Digiscope Cell Phone




About: We celebrate creativity on the southern Oregon coast at our store, the Electric Hospital, and outdoors where we enjoy the wonders. We might be sewing with a long arm robotic quilting machine in the morning a...

Using a spotting scope is great fun but you may want to record what you see. I have been digiscoping before with my DSLR camera. It is fun but requires a lot of logistics. When the camera changes focus the lens moves. This greatly complicates the mechanism as I had to build rails to keep the camera aligned with the telescope. I took apart a tripod and used the legs as my slides. The coupling to the scope was sewer fitting with hose clamps. Because of the weight and bulk it was not stable on a tripod. I sewed a sand bag that I placed on the rear deck of the canoe. Next I beached the canoe, laid on a pad in the hull and operated the camera.

It was time for something better that would fold flat for transport and not weigh 40 pounds.

Step 1:

What I really have been lusting for is one of those giant lenses you see all the professionals use on their DSLR. The Nikon lens is $9,995.00 not a toy I will ever own.

Our modern cell phones take reasonable pictures. It seems a natural to marry the two together. This is not a new idea as there are adapters on the market to couple the two. The problem is they want my hard earned money for these and none of them allow you to use your waterproof case that I like to keep my iPhone in.

My friend suggested coupling a telescope and cell phone you could name it a, "TELEPHONE."

Step 2: Materials and Evolution

Of course you will need a cell phone, telescope and good tripod. The adapter I crafted used some scrap wood, a hose clamp, a left over scrap of metal with a 1/4 X 20 bolt and knurled knob, scrap of PVC 2" pipe, two screws and a spring cell phone holder. Optional gear is a protective case for the cell phone, ear buds, adapter cable, sport bag and closed cell foam for transportation.

Step 3: Remote Shutter Release

The further the item being viewed the more camera movement matters. Using the volume switch on the ear buds works as a shutter release. Since the cell phone is in a waterproof case it is necessary to screw in a cable to attach the ear buds.

Step 4: The Plan

Like most projects this evolved as I used it. I needed to have the phone offset to the right and up to make the camera lens line up with the eye piece on the telescope. The pictures explain it better than a few thousand words.

Step 5: Brackets

Build an L bracket of wood screw on the metal strap, Attach the wood with a pipe strap to the scope. Mount the scrap metal (old flash bracket for an SlR) to the L bracket. Use the bolt to attach the cell phone clamp. This will depend on the shape of your camera, tripod, and cell phone.

Step 6: Take Some Pictures.

I am totally impressed with how much fun this is. Indulge me as I show some images I took on the waterfront. You may have to look close to see the item when photographed with a normal lens.

Step 7: What I Learned

The original bracket had to be adjusted such that the cell phone clamp did not push the volume button. I had not realized when held down the shutter takes a series of rapid pictures. This also prevented from using the ear bud's low volume as a shutter release.

The long distance in fog increases the fuzz of the image.

Keeping the tripod steady and using a time lapse will improve the image quality. Notice the island has seals hauled out on the beach. Zooming in with the telescope eye piece also reduces image quality.

Step 8: Vignetting

To eliminate the vignetting you can zoom in with the phone. This does reduce the image quality as it does a digital zoom.

Step 9: Clamp Adaption

The second adaption was to clamp the phone tight to the eye piece. I carved a short section of 2" PVC pipe with my band saw and a utility knife. I cut an arch and slit in the scrap of PVC pipe to make a custom clamp.

Step 10: Pack It Flat

The great thing about the tripod telescope and cell phone is it is so easy to pack it flat. The quick disconnect was used on the scope and the bracket for the phone stays attached to the scope. The phone can be used while setup on the telescope. Even the front looking selfie camera can be used, since the clamps are out of the way. The entire package quickly fits in a sport bag with a shoulder strap.

You've got to build one of these. Keep me posted of your changes to this fun idea.

Even if you don't build one you can vote for this project. LOL.

Step 11: I Just Digiscoped the Moon With My Phone.

Step 12: Digiscope 3.1

This is my latest version. I used a monocular, bulldog clamp and a book end along with some plastic clips and some bolts. It is not as powerful a telescope but is much more portable. The book end protects the monocular from touching the bottom of my canoe when I lay it down while attached to the tripod. The wide end provides a rest that keeps it stable from turning over in a rocking boat.

I find this very portable I was able to use the monocular without the iphone. Then I put little pieces of foam to index the phone to the eyepiece. When in place I clip it on with the clamp. The hardest part was bending the book end at the perfect places. I used a metal nibbler to cut out so the buttons would be easy to push.

The normal view with the phone has the river bag in the foreground and the tall ship in the background.

The next shot is close up with the ship and the last one is a zoomed version of the Hawaiian Chieftain.

Step 13:



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    8 Discussions


    3 years ago

    I hope this comes through. Cheers


    1 reply
    Dr. JoeSortG

    Reply 3 years ago

    Nice work. Thanks.


    3 years ago

    Very clever, I did a little bit of post editing on your seals but did'nt know whether you would apreciate. It I'l try to post if you want to see or delete irf you prefer.

    1 reply
    Dr. JoeSortG

    Reply 3 years ago

    Yes I would love to see your post editing.


    3 years ago

    This is great! You've really gotten some nice shots with this set up. I need to get a scope! :)

    2 replies
    Dr. Joeseamster

    Reply 3 years ago

    Thank you. I am looking forward to a lot more nature photography. Of course if you live in the big city you can spy on your neighbors.

    seamsterDr. Joe

    Reply 3 years ago

    Ha! I used to do quite a bit of bird watching, actually.

    But also there's the fact that my neighbors are not good looking enough to want to spy on anyway ;)