If you’re struggling to get close enough to your wildlife subjects to create images with any real impact, why not try digiscoping? In this quick guide we’ll show you how to use a spotting scope with your camera to nearly double your magnification.
Normal 400mm or 500mm telephoto lenses aren’t powerful enough to get close enough to many wild animals. However, digiscoping, where you attach your DSLR to a spotting scope, can give an equivalent magnification to an 800mm lens or more.
For digiscoping you will need an adapter, which are made by many of the main scope manufacturers. Most digiscoping adapters have a ‘universal’ attachment, known as a T2 mount, that are available in a range of camera fittings.
Spotting scopes don’t offer the automatic functions such as focus or a variable aperture that you’d have with a telephoto lens, and the effective aperture of most is between f/8 and f/16, so you’ll need plenty of light to use them effectively.
You’ll need to use high ISO settings to get shutter speeds fast enough to prevent blur. Despite these limitations, digiscoping offers a relatively accessible way to get huge focal length optics for your DSLR.
Digiscoping step-by step: how to attach your DSLR to the spotting scope and the best settings to use
01 Attach the adapter
Before you can attach your camera to any spotting scope, you’ll need to fit an adapter. There are various types for different telescopes and manufacturers. We used a Nikon for our shoot, and with the Nikon adapters you take off the standard viewing eyepiece and fit the FSA-L2 or FSA-L1.
02 Attach your camera
Once the adapter is fitted to the scope, you can attach the camera. With the Nikon versions the camera fits straight onto the adapter, but for other makes of scope and adapter we would have needed to use a T2 adapter in Nikon F fitting to fit the camera to the adapter.
03 Camera settings
With no electronic connections, the range of exposure modes and metering using any adapter is limited. On most cameras you can use manual or aperture-priority modes, and centre-weighted metering. In changing light conditions, aperture-priority mode is best.
04 Auto ISO
You can’t adjust the aperture when using a spotting scope, but the automatic ISO setting allows your camera to adjust the exposure without relying simply on the shutter speed. Limit the ISO to 1600, and set the minimum shutter speed to 1/500 sec to get sharp results.
05 Frame your shot
Using the huge magnifications available with digiscoping, finding and framing your subject can be a challenge. Move the telescope until you spot an obvious feature in the viewfinder, look where it is in relation to the area that you want to shoot, then reframe the image.
You will have to use manual focus, and this can be difficult to judge due to the limited depth of field and the small maximum apertures of most spotting scopes. Roughly focus the scope on the area you want to be sharp, then fine tune your focusing slowly until it is spot-on.
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