Tactical Red Dot Sight For Your Camera

My sister graduated from [OPSEC] with a Masters degree in [OPSEC] a few days ago, so I missed this… but it has since shown up everywhere:

Someone explain the point of it to me.

  • Is it for people that have dropped the money on an SLR, only to use auto focus to take quick inaccurate shots?
  • What distance do you zero the sight for?

People that think they have a use for something like this should probably also put an arrow on their camera that says “point this way” on it, so they don’t accidentally pick it up backwards and take a self portrait instead that hummingbird on the flower they were trying to get.

I am not going to give this product the dignity of a link to its purchase page, but if you have any self respect you will not google it anyway, and decide to purchase it for $45.

I’m waiting for a picture down the road where someone mounts a high powered scope on that adapter instead for some LOLz.

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Ben Haulenbeek May 16, 2010 at 11:50 am

I don’t know what the intended purpose is, but I can say that I would find it very useful for tracking an object during some panning shots. As for lazy hacks who use auto focus, I don’t see any advantage.

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Josh May 16, 2010 at 01:57 pm

I agree that this might be useful for helping to track objects for some shots. As for auto focus – I have two digital SLR’s, and several lenses, and almost never focus manually. I remember my parents’ old film SLR (before autofocus) had a focus aperture in it that lined portions of the picture up when it was in focus; modern lenses (that I’ve seen) do not have this. It is difficult to focus manually with modern lenses (those that I have used anyway), even on stationary objects when there is plenty of time to play with the focus ring.

What kind of SLR and lenses are you using that you don’t use autofocus?

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Josh May 16, 2010 at 02:13 pm

I should clarify – I think it was the actual camera that had the split-screen for focusing, not the lens. Without that it’s very difficult to tell if your image is actually focused correctly.

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Admin (Mike) May 16, 2010 at 03:39 pm

I don’t yet own a digital SLR, but when I borrowed one a few times I exclusively used manual focus. I was so used to the “dumb” autofocus of the point and shoot cameras that it was refreshing to take artsy shots and macro shots and actually focus on exactly what you want to, not what the camera decides to.

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Josh May 16, 2010 at 04:17 pm

I have to admit, that question was a little bit rhetorical – I fully expected the answer to be that you didn’t own a digital SLR. If you did, I would expect you to realize that using manual focus for anything other than shots with a stationary subject and plenty of time to set the shot up doesn’t work well, if at all. Obviously, this red dot setup offers no advantages for those type of shots – macro, portrait, landscape, etc. Where it does offer advantages would be action shots, where long lenses with very limited fields of view are used to try to capture subjects that are moving (sometimes erratically), and where it would be advantageous to be able to see more than the very narrow view offered through the viewfinder with a long lens. For these shots like this, of sporting events, birds in flight, etc., this would be very handy, and manual focus would be nearly worthless. These types of shots are precisely what the “continuous autofocus” mode is for. Get an SLR with a long telephoto lens and try tracking a flying bird through the sky and you’ll change your tune about a sight set-up like this. Try taking more than a few “artsy” photos of stationary subjects and you’ll change your tune about autofocus. In fact, try taking some action shots sometime at the range using only manual focus and you’ll likely change your mind after you end up with 90% of your shots terribly out of focus. I’ve had a Canon 300D, 20D, and currently have a 400D and 40D, and the autofocus is nearly instantaneous, and always precise (except perhaps, in extremely low light, without a flash). There are rarely times when I find it beneficial to turn off. (However, there are a few things to learn in order to understand how to set and use autofocus most effectively. Your comment that the camera focuses on what it wants to indicates to me that you might not know how to adjust the settings to focus the best way for a particular situation.)

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Admin (Mike) May 16, 2010 at 08:46 pm

I’ve had a few point and shoot cameras and they all did the same thing. Say I set a camera down on the ground and put 5 bullets in a line progressively getting further away from it. How on early could you possibly use the settings in a point and shoot camera to focus on the 3rd bullet for instance. Maybe I need to stop buying Canon point and shoots, because as far as I can tell it just draws those green boxes around whatever its mathematical formulas tell it you want to focus on.

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Josh May 16, 2010 at 09:37 pm

It’s true that most point and shoot cameras aren’t going to give you a whole lot of leeway as far as adjusting settings. You said that you used the SLR on manual focus because you didn’t want it focusing on whatever you want. What I was saying is that with an SLR there are different settings for the autofocus depending on what you want it to do, and if used correctly, you should not be limited to settling for the camera focusing on what it wants. For most shooting, I set my cameras on one-shot autofocus, with only the center focus point active. I then center the view on what I want to be in focus, allow the camera to focus, and shift the camera to frame the picture the way I want. You can use a point and shoot in a similar manner – if you want to take a portrait picture and don’t want your subject in the center of the frame, center them first to focus, and then, without letting up on the partially depressed shutter button, shift the camera to frame the photo differently.

