Binoculars: a photographer’s tool

Looking through binoculars in Okefenokee Swamp Georgia

To save some wear and tear on my camera, I purchased my first pair of good binoculars for my routine bird listing. That way, my Nikon D500 camera could stay safely at home on rainy or drizzly days. I was merely intending to use the binoculars on occasional birding outings, but I soon found they are a wonderful tool for wildlife and bird photography.

The first time I put these new optics up to me eyes I was blown away. Compared to peering through the 600 mm camera lens, the field of view was incredible. I could actually move my eyes around in the frame! And since I was looking with two eyes rather than squinting through just one, everything looked so clear, 3D and less flat. Even backlit birds had more detail than through the camera lens.

Pileated Woodpecker Okefenokee Swamp

I was quickly addicted and brought the binoculars on a recent trip to the Okefenokee Swamp. My camera sat in my lap and the binoculars at my side (clipped to the seat with a carabiner just in case). At times it was a pain to swap back and forth between my camera and the binoculars, but the clarity and the field of view with the Zeiss optics was unbeatable!

It was much easier to locate the birds and wildlife with the binoculars. I quickly developed a system of scanning for wildlife with the binoculars, then quickly switching and firing away with the Nikon D500. I feel I was able to locate and shoot a wider variety of wildlife using the binoculars as a locating tool for photography.

Northern Parula bird singing in Okefenokee Swamp Georgia

Once the photo I desired was captured, I’d switch back to the binoculars to observe the wildlife a bit more closely. I truly enjoyed watching the quirky behavior of the Northern Parulas as they flitted through cypress tress.

The binoculars are a wonderful and useful tool. But I quickly found one problem. When I spotted a pair of gorgeous Wood Ducks (and didn’t have my camera), I quickly realized there was no shutter release button on the binoculars to take a photograph! I guess you have to “rob Peter to pay Paul”, or something like that. So now, instead of carrying one or the other as I had intended, I find myself lugging around both a DSLR with a huge telephoto lens and a pair of binoculars!

Birding with binoculars from a canoe in Okefenokee Swamp Georgia

Florida Coastal Plain Cooter Turtle in Okefenokee Swamp

Photo credits: William Wise.

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April 27, 2019


@Wildflowersvt, not bragging, just blogging and giving credit where credit is due. I'm very happy with the product and wanted to say so. Thanks for reading and commenting! William

April 27, 2019


I'm happy for you being able to do this but I see no need to add what camera and lens you have and the Ziess optics of your binoculars. It just seems like bragging. Unless You are asked, there is no need to tell people what great equipment you have. I use perfectly useful

April 26, 2019


Thank you for reminding folks that the camera isn't the only way to experience birds. I too carry binoculars and my long lens. The binoculars are also a way to include anyone hiking with you who isn't taking photos. I usually hike with someone and they are my bird spotter as well as good company! So the camera bag gets a little more weight, it's worth it.

April 24, 2019


When I go out specifically to take bird photos I always take a pair of binoculars for all the reasons you have said about the quaility of the image, wider field of view and more natural look. However I would add one extra benefit. Not owning a telephoto lens the length of your arm means that for me the birds have to be much closer so there is always lots of camera downtime. A great opportunity to look some of the fascinating pieces of bird behaviour that are just out of range of the camera. If I am going to somewhere with hides I will usually take along a scope as well which also helps to fill the camera downtime. Lugging all that kit around keeps me fit too!

April 23, 2019


Artistashmita - I haven't used a spotting scope yet. I do see a lot of birders post on eBird photos they've taken through spotting scopes. The quality isn't as good as with a DSLR and long lens, but serves the purpose of bird listing. I went with binoculars because it seems spotting scopes are used on tripods, and that is too much to carry around. Thanks for the thoughts and comment! William

April 23, 2019


Very enlightening! Would you say a bird spotting scope is any better than a binocular, sitting in my wish list for sometime now. I heard they had spotting scope with built in camara, but i guess it wont be as good as a real camera anyhow. Thanks for writing this!

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