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A Complete Guide To Digiscoping

Digiscoping (pairing a camera with a spotting scope) is a great way to capture powerful imagery, especially when taking photos of birds or wildlife. However it is quite a specialist subject and it takes skill, dedication and patience. To help you on your way to becoming a pro at digiscope photography, we’ve put together a comprehensive digiscoping guide. Read on to find out more.

What is digiscoping?

Digiscoping, put simply, is when you shoot photos using a spotting scope. It’s a cost-effective way to take photos at a distance without the expense of a telephoto lens and camera body and is a favoured technique amongst avid bird watchers and amateur photographers alike.

Where did digiscoping originate?

Lawrence Poh, a Malaysian birdwatcher, invented digiscoping in 1999, almost by accident - he found that the latest digital cameras could be held to a spotting scope’s eyepiece to take amazing photos from a long distance. He then discussed his findings in internet forums until the practice became coined as “digiscoping”.

How to digiscope

First things first, you need to ensure that your setup is completely stable. We recommend using a tripod to do this. As digiscoping uses a magnifier to capture its subject, any form of vibration or movement on your part could hinder any photos you take.

There are two primary factors which affect whether your scope or eyepiece will work when it comes to digiscoping - eyepiece eye relief and eyepiece aperture diameter vs camera lens diameter.

The camera’s first true lens element must be positioned within the eye relief of the eyepiece. Though this may sound nice and easy, it’s not, as often the first true lens element is embedded quite deep inside the lens.

A quick and easy approach to this is to make sure the camera lens and outer surface of the eyepiece are as close as possible - you’ll know if they’re not close enough as when you go to shoot there’ll be a dark circle vignette effect.

Now, onto eyepiece eye relief and eyepiece aperture diameter. Ideally, your camera lens diameter will be will be smaller than your eye lens aperture diameter for digiscoping. This is because a large camera lens will let in extra light, causing light anomalies in the image and also reducing contrast, resulting in an image of overall reduced quality.

Now, start by setting your camera to its maximum possible zoom level. If your eyepiece is adjustable, set this to minimum zoom. You then need to hold the camera lens as close as you can to the eyepiece and see how the preview image looks - if the image you see is bright, your equipment meets the eye relief requirements and you’re good to go. 

However, if you see a bright area which is surrounded by black in a vignette style, the input aperture isn’t within the eyepiece eye relief then you need to go back and make a few adjustments.

Although digiscoping is quite a specialist topic, we hope that our digiscoping guide has helped enhance your knowledge and expertise in this area. If you have any questions around digiscoping, feel free to give us a call on 0114 285 9854. Similarly, if you try your hand at digiscoping any time soon, be sure to enter our monthly photo competition. Good luck!

by Hannah Frances McCreesh on 06/06/2017


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