A sight for red eyes: aim your supertelephoto quickly with an RDS

02 Jan 2017 20:24
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Supertelephoto photography has come to the masses. Canon's very good and downright cheap EF-s 55-250mm STM (400mm "equivalent", and actually good at the long end), awesome, moderately expensive 100-400 II*, Nikon's very good 200-500mm*, and Sigma and others' good 150-600mm zooms such as the sub-$1000 "Contemporary" brought the price of access to a car payment (or three, depending), not that of a car (at least a very nice used one). And they're somewhat carryable on an all-purpose outing, further reducing friction between relationship and hobby. Perfect, one thinks. Now to take a picture of that bird…but…it's like looking through a straw! Drat…he moved!! Even a squirrel can be too quick, at least to catch the cute thing he was doing. (Airplanes are more predictable, but distant subjects are rapidly fuzzed by the atmosphere - unless it's an exceptionally clear, calm morning or night, might as well use a moderate telephoto and get some environmental context.) So no we're stuck on how to point the camera at the subject.

Try a red dot sight! (A "holographic" sight is a more expensive variant on these non-magnifying, near borderless, windows reflecting little LED-projected dot—curved to automatically compensate for whether or not they're perfectly lined up with your eye as well as the subject.) These are often used for guns, and look a little bazooka-like (although an actual bazooka or missile is much, much longer), so best to use a little, inexpensive one, prefer moderate-sized, light colored lenses, and avoid big lens hoods, pistol grips, and sensitive areas.

The Olympus EE-1 shoe mount folding sight* is specially designed for photography, and their SP-100 superzoom camera* builds in the sight. The Photosolve Xtend-a-Sight can set any such sight in your hot shoe. Which keeps everything in front of you, more camera-style, but less balanced. Plus, it can wobble and, in case of impact, tear off the shoe with its too-strong metal construction.

Or, mount one to the tripod foot, swing it in front of your eye, and prop the camera on your shoulder. A battery grip can help position it, as can a beanbag-like pad in the tripod hole. A "Picatinny" gun accessory rail mounted to as long a foot as possible, preferably contoured to the foot (plastic files easily) or mounted to more than one hole to stay straight, works great. Align it for infinity, and bear in mind a few inches' parallax as you aim. Some use a reticle rather than a simple dot. Ideally a camera (or a lens on its own) would automatically adjust the reticle's selection or projected size by zoom setting, as well as parallax by distance (each, whether by electronic or even mechanical linkage from the lens's innards to a side-bulging scope) but you can do about as well by memorizing the relative size of the picture and framing generously.

If you need the tripod foot to…mount a tripod, try a hot-shoe sight. Or, if you want the shoe for a flash (catchlight are nice), try a remote cable for the flash, a multi-shoe adapter, extra holes on a long foot (especially for a side-mounted gimbal), or a bracket to connect the sight to the tripod mount (don't forget the antirotation pin) or the lens handle. If your lens has a tripod foot, do not connect the tripod to the camera directly - the excessive torque will bend something.

(I haven't actually used the "starred" items.)

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