Point is – on a good digital SLR, the autofocus is not something just for amateurs, and most of the time it’s necessary because most modern lenses and cameras aren’t really designed to be used manually (though they do support it – also, often the gearing on the lenses is so high it increases the difficulty of fine-tuning your focus manually). The other point is – this set up has some very legitimate use, especially for those trying to take pictures with very long lenses of small, moving objects (usually birds, although this would be very handy at an airshow too). People interested in something like this likely don’t need an arrow on the camera to direct them which way it goes. In fact, I would argue that people interested in something like this are probably already very accomplished photographers who want this for the purposes I already outlined.

Case in point:

http://stephenfischerphotography.com/Red_dot_sight.html

This guy seems to do pretty well, probably without the aid of an arrow on the camera that says “this side towards subject.”

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Fred May 16, 2010 at 10:08 pm

I’ve run into that problem, I picked up a 55mm primary for my D40, but low and behold, despite the seller’s reassurance, it’s an older style lens that works of the motor in the higher end camera bodies that the D40 lacks. So no autofocus, and without the split rings like on my old FM10, if you get into low light (which is half the reason for buying a lens with f1.8…) you can’t tell if you’re focused worth poop, and a large aperture makes for a pretty unforgiving depth of focus.
Since then I’ve gotten the new 35mm DX primary, and it’s got one of the fastest and quietest motors I’ve used, and overall the autofocus is pretty smart with that setup. (of course it’s not a “smart” autofocus setup either, it’s just three fixed points that you either choose or it just goes with the closest object in one of the boxes. I guess low expectations make for less frustration for me)
Most people that use these are using them for in flight birds, they’re hard to track through the little viewfinder, and if you have a dSLR with a realtime display (not many I know of) they’re usually not fast enough to keep up with the bird’s movements.

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Josh May 16, 2010 at 10:20 pm

Speaking of the real-time display – my 40D has that, it’s called “live-view mode.” I hate it. Like a point and shoot, the screen image has a little bit of lag, making it worthless for shooting something moving fast, like birds in flight (since that’s what this red dot is usually used for). Also, in order for it to work, it locks up the mirror (of course) and since the mirror is up, you can’t focus. To focus in live-view, you have to push the AF button, which flips the mirror back down long enough to allow the camera to focus. Of course, when the mirror is down and the camera is focusing, you can’t see anything on the screen, so to make sure you’re focusing correctly you would want to be looking through the viewfinder anyway. It’s gimmicky, and virtually worthless. The newer cameras take video too, so I can see the point of it for that. For still photos, I don’t see the point.

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Admin (Mike) May 16, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Ok you guys convinced me that pros use the “red dot” setups in some instances. I still think it sounds less than idea for shooting pictures of moving objects at different distances, which brings me to my second question from the post which you didn’t address.

From the Steven Fischer website, about zeroing the site:

tweaking the adjustment screws until the red dot matches the target that you have set for the center focus mark as seen through the viewfinder of your camera…. This alignment exercise needs to be applied after every setup, but should only take about 5 minutes to complete.

I’m sure there are ways you could come up with to zero it for birds in flight different distances away, and at airshows etc.. but it still sounds like a lot of guess work would be involved. I guess that’s what the fast shutter on those SLRs is for though. Maybe as you’re following the plane or bird through the air you just hold the button down to take 8 pictures per second and hope at least one turns out?

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Josh May 16, 2010 at 11:48 pm

I think this set up would probably hold its zero better than the red dot gunsight that was used on that website. I would imagine you get it set right once and it’ll be the same the next time you put it on the hot shoe. I think your point about taking a lot of pictures and hoping one comes out is exactly right. That’s the case regardless of whether you’re using a sight like this though. The real big problem (as I see it) is probably finding the bird (or aircraft) in flight in your viewfinder in the first place with such a long lens. Imagine trying to look through a high-power riflescope and trying to find a bird flying through the air. I think this would be a tremendous help for acquiring the “target” in the first place. Once you get a “bead” on the target, so to speak, with the red dot, you just start snapping photos on burst so you’ll have plenty to choose from. It’s sort of a “spray and pray” attitude to a large extent when you’re shooting animals in action or sporting events, etc.

As for zeroing it for different distances, I would guess it wouldn’t be as big an issue with this device as it was with Steven Fischer’s set up due to the much smaller offset between the sight and the center of the lens/camera sensor. There looks to be 6 or 7 inches offset on his set up and maybe 3.5 with this sight. But you’re not going to be able to follow a bird precisely anyway, so again, I think it’s a matter of getting close and taking enough shots that some will turn out.

I’ll never have to worry about this problem with a super telephoto lens like that guy has – that lens alone will run you about $6,000… too much for me.

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Steven S. May 16, 2010 at 03:59 pm

This would go along really well with the tactical stock that they have for cameras, put a sling and a laser and you got a camera to use in some real tactical situations.

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Admin (Mike) May 16, 2010 at 08:47 pm

hahaha yea you’d need to start kicking doors in and getting candid shots with a setup like that.

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Chase May 17, 2010 at 05:01 am

If I were a rich man, I would buy this for my dad who is a photography buff, as a joke.

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