Camera Phone Tricks




Introduction: Camera Phone Tricks

About: We celebrate creativity on the southern Oregon coast at our store, the Electric Hospital, and outdoors where we enjoy the wonders. We might be sewing with a long arm robotic quilting machine in the morning a...

I have accumulated some great cameras and lenses and have thousands of recorded images. However I never seem to be satisfied and always search for the next best gear. This is a step backwards instead of going higher tech I went for simpler use.

It has been said the best camera is the one you have with you. That makes my iPhone often my best camera. The truth is even if it does not have all the controls of your DSLR it is still a reasonable camera. I have used it to capture images through a telescope and to digitize thousands of old 35mm slides. The ease of use for focus, zoom, and light levels make it a simple tool.

I am amazed at the video possibilities, the barge is miles away and the Steller Sea-lions are 100 yards away. You can improve your cell phone when you couple it to a monocular or a slide viewer.

Step 1: Digiscope Materials

The concept is to build a bracket that holds the camera lens in the proper position to simulate where your eye would be on the monocular.

I used some scraps around the shop.

$5 tripod from a garage sale

Old book end

Bulldog clip

!/4 20 wing nut

2 paddle clips

2 5/16 self tapping bolts

scraps of foam

Step 2: Digiscope Construction Process

Dimensions are not included as it will depend on the size of your phone and if it has a case.

Using one side of the book end set on its side mount the monocular with the paddle clips and bolts.

On the other side drill a hole to mount to the tripod with the wing nut.

Fold the lower edge (note this is with the book end on its side) up to support the phone, Note I nibbled out the left side to allow the buttons to be adjusted.

Fold the upper edge to hold the top of the phone. Note again I nibbled the top edge to allow the buttons to be pushed.

My bracket had the lower edge folded out 1/4' and up 1/4". The gap is 1 3/4"
The upper portion of the bracket was 3 1/4" high and the top edge was folded over 1/4"

Step 3: Adjust

Adjust the position of the phone to center the image in the screen.

Glue foam to your bracket to help you remember the best spot for alignment of the camera and eye piece.
Attach the phone to the bracket with the Bulldog clip.

Once centered you can zoom in adjust the light and even do video. If you want to shoot pictures the switch on the ear buds can be used as a shutter release. Another option is to set the camera up for a delayed picture to reduce camera shake when pushing the shutter button.

Step 4: Slide Copier / Digitizer

Over the past half century you can accumulate too many memories saved on slides. Being able to

digitally copy thousands of slides to share is fantastic.. This video goes back over 50 years..

From parts around the shop I crafted a device that worked great.

Old manual slide viewer

Scraps of wood

$5 led lamp

Aluminum foil

Black felt


Step 5: Scrap Box

Using wood from an old dresser I crafted a heavy wooden box. Dimensions will vary with your phone and viewer. The reason for making it heavy is to reduce the shake from pushing the shutter button.

Base is 14" by 5 1/2"

Height is 6 1/2"

The slot for the phone is 3 1/8" wide and 1/4" thick and 9" deep

The support for the slide viewer was cut to make the eyepiece flush with the bottom of the phone. That would be the bottom of the slot for the phone The support for my phone and viewer was 2 1/8" by 2 1/8".

Step 6: Illumination

To provide a diffused light and not be dependent on changes in ambient light attach aluminum foil to reflect the led lamp light up into the viewer. To block light from entering the edges wrap the edges in black felt and attach with tape.

Step 7: Adjust View

Adjust the position of the eye piece and camera lens so the edges of the slide are visible. Cropping of the image and the light levels can be adjusted on the screen. This set up allows about 20 slides a minute to be copied. Post editing was done after the slides were copied.



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    16 Discussions

    A great trick I use is to plug in my earbuds and use the pause button/mute button on them to take the picture. Often times my stance or grip doesn't allow me to easily press the on screen shutter button or the side volume buttons (which produce shake as you mentioned). Another option is to do the 3sec countdown. Great idea about the slides. I used an old WinXP slide scanner that was faster than my flatbed scanner, but still took 1min+ per slide. I've held my iPhone up to binoculars and can appreciate the importance of having a solid adapter to hold the camera at just the right angle and distance. Good point on your best camera being the one you have on you.

    1 reply

    Thanks for the suggestion. I have used both of those ideas but forgot to take the adapter for the Life Case necessary to use the ear buds to the beach.

    Very nice! Looks like there is some chromatic aberration due to the scope being used, but very nice otherwise.

    4 replies

    If you "zoom" in on the phone itself it will remove the black border around the scope viewfinder. This works similarly with the cheap clip on zoom lenses at Walmart which are decent but would not produce as good of a result as this solution...

    Thanks for the good advice. Sometimes I like the vignetting as it makes me feel like a pirate. AARRAGh. .

    I am shocked you think I am an aberration. That is what my wife says all the time.

    Lol. I see what you did there. My wife says the same thing, in a round about way.

    I too enjoyed the birthday slideshow which I found rather moving. Eine kleine Nachtmusik is one of my favourite classical pieces. Thanks.

    1 reply

    Thank you Valvelifter. It is strange and wonderful to compress 37 years and 3 generations into a five minute slide show. The magnification is a good compromise, much more and I need a better tripod.

    Nice, simple DIY approach. I would hazard a guess that you will get a good multiplication factor with the telephoto/spotting scope lens.

    It looks like you did not take any photos during construction. Thus the instructions are not very clear.

    1 reply

    Guilty as charged. I usually don't know what I am building until it looks done.

    Not only do you have clever ideas here, Christine's birthday slide show was a real treat. Thank you for sharing it!

    1 reply

    Thank you for the nice comments. It was a treat to save those old slides and revisit a lifetime of memories. Christine cried when she saw it.