It used to be called digiscoping. Now many birders are calling it phonescoping. But no matter its name, the goal is the same: to capture images or video using a digital camera and a spotting scope. With the advent of smartphones and their built-in cameras, most people are walking around with decent-quality cameras in their pockets. And social media makes it easier to share images from just about anywhere in the world. These are just a few reasons why phonescoping’s popularity is growing by leaps and bounds.
The Phone Skope adapter is a product that makes digiscoping easier than ever. Generally, the trickiest part about taking pictures through a scope is getting the camera properly aligned with the scope’s eyepiece to avoid excessive “vignetting,” that annoying black ring that threatens to take over an otherwise great image. With Phone Skope you can quickly slide your phone into the adapter, secure the setup onto your scope, and voilà! Virtually hands-free phonescoping.
One of the great features about Phone Skope is that you can order an adapter customized to fit your mobile device and optics. I tested the system by going online (www.phoneskope.com) and selecting my mobile device, an iPhone 5, and scope, a Swarovski Habicht AT 80. Within days I had an adapter kit that fit my equipment perfectly.
The kit’s packaging even included QR codes linking to several how-to videos explaining the setup and offering general phonescoping tips and techniques.
I immediately hit the field to test the adapter’s performance. I found some cooperative waterfowl and set up my rig.
For the first time, I could snap pictures without juggling equipment and fumbling with alignment. Video was a cinch, thanks to the iPhone’s high video quality, my sturdy Manfrotto tripod, and the Phone Skope adapter holding everything in place.
My initial field tests occurred during early winter’s subfreezing temperatures. Without the adapter, I never would have been able to hold the phone steady enough to achieve decent images, let alone record video.
Winter phonescoping tip: If you’re using an iPhone, use the volume buttons on your headphones, rather than the on-screen shutter release button, to take your pictures. This allows you to keep your hands off the phone itself, reducing camera shake, especially on cold, wintry days.
If you have a digital picture-taking device, such as a smart-phone, tablet, MP3 player, or even a GoPro camera, and optics—a spotting scope is best, but binoculars work too—you owe it to yourself to check out the Phone Skope adapter.
About the Author
Kyle Carlsen is the assistant editor of Bird Watcher's Digest. Find him on Twitter @kycarlsen.