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12 Days Birding & Bird Photography Tours In Sabah, Borneo

Friday, January 31, 2014

Swarovski STX 95 Modular Telescope Review

1st February 2014

As an ambassador for Swarovski Optik which is 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 the scope 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 modules.

Choose your preferred size of objective lens

From my point of view as a birdwatcher cum Digiscoper, this 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 conditions, 65mm is more than enough to ID birds especially on 60x as shown 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, you 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 secure 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 split the scope and pack it 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 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 at 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 are 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 the 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 this 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, Fujifilm, Pentax and Sony. It has a 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 and Swarovski Optik ATX/STX website

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

Happy birding everyone.

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

For birdwatching/bird photography tours, please check my other blog

This post is Supported by Sandakan Foto:


JRandSue said...

Amazing results.

Unknown said...

your photography skills so wonderful, I very love Watching bird