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Handy help for digiscoping?

The majority of digital cameras, whether compact, system, or DSLR, have a LiveView function. When using the camera in the normal fashion, the view on the relevant display frequently replaces what you see in the viewfinder. This application can also be used when digiscoping. Some benefits and tips are provided here that you should consider.

Olympus OM-D E-M1

Many DSLR users still swear by the view they can see through the optical viewfinder for maintaining maximum control over the image. This involves, first of all, setting the focus level in the right (desired) position; secondly, choosing the section of the image you want to photograph; and, thirdly, estimating the focus depth you expect, if the camera model allows you to do this. A fourth point that could possibly be mentioned involves controlling the camera’s functions intuitively and quickly via the status bar in the viewfinder window. But this essentially depends on how the relevant camera is individually used.

The usual optical viewfinder has now also been replaced in many cases with a digital viewfinder, meaning that you still look at a kind of viewfinder image, but instead of an analog (“real”) image appearing, the object in the camera lens is shown via the display. This is frequently the case with newer system camera models. With a sufficiently rapid frame rate, these images are definitely comparable with a normal optical viewfinder. However, sufficient testing should be carried out to exclude delays when displaying images, especially in the case of rapid movements (e.g. Olympus OM-D).

Nevertheless, many compact cameras no longer offer optical or digital viewfinders either, but only use the camera display to control the majority of the camera’s functions, such as field of view and focus. A key feature offered by camera displays is their ability to be tilted and expanded, which is very much relevant to digiscoping.

To what extent is digiscoping affected by these developments?

Observing for a long period through a monocular device puts a strain on your eyes. The same is just as true for a camera viewfinder as for observing through a spotting scope. You would expect a wildlife photographer to be “observing” for a shorter period, but it often takes some time before the White-tailed Eagle flies off to hunt for prey or the young Hoopoes leave their nest. Therefore, if you set up your spotting scope with your camera and have targeted it at the object you want, the LiveView function allows you to observe it in a much more relaxed manner on the camera display rather than looking at the view non-stop through the viewfinder or spotting scope eyepiece, causing you fatigue. Where the line of vision is at a steep angle, an expandable display also ensures that you can observe the situation in a very relaxed manner.

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LiveView via Wi-fi

Current cameras also offer the option of transferring the camera or spotting scope image to a smartphone or tablet PC via wireless interfaces, making it even more convenient to observe and to use for digiscoping (e.g. Canon 70D, Olympus OM-D EM-1, Samsung NX2000). If you are observing animals with a large flight initiation distance, this may offer you an opportunity to take up a position at a “safe” distance, while still being able to use the majority of your camera’s functions. You should obviously not overestimate this application with moving objects. The camera constantly needs to be reconfigured.

Focusing on the object you want is a fairly difficult task, depending on the display quality (resolution, brightness, size, etc.), along with the camera software’s efficiency. For instance, a 1:1 magnification can often be set. As a result, you can display, so to speak, a real section of the image (as opposed to the whole image, which is shown as smaller on the display) and obtain good support when focusing. When the image display is poor, it may be preferable to look at the image through the viewfinder.

Choosing LiveView when using your digiscoping equipment gives you the option of numerous new variations. But you are still recommended to use the direct viewfinder image instead only for freehand digiscoping without a tripod.