Mobile / Hands-on Review

In the Field: Carson HookUpz 2.0 Smartphone Optics Adapter

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The Carson HookUpz 2.0 Smartphone Optics Adapter might be one of the most versatile digiscoping solutions on the market today.

In the olden days, when you were looking through scopes or binoculars, the only way to share the view was to hand your glasses to someone standing beside you or to clear out of the way so someone else might use your spotting scope, telescope, or microscope. But those days are gone, and these days the smartphone is used around the world to share everything from photos of lunch to selfies to fine art imagery.

Combining the smartphone and powerful optics has been the newest way to share the view with friends, family, and followers around the world but, let’s face it, binoculars and scopes were never designed for digiscoping and the smartphone wasn't really designed to be snuggled up to the eyepiece on a powerful scope.

Carson HookUpz 2.0

The Carson HookUpz 2.0 is designed to be a nearly universal digiscoping adapter for your smartphone. The mount can be adjusted to accommodate smartphones up to 3.75" wide and optic eyepieces with diameters between 25mm and 58mm.

Carson HookUpz 2.0 Universal Optics Adapter for Smartphones

The unit is designed to hold a smartphone securely to its frame, allowing precise alignment of the phone's optics with the device. The opposite half of the HookUpz 2.0 is designed to grip the eyepiece of a scope carefully. According to the pros at the B&H Photo optics counter, this new design is far superior to the original HookUpz.

The HookUpz 2.0 comes with an attractive padded case and an eyepiece spacer for optics with slightly longer eye relief.

Setup

Setting up the HookUpz 2.0 with your smartphone is easy but, like some things in this world, would be much easier if we were equipped with a third arm and hand.

The phone slides into the left-hand bracket and you then pull out the spring-loaded right bracket with your other (or third) hand and allow the clamp to grab the phone. Flip the HookUpz around and then align your camera’s lens visually with the hole before locking down the top bracket with a flip-lock.

The HookUpz is made of plastic and the texture on some surfaces leads me to believe it comes from a 3D printer instead of a mold—nothing wrong with that, just an observation. The “inside” rubberized texture helps hold the phone securely. The problem with the textured surface is that when you try to adjust the phone finely, vertically in the holder, the uneven friction of the rubber seems to enjoy making the phone yaw a bit while moved and this can affect your lateral alignment.

Getting the phone precisely aligned requires some practice and patience. Also, once it is aligned, take care not to jostle the unit too much.

Attaching the HookUpz to your scope is a one-handed job and might be the easiest part of the setup. The HookUpz's padded, spring-loaded “claws” spread when you squeeze two levers on the sides of the unit. Place the HookUpz over the eyepiece of your scope or binoculars, and release the levers. The lime-green grips will close on the eyepiece and hold the entire setup securely. You will likely have to tweak your alignment a bit using the lateral adjustment screw and/or the vertical bracket. Again, practice and patience is required.

In Use

I have done a bit of “manual” smartphone digiscoping in the past. It isn’t very easy to align your phone with a small exit pupil from a powerful spotting scope. When I started using the HookUpz 2.0, I was at first a bit frustrated by the setup. However, after using it several times, I became more adept at getting my phone aligned accurately and getting everything set up for imagery.

Using the HookUpz with binoculars was the most difficult of the experiences, since you naturally want to hold the binoculars with two hands and look through the binoculars. So, mount the HookUpz on your binos and you have to hold the optics with one hand, leaving the other hand free to activate the camera's shutter and, without misaligning the phone and binoculars, help support the weight. This is all done while holding the binoculars at 1/2 an arm’s length so that you can see the smartphone screen. The good news is that, once you get used to holding and focusing the binoculars with one hand, at a fair distance from your eyes, you can quickly target and capture images. Using the Carson on tripod-mounted binoculars would be much easier and similar to using them on a spotting scope.

Speaking of spotting scopes, the HookUpz 2.0 worked well on the stable scope. There were three minor drawbacks. One, my Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope has, on its lens shade and barrel, a rudimentary iron sight (it’s actually plastic) to help with scope aiming. With the HookUpz in place, I couldn't use the sight, so acquiring a target was a slower process. The second drawback is that you need hyper-accurate alignment when using high magnification, due to the smaller exit pupil. And last, adjusting the zoom of the 20-60x eyepiece was difficult with the HookUpz mounted. After a time, I discovered that it was best to rotate the HookUpz and phone together while zooming the eyepiece. This seemed to help as long as I could maintain alignment.

The advantage of the Carson HookUpz 2.0 over doing the digiscoping without a dedicated mount is the ability to track a target once you are set up. Once you have your zoom where you want it and have found what you want to photograph, if the subject moves, you can tilt and pan your scope with the Carson attached and keep on taking photos. If you were manually holding your cell phone to the eyepiece, there is no way you would be able to maintain critical alignment while panning.

One side effect of digiscoping, and by no means exclusive to the Carson, is the fact that the phone is going to try to do its own focusing through the eyepiece. On the spotting scope, it was interesting to see how the eyepiece did not need critical focusing as the iPhone lens acted like a secondary focusing system. Just get the focus close before you attach the HookUpz and let the camera fine-tune the rest. Using binoculars, critical focus with the binos seemed to be more important to the iPhone than spotting scope focus. Another solution is to use a camera phone app that allows manual focus.


Lastly, not that you will want to be texting, making phone calls, posting on Facebook, or playing Candy Crush while digiscoping, but the HookUpz is going to get in the way of some of your phone's screen. I feel compelled to mention this as I am often surrounded by people employing multiple smartphone functions regardless of the activity in which they are engaged, be it dinner with friends, driving in traffic, or walking on crowded sidewalks.

Practice

The more you use your Carson HookUpz 2.0, the better you will get at quickly and accurately setting it up. Be patient with it as, only once you have gotten comfortable with it, will you be able to enjoy the benefits of a stable smartphone digiscoping experience fully.

Share your digiscoping experience or questions below, in the Comments section!


2 Comments

How would you expect this to compare in ease of use and results to the BeastGrip DOF or DOF MK2?  That setup seems to address ease of attachment and alignment (I have not actually used one)?

Hey Ben,

I have never used the BeastGrip DOF, so I cannot give a specific comparison, but the design of the BeastGrip looks to be set up for a much more rigid alignment of the phone to the bracket. Having said that, I have no idea how you would digiscope with the BeastGrip using a spotting scope, telescope, microscope, or binoculars unless you designed a series of adapters.

Thanks for stopping by!

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