Bird watching can quickly go from casual identification to the kind of hobby you find taking up most of the posts on your social media (#birding?). If you have found yourself sneaking around in your pajamas in the freezing cold in an attempt to get close enough to a bluebird to take a photo where it looks larger than a blueberry, you might consider the world of digiscoping.

Smartphone-Adapter1Digiscoping is a means for attaching a camera or smart phone to an optical telescope so that it can act as a powerful magnification device allowing you to take high quality images of far away subjects. It’s more than just holding a camera up to a telescope, however. The alignment between the lenses of the camera and the scope can create a challenge and even those with steady hands find that the differential shake between the two lenses multiplies the problem. For those wanting super sharp images, an adaptor is a necessary piece of equipment.

Chestnut Sided Warbler. Taken with iPhone 4S through MM3 50 ED / 45 & HDF T Zoom kit

Chestnut Sided Warbler. Taken with iPhone 4S through MM3 50 ED / 45 & HDF T Zoom kit

Opticron has come up with a unique, 3D printed solution. The company, founded in the United Kingdom in 1970, specializes in the creation of optical solutions for wildlife enthusiasts. They offer products ranging from binoculars to fieldscopes to tripods, all in an effort to provide quality instruments that give the consumer the optimal viewing experience.

Realizing that many people these days use their smartphones as a primary way of capturing imagery, Opticron developed a lightweight, 3D printed smartphone photoadaptor. Each adaptor is configured for a specific model of phone so that the optimum relationship between camera lens and eyepiece is maintained, ensuring that the technology gets out of the way enough for the photographer to truly capture what they see. While the merits of telephotography versus digiscoping can be debated, it’s easy to see why this adaptor would be appealing. When combined with a high quality fieldscope, it’s possible to capture a high quality image with 12x – 100x magnification. This takes the bird from the blueberry in the first instance and lets you see the twinkle in its eye.

Smartphone-Adapter0The adaptor is being produced through i.materialise and Opticron’s spokesperson described the benefits of working with 3D printing as the method for production:

“The main benefit to Opticron of using 3D printing, and in particular of using i.materialise, has been the ability to get a very fast turnaround on prototypes. For the first adaptors (for iPhone5), we were able to go from initial design to placing a production order in three weeks. Stock was in hand three weeks after that and we were able to deliver to our customers the following week.

“A further benefit is the flexibility we can offer in terms of customization. As an example, one of our members of staff uses a Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini phone. This is not one of the models we had selected for mass production but as this person does demonstrate our products to customers, we decided to make a one-off adaptor for her. In purple. And with the Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini logo embossed on it.”

The company plans to continue to add models as phones are introduced and has plans to begin production on adaptors that will work with telescopes that were created by other manufacturers.

TinkerCAD-screengrab-opticron

It sounds like the folks at Opticron have added a new obsession to their interest in wildlife watching: 3D printing.

Do you go birding with photographic equipment? Let us know if you think Opticron’s new product would help you out over in the 3D Printed Photoadaptor forum thread at 3DPB.com.

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