Can You Attach A Camera To A Spotting Scope

Can You Attach A Camera To A Spotting Scope?

The art of taking photographs using a spotting scope with a camera attached is called digiscoping. It is one of the most popular ways to take close-up images of wildlife in its natural habitat. There are two reasons for this, firstly, due to the high magnification levels available with spotting scopes, you don’t disturb or frighten the animals or birds away. And secondly, spotting scopes are far easier to use and less expensive than telephoto lenses.

Using either a digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) camera or a point and shoot camera attached to the spotting scope via an adapter, makes digiscoping an easy way to get great close up shots. The adapters are usually reasonably priced and easy to attach. Once attached, the camera has the added advantage of being stabilised by the spotting scope’s tripod.

Magnification Capability

Most 400mm or 500mm telephoto lenses don’t have enough magnification power to get close-up shots of wildlife. By using a spotting scope combined with a DSLR or point and shoot camera, you can achieve the equivalent magnification of an 800mm lens, and in many cases up to 3,000mm lens. Many of the adapters used are universal but you’ll need to check with your manufacturer, as sometimes specific adapters are needed.

Auto Focus

The advantages a telephoto lens has over a spotting scope is in the control you have when focusing and  setting the correct aperture. Spotting scopes don’t have these abilities, however, your camera does and you’ll probably need to use high ISO settings to get a good picture. But even with these disadvantages, digiscoping is a great inexpensive way to access huge focal length optics using a DSLR camera.

Which Type Of Scope Is Best For Digiscoping?

Spotting scopes come in two main types, straight or angled lens. For the purpose of digiscoping, the angled lens scopes are the most convenient. It is easier to attach a camera to an angled scope and it will also be easier to look down into the camera’s viewfinder to get the best shot.

How To Take Photos Using A Spotting Scope

The necessary equipment for this is a spotting scope, adapter, tripod, and the camera of your choice (smartphone, point and shoot or DSLR).

  1. Fix The Camera To The Spotting Scope
    Fit the adapter to both your camera of choice and your spotting scope (be sure you have the correct adapter).
  2. Fix The Spotting Scope To The Tripod
    Attach the spotting scope to its tripod in the usual manner.
  3. Focus On The Subject
    If you’re hoping for some close-up bird shots, focus on a tree stump, branch, post, telephone wire etc. and wait for the bird to show up.
  4. Take Successional Photos
    Take lots of pictures working on the one in ten theory (one out of every ten photos might be good enough). You can edit them later and keep the best for your album.

Smartphone Or DSLR, What’s Better For Digiscoping?

Digital Camera

In all honesty, they both have their merits and failings, the best way to decide this, is which one do you already own? It makes sense when you’re first starting out not to run to too much expense. Use what you already have and upgrade in the future if you think this is the hobby for you.

With that said, if you don’t own either, read through the pros and cons below and make your decision from there. This is the first and most important decision you’ll need to make concerning digiscoping so take your time and choose wisely.

Using DSLR Cameras For Digiscoping

The Pros Of DSLR Cameras For DigiscopingThe Cons Of DSLR Cameras For Digiscoping
High quality imagesHarder to use correctly
More production control (focus etc.)No video footage available
Cost more initially

Using Smartphones (And Point and Shoot Cameras) For Digiscoping

The Pros Of Smartphones For DigiscopingThe Cons Of Smartphones For Digiscoping
Easy to useLess individual image control (automatic settings)
Video footage can be freeze framed and images selectedSlightly less image quality
As many people own smartphones, less outlay to set up

Unless you understand how to focus and set up a DSLR camera you’ll probably do better with a self focusing smartphone or similar. As these will do all the hard work for you, all you need to do is literally point, aim, and shoot.

Ensure You Get The Correct Adapter

We mentioned this earlier but it is of vital importance. Not only are the adapters brand specific, many are model specific too. Not only camera specific either, not all adapters will fit every scope. Be sure to check with the manufacturer to be sure to get the correct adapter.

Why Use A Digiscope?

The advantages of using a digiscope rather than a telephoto lens are numerous and include;

  • Spotting scopes are sealed and waterproof
  • Spotting scopes are smaller and weigh less than telephoto lenses
  • Spotting scopes cost far less than telephoto lenses
  • Amazingly close-up images from greater distances than the average telephoto lens
  • The equivalent magnification of a 3,000mm telephoto lens 

The Tripod


Due to the high level of magnification, spotting scopes need a steady and sturdy support mechanism. If the scope moves even slightly, the image will be so blurred due to the exaggerated, highly magnified movement. This is why a solid tripod is essential. 

We recommend shorter table top tripods for digiscoping as these are more stable due to a lower centre of gravity. 

How To Get The Best Images With A Digiscope

Once your equipment is set up correctly and is on a solid support, you’ll need to think about lighting. Now you won’t get any decent images if the light is coming from the wrong direction. To this end, we recommend using a lens hood.

Lens hoods prevent any backlight ruining your images. The light should enter the scope through the objective lens to illuminate the image correctly and not from other, less appropriate angles.

Secrets To Taking Great Photos With A Digiscope

The most important attribute you’ll need to take great photos using a digiscope is patience. The right shot won’t turn up the moment you get set up, it takes a working knowledge of the habits of the creature you’re trying to capture. Work out the most likely spot that particular creature will come to rest, focus on that spot and wait.

When the opportunity does present itself, take lots of images, one will be the right one. Sort through them at your leisure and save the best and bin the rest. Remember there is also the possibility of enhancing your images digitally using digital imaging software. There are professional versions and freeware versions, work within your budget and have fun playing around with the images.

There are a number of online forums that will point you in the right direction for editing software and most forum users will be only too happy to offer you their pearls of wisdom. Do your own research too, read articles, watch youtube videos and you’ll soon be the one giving the advice.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use a spotting scope with a camera?

Most cameras can be used with a spotting scope by using the correct adapter.

Can you attach a DSLR to a spotting scope?

By means of the correct adapter you can attach a DSLR to a spotting scope.

What is a Digiscope camera?

Using a spotting scope instead of a telephoto lens attached to a camera is called digiscoping.

Can you Digiscope with binoculars?

You can digiscope using binoculars as long as you have the correct adapter.