What is a "DIGISCOPE"?....
... Right, with today's more sophisticated cameras and a wide array of accessories it is simple, but in the not so distant past, many found digiscoping both difficult and frustrating.
Although no one can agree on the exact instant digiscoping began, all stories are similar. Somewhere a desperate, lone birder was confronted with some mega rarity. Wanting desperately to be able to prove this rare sight, the individual pulled a small camera out of their pocket, held it to the scope's eyepiece and prayed! To the surprise of all, it worked.
Early digiscoping pioneers faced a steep learning curve trying to figure out what did and did not work, and early failures outnumbered successes. These failed attempts were due in part to field craft, but there was also a lack of suitable equipment early on. As a result, many folks who attempted digiscoping in the past have written it off as a lesson in futility.
One difficulty was finding ways to couple the camera to the eyepiece, and early innovations from users included a wide assortment of plastic cups, PVC pipe fittings, lens caps, and enough duct tape to make even MacGyver and Red-Green envious! The good news for those less handy individuals out there is that most major manufacturers NOW offer branded solutions for easy mounting of camera to eyepiece.
Early digital p&s cameras that were favored by digiscopers featured extremely slow shutter response. This lag was so extreme that it seemed you could whistle two bars of your favorite tune in the time between pressing the shutter release and when the image was actually captured. Plus the LCD view screens were often smaller than a postage stamp, offering lo-resolution, tiny, dark subjects. This led to many a missed opportunity like the "oh so close" example below, and many images that were improperly focused.
Extreme shutter lag of preferred digiscoping cameras from even 5 years ago, led to missed opportunities in digiscoping.
Today's modern point and shoots offer near real time response and large, bright, high resolution view screens making digiscoping easier and more fun. Realize, of course, that when I say, "today's modern..." I mean that quite literally. Each successive digital p&s camera generation may roll out as quickly as every 8 months, so even a 4 year old camera may pale in comparison to current models in these two areas. As a result, many current models respond faster, offer superior resolution, and offer view screens that allow you to easily assess focus in the field.
Some of the MOST important features in a digiscoping camera (IMHO) include:
- 4x or less optical zoom
- fast shutter response (microprocessors continually get faster and smaller)
- large, bright screen makes focusing easier
There are MANY others but I'm already getting finger cramps, so we can save more for subsequent entries. I will close by saying if you've never tried digiscoping, give it a try but be warned it's addicting. If you tried in the past and were disappointed in your results, think about trying it again. Newer, more sophisticated adapters and cameras make success rates much higher than they were even a few years ago. This makes digiscoping simple and fun, which is part of what we all love about birding!