Kowa Sporting Optics

Monthly Archives: April 2014

You are browsing the site archives by month.

An Easter Excursion

Just me, South Stack Lighthouse and the Kowa telephoto lens…

05.00: I’d set my alarm for 6.00 but I was awake at 5.00, I’d got that excited feeling in my stomach, just like I used to get at Christmas 30 years ago. I’d visited the RSPB  reserve at South Stack Lighthouse on the North West tip of Anglesey at least half a dozen times this year already – but this time I was taking my kit. The early start was for two reasons – South Stack has become more and more popular in recent years which is great and the result of lots of hard work by the RSPB, but the problem is –  Easter weekend, glorious weather predicted, if I had left it until mid morning I would be lucky to get a parking space. Reason two, and the main reason for me is that there is just something special about having South Stack all to yourself! South stack for me is either sunrise or sunset.

05.45: Coffee consumed, car loaded with kit and dog taken for a 10 minute walk much to his disappointment, I set off on the 10 minute car  journey from Trearddur Bay to the cliffs of South Stack.

06.00: Backpack on my shoulders and Kowa telephoto lens in hand I was ready. I walked along the track from the car park to the cliffs. The sun was still rising and there was not a breath of wind – pure silence apart from the dozens of Wrens  singing from the Gorse that lines the track.

Ready for action at South Stack

Ready for action at South Stack

06.15: I made my way down just some of the 400 steps to the light house to a good observation point to look over towards the cliffs. It is still early days yet in terms of sea bird activity, but give it a few weeks and these silent cliffs will be drowned by the noise of thousands of nesting Guillemot and Razorbill. A Peregrine Falcon cruised over my head and I enjoyed watching Fulmar and other gulls dart about the cliff face.

Early morning light catches the tip of South Stack Lighthouse.

Early morning light catches the tip of South Stack Lighthouse.

06.30: The early start rewarded me with fine, close up views of a family of Chough, a shy member of the Crow family which does particularly well in this part of the world. An hour flew by as I took image after image of these amazing birds with the Kowa telephoto lens using the 500mm f5.6 adapter and my Canon EOS 5D. It was a real treat, the birds came within twenty feet of me and I could capture in fine detail, their bright orange beaks and glossy blue/black plumage. The compact size and lightweight body of the Kowa telephoto lens meant I was able to hand hold it allowing me to react quickly and position myself where I did not disturb the birds.

The Kowa 500mm 5.6 telephoto lens captures fine detail

The Kowa 500mm 5.6 telephoto lens captures fine detail



Capturing interesting Chough behaviour on the cliffs of South Stack

 07.30: After an hour had passed by photographing the beautiful Chough, I wanted to do some general bird watching, so I quickly swopped the 500mm photo adapter for the Kowa prism unit and 25-60x wide eyepiece and my telephoto lens was transformed in to a spotting scope. After scanning the cliffs, I observed a number of Guillemot and Razorbill. I also turned the scope out to sea and pushing the eyepiece up to 60x zoom I spotted my first Puffin of the year!

Spot the Puffin - digiscoped with iPhone way out to sea.

Spot the Puffin – digiscoped with iPhone way out to sea.

08.30: At this point, I thought I’d have some fun digiscoping with my iPhone – That’s the beauty of the Kowa telephoto lens, one minute it is a 500m f5.6 lens on my DSLR, then I’m using it as a super high quality spotting scope, then in just a few moments – I’m digiscoping with my iPhone – it’s that versatile.

The birds were a long way off and I needed the extra telephoto power that digiscoping provides – a telephoto lens would not give me enough reach. Now with my iPhone connected and my Kowa 25-60x eyepiece cranked up to 60x optical zoom – I was achieving focal lengths of up to 2100mm.

Kowa iPhone adapter connects my iPhone to the telephoto lens

Kowa iPhone adapter connects my iPhone to the telephoto lens


Razorbill digiscoped on a distant cliff face.

10.45: As the morning went on and the car park started to fill, I packed up and headed back to the car – a full English breakfast beckoned.


Copy written and pictures taken by Rob Wilton

Sand Martins are here!

Yesterday we went out to the beautiful RSPB Minsmere reserve for a digiscoping session and to meet the wonderful staff there.

It was a lovely day, with great weather. As we stepped outside, we saw the Sand Martins trying to nest. It was an amazing view, several Sand Martins flying around the sand wall, stuggling to nest as other people gathered to watch them. You could see they were distressed, as other birds were flying over them as well.

We found out they came back only last week and they have been trying to nest ever since.

Sand martins are the smallest European hirundines (martins and swallows), with dark brown upper parts and dark under wings contrasting with otherwise pale under parts divided by a distinctive dark chest bar. Agile fliers, feeding mainly over water, they will perch on overhead wires or branches. They are gregarious in the breeding season and winter. Over the past 50 years the European population has crashed on two occasions as a result of drought in the birds’ African wintering grounds.

We managed to take a few pictures of them during our optical training with the staff:




This one specifically, shows them hovering around the potential nests.

The image was taken using an iPhone5 and also Kowa gear : TSN-IP5 adapter, Kowa TSN-883 scope and TE-11WZ wide zoom eyepiece.

It proved particularly difficult to get a good image of them, but after almost three hours of waiting, we did it.

The technique used is called phonescoping, the method used to connect your smartphone (in this case, we used the iPhone) to the scope and take high quality pictures.

It couldn’t be simpler to start taking magnified images or HD video with your iPhone and optical equipment via the Kowa digiscoping adapter. Simply slot your iPhone into the holder and screw on the appropriate adapter ring – that’s all there is to it – then push the adapter over the eyepiece of your spotting scope and you’re ready to digiscope – the whole process takes seconds. For those who prefer a more solid and permanent connection between iPhone and spotting scope – the TSN-IP4S/5 is compatible via an adapter ring with our DA10 collar – which can be screwed in to larger eyepieces and locked into place. The iPhone is a great way to digiscope – the large highly detailed screen is perfect for composing your image. You can also use your headphones as a remote shutter release for hands free operation (iOS5 operating system required). Thanks to the connectivity of the iPhone, you can quickly upload and share your unique and high quality images with friends, family and the rest of the world online!


Due to the unrivalled high magnifications that can be achieved in digiscoping, it can be a challenging but also very rewarding method of telephoto photography. Try the following useful tips to help you get the best from your iPhone digiscoping experience:

1. We recommend that you attach the supplied neck strap to the iPhone holder and wear it around your neck whilst in use.

2. If possible – use your iPhone headphones as a remote shutter release. The less contact you make with your phone when taking the shot, the less chance of camera shake resulting in a blurred image.

3. A sturdy tripod with a good, smooth video panning head is highly recommended to keep your digiscoping setup stable. Good light is essential in digiscoping resulting in faster shutter speeds to help freeze the motion of your subject and minimise camera shake.

Please Note: Kowa accept no responsibility for any damage which may occur when connecting our product with other manufacturers optical instruments.
Always read the supplied instructions before use.


Please watch our video as well on “How to Phonescope” using Kowa products