While I love this blog, I now pretty much only write on my other two blogs: BirdingBlogs.com and 10,000 Birds - I would love to see you there!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

How to successfully take photos through your binoculars - the digibinning technique

Digibinning shot of a Steppe Marmot taken in the steppes of Kazakhstan. completely unedited.

So a lot of people have asked me about taking photos through binoculars, and I tend to write about digibinning fairly often. But the thing is, I still don't think that very many people ever do digibinning even though I am convinced it is a fantastic tool/resource for the average birder and field naturalist (butterflies, dragonflies, giraffe eyes). So while I was in Kazakhstan, I made a short YouTube video introducing digibinning and showing how easy it is to do in the field.

I use the Swarovski Snapshot Adapter with whatever pair of binoculars I have with me at the time (at the moment it is normally the Swaro EL 8x32). The procedure for using the snapshot adapter is as follows:
  1. Slide the snapshot adapter on to the eyecup of the binoculars until it is firmly in place.
  2. Screw the eyecup back in as far as it will go
  3. Switch your compact camera on so that the lens extends out of the camera body
  4. Now if you play with the swarovski snapshot adapter, you will see that it is made of two plastic rings. if you twist these two rings, the three plastic feet on the inside of the snapshot adapter will extend and retract. you want to retract these as far as possible by rotating the top ring anticlockwise. you now have a great big opening to insert your camera's zoom lens
  5. Insert your camera's zoom lens in to the opening. If it does not fit in to the hole, then the snapshot adapter will not work for your camera (but I have only seen this with very few standard compact cameras)
  6. Slowly rotate the upper ring of the snapshot adapter clockwise so that the holding feet come out to grip lightly against the camera's lens (you will have to holding the camera in place on the binoculars while you do this)
  7. You camera should now be semi-fixed to the binoculars to form one fairly stable unit. Note: be careful that the snapshot adapter is not very tight against the zoom lens and that your camera does not turn itself off and try to retract the lens. I tend to have the connection firm but not too tight, and I usually turn off my "lens retract" automatic power off.
  8. With one stable unit, you can now hold the binoculars in a vertical position, and adjust the focus on the binoculars until the subject is clear
  9. Let your camera autofocus to fine-tune the image (macro mode is invariably best for both digiscoping and for digibinning), and
  10. Take the photo!
Because I tend to expend most of my bird photographic energies digiscoping with a regular telescope, I only tend to use digibinning through my binoculars when I do not have my birding scope with me. This is especially so when I am out hiking or birding in areas where I know the going will be tough (long, long hours; climbing/scrambling; thugs about; trudging through deep snow; torrential rain...). But at these times, it is really great to have a means to get some nice bird photos.

A rather confiding steppe marmot. Digiscoped using a Swarovski ATM80, 25-50x wide-angle zoom eyepiece, the DCB digiscoping adaptor, and my little Canon A590IS

I would love to see YOUR DIGIBINNING PHOTOS, so if you have some, send me a link or write a comment...

Happy birding
Dale Forbes


Gaelyn said...

I'm going to have to try this, maybe without the adapter for a while.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

What an interesting concept Dale. I saw you talking about this earlier on in another articel but know I know exactly how it is done. I must try this the next time I go out but I wonder if I will get the adaptor here? I will check it out when I am at a camera shop again. Thanks for the info.

I left a message for you about your visit.

FAB said...

Dale. Thanks for sharing this in depth but easy to understand method.
So far I have not seen the adaptor mentioned in any birding magazine adverts. Will probably have to visit a dedicated Swaro dealer for a chat. Cheers Frank

Mike Weedon said...

Great shots and great video, Dale, but in it your beard looks quite shocking! Sort it out! ;)


Anonymous said...

I've done a bit of digibinning with my Swarovski 8x32mm bins as well; it's a superb field technique. Here are a couple posts from the past with digibinned images:



Kevin said...

Great demo Dale and some great captures also!

Dale Forbes said...

Hi Gaelyn, if you are really lucky, your camera will fit snugly in to the eyecup of your binoculars - then you wont need an adapter. bonus!

Joan, if you use a pair of swarovski binoculars then Whysalls will certainly have the adapter.

Hi Frank, the adapter should be fairly easy to find in the UK (it ships standard with every new binocular). Hope you have a wonderful time wherever "away from the internet" may be!

Mike, lol, you were supposed to be doing the makeup and styling for the shot. but instead you were shouting rude comments about my nether regions. keeping the beard mess in order was far from the top of my list of priorities (nothing unusual there).

Hi John, I had read both of those posts previously - great posts as always. Thanks for stopping by.

Kevin, if you manage to get any more digiscoped shots of the black skimmer I would definitely love to see them. your first attempt produced a great image!

Chris said...

Gosh Dale, thanks for the info I will definitively try one day, but I have to buy a small digital first ;-)
Did you know of somebody who tried the Swarovski STM 80HD and its adaptor TLS 800 to a canon 450D or equivalent. It looks like it gives a 800-1600mm range but I was wondering about the definition, sharpness, and bokeh. Would be useful to know as this is a really non-expensive non-heavy (weight) solution...

Dale Forbes said...

Hi Chris, I was out at the wallcreepers yesterday with a very similar setup to the one you mentioned (except with a Canon D350 not 450). I will hopefully post some shots later today (but they are at ISO1600). I also have some other shots with the same setup in the post "The Black Kites are feeling frisky"

Dawn Fine said...

Great shots and information on digabining! I have done some digibining before..but without the adapter.
Dont know if I can get adapter for my binos..I will have to look into it..
Thanks for the video as well

Chris said...

Hi Dale.
Thanks for your answer but then next question, what about the weight of this set-up???