Make a Camera View-sight for Bird Photography





Introduction: Make a Camera View-sight for Bird Photography

About: I'm a retired mechanical engineer, woodworker, boater, and inventor. Now I'm getting into wood turning, and have found that all my wood projects need not be flat and square.

What is a view-sight and why might you want one for your camera?

I invented the term "view-sight", so no wonder you never heard of one. It's that pointy thing on top of my camera in the photo. I made it because the camera I recently bought did not come with a view finder, only a LCD screen. This camera has a 30x optical zoom, and I planned to use it for bird photography. But most wildlife photographers prefer a viewfinder because it helps them focus on the subject. In addition, a LCD screen can be hard to see in bright sunlight. Let's just say I may have bought the wrong camera for bird photography, because I have been having a terrible time finding the bird on the LCD screen when using zoom. But the camera has great features otherwise, so I decided to see what I could do to remedy the situation.

Step 1: It Looks a Lot Like a Gun Sight...

My goal was to design something that would help me quickly focus on a distant bird with the camera zoomed out at up to 30x. Also, it had to be simple and compact, because I chose this camera so I could carry it in my pocket, rather than hauling around a large DSLR camera and telephoto lenses.

Doing some research, I found there were magnifying lenses for the LCD screen, also electronic sighting devices, available for otherwise good small cameras without viewfinders. I wasn't too impressed with what I found, and besides, "if you can make it, why buy it?".

I began thinking about the simple gun sights used on rifles. They are fairly accurate without resorting to electronics or telescopic sights.

You can see the final product on the intro photo. A magnet holds the brass sighting device onto a small square of steel that is glued to the top of the camera. This way you can easily remove the sight whenever you want to.

Step 2: These Are All the Parts

Three components make up the view-sight, they are made from:

Brass strip, 1/4" x 1/32" thick.

1/2" rare earth magnet.

3/4" x 1/8" thick steel bar.

Also glue and black paint.

Everything is available at your local hardware store.

Step 3: Make the Components

The sight itself is made from a 2-1/2" length of brass strip. I bent about 3/8" of each end up, then used a triangular file to make a V notch on one upturned end and a point on the other. Brass cuts nicely.

The brass sight should fit snugly into a groove in the 3/4" wide steel bar. First I cut off a 1" long piece of the steel bar with a hack saw. Next came the only difficult part of the project, making a shallow 1/4" wide groove into the small steel piece. Holding it in a vice, I marked the outline of the groove with a sharp knife. Then I used small files to cut the groove. Make sure the brass sight fits snugly into the groove. I painted the steel piece with flat black spray paint.

Step 4: Assembly

The steel piece will be glued to the top of the camera directly over the lens; but do not glue it just yet. You can see where I put it on my camera, it may be different on yours. Just be sure it is not covering or interfering with any of the controls.

Glue the magnet to the top of the brass sight, about in the middle. Shiny rare earth magnets are difficult to glue; I suggest lightly sanding the contact surfaces of both parts, then use epoxy. Glue these pieces first and let the glue harden before going to the next step.

Step 5: Final Gluing and Alignment of the The Sight

Now you can glue the steel piece to the camera.

Use a silicone based adhesive like E6000. This is the last step; after the glue is applied but still not set, align the sight with the image in the LCD screen. Put a drop of adhesive on the bottom of the steel piece and set it, with brass sight and magnet attached, onto the camera. Then align the sight with a distant object; at the same time align the camera, in zoom mode, so that the object is in the center of the viewfinder. I did this by focusing upon a small light at about 30 ft. distance.

Step 6: Results

I'll be testing it out for a while before I consider it a success.

So far it has been a help, especially for finding birds in trees.



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    12 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Hello Bill. On my Coolpix S9900 you can rotate the LCD. I find that this can be useful if the light is obscuring the the LCD. I have found this to be useful.

    1 reply

    Thanks for your comments and valuable suggestions. Yes, I am now rotating the LCD more often, which does help. My "new" problem with the S9900 is that Nikon packed so many buttons and dials that my fat fingers often hit the wrong keys. But I'm learning...


    Problem with this.
    when you are using view finder on true DSLR if the light in viewfinder is focused for your eye it is focused for sensor as well.

    When you will be using your device unless you will check the screen you will not know if the the light was focused correctly on sensor.

    If you align your sight first and then check your camera's screen it kind of defeats it's purpose for you.

    8 replies

    Yes Mikheil, thank you.

    I would now, for sure, buy a camera with a viewfinder. But the small camera I bought, for ease in carrying, is good in most respects except no viewfinder.

    By the way, I first saw this camera in Central Park.

    I wonder Why do you presume using the screen is slower then the viewfinder?

    I personalty have DSLR(Sigma SD15) One of thing I dislike is Until I take picture I can not view it on screen.
    Whenever I want to take picture of sunset I have to go through hoops not to damage my eye. Also I am never 100% sure if the image was in focus, because in viewfinder everything is so small.

    It could be problems with my eyesight. However, when attempting to photograph a small bird in the brush at high zoom (say 30x) I simply can not find it or see it on the screen.

    Try zooming on a prominent feature near the bird, and then if can see it then you can zoom closer.

    It could be problems with my eyesight. However, when attempting to photograph a small bird in the brush at high zoom (say 30x) I simply can not find it or see it on the screen.

    Wow. I mean if you say that you have same vision as Point and Shoots 30x .
    Full respect

    Many DSLRs can be used as "point & shoots" and I would hazard a guess that the majority of them in amateur hands are used that way.

    It is not only "true DLSRs" that have viewfinders. My Canon SX50 has a viewfinder that I have found useful from time to time although I use the LCD most of the time. The SX50 is also a lot my compact then most "true DLSRs" and I prefer to use one camera rather than lug a bag full of lenses etc round with me when I travel.


    1 year ago

    PS it may be a later model S9900 but you can take photos with it using a smartphone as a remote control for the camera, which can also help in difficult light situations.