Binoculars As Digital Camera Telephoto Lens

Here’s how to use your binoculars to take excellent distant photos without an expensive camera and telephoto lens.

I have an aging Canon PowerShot Digital ELPH camera which takes great pictures but has only a 2X optical zoom and 6X digital zoom. Sometimes I just can’t zoom in close enough to get a good shot.

Binocular as telephoto lens

But even without fine digital photography equipment, I get hundreds of great photos of the wildlife of Anna Maria Island, thanks to a clever technique. I’m not aiming to take professional quality photos to display in art shows or to market and sell. I simply want to have digital photos to capture the amazing wildlife I see on this beautiful island. Sometimes I email my photos to friends, or even to local wildlife and environmental officials.

I have a pair of old binoculars, handy on the kitchen counter, which I grab whenever I see something interesting outside. Usually, it is the nesting activity of great blue herons in a nearby Australian pine. First I look through the binoculars to see what’s happening in the nest. Sometimes, it’s a mating pair bringing twigs to each other, for ritualistic nest building. Sometimes it’s heron chicks that haven’t fledged yet, looking a bit crowded and impatient to fly. Sometimes they spread their wings in practice flight. A happy moment occurs when the parent brings food to the nest. The saddest sight was a dead chick hanging below a nest, swaying in the breeze.

How can you photograph these moments? Here’s the trick: To take photos of distant objects, hold the camera lens right up to the left eye piece of the binoculars. You have to be careful to line up the camera with the eye piece of the binoculars so that the image you see on the camera display does not have a dark perimeter. Zoom the camera in or out as desired and click.

The binoculars act as a fine telephoto addition to the camera optics, and the camera’s digital technology takes care of the exposure.

The beauty of digital photography is that such experiments can be made freely, with no worries about expense, until one comes up with an excellent image.


I can even take great videos with the Canon PowerShot in this way. Be sure to focus the binoculars carefully and use the highest resolution setting on your camera. You can get surprisingly good pictures using an inexpensive digital camera, and binoculars as a telephoto lens.


4 thoughts on “Binoculars As Digital Camera Telephoto Lens

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