Digiscoping with a Digital SLR Camera

Digital SLR (single lens reflex) cameras have many advantages over traditional point-and-shoot digital cameras, many of which carry over into the realm of digiscoping. The biggest advantage is the SLR’s ability to shoot numerous shots in succession with nearly no lag time. Not only that, but you have virtually complete control over every aspect of the shot: manual focus, aperture, exposure, shutter speed, etc. Of course, learning the right settings takes time and we are at the early stages of this process.

Cedar Waxwing – digiscoped
Cedar Waxwing

Swarovski makes a wonderful digital camera adapter (DCA) for digiscoping. The adapter has two pieces: one attaches to the scope’s eye piece and the other threads to the digital SLR’s lens. We use the Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM lens with our current camera, the Canon EOS Rebel XTi.

The adapter fits snugly over the eyepiece, eliminating any vignetting and allowing for quick removal when done digiscoping. There is a tightening knob on the adapter so you can lock the camera in place while digiscoping. When not locked, you can still zoom in and out with the scope’s eyepiece.

It is important to leave the camera in manual focus at infinity and perform all the focusing with the spotting scope. Set your aperture down to as low as it goes and have at it.

Keep in mind that digiscoping isn’t easy but it is fun. Our setup weighs in at a bit over 11 pounds, which gets heavy when lugging it around for extended periods of time. But if you are into photographing birds, we would definitely recommend trying out digiscoping. And if you already own a great scope, you might as well give it a shot (pun intended).

Swamp Sparrow – digiscoped
Swamp Sparrow

We’ll have many more posts about digiscoping in the upcoming weeks and months. You can view many of our digiscoped shots at our brand new digiscoped lifelist page.

24 thoughts on “Digiscoping with a Digital SLR Camera

  1. Birdfreak, I’m looking forward to more tips and info in general. I recently purchased a Canon Rebel Xsi EOS 450D with an EFS 18-55mm IS lens and I’m having fun learning the different features, although it can be challenging, too. I also recently purchased a Stokes (Vortex) Sandpiper angled scope that has a 15-45x65mm lens and hoping to learn what kind of digiscoping adapter I’ll need in the future. Of course, I still need to buy a decent tripod before I get started digiscoping. Any suggestions for a tripod?

  2. Whew! Tripods are a tricky topic because there are many and we have such little experience with them. We are happy with the Swarovski carbon fiber tripod. Carbon fibers are light-weight yet sturdy. Look for ones that feel really solid, can support a good deal of weight, and have a fluid yet lockable head so you can pan for birds easily (with the weight) yet stop on a dime.

    I am not sure what adapter would work but I’d give Eagle Optics a call. They have been really good with providing digiscoping gear and would be able to get you exactly what you need. (We don’t have any affiliation with them, but they are a great company).

  3. What can you tell me about using the Celestron Ultima 80 ED spotting scope for digiscoping with my Canon 40D camera?
    Rita

  4. Unfortunately, we have no experience with the Celestron scope but if you already own both that and the 40D, digiscoping can be done by purchasing a filter ring that will connect the camera to the scope. The best bet would be to check out a good camera store; bring in both items and have someone who knows what they are talking about find a good step up/down ring that will allow for a good connection. Celestron might sell adapters so that would be a good place to start and then find the best ring to match the camera.

  5. Hello

    I have a Canon EOS XTi and also a Kowa TSN-2 spotting scope.

    Could you tell me if it will be possible to find an attachment this spotting scope?

    Thanks for any advice you can provide.

    sue

  6. Sue – I’d probably contact your local camera store or a company like Eagle Optics for exact information. But I think most scopes will work with the XTi since it is the lens and scope eyepiece that matter. It all depends on how you can match the filter size of the camera lens (50mm Canon lens) with the scope. You might need step up/down rings to make a perfect fit but it should be possible.

