Home Optics Getting Started With Digiscoping (All You Need To Know)

Getting Started With Digiscoping (All You Need To Know)

digiscoping with Swarovski scope

One interesting aspect of spotting scopes is the ability to turn them into a powerful camera lens. Digiscoping applies to both spotting scopes and more powerful telescopes. Spotting scopes and cameras are often used to film nature, while telescopes and cameras are used for scanning the skies.

Digiscoping is otherwise called digital afocal photography. We are going to focus on the popular method of combining a camera to a spotting scope.

Digiscoping allows nature enthusiasts to take amazing pictures of Mother Nature. The combination of a spotting scope and a camera allows the photographer to capture close-ups of animals in their habitat. You can take these photos from a safe position without disturbing the animal.


Do I need it?

nature digiscoping


That depends on what perspective you are taking. Most people associate digiscoping with birders. Birders can spot and “shoot” their favorite birds for incredibly beautiful pictures.

However, digiscoping doesn’t stop with birding. Nature lovers can capture landscapes, animals, and even dramatic weather through the lens.



Hunters can film their chosen prey while hunting with a combined DSLR and spotting scope. This allows them to capture the exact moment as they hit and take down the animal. Most hunters tend to love nature in general, so filming animals even during the off season is still a fun project.



Shooters who use spotting scopes to check their groups on a long range target can take photos for later review instead of mark a plot book. With the snapshots, they have the perfect representation of the target for later review.

Digiscoping can be quite handy for a wide variety of spotting scope users. You see, it doesn’t begin and end with birdwatching only.


How does it work?

It’s relatively straightforward. Attach a camera at the end of your spotting scope and start taking pictures! Well, it sounds simple, and it is once you do it a few times.

It’s essential to determine if both the spotting scope and camera that you are scouting are functional with digiscoping. And make sure that the camera is also compatible with your spotting scope.


What do I need?

Before we get too deep, we need to lay out what you’ll need for afocal photography. Aside from the compatible camera and spotting scope, you’ll need a particular mount that connects the camera to the scope.


For DSLR Cameras

Leupold Adapter
Leupold Adapter

DSLR cameras are capable of using different lenses. For these cameras, you need a screw-threaded lens that fits the spotting scopes. Leupold offers one that allows the user to adapt multiple lens sizes.


For Point and Shoot Cameras


ALPEN Digital Camera Adapter
Alpen Digital Camera Adapter

For point and shoot cameras, you need a mount to align the camera lens to the spotting scope lens. Vortex and Alpen are a few spotting scope manufacturers that offer adapters for point and shoot cameras.

So basically a camera, a mount, and a spotting scope are what you need.




Spotting scopes are designed for one particular lens — the human eye. Because of this, cameras may cause something called vignetting.

Vignetting is when you begin to see black shadows around the lens of the camera. This creates a circle of light with a shadow surrounding the picture. A camera lens that is too big for the actual spotting scope is what usually causes it.

In photography, the bigger the lens is, the better the picture is. When it comes to spotting scopes, the opposite is true. A smaller lens delivers a sharper picture without issues like vignetting.


Tripod Choice

Vanguard Alta 264AO
Vanguard Alta 264AO

Tripod choice is imperative when it comes to digiscoping. Tripods should be able to deal with the weight of the spotting scope and the camera. Its primary purpose is to hold the gear steady while the user is taking a hit or miss photo.


Possible Problems

Adding the weight of a camera to the spotting scope and tripod can stress the tripod and its locking mechanisms. If it is too heavy, it will dip, wiggle and wobble, making it quite difficult to take clear pictures. You may need to ditch the basic tripod and grab a stronger, more capable one.

Once it’s attached, the camera often hangs at the rear of the tripod quite far from the center of the tripod. Even with a good tripod, there will still be slight shifts when you touch the camera.



Remember to set a delay timer on your camera, so when you press the button, the shake and movement from the camera are long gone by the time the photo is taken. You can also get a shutter remote, cabled or wireless, to take pictures without disturbing the camera.


Final Thoughts

Digiscoping is an excellent method to add some versatility to a spotting scope.

If you already have a camera and spotting scope, there’s no reason not to combine the two. You can take beautiful nature photographs just by being nothing more than an observer. The combination of the two units gives the user a powerful option for capturing breathtaking photos.

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Travis Pike is a former Marine Machine gunner who served with 2nd Bn 2nd Marines for 5 years. He deployed in 2009 to Afghanistan and again in 2011 with the 22nd MEU(SOC) during a record setting 11 months at sea. He’s trained with the Romanian Army, the Spanish Marines, the Emirate Marines and the Afghan National Army. He serves as an NRA certified pistol instructor and teaches concealed carry classes


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