attaching the camera to the scope, and a tripod.

Choosing the right equipment is important. It’s also good to keep things simple.

 

The Camera;

A good compact camera will make life much easier. Photography is all about judging the conditions, and trying to set up your camera to perform to its best. Choosing a camera with a full manual mode is generally best (you can digiscope with practically any compact camera though so don’t worry!) as the camera can be adjusted to suit conditions better than if the camera just had an “auto” mode. My advice here though is to try first with the compact camera that you may already own, from here one can gauge if digiscoping is for you without spending extra cash! A compact with an optical zoom of 3 to 4 times is usually enough. Compact with massive zooms are generally not compatible. Also, I advise that you consider using a shutter release cable as this will help reduce camera shake. Some cameras have specific shutter release cable mechanisms, but universal ones are available if not. Failing that, the self timer can be used.

 

The Scope;

A mid priced scope will be fine to start your digiscoping career. A scope with ED glass (sometimes HD) will work better, however it is not essential. A scope with an objective lens (the big lens!) of 80mm is better than a 65mm version. The bigger objective will help to gather more light, which is very important to any photographer. Also a scope with a short minimum focus (less than 5 meters) distance can be an advantage, but again not essential.

 

The Adaptor;

Some optic manufactures will produce specific adaptors to fit their own scopes, but for this introduction I will talk about universal digiscoping adaptors. These adaptors attach around the eyepiece, with the camera mounted on the back. The adaptor then adjusts to allow the camera lens to align with the scopes eyepiece. The great thing about these adaptors is the way they keep the camera and scope aligned. This is so important as constant fiddling with your equipment can be a distraction in the field.

 

The picture below shows a typical style compact camera set up that anyone can try out!!

 

 

                                    

  

                                   Universal Digiscoping Adaptor mounted to the scope with a compact camera

 

The Tripod and Head;

The tripod head is possibly one of the most important parts of your set up. A traditional tripod head will do a job for you, but for extra support and smooth manoeuvrability, with much more precise alignment control then a fluid filled tripod head is a must. As you will find out, fixing on the subject is so important, so it’s vital that you can do this easily. A lightweight carbon fibre tripod to match makes transport around reserves much more civilised, but again is not essential to start off with.

 

Equipment Tips to remember.

 

·       Choose a compact camera with a manual or aperture priority mode

·       A universal digiscoping adaptor is a good choice for mounting your camera

·       A scope with ED glass will give sharper results

·       An 80mm scope will gather more light than a 65mm scope

·       Keep the scope zoom setting on 20-25x max.

·       A fluid tripod head will work much better than a conventional screw fixed head.

·       Carbon Fibre tripods make the set up much lighter

·       Don’t be tempted with “swing away” style adaptors

·       Keep it cost effective until you’re confident!

 

 

                                        

 

 

                        Another Set up idea. Scope mounted on fluid tripod head.

 

 

So, How do I take pictures?

The camera lens needs to be aligned with the scopes eyepiece to be able to take pictures. This can be achieved by mounting the camera on an adaptor, which aligns the camera lens with the scopes eyepiece. Then the camera and scope set up is mounted on a tripod to help keep things steady.

 

The alignment procedure;

This is the most important part of the set up procedure. Poor alignment leads to poor pictures! Simply attach the universal adaptor the eyepiece of the scope, then attach your camera using the threaded mount on the bottom. If your camera has extendable lens keep it as far from the eyepiece as possible at this point, so that the lens can extend safely without risking damage to the lens or eyepiece. Now turn the camera on and adjust the adaptor to bring the camera lens and scope eyepiece in to alignment with each other. Make sure you get the cameras lens as close to the eyepiece as is safely possible. When perfectly aligned you will see a circle of light with a large black surround (like looking down a tunnel) on the cameras LCD display. This is called “Vignetting” and is common when digiscoping with a compact. There is an easy cure to this. Simply zoom in!! As the field of view is shortened the black area disappears leaving an image of whatever the point of focus is on the LCD display.

 

 

 

                                    

                                                             Recognise this? It's "Vignetting"

                                                                  

                                   

 

          

                     Vignetting cured in most cases by zooming IN

 


 

              

 

It is worth noting that there are many different cameras that connect in many different ways!

For a comprehensive range of custom made digiscoping adapters please click on the logo!

 


 

 

Taking Pictures, The Technique;

So once all is aligned its picture taking time!! This is the part we all like the most!! So here are some pointers for taking your first pictures. Start out in a hide or in your garden, this makes digiscoping with a compact camera much less frustrating as it is easier to see the LCD screen. Try to pick a bright day, with little or no wind. Make sure the sun is behind you! Make sure the scope eyepiece magnification is 20-25x, turn on your camera, zoom in to alleviate vignetting, and find a subject. Too start pick a reasonably stationary subject. Use auto mode and make sure you turn off the flash! Once you have the camera locked on to the subject focus the scope until the image becomes focussed on the LCD screen, then auto focus the camera (usually achieved by half depressing the shutter button) When the camera is focussed then fully depress the shutter button to take the picture, and hey presto, you’re digiscoping!!

 

This is very much a scaled down version of digiscoping technique. Here are some pointers other digiscoping technique considerations.

 

Technique Tips;

 

·       Camera shake can ruin pictures. Using the shutter release cable/self timer will help. Less contact = Less shake.

·       LCD screens are difficult to see in sunlight. Consider using a shade to help.

·       Staying in hides makes digiscoping easier when learning

·       Once you have confidence try using full manual mode to enhance your cameras ability.

·       In lower level light the ISO can be increased to help lagging shutter speeds.

·       Don’t try and learn it all at once, composing a good picture takes experience

·       No one gets a perfect picture every time. Expect plenty of poor pictures, its natural!

·       Select centre focus mode to keep the focus at the centre of your subject

·       Wind + Digiscoping = Hard work!

 

 

10 Golden Digiscoping Rules;

 

·       Choose the right equipment

·       Choose good conditions

·       Choose the right subject & get as close as possible

·       Stick to hides or your garden to start with

·       Minimise camera shake wherever possible

·       Take plenty of pictures using various settings

·       Don’t expect to much to start with

·       Keep things simple

·       Improve your equipment as you progress

·       Practice, Practice, Practise!!


 

      Some cameras and adapters will require stepping rings and T2 adapters. Please get in touch if you are unsure about this and I will try to help. When you have decided which stepping rings you need then please click on the Top Hat below for all your photographic accessory needs!

 

                                                           


 

 

To Summarise;

Digiscoping is a wonderful hobby, that can help you to capture natures beauty forever.

 

Getting through the early frustrations is key to success with digiscoping. It is not an easy technique to master, but with plenty of practise and patience great results are possible.

 

Fortunately, the lower set up costs make this hobby accessible to all, and as most birders already have a scope and camera then it really is something that can be tried out!!

 

Better equipment can produce better results, but this is a consideration after you have gained some experience.

 

Thanks for reading & Good Luck!!

 

Danny.