aba events

    PhoneSkope Mods

    I'm pleased that several manufacturers are producing phone scoping adapters, giving folks a stable option for recording distant birds with their smart phone through their scope.  Meopta and Kowa have nice models that work well, and I'll have a detailed review of these coming up in the Feb. issue of Winging It.  Their main limitation for now seems to be that they are only made for iPhone 4/4s and only come in adapter diameters matching their scopes and bins (though they will work on other optics if the eyepiece diameter matches closely enough.)  

    Another outfit, PhoneSkope, has a much more universal solution in their phone scoping adapter.  They have many stock smart phone options beyond the iPhone 4/4s (including iPhone 5, Samsung, and Motorola) and will also custom fabricate a phone adapter if it works within their production specification limits.  The adapter portion that connects to the scope is also customizable, locking onto to the phone bracket via a bayonet mount.  

    The PhoneSkope adapter has interchangeable, customizable components- the phone bracket and the eyepiece adapter, which connect by bayonet mount.

    The team at PhoneSkope went out of their way to mill me a custom adapter to use with my Nikon EDG scope so I could review the product, but the large diameter of the eyepiece was slightly beyond their machining capabilities.  But I've always believed that digiscoping (or in this case, phone scoping) is pretty experimental, so I dug around my garage to see what might work.  I found an unused shop vac connector that fit my eyepiece like a glove and decided to go for the mod:

    First, I knocked off the needed end of a shop vac adapter with my band saw (a hacksaw would have worked just as well but hey, Power Tools!)  Still had all of my fingers when I was finished, which is good…

    Next step was to clean up the cut on the belt sander.  (Hand sanding would work as well but hey, Power Tools!)


    Size check looks good!

    The scavenged tube fits like it was custom-made for the task.

    And the adapter tube looks like it will fit well on the phone bracket!

    Convinced it would work, I decided to to glue it up.  Unfortunately, this took away the great PhoneSkope feature of interchangeable eyepiece adapters but you gotta do what you gotta do.  (Epoxy would work well but hey, Super Glue!)

    To the field!!  The PhoneSkope gives a nice centered image and stable mount.  On my zoom eyepiece it starts somewhat vignetted at full camera wide, but by zooming in the phone a bit a full-frame image is obtainable.

    Another look at the rig, & what's that bump on the branch? 

    Hey, it's a distant 2nd-year Bald Eagle brought into iPhone range with my spotting scope and PhoneSkope adapter!


    Smart phones shoot video too.  My iPhone won't zoom when filming movies so the side vignetting is there, but it isn't too distracting and opens the possibility of capturing behaviors in a way that still photos can't. 


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    Bill Schmoker

    Bill Schmoker

    Bill is known in the birding community as a leading digital photographer of birds. Since 2001 he has built a collection of digital bird photos documenting over 640 species of North American birds. His photography has appeared in international nature publications, books, newspapers, interpretive signs, web pages, advertisements, corporate logos, and as references for art works. Also a published writer, Bill wrote a chapter for Good Birders Don't Wear White, is a past Colorado/Wyoming regional editor for North American Birds and is proud to be on the Leica Birding Team. Bill is a Colorado eBird reviewer and is especially fond of his involvement with the ABA's Institute for Field Ornithology and Young Birder Programs. Bill is a popular birding guide, speaker, and workshop instructor, and teaches middle school science in Boulder, Colorado. When he isn’t birding he enjoys family time with his wife and son.
    Bill Schmoker

    Latest posts by Bill Schmoker (see all)

    • http://godgirlgail.com Gail @godgirlgail

      wow, wish I had a shop in my garage!

    • http://profile.typepad.com/schmoker Bill Schmoker

      Gail- my philosophy is that garages are for tools & toys! Driveways are for cars. (Though I’m wise enough to have one side of the garage clear for my wife’s car!!) t(ツ)_/¯

    • http://www.thermalbirding.com/ Tim Schreckengost

      I’ve been using the universal set up with my Vortex Skyline 80 scope and Samsung Stratosphere phone. I had to attach a part of the adapter onto a phone case using velcro and epoxy. It seems to be working quite well now. I’ve posted about my first test run here: http://www.thermalbirding.com/2012/11/first-run-with-the-phoneskope-smartphone-unviersal-adapter/

      Nice review, Bill!

    • http://www.weekendbirding.com Stoddard Davenport

      Great post! I was just shopping for a good digiscoping setup, and you inspired to me to make my own adapter for my smartphone instead! Check out my new rig here:

    • http://profile.typepad.com/schmoker Bill Schmoker

      Looking strong, Tim!! Love to see other options besides iPhone.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/schmoker Bill Schmoker

      Stoddard- that is simple & elegant, & looks very effective. Nicely done!!

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