How to take wildlife pictures through binoculars

05.16.11 | 9 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.


Spotted hyena



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.

– 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.