The Bufflehead Birder

May 23, 2008

My Digiscope Set Up - what I got and why

Filed under: Main Posts — admin @ 10:30 pm

The Scope

I had been straddling the line between a Swarovski or a Kowa 883 or 884. Both had good reputations. The Kowa intrigued me because it uses pure flourite crystal in its optics system instead of just glass as in other scopes. It’s brightness and clarity are outstanding. The Kowa 883/884 were said to be more expensive, and they are, but they weren’t much higher than the Swarovski 80 ATS HD.

But I ended up going with the Swarovski 80mm ATS HD based on it’s field-proven durability. I had called Mike McDowell at Eagle Optics. He not only confirmed this, but added that the focus ring is easier to work in the field if you have gloves on than the focus knob on the Kowa 884.

Probably either scope would have been a good buy.

By that time I had also decided if I was going to spend money, then I might as well get the 80mm scope instead of the 65mm.

I also chose the angled scope over the straight because the angled scope is accommodating to all heights, and it easier on the neck, and because I figured I might be sitting in places where it would be easier to look down into the eyepiece rather than scoot down onto the ground.

Below is my general set up.

General Set Up

The Eyepiece

As for eyepieces, I got a 20-60x zoom and a 30x wide-angle fixed. I mostly use the 20-60x because I can get in close should I want to. A wider angle is easier on the eyes when watching ducks or other birds far off and it’s much quicker to sight in on a target. But on occasion the higher magnification comes in handy.

The Camera

I was drifting toward the Nikon point and shoot cameras already. I noticed that a lot of digiscopers use some version of the Nikon Coolpix cameras. I got the Coolpix P5100 as it’s the upgrade from the P5000 and had good reviews. It has the fastest shutter release of all the compact digitals and other features that put it near the top. A good place to read up on this camera (or any other digiscoping item) is http.// Some of the posts will give settings that that user has found to be workable.

Adapter and Accessories

Finally, Swarovski does make an adapter (with 5 adapter rings) that works with the P5100, as well as other digital cameras. It is also necessary to get a a separate ring adapter (UR-E20 for the P5100) that attaches the camera to the Swarovski eyepiece adapter. That can be purchased at any camera store. The Swarovski adapter not only attaches my camera to the eyepiece quickly, but by loosening the knob I can swivel the camera from a landscape position to a portrait.

I also got a stick-on LCD viewer shade for $9.95 at Circuit City, which does help a little. The only thing with the P5100 is that it does not have a remote shutter release or attachment for a cable release. I did find a cable release bracket that works decently from I don’t use it much, however, as it takes too long to attach and can get knocked off easily. But for slow-moving birds, like egrets, it comes in handy to help reduce camera shake.


Swarovski Eyepiece / UR-E20 Camera Adapters

LCD Shade

LCD Shade

The Tripod Mount

I already had a Bogen with a Manfrotto 3265 action-grip ballhead mount. This type of mount is to die for when using a regular heavy SLR. But I found it was susceptible to wind shake, and while I could move it easily for sighting in birds, it wasn’t any good for taking videos if I wanted to pan with my subject.

I called Eagle Optics about how to reduce scope and camera shake and they advised me to get a Manfrotto 3130 video mount.

At first, I didn’t like it at all. Too many knobs to turn and work. I was slow to find birds and follow them. But my scope and camera were much more stable. And after a while I became much more adept at handling the mount and now I’m quite comfortable with it.

Plus, it is essential for video footage.

Ballhead Action Grip Mount      3031 Tripod Mount 

3265 Ballhead Action-grip                 3031 Video Mount

There are lots of other things about working my camera and scope that I have picked up as I have gone along and I will talk about those in future posts. Meanwhile, if you are looking to buy a scope or camera, check out some of the other digiscoping blogs. They often have good tips and advice.


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