3 mins

Gear Review: Swarovski Optik PA-i5 iPhone binocular adapter

On a recent trip to the Galapagos Islands, Wanderlust’s Simon Chubb, tried out this nifty gadget aimed at bringing wildlife photography to the masses

Swarovski Optik PA-i5 iPhone binocular adapter

What is it?

The idea behind the Swarovski Optik adapter is to allow existing owners of Swarovski binoculars or scopes to take photos using their iPhone 5. There are two parts, the cradle for the iPhone and the adapter ring which screws into the cradle and varies depending on the model of binocular or scope you’re using.

The whole rig then fits over the eye-piece of the binocular or scope allowing quick changing from viewing to photo taking. Focusing is achieved through a combination of the binocular/scope wheel and the iPhone’s internal camera focusing.

The test

We tested the adapter on a recent island-hopping cruise to the Galapagos Islands, pairing it with the excellent office set of Swarovski EL32 binoculars.  

The kit was used in a variety of situations, but mostly on land (while stationary) or from an inflatable rib in the sea (not so stationary). Unfortunately, we didn’t have a tripod to mount the binoculars, so we subjected them to far more movement than they would normally face when attached to a static, tripod-mounted pair of binoculars or scope.

To show the relative zoom that's achievable, the photo below is taken on a DSLR at 50mm zoom. The red square shows the area covered by the photo on the right taken using the adapter and an iPhone.




This image a blue-footed booby (left) was taken from a small inflatable raft. Note the blacked out corners from the binocular ring.











This photo of a brown pelican (right) was taken from a boat in waning light. As you can see, even in these challenging conditions, the adapter and iPhone combination can capture a pretty good image.

The verdict

At around £95, the adapter effectively brings a long, fixed-length telephoto capability to the iPhone that far extends the built-in zoom function.

On the whole, the adapter was easy to use although there was a slight issue with the weight of the iPhone tending to pull the adapter off the eye-piece when hand-held. However, this was easily rectified with an additional finger securing it, and probably wouldn't happen at all with a tripod.

We were pleased with the image quality we achieved during the challenging circumstances of the test. In fact, further testing around the Wanderlust office has shown that in better lighting conditions (and with a more stable mount) it is possible to get much clearer shots, like this one (left) – although the wildlife isn't quite so exotic!

With our hand-held test, because of the magnification of the binoculars, any hand-shake was increased over the range. The compromise for this was to take multiple photos of the scene and not to just rely on a single capture. Of course, this problem would also affect any 'normal' long telephoto camera lens, and would be solved through the use of a tripod.

In brief

Features: N/A
Design: ★★★★✩
Comfort: ★★★★✩
Weight: ★★★★★
Value: ★★★★★
Overall: ★★★★✩

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