Just mount your smartphone on your spotting scope, and voilà: You're digiscoping. Photo: Robert Wilson

Gear

Digiscoping Gear

Here’s what you need to turn your smartphone into a powerful camera.

Digiscoping, or combining a digital camera and spotting scope, turns your smartphone into an optical device with incredible telephoto reach. While you could simply hold your phone up to a scope, using an adapter that connects the two saves you the frustration—and muscle fatigue—that comes with trying to line up a clear shot.

Here we’ve pulled together a list of the gear you’ll need for digiscoping with your smartphone, whether you’re using a scope or binoculars (a less powerful, but more economical option). We also asked a few experienced digiscopers to share photos and the products they use to take stunning bird shots.  

Plan A: Digiscoping with a Spotting Scope

Clockwise from top left: Kowa TSN-883 scope, Kowa TE-11WZ zoom eyepiece, Phone Skope adapter, Induro CLT204 tripod, and Manfrotto 128RC camera head. Photo: Mike Fernandez/Audubon

What you’ll need:

Tripod and head

Spotting scope

Digiscoping adapter

Smartphone

Photo: Camilla Cerea/Audubon

Plan B: Digiscoping with Binoculars

If you’re interested in digiscoping but aren’t sure you want to shell out for a spotting scope, your binoculars offer
a more affordable—though less powerful—alternative. The simplest option is to buy a binocular adapter (starting around $25) that attaches your phone to one of the optics’ eyecups; several companies make adapters for various smartphones, including Kowa, Carson, and SnapZoom. For greater stability, add a tripod 
to the mix (sturdy full-size aluminum ones made by Manfrotto and Oben start at about $100). Your binocular manufacturers likely sells a tripod adapter (around $20) that screws into the mount located at the hinge of your bins. To avoid jostling the perfect setup, snap the shot with a remote shutter ($10 and up for wireless or cable remote).

The Gear That Got the Shot

Photographer: Tim Schreckengost 

Bird: Western Meadowlark, agricultural fields outside Beaver, Utah

Gear: Swarovski ATX 95 spotting scope, Swarovski CT-Travel Carbon Fiber tripod with the DH 101 tripod head, Phone Skope adapter, and Phone Skope Bluetooth Shutter Button, and iPhone 6s Plus.

 

Photographer: Karen Willes

Bird: Barred Owl, Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland, FL

Gear: Swarovski STX 30-70x95 spotting scope, Manfrotto tripod and tripod head, Phone Skope adapter, and Gear Up Smartphone Camera Remote shutter trigger, iPhone 6s Plus.  

 

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron.

Photographer: Robert Wilson

Bird: Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Centennial Park, Holly Hill, FL

Gear: Kowa TSN-883 spotting scope, Induro carbon fiber tripod, Manfrotto 501 tripod head, Novagrade universal adapter, iPhone earbuds as a remote shutter trigger, and iPhone 6s Plus.

 

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