Phonescoping with the Olivon T650 spotting scope and Olivon Universal digiscoping adapter.

The set-up

I'm using the compact Olivon T650 spotting scope which is the replacement for the Olivon T64 model, What I like about this new scope is that you now change the eyepiece - making it far more versatile. As standard it comes with a 16-48x zoom eyepiece which matches the body perfectly. I also like the performance of this eyepiece especially at the 48x end, it still produces a good, useable image quality at this high magnification. The scope features a fully multicoated 65mm objective lens and it is reall bright with plenty of contrast and sharp for a scope of this compact size. As you'd expect - the body is rubber armored, spray waterproof and nitrogen filled.

I'm really enjoying using this scope and when you add the Olivon universal smartphone digiscoping adapter in to the mix - it has to be one of the most compact but at the same time high quality digiscoping units on the market.

The Olivon universal smart phone digiscoping adapter is probably one of the best out there - and I have tried a few different models over the last few months. Some universal adapters are much too large and awkward to set-up which for me completely misses the point. Olivon's solution is much more compact and also very easy to use.

Phonescoping

The bracket features a clamp system that you close around the body of your phone. There are two aperture holes to allow for most smart phones - I use the iPhone 5S which has a camera lens in the top corner. Other models like the the samsung galaxy series feature camera lenses in the center of the body - so the two apertures on the digiscoping bracket allows for easy positioning of your camera lens.

The key is to align the smart phone camera lens in the center of one of these aperture - see below.

phonescoping

Once you have aligned the smart phone to an aperture, a lock button can be pressed which locks the clamp and secures your phone in the adapter. I really like this feature, it's very secure, no danger of my £500 phone slipping out as well as locking the phone in the correct position to digiscope.

You're now ready to attach the adapter to your scope - obviously I'm using an Olivon T650 scope and an Olivon adapter - so they are going to fit. But this system is truly universal and will fit most scopes and eyepieces from all the manufacturers. It does this buy using different sized eyepiece rings - the Ring screws over the aperture hole and then pushes over your scope eyepiece to positron the smart phone over the eyepiece.

I used the 53mm ring on the T650 which slid over perfectly and locking screws safely secured the adapter to the scope eyepiece. A larger 61mm ring is available for larger eyepieces and also available are Olivon rubber infills which you can push inside to reduce down the size of the ring - creating a snug fit with your eyepiece.

It is then just a case of push the adapter over the eyepiece and securing with the locking screws. As with conventional digiscoping you are looking for that sweet spot between the lens of your smartphone and the eye relief of the scope eyepiece - I twisted back the eye relief cap of the Olivon T650 eyepiece a short distance to get the optimum position for my iPhone 5S and I instantly new when this was achieved as the image was very clear on the back of my phone.

The method

Phonescoping is very simple and can be highly successful if you follow a few rules.

What you will probably find when you attach your smart phone to your scope is that you will experience vignetting (your image in a circle surrounded by black) This is often more apparent in phonescoping than conventional digiscoping and dependent on phone model is down to the fact that the lenses on smart phones are very often wide angle.

To reduce and even eliminate this vignetting - the best method is to use the optical zoom of your eyepiece, push it up through the zoom range and you should see the image increase and the vignetting lesson. On the T650 and the 16-48x wide eyepiece- most of the vignetting can be removed at around 40x optical zoom.

If you want to completely remove vignetting - you could try using a wider angle eyepiece or apply the smallest amount of digital zoom to nudge past it.

Below is a example image of vignetting at 40x zoom using the Olivon T650 and Iphone 5S. The test subject (model Bullfinch) was approx 12m away.

vignetting

Your image quality will be far better if you use this method rather than the digital zoom of your smart phone to reduce vignetting. Using a lot of Digital zoom will produce very poor images - so use the optics of your eyepiece to do this job for much better results and at the same time you're increasing your telephoto power too.

Here is the same shot but applying a small amount of digital zoom to eliminate all vignetting. Due to the small amount of digital zoom applied the image quality has not suffered.

Because the smart phone cameras generally have less manual control then compact cameras - I would suggest researching just exactly what features you can control on your phone. For example on the iPhone I can touch anywhere on the screen to where I want to take the exposure reading from. This is particularly useful if your subject has bright areas, Take the reading from the bright area so the camera does not over expose the overall image - remember you can still edit the image afterwards to brighten it up - there are some fantastic in camera APPs to do this or just send the image to your PC for editing as you would any digital image.

As with conventional digiscoping - you need to focus the scope manually using the image you see on your phone screen as your guide once it is sharp - on the iPhone you can touch the screen to lock the phone focus so it does not hunt and then fine tune the focusing on the scope to really get that sharp image.

Don't forget your smart phone will probably also shoot HD video - so there is another opportunity to capture some great action.

The results

As mentioned before, the simplicity of Phonescoping means you'll probably get a better success rate than conventional digiscoping. Over the last couple of years the camera technology in smart phones has taken a huge leap and the quality is superb - you can easily print a good quality A4 print from most smart phones and not tell the difference between a conventional compact camera.

Will phonescoping overtake compact digiscoping?

I believe it all ready has certainly in the compact camera digiscoping world. Consider the benefits of phonescoping over conventional compact digiscoping:

  • Easier and quicker to set-up
  • Smaller and more compact adapters
  • A phone is usually an item that would be carried anyway so no extra kit to carry
  • Excellent image quality
  • Large bright displays to make focusing on the scope easier
  • Sharing of images via texts and social media at the touch of button

It's easy to see why more digiscopers are using this method and ditching their compacts. I have friends who have bought iPhones purely to digiscope with because it can be so rewarding. I still believe that the DSLR digiscopng method is the best as it uses a similar method of attachment as the phones - but with far greater manual control and image quality. But if you are looking for a quick, compact and easy solution that also produces consistent good results - then in my opinion you should consider smart phone digiscoping.

For more information on the ultra compact Olivon T650 spotting scope and the Olivon universal adapter visit www.opticalhardware.co.uk


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