Digiscoping is an ever-growing popular hobby with photo enthusiasts always thrilled to get that million dollar shot. Whether it's a bird, deer, elephant or other exotic animal, you'll need some tips before you can start digiscoping.
What is Digiscoping?
Digiscoping is using a spotting scope, fieldscope or telescope in combination with a camera to take photos at extreme distances. Using a digiscope adapter to connect your camera, you are able to shoot the image that you would see through the eyepiece of a spotting scope.
Now you might say, "why go digiscoping when I could just use a good SLR with a telephoto lens?" Good question! First of all, digiscoping allows you to shoot at far greater distances and you don't necessarily need an expensive SLR. I've seen fabulous shots using your everyday Nikon coolpix point and shoot.
Second, the weight of an slr and telephoto lens is often more than that of a spotting scope and point and shoot.
How does the quality compare between a SLR/Telephoto setup versus a Spotting Scope/Point and Shoot?
Dare I say that National Geographic won't be racing to your door, but you will still be more than thrilled with what a spotting scope / fieldscope and digital camera can do!
What You Need To Get Started Digiscoping
1. A Spotting Scope or Telescope. There are many to choose from but I would personally choose a spotting scope that has a large lens - preferably 60mm - 90mm. Going higher may increase the chance of shake and vibration and that can be a distracting as well as frustrating experience.
2. A Good Digital Camera. SLR or Point and Shoot...either one will work well. Good can be very subjective, but you want to consider the following: Go for a camera that has at least 3x to 4x OPTICAL power. You may be impressed with 20x digital zoom, but you really don't need it. Digital zoom only magnifies the base number of pixels and inevitably creates a grainy image, whereas optical zoom is the true magnification strength with little or no image degeneration. In other words, let the spotting scope do the heavy lifting in the magnification area. You really want the lower camera magnification to get past any vignetting that might take place. (Vignetting, which is normal and very common, is when the image you see has a dark area around it because the camera has not magnified deep enough and away from the opening of the eyepiece).
2B. High Shutter Speed. I would recommend a minimum shutter speed of 250 and higher when shooting far away objects. This shutter speed will counter any shake. wind or ground vibration that is possible. You can also increase the ISO on your camera which will increase the speed of the shutter, but beware that the higher ISO you use, the more grain you create in the photo.
Spot Focusing. It is best to use the Spot AF focusing that many digital cameras offer because it allows you to center the AF on the subject and get a perfectly focused image. Remember that you will be using the LCD as your viewing area, so you should clearly see when you are in focus.
3. A Sturdy Tripod. You want something lightweight
like a carbon fibre tripod. I would choose a dark camouflage pattern or black tripod simply because a shiny aluminum one may create glare and scare off any birds or other animals you intend to photograph.
4. A Digiscope Adapter. You'll need this to connect your camera to the spotting scope or telescope. Check out the listing below for some excellent choices.
5. A shutter Release Cable. To minimize any shake, it is much better to use a shutter release to grab your shot. You could also use the self-timer of the camera to automatically shoot, but with this method, you don't get a choice as to which shot your camera will capture.
6. Plenty of Light. You will want to do your digiscoping on a day that has lots of light. Preferably a dry temperature as well because excessive humidity can create some visual distortion in what you will see. When looking at objects that are extremely far, wind, dust, humidity, and heat all contribute to image distortion. If it's in your back yard, I wouldn't be concerned...
I've placed a video at the side to give you some more valuable information on digiscoping and digiscope adapters.