  7. Great aticle. Yes, digital SLR’s are the way to go when it comes to any form of demanding photography, especially anything fast moving, close up, or very far away.

  8. I am curious if you can help me determine what a scope at say, 60X and 80X compare to in a lens (500mm, 1000mm…???)? I want to be able to compare apples to apples in length when my friend looks at me and says…”how far can you get and why didn’t you just buy a XXXmm lens?”

    Not sure I will go down the Swarovski road…but if funds enable it, I will.

    Thanks for the great information!

  9. Hi. I’m a birder with a Swarovski AT80 HD scope, 20-6-x zoom. Also have a Canon 7D (weighing 1.8lbs for body only). Two tripods, one carbon fiber. Have a couple of questions about using the DCA Zoom adaptor:
    1. Does it reduce the viewing ease when using the scope normally? (I have glasses.)
    2. Do I risk damage to the scope or camera hanging that much weight on the eyepiece and lens? (Read something about damaging the autofocus connectors.)
    3. Sounds quick to switch from viewing to digiscoping. Is it like 10 secs (not counting a lens change).
    Thanks.

  10. Mike –
    1) The DCA has no effect on using the scope normally. You attach one part of it to the eyepiece but it is out of the way when not using the 2nd half of the adapter.
    2) It is a good idea to NOT let the camera hang there on its own. I hold the camera underneath to make sure the weight is not too much (note: I did leave the camera on there for a few photos of the setup but that was it)
    3) The DCA part connected to the camera can be left on the lens of the camera. You can be scanning as normal and then slide the lens with adapter over the eyepiece in about 1-2 seconds and, after a bit of focusing/adjustment, be shooting. Then just slide it back off and go back to normal viewing.

  11. Neat pictures mate, I got a Canon EOS 1000D for Christmas and I’m super excited to get started.
    Is there a special lens you recommend for taking pictures of landscape?
    Mountains, canyons and so forth…

    -Mark

  12. Mark – Hard to say for sure but any lens with a wide angle and a low f/stop number would work great for landscape. Image stabilization is always a good idea but probably not as important for landscape.

  13. Thanks for the advice, I’ll look into it later this month.
    I currently have the stock lens (18-55mm), that came with the camera and that seems to be a decent lens for beginners.

    -Mark

  14. I am just beginning this game of digiscoping and have a set up question. I have a Swarovski STS65 with a 30X eyepeice and a Nikon D80 with a 50mm f1.8 lens. I purchased the Swarovski DCB. Once I had things set up I discovered the camera “saw” only the top third or so of the scope image. I was surprised but it is usable. I have also found it is very hard to get a shutter sheet faster then about 1/50. All the photos recorded has being taken about about f20. Am I doing something wrong or this typical using DSLR?

  15. Rusty – I have not have the problem you describe so I am just guessing here. Are the camera and adapter completely flush to the eyepiece? There should be almost no gap (although the lenses aren’t actually touching). Is the lens in manual focus and set to infinity? My lens, when focusing, extends and retracts so it needs to be set so it is fully retracted. For the shutter speeds that may be fixed if the other two possible problems are fixed.

    Let me know any other details and feel free to email pictures of the setup/photos in question/etc. to birdfreak at birdfreak dot com and if there is still problems I can forward the info to Swarovski or other digiscopers 🙂

  16. The lens I am using is fixed length and the focus was manual and set at infinity. I am guessing I have the lens close enough but a photo will help you decide. I will play some more this weekend and send a detailed description and a photo or two. Thank you.

  17. Help!!!! I have a Fujinon Super ED 80 that I wish to attach to my Canon XSi, can anyone tell me the proper attachment[s] that are required. Thank You.

  18. Did you find an attachment for the fujinon super ED 80. I have a Nikon D50 and am trying to connect to scope.

  19. arlenewa – I do not have the expertise to know of camera/scope attachments other than the ones I use for my Swarovski HD scope. I would check with a camera store or with Nikon and Fujinon directly.

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