From Paper Weight to Camera: Using the Old Smartphone for Digiscoping

Phone Skope adapter hanging around a persons neck with lanyard. The title of the article is imposed over the image

Pocket change, receipts, and ballpoint pens; these items only scratch the surface of the littered mess inside my nightstand drawers and closet shelves. For me, the catch-all drawer next to my bed also includes pocket knives, screws, and trail camera cards. However, if you look a little closer, the elephant in the drawer is my old iPhone 7-plus, and, for good measure, a dust-coated 6-model. Paperweights.

What do those two devices have in common? That’s easy. They were formidable devices in the not-so-distant past.  

It’s no secret we spend a lot of hard-earned dollars on our smartphone devices. We’ve long since figured out we can’t do without them, well, until we get a newer, shinier one. While not all that common, some folks have figured out old cellular devices have some pretty handy uses. For example, they’re used for dedicated e-book readers, gaming devices, and webcams. With the help of an app, they can even be used as nifty security cameras. 

For the photographer and digiscoper, that old phone can serve as a dedicated camera for capturing, recording, and sharing outdoor subjects and landscapes. Look at it this way; Depending on the models of your discarded phones, you may be sitting on hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in photography equipment. This is good news.

With the introduction of each new smartphone model, comes new functionality. They also come with better cameras. It’s true. Heck, the newer iPhone models have more than one camera. Go figure

Still, with today’s technology, the resident camera on older models is plenty remarkable. 

Over the years, I’ve adopted digiscoping as a fun hobby, a hunting and scouting tool, a great birdwatching method, and even a great alternative for social media content. I’m not a professional photographer. Honestly, a novice might be an overstatement. I do enjoy it though, specifically when I marry a smartphone with my optics with a Phone Skope digiscoping adapter kit.  

Soon after I got acclimated to digiscoping, I discovered the merits of putting older models to use. Honestly, it’s been a game-changer, offering several benefits.

Knock Around Camera

First and foremost, I’m hard on just about anything. With regular boots on the ground hunting, scouting, and wildlife watching, I needed a device that could take a pounding. As mentioned, virtually all smartphones have good cameras. Today, I often use my iPhone 7+ for my outdoor digiscoping sessions. This gives my newer iPhone 13 Pro a respite from the hard use inherent with constant treks in the wild. Considering the new phone’s $1,000 price tag, the peace of mind is downright liberating. It takes darn good images too. 

Quicker Capturing/Better Maneuverability

Reaction time looms large when capturing images of wildlife. They’ve got a mind of their own and can be quite skittish. While digital cameras have advantages, they simply take more time when digiscoping. Once you’re acclimated to digiscoping via a smartphone, adapter, and optics, you’d be surprised how fast you can capture a quality magnified image. It also doesn’t hurt that smartphones are smaller in size than most traditional cameras. This is a coup, as it’s easy to leave your smartphone attached to your optics in between shooting sessions.

Note, it’s still a good idea to take your time. There is no reason for wildly clicking off pictures. A well-set-up digiscoping setup will serve you well in the moment of truth.

Skope adapter hanging around the neck

A Custom Phone Skope adapter kit pairs well with an old device – so well that you can even leave them connected.

Custom Digiscoping Kits

Image of the Phone Skope Builder shopSk

Phone Skope’s easy online Phone Skope Builder Page will result in an adapter that securely attaches your optics to your smartphone.

Universal digiscoping adapters like Phone Skope’s Universal Optic Adapter provide great flexibility across optics types. But, it’s hard to beat a Phone Skope custom adapter kit for run and gun digiscoping. These kits make for a solid connection for almost any old phone model. The best part is Phone Skope offers custom solutions for older models too. This means you’ll always have a kit at the ready for putting your once dust-gathering cell phone to work. Again, the ability to leave your phone attached to your optics is huge. It also means you can keep your main smartphone safely in your pocket for calls and messaging.

Photo and Video Storage

This one can almost go without saying. I take a ton of images with my phone cameras, such as family pictures and other personal footage. As a hunter and outdoor content creator, I need to keep my field images organized. It’s easy for me to use the very same repurposed phone for filing images away on the fly. This makes for the simple transfer to a desktop computer for editing or further use. Think of your old phone as storage for your digiscoped imagery and photography in general. If it’s not already empty, take time to do so. There is valuable unused space on these little devices.

Unique Features

There are things a smartphone camera can do that a digital camera can’t. While arguably some are trivial, there are basic features that provide good companion functionality to your digiscoping efforts. For one, you can utilize image-editing apps. At a minimum, you can use your notes app for documenting your images and field trips. Smartphone cameras also create panorama photos more seamlessly than digital cameras.  

Phone Note's app with various digiscoping terms

Like their new counterparts, old smartphones have features that can enhance your digiscoping efforts.

Of course, if you need a break from digiscoping, you can read, listen to music, or catch your favorite podcast. Just saying.

Have you checked your drawers or closets lately? If not, I recommend it. You just might find that you have an idle iPhone or Android brand camera ripe for digiscoping adventure. Wipe off the dust, charge it, and get ya some.

Of course, if you need a break from digiscoping, you can read, listen to music, or catch your favorite podcast. Just saying.

Have you checked your drawers or closets lately? If not, I recommend it. You just might find that you have an idle iPhone or Android brand camera ripe for digiscoping adventure. Wipe off the dust, charge it, and get ya some.

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