One of the best ways to ruin a picture taken on a smartphone is using the digital zoom. It makes photos look grainy and distorted and can make a beautiful view look awful. But what if you want to take a picture of something miles away, without actually going there? You could use an expensive quality camera with optical zoom or even a longer lens to capture the distant image, but if you're like me and don't have the money for these gadgets, you have limited options. Using just a pair of binoculars or a telescope that you probably all ready have, you can take some great long distant shots right on your smart phone. You can also use these tools to take pictures of the moon.
Step 1: Materials
To take these long distance shots, I used a Tasco spotting scope with 10x magnification that I got at a thrift store for very cheap. I have also experimented with using binoculars, and while harder to hold steady without a tripod, they work just as well for closer situations. The binoculars I used are 7x magnification.
I used my phone, a Samsung Galaxy Note 3, to take these images, but I have also done it with an iPhone 5, so any camera phone will do. It comes with a 13 megapixel camera and I didn't tune many settings for these images. *Tip for those using a Note 3 to take images: change the aspect ratio in settings to the highest resolution 4:3. It will give you a higher quality image than the highest 16:9.
I know you can get a clip on zoom for phones, but I didn't want to spend much money on this. Plus I haven't found one that has 10x magnification like my spotting scope.
Step 2: Lining Up the Lenses
This is the hardest step. If you are using a larger telescope, you can buy a phone mount (or 3D print one). The best way to line them up is to make sure your scope is steady and align the two lenses using the image on your phone screen. Once you have it lined up, there will be glare. The longer you hold your phone steady in one spot, the less glare there will be in your final image. To make sure your phone doesn't move, you can prop your phone up against the lens with some wood or a thick book. There will be a darkened circular border(vignette) around the image. This is a desired effect for some people, but it can always be cropped out.
Step 3: Results Comparison Pt. 1
The first two images were taken with the 4x digital zoom on my phone and the second two were taken without any zoom at all. These are to see the quality difference and how much the scope actually does.
Step 4: Result Comparison Pt. 2
These photos were all taken with either the spotting scope or the binoculars. Sorry for the lack of labelling, but the magnification should show itself clearly.
The mountain in the pictures, Camel's Hump, is about 25 miles away(sorry if I'm wrong this is just a rough estimate to my knowledge). The city behind the islands, Burlington VT, is about 11 miles away, and the large house is around 5 miles. The images of Ligonier point are from a little less than a mile away.
As you can see, there is a faded black circle around the images, but I kinda like it and if you don't, cropping is your best friend!
Step 5: Lunar Photography!
These photos were taken during the second full moon in July of this year. I used only the spotting scope and my phone to take these, and they have not been edited. Because it is so dark around the moon, the vignette is hidden and the images look great! The cloudy images were the day after the blue moon, and it was cloudy, but I took them for a spookier look. Who knew a blue moon would be orange?
Step 6: Conclusion
There's how to take excellent images of distant landscapes with just your smartphone and something most people have around there house. Experimenting with different magnifying lenses, such as a larger telescope or a smaller spyglass would result in some cool pictures. Thanks for reading my guide and please vote for me in the photography tips and tricks contest and the phone contest!