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14 Days Birding & Bird Photography Tours In Sabah, Borneo

94 species of birds in 1 day at Tabin Wildlife Reserve

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Friday, January 31, 2014

Swarovski STX 95 Modular Telescope Review

1st Februay 2014



As an ambassador for Swarovski Optik based in Austria, the experience of using their latest telescope in my work provides me the ultimate pleasure in observing nature and wildlife. Coupled with the TLS APO and DCB II Digiscoping adapters, one of the best combo I have used in between observing and taking pictures/videos so far.

Swarovski kindly provides me the 95mm objective lens and straight eyepiece modules including the Telescope Rail TR II to balanced when mounting it to my Manfrotto 502 video head and Wimberley Gimbal head.



My current setup Swarovski STX 95 + TLS APO + Nikon D300s including Nikon V1 and Nikon D3s



What I like so much about the system, is the ability to swapped different sizes of the objective lens and eyepiece modular. From top to bottom; 65mm, 85mm and the largest 95mm with either angled or straight eyepiece module




Choose your preferred size of objective lens



From my point of view as a birdwatcher cum digiscopers, these really helps in getting the most of your birding trips. With 65mm, it is good for traveling birdwatchers because of the compact size and less weight than the big brothers. I tested it for a month in different lighting condition, 65mm is more than enough to ID birds especially on 60x as showed below;



Pheasant-tailed Jacana, vagrant for Sabah and my lifer too! Digiscoped at 60x with Nikon V1 = 4860mm and it was more than 100m away. Shimmer heat was obvious, but nonetheless, the image came out nicely for documentation purposes.



But when your subject is closer in good lights like this rare endemic Whitehead's Spiderhunter, we won't be able to tell whether it was taken with telescope or telephoto lens. Digiscoped with Swarovski STX 65 + TLS APO + Nikon V1 ~ At 25x = 2025mm



One of the target birds for visiting birdwatchers to Borneo. Tree tops specialized and feeds mainly on Mistletoe. My best image so far and I love the creamy bokeh too!




Purple Heron, one of the resident birds in Sabah but a bit shy for the photos. I took this with Swarovski STX 65 + TLS APO + Nikon D3s hand held 



Many asked if the joint connection between the eyepiece and objective lens is secured enough? Once you connect both modules, you need to press the black button (pic below) on the eyepiece module in order to split the telescope. With the 95mm, after birding, I do split the scope and packed inside my Think Tank Airport Essentials backpack. It is the smallest and my ideal birding backpack because it does fit the 95mm scope with 30-70x eyepiece, TLS APO, DCB II, Nikon V1 with FT1 and 10-30mm including the Swarovision 8x32 binocular and other bits. So far, I don't see any problem between the joint since using it nearly a year now.




Flexibility in using one hand to focus and zoom



Another method employed by Swarovski Optik is the ability to used one hand to focus your subject and zoomed on the eyepiece simultaneously. It takes a bit of learning to get used with it. But once you know the differences between the helical focusing and eyepiece ring, it is so easy and fast to get your subject in focus without having to adjust the desired magnification on the eyecup like the other brands and your eyes remained on the eyepiece all the time.



Swarovski STX 95 + 30-70x zoom eyepiece



Focusing is smooth with the scope and the natural view plus excellent contrast, the sharpness on its field of view (FOV) as seen and tested by my friends, is one of the main strength offered by Swarovski Optik. Getting to 70x with maintained FOV is another bonus for critical identification and the sharpness remained from centre to the edge field of view.


How about Digiscoping?

Below is some of my best images/videos taken with Swarovski STX 95 + TLS APO + Nikon V1 and Nikon D300s



 Greater Racket-tailed Drongo from the canopy walkway at Rainforest Discovery Centre




 Dragonfly sp.




 Rufous-collared Kingfisher, one of the forest Kingfisher from Sepilok Forest Reserve




 Endemic Eyebrowed Jungle Flycatcher at Timpohon Gate, Mt. Kinabalu




 Visitor from North Asia from Sept-April every year, Brown Shrike




 Elusive Dark Hawk-Cuckoo from Mt. Kinabalu and mostly heard than seen




 Secretive Watercock




 Baya Weaver




 Bornean Whistling Thrush taken after the rain with dead frog at Mt. Kinabalu




 The only Eurasian Tree Sparrow in Borneo




 The commonest Black-headed Munia found at paddy field




 Common Kingfisher, one of the best subject for Digiscoping




 So lucky to get these shot of Bornean Flowerpecker! No editing done only resized for web viewing




 Whitehead's Broadbill,  must see endemic birds of Borneo for visiting birdwatchers




 The only resident Duck in Sabah, Wandering Whistling Duck is considered a delicacy in certain parts of Borneo




The rare Collared Owlet taken in the afternoon while walking along the Power Station Road at Kinabalu National Park




 Wallace's Hawk-Eagle, commonest Raptor mostly found on the East Coast of Sabah, I got these one from the mouth of Gomantong Cave




 Too tight framing of the Little Spiderhunter perched on top of the Ginger flower from my room at Borneo Rainforest Lodge, Danum Valley




 Very wet Whiskered Treeswift in front of the restaurant at Borneo Rainforest Lodge




 Grey-headed Canary Flycatcher from the nature trail at Danum Valley




 Black-shouldered Kite waiting for prey at Tuaran paddy field




Rock Pigeon against the banana leaves at the background taken in the morning... 

 


Bornean Gibbon singing at Tabin Wildlife Reserve




Buff-rumped Woodpecker




Yellow-bellied Prinia



I have to admit, the combination of STX 95 with TLS APO Digiscoping Adapter is the best setup I have used so far. Sample images and videos as seen above speaks for its capability in delivering the best quality of Digiscoping in its class.


 Digiscoping diagram from Swarovski Optik




Using the TLS APO for my Nikon cameras, T2 ring is necessary. Same goes to Canon, Olympus and Sony. It has 30mm built in lens maximized for mirrorless system in the market. My Nikon V1 has 2.7x cropped factor. So at 30x (eyepiece) X Nikon V1 X TLS APO (30mm) = 2430mm  a very good range for Digiscoping in my place!

Sliding in and out the TLS APO to the eyepiece is a breeze and fast too. When photo opportunity is around, I take pictures with it in less than 10 seconds.  



One of the favorite birds among bird photographers and Digiscopers, the Black & Yellow Broadbill. Only resized without editing.



So why did I choose the 95mm? Because I wanted the best of both in visual and Digiscoping.

Other reviewers on the net:

Swarovski Optik website www.swarovskioptik.com and Swarovski Optik ATX/STX website http://atx-stx.swarovskioptik.com/en/nature/

Thanks to Richard Kramer and Dale Forbes from Swarovski Optik, Austria for the trust and supports :D

Happy birding everyone.


*These is based on my usage from the 8th February 2013 until the time of writing.


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