What is digiscoping you might ask? Well it comes from using a digital camera on a optic, often times a spotting scope, digital scoping or digiscoping.
Now this takes a special apparatus, many exist but I want to share my experience with PhoneSkope. This setup takes the cellphone or GoPro and makes it attachable to the spotting scope or other optics. The combination of parts makes a customized and complete setup. I have an iPhone 8 Plus, GoPro, and a Vortex Optic. A guided ordering process helps get all the right interchangeable pieces you need for your setup.
PhoneSkope simply just slides onto the eyepiece and works easily. They even have their own app for smartphones. While it is a little out of balance, it really isn’t too bad. They seemed to have foreseen this being a problem and accounted for it in the optic mount. All phones will have an off-center issue since the cameras are near the top and in the corner.
Now, knowing what I know, I would forgo getting the GoPro adapter. On my Vortex spotter, the only way I get a good picture is to be zoomed out. To zoom in on anything means the image gets really small with fuzzy edges. Setting changes on the GoPro don’t do much to change this unfortunately. I love using GoPros so this was disappointing because they are small and portable. It might work better with other spotters, but on the Razor HD 60mm, it just didn’t provide much of an image at full zoom.
The iPhone with multiple lenses is a great tool on the PhoneSkope, and PhoneSkope has accounted for this by making different settings for the different cameras and different slide on positions for the bracket. PhoneSkope has their own app, which does really well, and I tend to use it more than iPhone’s camera app. I like that it has a countdown, to let the shake go away before capturing the image.
So, What is the quality? Better than you probably think. If you think about what you are using, it should be considered impressive. You are using a camera phone, and a spotting scope. You are not using thousands of dollars of camera gear for these results. Here you have a complete setup for less than the price of a single telephoto zoom lens. I know is something I will carry with me when I am out with my spotting scope.
Start by having a clean camera lens. This makes a huge difference. As the glass closest to the sensor, a dirty lens will mean cloudy pictures.
At extreme zoom, use a countdown timer if you can. it will help take out camera shake. Adding weight to the center of a tripod will help as well.
Animals aren’t always the best subjects, so sometimes it helps to use a continuous shooting mode. Then pick the best photo out of the many.
Use the lenses on the phone. Digital zoom is NOT zoom. Digital zoom is the in-camera cropping of the photo. You can do the same thing after you have taken the picture through other apps. and it will most likely be sharper.