A photography experiment and weight training for birders

To: "Birding-Aus" <>
Subject: A photography experiment and weight training for birders
From: "Peter Shute" <>
Date: Tue, 4 Sep 2007 14:04:51 +1000
Occasionally I photograph new birds that I see, so I can check the id
carefully at home later.  This always leads to the dilemma of whether to
keep staring through the binoculars, trying to remember all the details,
or pull out the camera only to have the bird fly away before I get a
shot of it.  I want to be able to look and shoot at the same time.

I recently tried mounting my camera on top of my binoculars.  I know you
can buy binoculars with a built in camera, but I wouldn't buy one
because I assume they are a combination of a mediocre camera and
mediocre binoculars (I could be wrong).  Better to just try it with what
I already own.

Easier than I thought it would be - I just screwed a 4cm length of 1/4
inch thread into the tripod mounting hole, locked it with a nut, then
screwed a ball and socket head onto that, locked with another nut.  Then
I put the camera on and adjusted it till it was aimed at whatever I
could see in the binoculars.

Surely now all I'd have to do (apart from not letting any other birders
see me with this ridiculous contraption) was look at the bird with the
binoculars, then reach up and turn it on, zoom to maximum, and press the

And that's kind of how it worked out. A bird kind of in the middle of
every shot.

But only about one in 10 shots were in focus, and usually it wasn't the
right one.  I guess the camera had no idea which part of the bush,
grass, sky, etc, to focus on unless I happened to fluke it and get the
bird right in the middle.  Hard to do with nothing in the binoculars to
mark the centre.

I might try it again with the focus set to a fixed distance, and I think
my camera can do focus bracketing, but I suspect it's still not going to
get any decent results.  Not decent enough to make it worth lugging the
extra weight, anyway.    It seems like having the focusing linked to the
binoculars is the key to success with this but I'm under the impression
that cameras that come built into binoculars have a fixed focus, so I'd
be interested to see what kind of results they can get.  Not good, I
would imagine.

I noticed that I was markedly more reluctant to bother lifting the
binoculars to my eyes, "just in case", when I thought I saw something.
Presumably because of the weight - my forearms were aching a little

But here's the interesting part.  Going out again the next day without
the camera attached, I noticed that I'm now able to hold the binoculars
more steadily.  Perhaps I should try mounting a brick on there for a
day, maybe I'd be even steadier after that kind of weight training!

Peter Shute

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