DIY Telephoto Lens

January 16, 2008 By: erik Category: Geeky, Photos, Timelapse, Videos 7,539 views

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Turbulent Sunset ThumbnailThe other day I saw a bloke walking along the top of a crane several hundred meters away. So I got out my binoculars and watched him for a bit to figure out what he was doing and how he behaved a couple dozen meters above the ground. The budding photographer in me immediately suggested that I try to photograph what I was seeing through the binoculars. Sure, enough my little camera’s snout fit right into the eyepiece and I could see the faraway scene on the LCD screen. Unfortunately, though I was unable to hold it still enough to snap a reasonable photo.

It was clear that I would need some sort of apparatus to hold the binoculars and camera together. I spent a few days brainstorming suitable platforms and attachment mechanisms. Finally an idea began to form, so I went down to the hardware store under my house and bought a tripod-sized bolt. They made a big deal about it not being “standard” (metric) and hard to find, but finally found one that fit into my camera. Unfortunately, it was more than 2cm long (probably an inch). I brought it home and realized that it was actually the perfect length for the platform I was planning on using.

Mounted on Chassis

A piece of cardboard and some twisty ties from the box my lamp came in. Note the camera-sized slot cut in the bottom so that the lenses line up.

Under Chassis

I had to cut a hole in it for the belly of the binoculars to fit in.

The Platform

The bolt was the perfect length after penetrating the box my new Apple keyboard came in.

DIY Telephoto Lens

The fully assembled apparatus during filming of video below. There’s nothing yet holding the cardboard the binoculars are attached to to the keyboard box, but there could be very easily.

So what can I use my new telephoto lens on? As you already know, it was very windy and cloudy yesterday, so I figured that there wouldn’t be much of a sunset. But I pointed my apparatus towards the western horizon anyway. What I captured amazed me.

One of the cool things about telephoto photography is that it can make things that we’re not used to being close to, like clouds, seem much larger in relation to foreground objects, like trees, that we are used to being close to. My first little telephoto video demonstrates this fact nicely, I think.


  • This pretty much proves to me that you’re nuts.

    Actually, I think I’ve read about people doing things like this with telescopes in order to get photos of stars and planets and such. You should do that.

  • I’d love to…budget willing.

  • Sweet! I like your choice of music as well. 😀

  • Thanks, Jane. I spent a good 15 minutes searching the web for a suitable “ominous and turbulent” midi file to use as a soundtrack before I found the right one. And then I realized, “Wait, I don’t need a midi file! I have this on CD!”

    Re: telescopes, I’m looking forward to the first cloudless night with a good moon to see how well my gadget does. Call me a lunatic, but I was thinking about lunar photography when this whole binoculars thing hit me…on a Monday, even.

  • Here’s my first attempt at lunar photography with this “system”.


    Not bad, eh?

  • WOW.

  • Sweet idea. i really want to try this now! The sky in the video was nearly hypnotizing to watch.

  • prash

    can you tell me how to to make for fujifinepix please