Achieve a Sharp Image Focus

A two-handed approach

The Two-handed Approach to Focus

Here is a step-by-step process of my two-handed approach to achieving sharp images when digiscoping birds that just won't sit still! My right hand is on the camera and my left hand is on the spotting scope. My right index finger controls the shutter, which can perform two important things:

  • Establish or release the focus lock.
  • Take an exposure.

My left index finger can still control the scope's focuser, while the other fingers maintain a grip on part of the scope body and tripod head.

Here's what do to next:

This method has given me a lot of focusing control for tracking and digiscoping birds that are on the move.

  1. Use your left index finger to focus the scope. You can also use your right thumb to change the area focus bracket to the bird's face.
  2. Establish focus-lock with your right index finger by pressing the shutter button halfway down.
  3. Check the focus on LCD monitor again and, if it looks good, press the shutter button the rest of the way to take the exposure.
  4. If the focus on the LCD monitor still appears soft on the bird's face with the focus-lock on, release the lock and repeat this entire step.

With a micro-fluid head set to the appropriate tension, both hands can quickly maneuver the spotting scope to follow a moving bird.

Using digital cameras with an auto focus mode

Auto Focus Area

Some digital cameras have an auto focus mode called Area Mode that can be set to manual. When enabled, it activates a user-selectable five area display that looks something like the digital camera here. Ignoring the vignetting in this example image, you can see how I've selected the auto focus area in the red bracket to apply to the bird's face.

Article and photos contributed by Mike McDowell, an avid digiscoper, amateur naturalist, and Eagle Optics employee. Visit Mike's Birding and Digiscoping Blog.