SHOWALL FUN PRANKS HIGH VOLTAGE LAZARUS-64 PHOTOGRAPHY SPY GADGETS VIDEO GAME
Figure 4 - This 3x optical zoom gun sight can be used as a makeshift camera lens
Figure 4 - This 3x optical zoom gun sight can be used as a makeshift camera lens

Now that we have explored the expensive way to shoot long range photography, it's time to move into the hacking zone. At the sacrifice of a little quality, any cheap pocked digital camera can be made to see as far away or much further than those equipped with expenses telephoto lenses. The idea is to have the camera look through the eyepieces on a binocular, gun sight, or telescope in order to see a distant scene just as you would while looking through the optics. The interesting thing about retro fitting a camera to an optical device is that the camera can actually see more detail than you could, so once the images are viewed full size on a computer screen, details you might not have been able to see will be visible. A $100 pocket camera connected to the gun site shown in Figure 4 will actually see further than the 55-200mm lens shown in Figure 3, but some of the edges around the image will be blurred.

I will be using my Nikon D60 as the base camera for the remainder of these experiments, but any small pocket digital camera would work. The smaller the diameter of the lens, the easier it will be to adapt to the eyepiece on the binocular or telescope. So a cheap digital camera will actually be better for these experiments than the SLR camera I am using here. The resulting system will certainly not offer the kind of quality you need to send your photos to a gossip mag for print, but you will certainly be able to compete for imaging distance with many of the ultra expensive telephoto lenses used by the pros. Any optical system that has been designed for you to look through can be used as an optical magnifier for a digital camera. Binoculars work very well for this project.



Figure 5 - Figuring out the optimum focal point by trial and error
Figure 5 - Figuring out the optimum focal point by trial and error

To adapt an imaging system that was designed for human eyes to the cameras lens, you will have to mess around with both the zoom settings on the camera and the distance from the cameras lens to the eyepiece on the optical device. Pocket cameras with smaller lenses seem to like a distance about the same as your eyes would be from the lens on the optical device, so that is a good starting point. Larger lenses like the one on the Nikon shown in Figure 5 will probably need to be further away from the eyepiece to acquire a larger imagining area.

Start by setting your camera zoom to the midpoint and then simply look through the viewfinder or LCD while holding the lens close to the eyepiece on the optical device. Aim the optical device out of your window and see how the camera responds at various distances and zoom levels as you watch the live image on the viewfinder. It will be fairly easy to get an image, but you will likely have a large black border around the image or see blurring to one side. These errors are usually corrected by proper alignment of the camera lens with the optical device, but at this point, just mess around and try to find that best mix of distance and zoom to get the largest possible image with the least amount of black border. The more powerful the optics, the more border you can expect with the gun site having almost no border as compared to at least 50% border with a telescope.

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