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Saturday, March 07, 2009


Digiscoping is the improvised use of a birdwatching telescope in combination with a simple digital camera, as a substitute for a camera with a fixed telescopic lens.

The basic equipment: a birdwatching telescope (in this case a Kowa with 20-60 zoom eyepiece) and a simple digital camera (in this case an Olympus 790 SW)

The telescope is focussed on the object of interest and the camera placed by hand so that its lens is in alignment with the telescope's eyepiece, and you allow the camera's automatic focus and exposure do the rest!

The telescope is mounted on a tripod for stability, focussed on the object of interest, and the lens of the camera aligned with the telescope's eyepiece

The "raw" picture takes on the circular aspect as viewed through the telescope, as in this picture of a Stella's Eider I took in Lapland last year:

However, with some judicious cropping an acceptable image can be created:

Or this Dipper:

And then cropped:

Dipper, Cumbria March 2009

Digiscoping does not purport to match the quality of a proper telephoto camera system. However, it does have advantages. It is quick: all you have to do is to whip out your camera from your pocket and hold it up to the telescope through which your are already viewing your subject; no need to mess around setting up a separate system and choosing an appropriate lens.

Therefore digscoping is an ideal method of documentation. It can be used for subsequent verification of identity, if you do not have the appropriate reference book with you at the time. Many organisations require evidence of identity prior to acceptance of a record of a rare bird, and a digiscoped image is satisfactory. And at the very least you can boast to your friends with an impressive image of a rare bird, and not to mention the possibility of using the images on a blog!

Digiscoped image of an Indri lemur, Madagascar, September 2008

My favourite digiscoped image to date is this one of a
Yellow Wagtail photographed in Cumbria, Spring 2008

You can find out more about digiscoping here and here.


Blogger simon said...

I went and had a look at a telescope which had a digital camera built in...

I did not even think to use the system that you suggest here!

Great idea and the photos look fine.. so I might go back and consider just the telescope.....

Anyway- I am out for my first bike ride since my cast has come off..

9:54 pm  
Blogger Charles Gramlich said...

That circular effect would be nice for some shots. Lana finally got her a telephoto lenz though, and loves it.

2:41 am  
Blogger Lara said...

oh, so beautiful! technics help :)!

9:07 am  
Blogger Ellee Seymour said...

The Yellow Wagtail looks great. I haven't seen any of those at Welney I look the diticamera.

10:26 pm  
Blogger Merisi said...

Such technical craftmanship, I am in awe!

I tried repeatedly to catch a good picture of the birds in the garden and the trees below, but they are trained to turn and fly away the moment I think I will take up the camera! I could beat them with your technique, I'm sure. ;-)

7:29 am  
Blogger yen said...

i have been wanting to try and to learn about digiscoping when I first starting birding. I ended up investing in the telephoto lens because there are not many bird watchers in KL/Malaysia uses digiscoping and no one to learn from. yes, there is the internet that discusses the basic things... but on fields application is another matter entirely. good to know.

12:57 am  

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