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Birding Photography: The Best Spotting Scope Adapters

Capturing pictures of the birds you see out in the field is an essential part of birdwatching; whether you just want to photograph your subject for a record shot (think of those exotic migrants that people won’t believe you’ve seen without photographic evidence) or you want to take stunning artistic photos of the day. But lugging around a huge DSLR camera with a giant zoom lens, because let’s face it those birds are going to be far away, as well as your scope doesn’t make for a comfortable birding trip.

Luckily, with the use of a spotting scope phone adapter, you can leave your DSLR behind and take stunning bird photos with your phone – making for a much freer birding experience.

How Does It Work?

A digiscoping adapter will allow you to align your smartphone with your spotting scope so that it acts like a lens. Your scope will serve as a zoom lens and allow you to capture close up images (at whatever your scope’s magnification is) of your chosen subject.

It’s not just a case of holding your phone to the scope though, in order to get clear, crisp, and professional style images you will need a digiscoping adapter. While you can digiscope without an adapter, you will find that due to the extreme magnification of the scope that any movement or other issues will become much more apparent.

A spotting scope with an angled eyepiece will allow you to align your smartphone camera lens more easily with the scope, although with the right spotting scope adapter you can get away with a straight eyepiece. However, if you really want to get stuck into digiscoping then purchasing spotting scope adapters and digiscoping adapters specifically for your phone will make it a lot easier.

When you line up your camera phone with the scope’s eyepiece, you’ll want to make sure they are really close together, so that you get one full image. If the two aren’t lined up correctly then you aren’t going to get those epic pictures you’re after. A digiscoping adapter or iPhone adapter for your smartphone allows the eyepiece and the lens to stay close together. Find out more about aligning the two in this guide.

One of the best tips though, when it comes to the art of digiscoping is to place your spotting scope on a sturdy tripod – this will help reduce camera shake in your photos. Another great tip for reducing camera shake is to use the volume buttons on the phone to trigger the shutter (if your phone allows it) these only require the lightest of touches – exactly what you want for sensitive digiscoping techniques.

Is My Phone Suitable?

If your smartphone has a camera then yes, it’s suitable. There are plenty of adapters on the market to allow you the get the best photographic results, from iPhone adapters to android adapters which can even be used on tablets if they have camera functions.

For optimum results it’s a good idea to get to know how your camera phone works and where the settings are, this will allow you to change any functions when it is connected up to your scope quickly and easily; birds aren’t known for staying still.

How Much are Adapters?

There is a huge range of digiscoping adapters out there from budget adapters at less than $10 to much more high-end products.

If you’re just starting out then you might want to go for a budget option to see if digiscoping is for you, then invest in something higher-end later on.

Best Digiscoping Adapters

Here are a few adapters to help get you started on your digiscoping adventures:

Gosky Universal Cell Phone Adapter Mount

Gosky Universal Cell Phone Adapter Mount

It’s no wonder that the Gosky universal cell phone adapter mount is so popular; it’s compatible with the majority of smartphones out there which makes it an incredibly accessible mount. I also like the fact that it’s compatible with not just scopes but also binoculars and even microscopes so there’s a huge range of digiscoping options there. Despite being made of metal, which is incredibly durable (exactly what you want in a scope) it’s still very lightweight. It’s slightly more expensive so might not be for you if you’re looking for a budget option.

Most Affordable: Vankey Phone Adapter

Vankey Phone Adapter

Vankey Phone Adapter

An affordable option for those just getting into digiscoping, although you will have to double-check whether this adapter is compatible with your smartphone, although it does work as an iPhone adapter which is a bonus. I like that despite its cheaper price it’s still made from durable materials and I like that it’s a lightweight option. With a relatively simple to use design it makes for an easy setup, which always makes digiscoping more enjoyable. Although you may find it’s not as high quality as its more expensive counterparts.

Most Advanced: Carson Hookups 2.0 Digiscoping Adapter

Carson Hookups 2.0 Digiscoping Adapter

Carson Hookups 2.0 Digiscoping Adapter

This is the adapter for serious digiscopers, it’s a high end, high-quality product that is compatible with the majority of smartphones. I like that it has an optic cam lock to help it grip the eyepiece, preventing slipping and ensuring better quality shots, I also like that it has a lifetime guarantee. Due to its wide range of features, it can be tricky to get set up and at a cost of $59.99, this is a higher-end digiscoping adapter, which means it’s not a budget option at all, but it does mean better quality materials and a more durable product.

Best Rated: Gosky Telescope Phone Adapter

Gosky Telescope Phone Adapter

Gosky Telescope Phone Adapter

Being a universal adapter this Gosky product has great compatibility with most smartphones and scopes. It is incredibly lightweight, and still remaining durable, although its biggest selling point is that it is a quick adapter. This means it’s super easy to set up allowing you to get great alignment between the scope and your phone really quickly – essential when out in the field. I love that it has an adjustable locking feature to prevent slipping and also that it has high-density EVA pads protecting your phone – so nothing can damage your smartphone screen. However, this is another pricey product and might not be the best option for you if you are on a tight budget.

Best Entry Level: Celestron Basic Smartphone Adapter

Celestron Basic Smartphone Adapter

Celestron Basic Smartphone Adapter

A simple, easy to use device allows you to connect most smartphones to most scopes – although you will need to double-check the compatibility. I like the fact that it’s really simple to set up – you just place your phone in the adapter and then place it over your scope’s eyepiece. I also like that despite its simplicity the manufacturers haven’t compromised on durability. Although, it doesn’t have any stabilizing features like some of the other adapters and therefore you might experience some slipping between the scope and camera which will reduce picture quality.

Now you’ve got the info and the equipment the best thing you can do to improve your digiscoping technique is to practice. So, grab your scope, your smartphone, and a spotting scope phone adapter and get out there.