Optical illusions: simple glass camera hacks

This week a colleague was lamenting the fact that he had to dig out the big camcorder to do some product shots because the Flip Video couldn’t do close-ups. The reason the Flip stumbles when asked to do close-ups is because the lens is a fixed focus lens. That means everything from infinity to around 4-6 feet is sharp, closed than that and it gradually gets soft. The hack for this is a magnifying glass in front of the lens. Change the glass-to-Flip-lens distance to dial in the focus and presto, Flip close-ups. There is probably a third party add-on for this but for the occasional close-up try a magnifying glass.A magnifying experience for your Flip

A magnifying experience for your Flip

At the other end of the focal length spectrum is turning your point and shoot into a super telephoto. My favorite example of this was one of the first wire service photos of the airliner landing on the Hudson shot by a woman through a telescope in her office.

 Here’s a slick way to join a pair of binoculars with a point and shoot to create a super telephoto image because…you never know when you’ll see an airliner landing on the water. 

Binoculars with rubber, flexible eye-cups will work best since the cups help block extraneous light. Focus the binoculars on your subject then slide the camera up to the eye piece (imagine the lens as your eyeball). Check the display and adjust to minimize vignetting. Now click. 

This tool is particularly useful these days as long lenses are being banned from all sorts of public events. Some of the worst offenders are professional sporting events and concerts where the pseudo official lens length max is six inches. Slip your point and shoot up to your binos and you’ll be shooting with big glass.

Neither of these techniques are designed to produce high quality broadcast or print content. But both are more than adequate for on-line content. 


Extra reach for your point and shoot.

Extra reach for your point and shoot.


~ by keithphilpott on April 17, 2009.

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