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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

SDA-100 digiscope mount

digiscope adapters camera mounts
Simplicity Tool Corp. of Portland, Oregon USA

Item details

Simplicity Digiscoping Camera Adapter SDA-100 Dec. 11, 2003

Price: abt. $80 U.S.

The SDA-100 was developed by Simplicity Tool Corp. , Portland, OR over the summer, 2003. It represents a new kind of camera-mount which can fit many combinations of equipment. A key feature is that it swings the camera away from the eyepiece for bird watching, or to find and focus a subject. Its being offered to digiscopers manufacturer-direct via the internet at a very competitive price.
You can view the product and photo-results gallery, place an order, see Company history and products, or contact the Company, at www.Simplicitytool.com and by clicking on the digiscoping link.
The SDA-100 is new to the market at this writing, though Ive been using it intensively for several months, while the manufacturer fine tuned its design. My Oct./Nov. Birdforum.net contest photo was taken using it and the EagleEye Digiscoping Eyepiece, (an important point when selecting an adapter - see why below.), and placed second in the voting results.
As no one else has used it extensively, nor seen the final production design, I am writing this review myself. So I need to state up front that Ive been associated with this family business, some 40 years and currently hold a small minority interest in it, but do not work there and have not for 20 years. Nor am I receiving any fees or commissions for my work on this product. I suggested the item for my personal use, and to be able to make them for others after seeing Members efforts spent making jury-rigged contraptions that fit just one unit if made exactly right.
The SDA-100 is one of the first adapters (maybe the first) designed as a Universal mount (for many setups), which swings the camera away easily and mounts any camera whether its lens accepts accessories or not. On the other end the SDA-100 mounts directly to the tripod and scope base. It can solve the battle for mounting-threads encountered with accessories like digiscoping eyepieces (ex. EagleEye Digiscoping Eyepiece, which I use) that occupy the scopes eyepiece-surround threads. Yes, there were already mounts available for cameras that use moving, unthreaded lenses (usually the compact digitals). These mounts or adapters attach to the scope eyepiece, usually by clamping firmly onto it with pressure. I refused to limit access to the eyepiece because of a camera mount, and I worried that my Kowa eyepieces which are bayonet-mount could fall off if jarred; or might be damaged by supporting heavy cameras and adapters.
For the above reasons I hand-held camera-to-scope since 1999, but reached the point where this method became my limiting factor. Without a camera mount I could not: use slow shutter speeds in poor light or at night or intentionally take time exposures; use my cameras remote control; use a cable release; be assured of perfect centering and minimal vignette with every shot; reduce camera shake; conveniently take group and habitat photos NOT through the scope but from my tripod, and take self-timer shots. Worst of all, I couldnt take continuous-frame sequenced shots, though I tried and tried (LCD goes dark during card-writing and you lose positioning). The sequence mode is a good way to catch a bird in interesting movements, for example a hummingbird with its tongue out, or just the right pose in flapping wings as in a series of Wood duck shots I took during my November contest efforts.
Ill now try to give a fair representation of both plusses and minuses for the SDA-100. First and foremost, note this adapter will only work for straight-through-viewing scopes. The Company is currently developing the 45 degree angled version, but will wait to see how the SDA-100 fares; Second, the SDA-100 allows me to take all of the above kinds of shots that I couldnt before, and do them well, and without hassles. I swing it away to bird-watch, track, or focus the scope, take tripod mounted photos without removing my scope, and then get back to digiscoping very quickly. I have to tell you, I still get a better focus more of the time by putting my eye to the scope than watching the cameras LCD, even with the great magnifier- sunshades available today. (You still need a shade therere lots of other reasons than focusing.)
Heres how its configured: there are three machined aluminum support parts: 1) a block that mounts to both your scope and tripod; 2) a long arm to give adjustable reach back from the scope and; 3) a short arm to swivel-away or return the camera to the eyepiece. There is also a 4 high by dia. threaded steel rod to support the camera at the proper height. Adjustments include a knob to allow/prevent the long arm sliding up or back; a knob to secure the linkage of the shorter arm to the longer arm; and two wing nuts: one to lock the camera securely to the steel rod, and one to control camera (and rod) rotation relative to the eyepiece and allow the rods height position to be changed.
