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Digi and Phone Scoping

We birders are a well prepared bunch. We venture into the wilds scouting for birds prepared for anything. We are usually sporting several layers of clothing which can be easily adjusted for weather conditions. Our rain gear, binoculars, scopes, tripods, field guides, maps, checklists, notepads, rainproof writing devices, lunch, thermos and sunglasses are just part of the equipment list. We often enjoy toting our cameras along with all the “extra” options needed to get that perfect shot. Our poor bodies withstand straps and layers of clothing and gadgets, our backs haul these things often complaining loudly. How many times have you considered leaving something, anything behind in the car just to get a break? The scope? The camera? The lunch?

These choices are difficult, however there is a new way to help consolidate some of these loads and make them at least a little more multipurpose – digiscoping and phone scoping.  Check out what we have to offer at the Nature Shop Online, drop by, or give us a call!


Digiscoping is a marriage between scope and camera. It allows the scope to be used as a powerful lens for your digital camera. And like marriage it requires patience, understanding and determination to make it work.  Digiscoping is a fairly new concept and is becoming popular quickly among birders. At last there is a way to team up your light compact digital camera with a powerful lens and not only view, but photograph birds that may be hundreds of yards away. Once you have done your homework and chosen the right equipment combination, it gets down to point and shoot, it is that easy.

Selecting your equipment carefully is your first challenge. You may have a scope and need a camera. In this case you would need to find a small digital camera that is not more then 4x power. More powerful cameras run into issues with vignetting (a fuzzy frame around the image in varying sizes depending on the optical combination being used).  A suggestion would be to take your scope along on your camera shopping trip and actually try out the camera with the scope simply holding it up to the eye piece and viewing the composition of the photo on the screen. A small tip about camera features for digiscoping - choose a camera with a big LCD screen that has back lighting so that you can easily view it in the field under bright conditions.

Most companies that product scopes now also have various attachments for digi-scoping. The Nature Shop carries adapters made by KOWA, Nikon, Swarovski, and Vortex. The key to making a good setup is taking the time to see how it all fits together.  Staff and volunteers at the Nature Shop are happy to help with this. The key to getting good photos however, is practice.  


Perhaps you already have both a camera and a scope and would like to find an adapter to hold the camera in place. There are many options and few options depending on your particular situation. Remember the patience part of the marriage? Many of the top-brand scope companies are now offering attachments which will connect your camera to the scope. The variable here is whether your camera will work with your scope (see vignetting above). Swarovski has a very slick attachment called the Base DCB-A which, when affixed to your scope, allows you to flip your camera out of the way making the transition between photography and straight viewing so easy you hardly know you have extra equipment. Swarovski also offers the less complex DCA adapter at half the price as well as attachments for older scopes.  Their brand new TLS-APO is a great option if you have a camera with interchangeable lenses and the latest generation of Swarovski scopes.  It attaches directly to your mirrorless or SLR camera and slides neatly onto your ATM or STX Swarovski Scope.

Other options include a Universal Digiscoping Adapter made by Vortex which comes in small and large sizes for different size eyepieces. It attaches easily to the eyepiece and can slide out of the way for regular viewing. For $50-60 these are great and inexpensive solutions for those who have already both scope and camera and want to hook the two together.


There are likely many online resources about digiscoping as well. One favorite is at www.swarovskioptik.com. Click on digiscoping for a nice run-through of basics as well as tips and tricks.

Bear in mind that technology is fast paced and cameras and kit options may change during the year. Also, that the adapters and kits mentioned are mostly designed for point-and-shoot digital cameras, though SLR cameras work on some. (An alternative for SLR cameras, of course, is a separate optical element replacing both the camera’s lens and the scope’s eyepiece – come by the Nature Shop to see this option.)

The Nature Shop offers many options and is trying to keep pace with this emerging technology. Some of it is at www.seattleaudubon.org (click on Nature Shop), or stop by The Nature Shop 10am to 5pm, Monday through Saturday to try out a digiscoping set up to see for yourself the fun that can be had and how this innovative technology combination can turn you into a photographic wizard.


Phone Scoping

This is a more recent development in deployment of your phone for pictures and video.  You can simply hold your device up but there’s a growing number of adaptors. KOWA was one of the first to make a specific attachment for pairing binoculars and scopes with iPhones (iPhones in particular are great for Phone Scoping because the volume buttons on Apple’s earbuds double as a trigger release). Other companies have now caught on and there’s a growing world of attachments. The Nature Shop also recently got a variety of other adapters that allow you to turn your iPhone 4S or iPhone 5 into a microscope or magnify your images with a monocular. The best things about using a smartphone is that it’s generally already with you, it’s lightweight, and you can post immediately to social media.  

Now, the next time you are peering into your trunk trying to decide which can’t-leave-behind tool you must leave behind, consider how digiscoping devices might lighten your load.

Happy Birding.

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