Many hunters and wildlife watchers own spotting scopes and/or binoculars and they are effective tools for viewing wildlife from long distances away and getting detailed views at closer ranges. With an appropriate adapter, you can take video and photographs through a spotting scope or binoculars with a smartphone or camera (often referred to as digiscoping). Phone and camera adapters for spotting scopes range from $10 for the least expensive models to over $100 for more premium products.
A few months ago I bought my first spotting scope and part of the reason for my purchase was to use the spotting scope as a telephoto lens to video and photograph wildlife with my smartphone. I also purchased two different spotting scope adapters to find which one performed best for digiscoping with a smartphone. This article describes what I’ve learned about the adapters, and which one I’d recommend, after six months of use.
The two adapters I tested were the Grosky Spotting Scope Phone Camera Adapter and the PhoneCam Universal Adapter (by Scope)Cam.
Grosky Spotting Scope Phone Camera Adapter
The Grosky Spotting Scope Phone Camera Adapter is in the budget adapter in the budget ($30) price range (check price on Amazon). It is a universal adapter that can fit nearly any smartphone. I purchased this adapter because it was the adapter budget category that appeared to have the simplest operation and the best reviews.
How it Works
The Grosky uses two knobs to make adjustments to line the adapter up with the phone camera. A side knob tightens a cradle to your phone. This cradle is well padded to protect your smartphone as it is tightened down. A second knob on the back of the adapter allows the adapter, which is attached to the cradle, to extend and pivot so the viewing hole can line up with your phone’s camera.
Once mounted to the phone, the adapter is attached to a spotting scope or binocular eyepiece by twisting the tightening ring counter-clockwise.
PhoneCam Universal Spotting Scope Adapter (by Scope)Cam)
The ScopeCam adapter is a premium optics adapter that costs about $100 (check price on Amazon). It is also a universal adapter. I purchased the ScopeCam adapter because it was made of quality materials and had a mounting system that seemed like it might be more stable than the Grosky adapter.
How it Works
The ScopeCam adapter has two parts. The first part mounts directly to your phone case with adhesive strips. I recommend getting a new phone case specifically to put the adapter on so don’t have the adapter getting in the way during everyday use. Once the adhesive strips had bonded to the case I used epoxy to make sure the mounting piece was fully secure. PhoneCam also sells cases for specific phone models that come with an integrated mounting piece. There wasn’t a case available for my phone model (Moto G Power) so I went with the universal adhesive option.
PhoneCam provides a template with the kit to help you line up your phone camera directly with the center of the mount for the eyepiece adapter. This is critical because if the camera doesn’t line up with the center of the optic eyepiece all you’ll get is a black screen.
After the mounting piece is secured to your phone, PhoneCam’s universal eyepiece adapter threads right onto the mounting piece. You can then adjust the adapter to fit the eyepiece of nearly and spotting scope or binocular to attach your phone.
The Best Spotting Scope Adapter for Smartphones
I spent several days testing both the PhoneCam and Grosky spotting scope adapters with my Leupold SX-2 Alpine (check out my review of the spotting scope here). I used the adapters to capture videos and photographs in situations ranging from waterfowl on urban ponds to bears, deer, and turkeys over a mile away. After using both adapters for a few days the PhoneCam adapter was clearly the better product. Now let me explain why.
The Grosky spotting scope adapter was easy to mount to my phone and I was able to line up the center of the phone camera with the eyepiece adapter fairly well. The problem was that I couldn’t tighten the adjustment knob on the back tight enough.
When attached to a spotting scope the weight of the phone would cause the adapter to pivot slightly over time. This required adjustment every few minutes to keep the camera lined up with the center of the eyepiece adapter. It’s also a little tedious getting the camera in the exact center of the adapter hole.
Because the PhoneCam mount is permanent on the phone case you only have to line the camera up once. Then you thread on the eyepiece adapter and there’s no readjustment necessary. The PhoneCam is much more consistent and mounts more quickly (once it’s set up) than the Grosky.
Even though the PhoneCam Adapter costs significantly more than the Grosky I think it’s worth the investment.