Digiscoping essentials

Admittedly, Digiscoping sounds rather complicated � something that might be done in a Dr's surgery - in fact the name describes the simple art of taking a photo through the eyepiece of a spotting scope with the aim to faithfully record what can be seen in the eyepiece. (in fact astronomy telescopes and even binoculars can be used for digiscoping!). And the simplest technique is to just handhold the camera over the eyepiece and take a picture!

However, to do the job well and achieve consistent results you will require an adaptor that holds the camera centered at the correct distance from the spotting scope's eyepiece and also holds the camera steady when the shutter is tripped to minimize blurring from camera shake.
The popularity of digiscoping has grown enormously in recent years with the widespread availability of good quality low-cost digital cameras and a wide range of accessories to enable them to be easily attached to any spotting scope or even binocular. Digiscoping�s great popularity in bird watching and wildlife watching circles is hardly surprising as it provides a means of quickly recording, in amazing detail and quality, exactly what the observer sees in the eyepiece. The digiscoping process is not even restricted to still photography � camcorders can also be attached. This page aims to explain what you need to get started in digiscoping.

The feature that has probably done most to make digiscoping so popular is the sheer immediacy and quality of the results! Press the shutter button and the picture can be instantly reviewed on the cameras built-in LCD display screen. If you don�t like it, delete it and take another.

With such a large range of cameras on the market, it can seem hard to make a selection of a model that would be suitable for digiscoping needs. In fact, the majority of smaller cameras can be used with success. The cameras we sell for digiscoping have been selected because they have a suitable �minimum� specification and are tried and tested for the recommendations we have made. However, if you already have a digital camera, regardless of how simple it is, we would recommend that you start by using that. You will be amazed at how good the results can be even from very basic cameras that are a few years old!

There are essentially three parts to the digiscoping system: 1) the host scope or binocular, 2) the camera and 3) the camera bracket (ie the method of connecting 1 and 2)

1) The Spotting scope or binocular

Not too much needs to be said here, as fortunately almost any spotting scope can be used for digiscoping and virtually every instrument on our website can be used successfully with a camera. A good tripod or mounting for the telescope is probably more important than the design of the telescope itself. Many modern spotting scopes (in fact virtually all of ours) have features that are specifically designed to allow the attachment of cameras.

2) The digital camera

Again, the good news here is that almost any digital camera can be used � and if you already own a digital camera we strongly suggest you try this before investing in anything new, as it may be unnecessary for your purposes.

However, there are a small number of things that will help the camera perform well when used with a telescope.

Picture quality: the more pixels the better! Simply put, digital images are made up of individual picture elements or pixels (these correspond to the grains of photo-sensitive material in a conventional film emulsion). A camera with a minimum of three megapixels (3 million pixels) will give pleasing results � but not really print-quality. Five megapixels and above will be ideal for top-quality results.

The lens: Most modern digital cameras and camcorders are equipped with a zoom lens, and for a camera to be suitable for use as a digiscoping camera it must be equipped with a zoom lens. The zoom lens is vital for minimizing the effects of vignetting found when pointing the camera into the telescope eyepiece. Digital zooms are not really that useful, as they always impact unfavorably on image quality. Generally it is best to use a camera where the front element of the lens is the same size or smaller than the first element in the eyepiece (ie the lens nearest you eye). Hence, smaller cameras are generally more successful than big ones when used for digiscoping.

LCD screen: Firstly, the camera MUST have one! The second rule is - the bigger and brighter the better! The more detail you can see on the LCD screen the easier it will be to frame the target and get good focus. Remember, you will not be able to use the standard optical finder (if you camera has one � many modern cameras do not) when digiscoping.

Remote release: it is a very useful feature if your camera can be operated from a remote or cable release mechanism. Because of the high magnifications involved it is best to keep to the absolute minimum the situations where you need to touch the camera as you take the picture. A cable release system allows the camera to be tripped or fired essentially without direct contact and will keep camera shake to the minimum and ensure pin sharp pictures. The Pentacon digital cameras we sell for digiscoping can be fitted with a cable release adaptor.

3) The camera bracket or digiscope mount (for connecting the camera to the spotting scope)

We carry a wide range of digiscoping camera brackets � most are designed to allow any camera with a tripod fitting to be easily and quickly attached to a spotting scope eyepiece.

If you require more information on any aspect of digiscoping please call us on 01353 698195. Copyright Scopes�n�Skies 2006