Points to consider before
Many birders now
photography as an integral part of birding and the internet abounds
with images taken by digiscoping, DLSR and digibinning.
This page presents some of the advantages and disadvantages of
digiscoping / digibinning versus "proper" photography. It is
aimed at birders who want to take photographs rather than at
professional photographers; hopefully
it may help those who are undecided about which way to go.
was how I started bird photography and I did this from 2003-2007 until
my trusty Nikon Coolpix gave up the ghost. Having been bitten by the
photography bug I then needed a new camera - and took the
purchase a digital single lens reflex camera (DSLR). At first I had a
cheap zoom lens that went up to 300mm; However, this was just too
frustrating much of the time so I upgraded to a fixed 400mm telephoto
lens and have (almost) never looked back since.
See also the following pages for more on bird photography:
Flight shot of
White-tailed Eagle using DSLR and telephoto lens - all but impossible
using digiscoping techniques
Digiscoped image of White-tailed Eagle using a Nikon Coolpix and a
is the use of a compact digital camera and a telescope - the lens of
the camera is pushed up close to the lens of the telescope and a
picture taken through the telescope. An adaptor of some kind to keep
the lenses stable and close together is usually essential in order to
obtain good results.
The zoom function of the camera is used to prevent "vignetting" of the
of Arctic Tern
There is less equipment to carry, thus saving both space and weight,
both of which may be important considerations. Most keen birders
already own a telescope and it is therefore a relatively small
investment to buy a compact digital camera and an adaptor.
The combined magnification of the zoom on the camera and the relescope
is large - making it possible to snap pictures of distant birds.
The drawbacks of digiscoping are largely down to the time it takes to
prepare a shot and the difficulty of following moving birds. It can
difficult to locate the subject of the photograph when zoomed into part
of a telescope's field of view.
The other major disadvantage is often "shutter lag", it can often take
some time between pushing the button and the photograph being taken -
often this means that the subject has moved - resulting in shots like
the one below:
on the picture for some more successful digiscoped shots of the same
DSLR & telephoto lens:
DSLR and a telephoto lens are the prerequisites for this type of
photography and even the least expensive are not cheap. For "proper"
photography a tripod is required, although hand-held lenses
can work just fine a lot of the time.
The main advantage is that one can be ready to take a picture in
seconds and that it is easier to follow fast moving subsjects.
Additionally the picture is taken at the same instant the shutter is
pressed - making it easier to take the desired picture.
DSLR cameras tend to have a higher resolution than compact models and
any loss in magnification can be compensated for by the increased
number of pixels to a certain extent. It is not unusual to find that
even a cropped image may have as many pixels as the equivalent picture
taken by digiscoping.
drawbacks of a DSLR and a telephoto lens are the the price; although
the camera itself may not be expensive a decent lens is. For most
birders (as opposed to photographers) this equipment will come as an
addition to a telescope and a tripod and is therefore considerably more
Compared to digiscoping the magnifaction of most affordable lenses is
very small. My 400mm lens gives an image a little smaller
than my 10x binoculars - something I sometimes find frustrating
compared to my digiscoping days. If one increases the magnification of
the lens the prices goes through the roof; if using teleconverters to
achieve the same effect then the amount of light available is often a
Purple Heron -
Digiscoping is ideal for large, slow moving species such as this.
Purple Heron in flight -
DSLR and 400mm telephoto lens.
is essentially the same as digiscoping but using binoculars instead;
usually without an adaptor. Good pictures can also be taken this way
and means even less equipment needs to be taken out in the field.
only digibinning images can be viewed here.
of other pictures on the gallery pages were also taken this way -
especially pictures I have taken at work offshore. Advantages: Digibinning can
be an advantage if one is not really out to take pictures but want
to have something with you "just in case" something turns up. Other
may include weight or space restrictions - if one was hiking in the
mountains or travelling then this may be a deciding factor. This
obviously also the cheapest option.
risks to expensive lenses and / or cameras may be another reason for
going with digibinning - an example of this from my point of view is
that I don't like taking my DSLR and telephoto lens when travelling by
helicopter to work. Disadvantages: However,
although useful to some degree it is harder to hold the camera and
binocluars stable and the magnification is not as great.
Osprey - picture taken by
"digibinning" on a moving vessel
off Ibiza A
Nikon Coolpix and a pair of Swarovski binoculars were used for this
Whichever you choose the best possible hint is to ALWAYS take the
camera with you. The thing about birding is that anything can turn up
at any time.
Common to any of the photographic teqniques discussed there are a few
extras one needs: memory cards and spare batteries. There is nothing
worse than finding oneself in a situation where one can take intersting
photographs only to find you have no space left on the memory card or
no battery left. Take spares with you at all times!!
A waterproof bag of some sort is also essential if one is to keep that
camera running smoothly.....
Whatever technique you decide on - good luck!
And a word of warning - bird photography is highly addictive and once
hooked vast portions of your life will disappear - either in the field
attempting to take that perfect shot or at the computer ploughing
through gigabytes of images.....