Strap a Raspberry Pi 2 + Camera to a pair of binoculars (or telescope, microscope, etc.) and use one of adafruit's touch LCDs + custom raspbian image to view and take pictures. (Scroll through the photos above for examples / comparisons)

This project takes more time, money and is clunkier than if you were to purchase a commercial product. You're probably not on instructables because you wanted to buy a solution ; )

There are two sets of instructions here! See the images and video above for a brief overview. The first few prep steps are the same for both. Once construction starts you have a choice between a "Quick & Dirty" version that anyone can do, and an "Over-engineered" edition requiring fancier tools (laser cutter or power tools) and more time.

Finally, this is a fairly newb friendly guide, some may find it a bit slow. It's also very unlikely you have the same pair of binoculars, any dimensions mentioned are going to differ for you. Make your own measurements!

Super props to Phillip Burgess and Ruiz Brothers for their DIY WiFi Camera Script and adafruit for making it very easy to connect an LCD to the Pi. Much thanks to the Ann Arbor District Library and Maker Works for access to wonderful tools!

Step 1: Prep - Image Download & Installation

Description: First step, download the appropriate OS, a specific version of the Raspbian OS put together by the adafruit crew to make it easy to interface with their 2.8" Capacitive Touchscreen.

Note: The information here is accurate as of October 26th, 2015. It's likely that the steps for this will change as the websites adafruit.com and raspberrypi.org evolve, and/or as the Raspbian OS changes.


  • Micro SD Card + Adapter
  • Computer with Internet Access

Basic Steps (See video for detailed instructions... specific to Mac OS)

<p>Hi,</p><p>I forgot to mention that booting into the cam.py program doesn't work either.</p><p>I have an additional line in the the rc.local folder, if I delete the whole tft screen isn't working.</p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>I am using the 3.2 TFT LCD Display from Banggood(with 3 tactile buttons) instead the Adafruit's for the project and it works well until the step &quot;Tap to Confirm Exit&quot; which doesn't work (the program doesn't close) and I can't connect a tactile switch (gpio pins 12,16,18) where it shows the error message &quot;no rpi_power_switch found&quot;.</p><p>Can someone help me out?</p>
<p>Can this work with a raspberry pi 1? I have one sitting around doing nothing, and this looks like it'd be a good project, but I don't want to invest in all the parts if it doesn't work.</p>
<p>Calebv, yes it should!<br><br>It might help to note that you don't need the LCD panel for this project. You can use GPIO pins to control the camera, and use a web server such as Apache or Flask to view the images over a cell phone. You could even stream the video to a phone or tablet.</p><p>Though at that point, you might as well just strap the phone to your binoculars : ) </p><p>Lots of options, have fun!</p>
Alright, thanks!
<p>nice project. what materials did you use for the both mounts? (I just want to make sure laser will handle it properly). another option would be a 3D printer, I guess, what do you think?</p>
Thanks Tangorom!<br> <br> For the Quick &amp; Dirty mount I used foam core and electrical tape.<br> <br> For the laser cutter version I used 1/8&quot; (~3mm) Baltic Birch plywood.<br> <br> As far as 3D Printing goes, I played around with a mount for the camera eye-piece, but not to mount the pi/LCD.<br> <br> Here's the <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9x4RIcqwUojMGJRM1BHUm9BR28/view?usp=sharing" rel="nofollow">STL link</a>, and here's a <a href="https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B9x4RIcqwUojWkZMcjlUU0x2amc/view?usp=sharing" rel="nofollow">SketchUp link</a>. Keep in mind that these will likely need modifying to work with a different size pair of binoculars. The mount worked, but I felt explaining the design process would take too much time ; )<br> <br> Let me know how it goes!
<p>Again, this is a fun project, Kudos, man. I love the concept.. Of course, everyone needs to adapt to their own equipment. I do have a different brand of binoculars but before I decide to start this I'll see if I can get the specs for accurate measurements. And to be honest, I really hate to use the electrical tape. when cold it gets loose, when hot it melts the adhesive and makes a horrible mess. I'm thinking of a small enclosure for the camera, so light aberation/distorsions won't be an issue. Just an idea.. :)</p>
<p>since you mention wifi, I'll just leave this here in case you don't know about it...</p><p><a href="https://befinitiv.wordpress.com/wifibroadcast-analog-like-transmission-of-live-video-data/" rel="nofollow">https://befinitiv.wordpress.com/wifibroadcast-anal...</a></p><p>TL:DR description - one way link, can receive mangled packets, can do &quot;diversity&quot; receiving...</p>
<p>Really nice project and instructable! The videos really make it simple to understand and make! :)</p>
<p>Nicely designed!</p>
would this work with pizero?
Steven, it doesn't look like it will in the way my instructable calls for. The Pi Zero lacks the CSI port that the camera hooks up to.<br><br>It does have a USB port, so there is the possibility of using a usb camera. <br><br>Let me know if you figure out a solution, the pi zero would be much more compact, and nicer price wise!
Nice build, however, did you know most bino's have a threaded mount front and center for mono/tripod mounting? Usually under the front center cap. Smaller units may not have this option.<br>All in all I love this build idea and hope to try it out soon.<br>
<p>fmbfla: That's awesome! I did not realize there are tripod mounts on binoculars. That makes a ton of sense, and would allow for much more secure/ideal mounting options. Thank you for the tip!</p>
<p>Any idea of what the actual lux is other than Omnivision's stated 680-mV/lux-sec?</p><p>In other words, can you see the night time stars with this cam?</p>
<p>Earthman, I am not sure. I could only find this regarding star-gazing: <a href="http://www.mccarroll.net/blog/startrails/index.html">http://www.mccarroll.net/blog/startrails/index.htm...</a><br><br>Having it connected to a pair of binoculars or a telescope may help, but I don't know for sure.</p>
<p>Looks like a winner! </p><p>Thanks Josh for the info and btw your Instructable is fantastic!</p><p>You should take them out at night for a spin. Let us know what you see.</p>
<p>Great project!! =D</p><p>Congratulations!</p>
<p>Thanks Raphango, I dig your Sonic Ruler / Parking Sensor project!</p>
Nice!!<br>Hope you had a great time doing it! =DD<br>Regards!
<p>Wow Josh, this is totally awesome!</p>
<p>Thank you Carley! Now to get more than one done a year ; )</p>
Thank you so much. I just order my parts to make a digiscope with a Pi camera. I have hacked an old security camera pan tilt removing the 24ACV to nema 23 steppers. I plan to mount a spotting scope to it. Your Instructable will be very handy when I attach the camera.
This sounds awesome! Share some pictures / info as you make progress!
this is the best picam set up ive seen!
Do share a picture or a screenshoot to see the render of the picam
Hi dktousti, the first step contains pictures taken with the setup. You have to move to the fourth image (and beyond)<br><br>Does that help? Let me know if not!
Sorry, can you share
<p>Awesome project. You definitely have my vote.</p>
<p>Thank you!</p>
nice project
<p>Thanks Funguypro!</p>
This project is so cool. Now to add the ability to loft the whole arrangement up in the air and have it transmit everything to the ground....
<p>Samern: That would be amazing : ) I would love to get a better understanding of solar power / battery storage for a project like this and others. Being able to monitor nests year round would be wonderful! Great suggestion : )</p>

About This Instructable




Bio: I help run makerspaces / hackerspaces, love learning new tools and technology by building and documenting projects, and enjoy exploring the world with my wife ; ) More »
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