I've always been a Swarovski fan, having had a pair of EL's since they first appeared in the UK, so when I got a chance to try out the Swarovski BTX over the Easter Weekend, it didn't take long for me to say "Yes Please". For those that don't know, the BTX is the binocular eyepiece for the Swarovski modular body system, so can be used with either the 65, 85 or 95mm objective options. I was using the 95mm objective, so this was one beast of a telescope with a twin eyepiece, giving 35x magnification (30x on the smaller objectives) so a sturdy tripod is called for. I used my trusty Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fibre tripod with a Benro Gimbal head.
A Gimbal head is not something that I would consider for a scope usually, but with the long balancing plate on the 'scope (with a swiss aco plate), this proved to be an excellent combination.
So what does this scope offer? To start with it wasn't as heavy as it looked to carry around - I visited Neumann's and Ashton's Flashes near Northwich, and quite close to the Focalpoint showroom. The 'scope is well balanced on the tripod with the balancing plate. Before using the 'scope for the first time, there was little setting up to do. This is straight forward, simply move the eyepieces inwards and outwards (whilst looking through them) to set the correct distance between the eyepieces to match your own eyes. Then adjust the right eye dioptre like on normal binoculars. You are now ready to birdwatch!!
The telescope produces a very true colour image, with no noticeable colour cast or aberrations. Looking at drake gadwall over a distance of about 300 metres, you could make out the fine markings on the body of the birds. Looking a bit further the upcurved beaks of two avocets were easily seen. The black and white of the avocets showing the ability of the scope to deal with high contrast in bright light.
So it performs great at distance, which is what you want it to do, but what about close focus? I was amazed to read that Swarovski claim the minimum focus distance for the BTX on the 95mm is 5 metres . I decided to put this to the test and using a fence line to follow, I eventually reached the minimum focus of the telescope. 4 metres!! I was actually looking at hairs on the legs of a dungfly. Put the BTX on the 65mm objective body and close focus is down to 2.2 metres!
But why use a binocular ocular (or eyepiece) on a telescope? Naturally we see with both eyes, it helps us see more detail! If you are sea-watching, or as I do a lot of, monitoring migrant raptors, the use of both eyes reduces eyestrain and allows for longer viewing. The forehead rest on the eyepiece makes this even more comfortable, set the height of support, rest your forehead on it and view away.
It goes without saying that the combination of the BTX and the 95mm objective is up to the standard that we have come to expect from Swarovski, both in the image quality and construction quality, combine this with Swarovski excellent service and this is truly a winning combination.
I'll need to save my pennies to buy one of these excellent scopes, but I am very tempted!!
Many thanks to Yvonne and Paul at Focalpoint for providing the equipment for the weekend.