Linking camera and scope

Many people obtain excellent results by hand-holding their cameras when digiscoping. Other people prefer to attach or mount their cameras to the eyepiece. Whatever your preference, it is essential that the axes of the camera lens and scope eyepiece align co-linearly for digiscoping. It is not essential that the camera be mounted.

The cameras popular for digiscoping often have lens diameters that are smaller than the eyepiece diameter. Some sort of mechanical guide is helpful for centering the lens behind the eyepiece. Perfectly adequate guides can be made from bottlecaps, sheet plastic, cardboard, or rubber washers. Simply cut an annular disk with an outside diameter that fits snugly within the eyecup, and an inner diameter into which the camera lens fits snugly. That's it! For the Coolpix 99x/Leica combination, a 28-37 mm step-up ring works very well and can be left mounted on the camera.

Hand-holding is quick and convenient, but it does impose two requirements: your scope must be firmly mounted, and the lighting must be excellent. If your scope isn't firmly mounted you need a stiffer mount, as discussed in the Digiscoping Primer. But if you often shoot in conditions that require shutter speeds lower than 1/125, you may also benefit from a mounted camera. Depending on scope magnification you may be under 1/125 in anything less than bright sunlight.

In the language of digiscopers, an adapter is a device that firmly attaches the camera to the scope. Several companies (links below) market such adapters customized for your particular equipment. Some support the camera through the lens filter threads, while others use the tripod mount screw; all designs clamp to the eyepiece barrel.

Mounting the camera is particularly useful in conjunction with a remote shutter release for reducing hand shake, a large contributor to image blurring. Very low shutter speeds can be used with this configuration. However, mounting the camera also carries some disadvantages. Mounting severely complicates pointing the scope, as you need to dismount the camera to sight through the scope then re-mount the camera to shoot. (Aiming the scope with the camera's display is nearly impossible!) Additionally, the weight of the camera radically changes the scope balance and increases the load on the tripod. These are not insurmountable challenges.

Whichever method you choose, hand-holding or mounting, remember the first rule: get the camera lens as close as possible to the eyelens. Adapters that require an increased camera-eyelens separation do so at the cost of increased vignetting; you should consider carefully whether that is tolerable. You can see the consequences of increasing this separation here.

The humble step-up ring

Mount (left) and eyepiece
Camera thread to left;
scope bayonet to right

Some sources for couplers and adapters:

  • CKC Power sells step-up rings and other digiscoping accessories.
  • Lens Plus sells an easily dismounted adapter.
  • Eagle Eye Optics sells adapters for scopes and camcorders.

Most camera manufacturers offer remote shutter releases. In addition, Harbortronics makes the very versatile Digisnap series of programmable remote camera controls.

Link: "What is Digiscoping?"

Link: "Digiscoping Primer"

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