Using Spotting Scopes For Digiscoping


Digiscoping is the process in which one can take photos with a digital camera with the help of a spotting scope. Both video and still photographies are possible through digiscoping. With the coming of the digital cameras, there have been major changes in the quality of the photos and thus, various alternatives are available to the traditional film cameras. It is for you to decide how want to use and display the photos. If you wonder what makes spotting scopes favorable for digiscoping, then the fact lies in its telescope. This helps to magnify the objects that you are targeting.

The power of the scopes usually range between 20X to 60X which are used by the birdwatchers. Digital cameras usually have lenses of focal lengths equivalent to 35-115 mm in 35 mm format. The digiscoping combination can therefore result in “35 mm equivalent” focal lengths up to 6900 mm; images shot are magnified 11.5x relative to those shot with a 600 mm telephoto in 35 mm format.

Using a digital camera has many advantages over traditional film photography. However, photography with extremely long focal length lenses presents many challenges. Two factors determine whether a particular scope/eyepiece will work well for digiscoping with a given camera:

Eyepiece Eye Relief

The camera’s front-most optical element – the first true lens element, not the protective flat or filter – must be held within the eye relief of the eyepiece. That is harder than it sounds because the first true camera lens element is usually quite deeply recessed inside the lens assembly. Therefore, a minimum separation is required between the camera lens and the outer optical surface of the eyepiece. Check manufacturer specs for eye reliefs, which depend on the eyepiece in a non-obvious way. Generally, lower magnification yields longer eye relief. For a high-end scope eye relief can be as much as 20 mm; digiscoping will be difficult for eye reliefs shorter than 15 mm.

Eyepiece Aperture Diameter VS Camera Lens Diameter

It is helpful but not essential for the camera lens diameter to be smaller than the eye lens aperture diameter to digiscope. It’s not essential because the diameter of a camera lens does not determine the field of view; the diameter simply determines the amount of light passed to the image. If you use a large diameter camera lens, simply mask off the part of the lens diameter when you mate it to the eyepiece. This will eliminate the stray light that might otherwise degrade the scope’s image.

Severe Vignetting

First step: Set your camera to its maximum zoom, hold the camera lens close to the eyepiece, and examine the preview image. If you see a bright round area surrounded by black, the camera’s input aperture isn’t within the eyepiece eye relief. If you see a bright image filling the preview screen, your gear does meet the eye relief requirement. So now you could either read the Primer, or: find a bright, stationary, high-contrast subject; focus the scope on the subject; set the camera to autofocus and exposure; hold the camera steady; and start shooting.

There are several brands that offer good quality spotting scopes. Nikon, Canon and Swarovski Spotting Scopes are some of the most well known ones in the commercial market.

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