With the increased quality of cell phone cameras, more people are using them to photograph birds using their scopes as a huge zoom. Several adapters have come onto the market that fit onto the iPhone 4 and newer models, as well as some that work on various Android phones. Here we will review some of the best adapters that we have been able to test.
There are two main types of adapters that are popular right now. The most common is a 2-part adapter where the phone case and eyepiece adapter are detachable. This generally makes this style of digiscoping adapter easy to slip in your pocket; you can either detach the eyepiece adapter to slide the phone the whole way into your pocket, or you can keep the eyepiece adapter attached and slide the phone into your pocket with the eyepiece adapter at the top, which conveniently keeps the iPhone waiting at the top of your pocket.
The other style is a one piece adapter. With this style, the iPhone is not easily pocketable when it is attached to the adapter but is more adjustable.
One thing that is pretty important for an adapter is to easily adjust the distance between the camera and the eyepiece so that you can minimize vignetting and get a clear image. All of the below adapters are able to do this, especially if your scow eyepiece has an eyecup that extends in and out without twisting.
Novagrade Universal Smartphone Adapter
The Novagrade adapter is unique among the adapters we are reviewing as it is not a case that you phone slips into. Rather, your phone is held at the right spot over your scope eyepiece by snapping into place with two holding brackets. The brackets are held together with a spring making it a simple matter to pop your phone in and out. This means that you can use the phone normally, with any case you own, and just slip the adapter on when you want to snap a shot. I use a rubbery case on my phone, and the brackets held tightly to the case, making the phone feel very secure.
This makes the Novagrade adapter very sharable, as most iPhone cases are roughly the same size and the Novagrade adapter is very easy to adjust. This was the most expensive adapter I tested, but it would also likely be the last smartphone digiscoping adapter you would have to buy as the adjustability should allow it to function with a wide range of phones. You should have no problem popping your Nokia Lumia or Samsung Galaxy into this adapter and getting some great shots.
The eyepiece adapter ring comes with several collars of different sizes that you can use depending on the size of your scopes eyepiece. To attach the adapter to your scope, you simply set it down over the scope eyepiece and twist the collar to tighten it. The Novagrade adapter tightens very smoothly and securely on the eyepiece and I felt comfortable leaving my phone sitting on the eyepiece when it was tightened down.
Precision machined, smooth operation, premium feel and wide adaptability are the real pros to the Novagrade. The tightening collar is really slick and makes for a very stable connection to the eyepiece. Use your own case with no need to change cases just to digiscope.
The adapter is somewhat chunky, and the phone will not slide into your pocket when it is on the phone. However, it is really easy to pop your phone in and out of the adapter, so this isn’t a huge issue. Price.
The Phone Skope is a versatile and easy to use adapter. Like the Kowa and Meopta adapters reviewed below, the Phone Skope adapter consists of two parts, the case and the eyepiece adapter. The case is a simple plastic case that your phone slides into, providing a very snug fit that secures the phone. You can pick up a case that fits your iPhone, Motorola, Nokia and more, and if you have a phone that isn’t listed, there is a universal adapter that you can attach to your own case to turn any phone into a digiscoping machine.
The eyepiece adapter comes in several sizes, so you can choose the specific size that you need for your scope (they make them for most scope brands and do custom sizing for other brands). There is also a universal adapter that you can adjust in the field to quickly slip on or off of any brand scope.
The Phone Skope cases are solid and afford the phone some level of protection if it is dropped, while the fit of the eyepiece adapter (at least on my Zeiss Diascope) was snug enough that I felt very comfortable leaving the phone just sitting on the eyepiece, something that is crucial if you want to get some high quality video with no shake or vibration.
One thing unique about Phone Skope is that in addition to iPhone and Android cases, they also make models for iPads! It might seem absurd at first, but hooking up an iPad to a scope would be a great way to share what you are seeing in the scope because people can just look at the iPad screen rather than having to get close to the scope and adjust the height and focus, potentially getting off of the bird. I could see this being a game changer for leading group bird walks, especially kids who might have problems looking through the scope eyepiece without bumping the scope off of the bird.
Universal fit, easy to use, secure case. I like that the case and eyepiece adapter are purchased separately, this means if you upgrade your phone, you can just buy the new case, or if you have a new scope, you can just get the correct sized eyepiece adapter.
You wouldn’t want to use the case as the everyday case for your phone, as the attachment for the eyepiece adapter is a large circle that extends beyond the case. However, this is flat, so if you pull the eyepiece adapter off of the case, it fits easily in your pocket, so this is not much of a con.
Website – http://www.phoneskope.com
The bottom line for the two adapters above is that they are both really great. The Phone Skope is nicer to use during a full days birding as you can slide your phone in the case and forget about it, while the Novagrade is a super versatile adapter that feels premium and is easy to pop on when you need it. The remaining two adapters I have not had much personal experience, so I am relying on what others have told me and what I see on their websites.
Kowa Digiscoping Adapter
The Kowa adapter is only available for the iPhone 4 and 4S (supposedly for the iPhone 5 as well but I couldn’t find it on their site. It is available at Eagle Optics), but is a good adapter for those models. I have never gotten a chance to use the Kowa adapter personally, but friends who have used it all speak favorably about it. This adapter is a case with several different sized eyepiece adapters that fit most of the major scope eyepieces including the Kowa 77/88mm zoom eyepieces, Swarovski ATS/ATM zoom eyepieces, Vortex Razor HD zoom eyepiece, and Zeiss 15-45/20-60x zoom eyepiece. It also comes with an adapter that fits binoculars which is handy if you are out birding without a scope.
A unique feature of this adapter is a lanyard that you can rest on your eyepiece as a safety in case it falls off of your scope.
Phone quickly pops into and out of the case, eyepiece adapters are small and easy to put on. The piece of the case that attaches to the eyepiece adapter barely sticks out from the case, making it easily pocketable with the attachment screwed off.
Provides very little protection for the phone. The case also has many thin areas that make the phone easy to snap in but are likely more prone to breaking.
If your scope doesn’t fit with one of the provided eyepiece adapters, you will have to shell out some more money to get the correct fitting adapter.
Website – Kowa
Meopta Meopix 5 iScoping Adapter
When I used the iScoping adapter with my iPhone 4S, I was unable to use a screen cover on the phone because the width of the case was too precisely formed for the phone to slide in when it had any sort of screen cover. I like using a screen cover to protect the phone from scratches so this was a real downside for me. However, I believe this was fixed in the model that fits the iPhone 5/5s. On the newest adapters, the eyepiece adapter comes off and the case has no raised areas so it is really usable as a full time case; you can just keep the adapters nearby to screw on when you have a digiscoping opportunity.
You can use the case for daily use by popping the eyepiece adapter off.
Only available for iPhone and specific eyepiece sizes.
We received test adapters from both Phone Skope and Novagrade, however all the opinions expressed above are our own.