Every now and then, somebody rocks up in the comments section here, or posts on Twitter, telling us we’re stupid: why would you spend time building yourself a custom piece of electronics kit using a Raspberry Pi when you can buy an equivalent thing in a shiny package off the shelf?

This is not the shiny packaging I'm talking about.

This is not the shiny package I’m talking about.

We presume that these people live on a diet of cup noodles and instant coffee; never listen to live music or go to the theatre; and lead what are in general sad, joyless existences.

Here is an example (a joyous one) of something you could find in stores which clearly gave Josh Williams, its maker, a great deal of entertainment and satisfaction to build: a camera and mount for your telescope or binoculars. All Raspberry Pi-based, of course.


It’s a thing of beauty – and the pictures it takes aren’t too shabby, either. Here’s a squirrel.

OK. One last time. These are small...but the ones out there are far away.

OK. One last time. These are small…but the ones out there are far away.

Josh has made full build instructions available over at Instructables, accompanied by this rather spiffy video.

Thanks very much, Josh: beautiful piece of work. (And we really liked the squirrel.)



Shannon avatar

These are awesome, because I don’t think the photography binoculars you can get from the store take the same magnification image as what you get through the binoculars. Those boneheads that say “why would I want a pi when I can buy an android stick!” drive me nuts. Great work and keep it up!

Richard Sierakowski avatar

This is a great way to make use of cheap and cheerful binoculars that tempt so many people at service stations.


Martin OHanlon avatar

Love it.

solar3000 avatar

Awesome. I did that once. It was quite a tape job. Worked though – a little dark but it worked.
I used a monocular though.

Spark117 avatar

It`s not stupid when it works! Also calling someone stupid who can draw vector files and use a lasercutter… you get the idea.
I also draw my own .dxf files and make stuff myself. If you can`t buy it, make it! I say it`s pretty cool to use a binocular combined with an RPi and a HD-Cam. Nice work! I`ll try the same night vision monocular. Let`s see if that`ll work.

WallyWare avatar

“Here’s a squirrel!”

Jan Andersen avatar

The biggest point in having a Pi (or two, three…!) is that you can make stuff that you cannot buy off the shelf! Just saying

Stewart Watkiss avatar

Why even bother with taking a photograph when you can just Google for a nice picture of a squirrel?
In fact someone’s already done that – using a Raspberry Pi of course

[End Sarcasm]

There are of course many reasons why you’d make something rather than buying something off-the-shelf. It may be to create something unique, or to learn about how things work, but for me the best reason is because it’s fun. Not fun in a mindless way – like watching “stupid stunts gone wrong” on YouTube – but fun in a challenging way that exercises the brain, that involves overcoming hurdles and gives you a huge sense of satisfaction when you finally get it working.

The naysayers can be demoralising sometimes, but for each one of those there are dozens of people in the Raspberry Pi community making real projects, learning and having fun doing it.

The Pinoculars look great. I also like the fact they’ve provided instructions for those that don’t happen to have a laser cutter to hand.

Paul Lawton avatar

Why do it?

Because. You. Can!

End of discussion :)

Frank Krasnicki avatar

We have the same attitude in “ham” radio….there are people who say the same…why build when you can buy? We call these folks “appliance operators” because they never get a chance to experience the thrill of seeing something you’ve built (and programmed) actually work.
This project looks great! Good job.

Tom W-B avatar

Wow I know so many people who’d say something like that and match that description perfectly. Also are they ,like, total Jocks as well??

Echo avatar


also, what sort of a person would say no to a RasPi??!!!

Josh Williams avatar

You are all so awesome! I had a ton of fun building this, though I think I may have had even more fun documenting it : )

I have minimal access to tools at home, but my day job is at a Maker Space (Maker Works). If you’re ever lacking a tool, do a search for your city along with the words makerspace or hackerspace.

More recently, many libraries have started offering access to certain tools. The USB Battery Pack I used in the Pinocular project was borrowed from the Ann Arbor District Library.

I love the commentary here regarding building vs. buying, and the knowledge acquired by building it yourself. Libraries & Makerspaces are two places where that attitude is often taken to the extreme!

Liz Upton avatar

Hi Josh! Really interesting about tool loans from libraries; we’ve done some work with US libraries and they’re light years ahead of the UK curve on this stuff.

Thank you so much for making and sharing this – drop me a line next time you do something with a Pi!

Robert, USA avatar

Next step: Luke’s macrobinoculars from Star Wars… one may hope…

Janw avatar

I agree that making things yourself is much more fun than buying, but the condescending tone of that part of the blog post strikes a bad chord with me. What does name calling help? Just ignore the naysayers.

Paolo avatar

When the best part of the trip is the travel :)

Scott avatar

I love the Father Ted reference!! Keep up the excellent work bringing affordable, fast computers to the masses.

Iain avatar

Wow, I’d like to do this for my slit-lamp microscope.

Josh Williams avatar

Lain, check out

Much more than just a mount, this guy built a nice web interface fur doing pi camera and microscopy work.

Patrick Senn avatar

Really People?!?!?!
We are makers!
There is a simple answer to “WHY”
“Because we can!” We are not stupid, We are creative
I would guess they say we are stupid because they do not possess the talent to complete this type of project.

diego avatar

i love this app

Erika avatar

Congrats!! Who ever spends some time building this great things and share that with others deserve all my respect.


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