digiscoped photo by Greg Gillson Digiscoped photo by Greg Gillson © 2003. This photo was taken on my 5th day of using my digiscoping setup.

March 27, 2013-- Update: In recent years the proliferation of cheap digital cameras has made it so that many birders can afford a super-zoom point-and-shoot or more expensive digital SLR camera. Many "just for the record" digiscoped shots are now done on camera phones. The techniques and problems mentioned here are still valid, but the equipment is out-of-date daily. There are still many people who practice digiscoping but, frankly, if I were starting today, I'd go for the super-zooms at $500 or so, small enough to carry in a big pocket. The "Why digiscoping?" box below may no longer be valid.

November 23, 2006-- Update: Well, it's been 4 years of digiscoping for me. I now find that I like bird photography in its own right (not just taking opportunistic photos while I do normal birding), and am limited by digiscoping. I have bought a Canon Digital Rebel XTi with the Canon EOS 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 image stabilized lens. My goal is to take photos of birds that are diffucult or impossible with digiscoping. Such photos include birds in flight, birds moving at all, and small active birds. For instance, I have been unable to get a photograph of kinglet, bushtit, or most warblers. Jays are tough. You wouldn't think so, but they don't like to stay still long enough to put a scope on them, then line up a shot. It's hard to pan with a digiscoping setup; the focus on a swimming duck is difficult. This new Canon setup gives me 12.4x magnification (400mm = 8x but the camera is 1.6x), and with the 10M pixels, over 2.2x more resolution than my 2M pixel camera and digiscoping setup, so the equivalent of 30x compared with the 40x on my digiscoping setup. I'll still use the digiscoping setup when I take my scope. But now I have to determine in advance whether I'll use my scope or my camera--a tough choice. At least, I know I can take the camera on the boat for pelagic trips, while a scope is useless--even dangerous! Now, if it will ever stop raining! I might have to move to somewhere with less than the 150 days per year of precipitation of western Oregon!

May 20, 2004-- Update: I am happy to report that the equipment and techniques sections of these pages are still valid for obtaining the best possible photos. But I donít necessarily follow all my own advice. I still end up with good, and occasionally even great, photos. Read: What I have learned: a year-and-a-half later.

February 19, 2003-- I recently researched and purchased equipment for digiscoping. The word digiscoping was coined to describe the activity of taking bird photos with a digital camera through a spotting scope. In theory it is as simple as holding your camera up to the eyepiece of your scope and snapping a picture. That will work,... sort of. But if you expect decent photos it becomes a bit more complicated.

I am just a beginner when it comes to photography, digital cameras, photo editing, and digiscoping. There is a lot of scattered information about these subjects on the web, and I've tried to put it all together here in a logical manner. I've added some of my own experiences and digiscoping attempts (and failures) that I thought might be instructive to those thinking about joining the digiscoping craze, or to those having specific problems. I'm having lots of fun. Now, if I could only get those birds to sit still and the sun to come out!

Why digiscoping?

Buying a camera with telephoto lens equal to the optical power of a good spotting scope would be very expensive, if not impossible. Many birders already have a good quality scope. A rather inexpensive digital camera can be added to this for excellent digital photographic results. Typical digiscoping magnifications range from 20-180x, equivalent to a 1000-9000 mm telephoto lens on a 35 mm camera! [See Tips and tricks: Magnification by Stephane Moniotte.] And, unlike a huge telephoto lens, which is not useful without the camera, you can use the scope by itself simply to watch birds.

Digitized photos can be shared by e-mail or inserted to a web page or otherwise viewed in electronic photo albums on your PC. They can be printed out on photographic paper on most of today's color printers. They can be displayed on TV and then recorded onto VCR tapes or DVD's.

As you can see, they are very useful if you have a PC, perhaps only useful if you have a PC, because most photos require post-processing in your "digital darkroom" (photo editing software). [See the subheading "Advantages and disadvantages" on the page: Technical Aspects: The concept of digiscoping by Stephane Moniotte.]

Other digiscoping resources

Digiscoping & Digital Birding by Stephane Moniotte
  • Photo Gallery
  • Technical Aspects (advantages and disadvantages to digiscoping)
  • Tips and Tricks
  • The Digital Darkroom
  • Links
Digiscoping Birds Yahoo! Groups discussion e-mail list (30+ posts a day). Read the archives on the web to see the common topics/problems.

Digiscoping at Don's Spotting Scopes

Successful digiscoping is a matter of both equipment and technique.

  • Spotting Scope
  • Digital Camera & Accessories
  • Adapter
  • Tripod
  • PC
  • Photo Editing Software  

  • Taking a photo
  • Downloading to your PC
  • Photo editing procedure
  • Displaying on TV

Common photo problems
  • Focus
  • Purple fringes
  • Blown whites
  • Vignetting

Need a scope for digiscoping? Check out Don's Spotting Scopes Review site

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