How to take wildlife pictures through binoculars

05.16.11 | 8 Comments

What do you do on a safari in the famous Maasai Mara National Park in Kenya without a super fancy zoom lens but still wanting to take mesmerizing shots?

Answer: point and shoot camera + binoculars (ok and a little photo-editing).

I have a Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS with a 3x optical zoom which does an ok job and a 12x digital zoom that’s never satisfying to me. As I was looking at the stunning Maasai Mara wildlife through my compact and affordable Olympus Roamer 8 x 21 DPC 1 binoculars, I had an idea: what if I could use the binoculars as my zoom lens? It turns out that the PowerShot lens fits perfectly into one of the Olympus Roamer eye-cups – voilĂ !

If you take shots without using the camera’s zoom into the binoculars, you’ll create a bold vignetting effect, at 8x magnification, which makes for a pretty cool artistic touch. The following shots all have been taken using this method.


Gazelle


Spotted hyena


Giraffe


Buffaloes


The king


The queen


The queen cleaning herself


Acacia tree with impalas


A mama cheetah and her two cubs

You actually can use your camera zoom in addition to the binocular magnification. The result will look more like a regular zoomed photo, without the vignetting effect.

The results don’t have the same quality as an actual telephoto lens on a DSLR, but for a fraction of cost, I find the point & shoot + binoculars combo to be fairly effective, with an artistic twist.

Tips:
- Try to align the lens to match the desired vignetting effect: either fuzzy and off-centered or well-defined and centered
- Focus the binoculars first and then get the camera to focus on the subject. If the binoculars are not in focus to begin with, you’ll get a blurry or at the very least, fuzzy picture.
- Your picture may look a bit washed out, but that’s something easily fixed with a bit of added contrast and saturation using a photo-editing program.

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