Swarovski adapter gives iPhone camera mega magnification

The maker of binoculars and spotting scopes has a $145 adapter that turns your fancy smartphone into a camera with a supertelephoto lens.

Swarovski's iPhone adapter lets you take a photo with your iPhone 5 and 5S mounted to binoculars.
Swarovski's iPhone adapter lets you take a photo with your iPhone 5 and 5S mounted to binoculars. Swarovski

Let's say you're a birder who's jealous of all those awesome bird photos people take, but you don't want to fork over thousands of dollars for an expensive SLR with a huge telephoto lens.

Now there's a new option: use your mobile phone attached to a spotting scope or the eyepiece of your binoculars. That's the approach Swarovski Optik, a maker of binoculars and bird-spotting scopes, has taken with a new adapter called the PA-i5 for the iPhone 5 and 5S.

The Swarovski PA-i5 adapter also lets you attach an iPhone 5 or 5s to a Swarovski spotting scope.
The Swarovski PA-i5 adapter also lets you attach an iPhone 5 or 5s to a Swarovski spotting scope. Swarovski

It's not going to produce results as good as, say, an SLR hooked up to an 800mm supertelephoto lens, at least judging by the LensRentals' Roger Cicala's 2012 test of an SLR with a different Swarovski adapter. He placed part of the blame on spotting-scope optics that are geared for the a curved human retina rather than a flat image sensor in a camera.

But it'll likely get you a lot of the way there for a lot less money: the PA-i5 adapter costs £113 in the UK and $145 in the US. Binoculars and iPhones are sold separately.

Swarovski promises it'll be good. In a statement, the company said, "Swarovski Optik binoculars and telescopes offer outstanding optical performance, and although they have been designed to be used by people looking through the zoom eyepiece, we are confident due to numerous tests that the smartphone lens works perfectly with our lens system and delivers exceptional image quality."

To use it, a customer must detach the eyepiece and mount the adapter in its stead. Then the iPhone attaches to it using an enclosing bracket. It may not get you into National Geographic wildlife documentary, but it could be good enough to help with identification, sharing, and memories.

The Swarovski PA-i5 adapter lets you use your iPhone to take photos through your binoculars.
The Swarovski PA-i5 adapter lets you use your iPhone to take photos through your Swarovski binoculars. Swarovski

About the author

Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and covers browsers, Web development, digital photography and new technology. In the past he has been CNET's beat reporter for Google, Yahoo, Linux, open-source software, servers and supercomputers. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces.

 

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