The SDA-100 has a generous range of front to back movement (over 8 inches) to suit many scopes and your own selection of eyepieces. Reach is easily adjusted with the twist of one knob (and sliding the support arm). The camera stays exactly positioned left-right and up-down to the eyepiece. Its quick to change an eyepiece with the swing-away feature, as opposed to eyepiece-mounted adapters, and of course zoom eyepieces are not a problem, since they are not covered up by the adapter. Slide it forward or back for eyepiece length and vignette response, and shoot. Centering stays the same. I find that the EagleEye Digiscoping Eyepiece requires that my camera be a little more than an inch behind its exit pupil for minimum vignette. The SDA-100 adapter does that well, and I dont have to figure out where to put down the camera while I change eyepieces.. no juggling, no powering down just when Im rushing to photograph a bird or change the eyepiece for a dragonfly shot.
In the minuses column; while the two adjustment knobs provide very stable positioning, as does the scope mounting block, secured by a socket head cap screw, the wing nuts are somewhat less secure. They create a very tight positioning for the camera swivel, but tight can still move if you apply moderate force with your hands on the camera. I find no problems with unwanted camera rotation during normal operation of the various camera buttons including shutter release, or deleting large numbers of shots with camera still mounted, but my Olympus sliding dust cover requires quite a good push to open or close it, and I have to be careful to use fairly equal pressure from my left and right hands on the camera housing or Ill move the adapter settings left or right, or rotationally. This is a minor irritation since I can leave the cameras dust cover open for long periods during a shoot.. even for hours, with the LCD turned off. If I do accidentally push the SDA-100 out of adjustment, I can swivel it right back on target, though occasionally, I have to loosen one of the wing nuts, re-position, and then retighten the nut. This camera rotation is more annoying than just swinging the arm back into position. I could tighten the wing nuts harder, but then I figure theyre just harder to loosen when its time to pack up or make a change, as this is a finger-tightened proposition, for convenience.
A possible negative aspect would be if you had to remove the SDA-100s mounting block from your scope each time you break-down for travel. Doing so requires using the included Allen wrench, and you may find that a particular angle to your scope base is optimal, and youd have to find that position upon re-setting up (though you could put a piece of tape on the block or scribe a line that will border the edge of your scope base to mark the perfect angle). On the plus side, if you can leave the block fixed to the scope, as I do, then the rest of the SDA-100 separates easily from the block, and remains as one unit packed for travel. Theres a spare hole to thread the adjustment knob into for travel so its not sticking out of the scope base block piece as you try to fit the scope into a case. My Kowa scope fits in its soft case with the adapter block attached (its 5/8 thick and similar in size to a scope base plate). With the block already on the scope, the SDA-100 reattaches very easily with no tools, exactly as it was before, in barely moments. With the block removed from the scope it would take around five minutes or so to re-assemble.
I find the unit strong and well made, and the Company is very reliable. For an extreme test, I mounted my old Nikon F film camera, weighing in at over 2 lbs! The SDA-100 supported it surprisingly rigidly, even at full extension length. I can now take remote shutter release photos of birds all the way down to 1/5 of a second (one such shot is on the Simplicity web gallery with close up detail inset); and do all the other things that were holding back my digiscoping creativity. I hope the angled eyepiece version will follow soon, and work equally well, so that those of you with angled eyepiece scopes will have the same alternative design solution the SDA-100 offers. I would encourage those with angled scopes to use the web contact email if you are interested, so they can get a sense of the amount of interest in it.
On a side note, this company made and retailed worldwide for 20 years, a robotic table tennis training partner, the only such North American product, including one for the U.S. Olympic Training Center. The SDA-100 adapter comes with two year Limited Warranty, and 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee. Simplicity Tool will work with you like a custom shop as well, if after trying the unit, a slight modification is needed: longer arm; hole in different location.. that sort of thing. Some of the photos are shown in silver aluminum for visibility; but the unit is shipped with a durable powder coat finish in black (shown on web too), which matches many tripod heads and scope bases.

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