Archive for July, 2012

iPhone Digiscoping Adapter

Most of the photos on this blog have been taken by handholding my Canon point and shoot up to the eyepiece of my spotting scope. This is somewhat of a finicky way of getting digiscoped shots, requiring me to precisely line up the camera and eyepiece while ensuring that both are in focus and the bird of interest is still there. I usually resort to taking hundreds of photos during the course of an outing to ensure I have at least some that are focused well enough for use here. I’ve looked at ways of building or buying an adapter to attach my camera and scope but nothing has seemed practical and/or affordable. A DSLR and lens setup would be the ideal solution but is well out of my budget, and likely will be for the foreseeable future. Even one of the better super zoom point and shoot cameras are a bit too expensive at the moment. Last year, however, I upgraded my cell to an iPhone 4S, which has turned out to be easier to use for digiscoping than my camera.

The rectangular design of the phone is a lot easier to hold in proper alignment to the eyepiece than my camera. As a result, I’ve been able to focus and shoot the target a fair bit faster with my phone. Birdchick has written a nice tutorial on digiscoping with an iPhone by holding it up to the eyepiece available here. The results I’ve gotten via this method have been quite comparable to my camera; the main difference being I no longer need to take dozens of photos to get at least one sharp image. There is a commercial adapter for the iPhone available from Meopta but the simple blocky shape of the iPhone also got me thinking that it might be easier (and cheaper) to build a digiscoping adapter for it.

To mount the phone to the adapter I used a cheap plastic case I got off of a friend. I’ve noticed iPhone cases are a bit ridiculously priced in all the stores here in Vancouver for what amounts to a bit of plastic, but cheaper deals can certainly be had online if you don’t have a spare lying around. It’s a bit of a nuisance having to take the phone out of the other case I keep it in for daily use, but this way is far less of a hassle than building some sort of clamping device to mount my primary case and having to align the camera lens and eyepiece every time I want a photo. This design ensures that the phone and scope are perfectly lined up a lot faster.

I used a two inch ABS pipe end cap to attach the case and eyepiece. The exact part is on Home Depot’s website here. To make the hole in the cap I first tried a ½” drill bit but my 9V cordless drill couldn’t power through the plastic. I had to drill a smaller hole and then enlarge it with a grinding stone attachment on my Dremel. The final hole size is somewhere around ¾” but it really only needs to be a bit larger than the size of the phone’s camera lens. I also drilled a hole in the cap’s side wall and glued a ¼” nut to the outside to thread a bolt that acts as a clamp to secure the adapter to the eyepiece. The inside diameter of the ABS cap is larger than the width of my scope’s eyepiece so I used some craft foam sheets, like these that I picked up from Walmart, to create a snug fit. I cut out some rectangles, punched some holes in them where the clamping bolt would go through, and then wrapped and glued them around the inside wall of the end cap. In my case it took four layers of foam to form a tight fit over my Nikon’s MCII 20-60x zoom. I also feel that the foam offers the eyepiece better protection when attaching and removing the adapter than the plastic of a smaller diameter end cap would.

The trickiest part in constructing this adapter was gluing the iPhone case to the ABS end cap. It had to be done so that the phone’s camera would line up perfectly with the scope’s eyepiece. I originally thought of aligning the two and then marking where the case should go on the end cap but this method proved too finicky to do without risking misalignment and having to start over. Ultimately I had to resort to keeping the phone in the case and lined up with the cap on the scope while I glued them. I ended up holding the whole thing together for about half an hour while the glue set. Luckily I managed to keep the glue off of my phone and scope and the end result was worth it as the setup aligns perfectly with minimal tweaking.

I’ll be posting some updates of how the adapter performs in the field after I’ve used it a little more so stay tuned, but here is a preliminary shot of a cooperative Cedar Waxwing…

If anyone has any questions or comments about the adapter or its construction I’d be happy to answer them!

P.S. The above is merely my experience in building an iPhone/scope adapter and is not meant as a fool proof set of instructions. If you choose to build something similar I, of course, can’t be held responsible if it goes awry and you end up with glue on your phone and/or scope or worse.