Camera settings

In my experience there are two methods that suit the digiscoping method. Using the camera in either Aperture Priority Mode or Full manual mode offers the most flexibility and functions for successful digiscoped images, both methods are described below. If you are a beginner, I would suggest using your camera in Aperture Priority Mode.

The camera settings described below are the settings I use for my Nikon Coolpix 4500. Other digital camera model features will vary but settings will be similar.

I set my camera to either full manual mode or Aperture priority, in full manual mode I have complete control over shutter speed and aperture settings. I then use the linear exposure meter on the camera to judge if my image will be either over / under exposed. Do not use your camera in fully automatic mode, this can result in inappropriate exposure settings.

Taking your first picture using Manual Mode:
After setting the camera to full manual, use the chart opposite as a guide for other important settings.

Assuming your scope is set up as per the scope and general setup information, firstly find your subject. Not as easy as it sounds!

Using the LCD of your digital camera attached to your scope, find the subject matter so that it is in the frame. To make life easier for yourself, ensure that your scope and camera are set to there widest. This will make finding your subject matter far easier.

You will notice that your camera is showing the image in a black circle, this is perfectly normal, it's an effect called vignetting.

Example of severe Vignetting
Vignetting is a common problem and is worse on some camera models than others.

This image demonstrates vignetting when the camera is set to it's widest angle.

To minimise vignetting apply a small amount of optical zoom on your digital camera, the camera will then zoom past this effect and also increase the magnification of the image.

Don't apply to much optical zoom on the camera, and I would advise to keep your scope on its widest setting. My scope has an eyepiece of 22-68x zoom and I always keep it at 22x for best results.

Focus your scope, using the scopes focus wheel, make sure the image is nice and sharp on the cameras LCD display.

If you are using Area AF mode, I try to use the focus zone closest to the subjects head.

Using the linear exposure meter as your guide, set the shutter speed to the highest possible and the aperture to the largest (smallest F number) that the available light will allow. Ideally a shutter speed of 1/500 is needed to freeze any movement that the subject makes.

If the linear exposure meter shows that the image is under exposed, don't worry to much as this can be rectified later in the image software. If it is over exposed, either increase the shutter speed or go for a smaller aperture (an over exposed image can not be rectified in image software).

If the image is very under exposed try uping the exposure compensation to +2.0, this will lighten the final image.

Now, using your mechanical or electronic shutter release, get a focus lock by half pressing the shutter release, check that the image is sharp (fine tune the scope focusing wheel if need be) then release the shutter.

Check the playback function and see if your image is sharp. Blurred images can not be improved. Then practice, practice, practice.

Don't forget, if your image is dark, you can improve it on the PC, take lots of photographs and if you are not happy with the results, try applying different settings than mine to see if you can improve.

Taking pictures using Aperture Priority Mode

If you are a beginner I would recommend using the most popular setting for digiscoping - Aperture Priority Mode (usually A on your settings dial). This method involves less input from the user and more work from the camera. First set the camera to Aperture Priority. If using the Aperture Priority mode, set the aperture to the widest possible, the wider the aperture (the lower the F number) the more light is let into the camera allowing for faster shutter speeds. If you are using the optical zoom lens on your camera to eliminate vignetting, the widest aperture setting of your camera will decrease the more you zoom. Once you have set the Aperture to the widest, the camera will then select a suitable shutter speed for the correct exposure. This method is a lot easier than the full manual mode as the camera does most of the work. Remember, to get fast shutter speeds, the available light needs to be good, dull cloudy days are not best conditions for digiscoping as shutter speeds will be greatly reduced resulting in blurred images.

If lighting conditions are poor you can also increase the ISO setting on your camera, effectively increasing the sensitivity of the camera sensor to available light, the higher the ISO, the faster the shutter speed. Bear in mind that the higher you increase the ISO the quality of the image will deteriorate and increased noise (grainy image). Noise is worse on some cameras than others. Experiment with the ISO settings on your camera to see what level is acceptable.

Click here for some useful digiscoping beginners tips.

Proceed to spotting scope and general information
Proceed to image editing information

This page features the camera settings that I use for the Nikon Coolpix 4500 digital camera in full manual mode. Since writing this section I have digiscoped with a variety of different cameras, with the Ricoh GX100 now being my main camera, for detailed information on digiscoping with the following cameras, please click on a link below:

Digiscoping with the
Ricoh GX100

Digiscoping with the Contax SL300T*

Digiscoping with a DSLR

Focus Mode
I set the camera to Macro.

Focus Options
I use AF Area Mode, I can then choose from 5 focus zones within the image, A useful feature if you want to take a picture of a bird 'off centre'. Usually I use the focus zone that is closest to the birds head.

Auto-Focus Mode
Make sure the camera is set to Single AF

Metering
I set the metering to AF Area metering, this ties in nicely with the focus mode above, using different areas of the image to take the light readings.

Image size
Leave the image size at the maximum setting - 2272x1704.

Image Quality
Set Image quality to fine.

ISO setting
I keep the ISO between 100 and 200, Above that and noise (grainy image) can be a problem.

Continuous Shooting
Choose to shoot one shot at a time or a series of shots in quick succession.


Remember
Don't expect your images to look perfect straight out of the camera, the images on this website and others have all undergone enhancements on the computer. It's all part of the digiscoping process.

Click here to read about image enhancement techniques.

Before digiscoping for the first time, make sure the weather is nice and bright.
Due to the high shutter speeds required to get a sharp image, bright light conditions are a must for successful digiscoped images, digiscoping on a dull day can be very frustrating.




The advice on these pages is based purely on my own preferences and should be treated as guidance only. You may find other settings work better for you and your equipment.

The internet is packed with many digiscope websites to learn the best techniques, the digiscoping links page is a great place to start.