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

SWAROVSKI AX VISIO: MY LEARNINGS IN A NUTSHELL (2 Viewers)

Canip

Well-known member
The following personal findings reflect my experience using the Visio on a daily basis for over a month, doing literally hundreds of bird identifications with it.

1. Not a “quick and easy” device
Unless you are willing to invest some time and learn how to best use the Visio, you will likely experience many frustrating moments. That’s probably what happened to some internet reviewers who spent a few hours with the Visio and then concluded that it wasn’t really a useful device, since it didn’t reliably identify birds. Give it some practice and you will find that the Visio actually does the job it is designed to do quite well.

2. Don’t expect the impossible
As mentioned somewhere else, you as an experienced birder may be able to identify birds that are partially hidden in branches and behind leaves so that you can only see a small part of their body. For an algorithm, this is a greater challenge. Don’t expect the machine to be as “smart” as you. I have had surprisingly good results with birds almost invisible in or behind bushes, but not on a reliable basis, so don’t get mad if the Visio doesn’t give you a bird’s name or doesn’t even see a bird that you have spotted in the binocular but that is not really clearly visible.

3. Distance, distance, distance
Large birds (herons, storks, large birds of prey etc) can be identified by the Visio at distances well beyond 150m or more, both in flight and sitting still. The same is not true for small birds. Even 40m may be too far for tits or chiffchaffs. You will know it in advance when you look through the Visio and the shape of the bird in question by far does not fill the red circle it is supposed to fill. You may get an ID, but more likely you won’t. Too great a distance between me and the bird has been one of the main reasons of frustration for me, esp. if the bird had been well visible in the binocular of the Visio.

4. Turn on and leave on
As mentioned earlier, it is advisable to turn the Visio on when you actively start birding, and to leave it on. It will last several hours, perhaps most of the day, with a single battery charge. This ensures the GPS is active and bird IDs have a good chance of success.

5. Backlight is bad
IDs are much more successful with birds sitting on the ground or flying at your altitude or when observing against an earthen background than with birds sitting high up in a tree when the bright daylight is behind that tree. The same is true when you observe from a dark shelter with a low roof, watching out into the bright daylight or sunshine. Results are better if you are in the same lighting situation as the bird.

6. Focal length is not the main issue with the camera
I have experimented a bit, trying to find out what it would bring if the 260 mm of the Visio were increased to something like 370 mm (using a Lumix with Leica DC Vario objective). The difference isn’t that great when it comes to detail recognition (see pics attached). More focal length would be welcome in the Visio, but it would not drastically change things.

7. IS would be a clear improvement
Had the camera an image stabilization, many of those shots that I messed up when in a hurry, or when I was more jittery than usual, would have come out usable. Of course, this would further increase the size and weight of the Visio. So you may want to find other means to ensure stable shots (monopod, tripod, leaning against a tree, resting your elbows on something, etc.)

8. If you can get close enough and the bird is well visible, the Visio works almost 100%
You may get many birds identified even if the conditions mentioned in the manual are not fulfilled; but then the risk is high that the Visio will turn out a “no bird” result. However, if you get a clear shot at a bird that fills a large portion of the ID circle in the display, is well visible, the backlight is not too strong and you don’t jitter like hell, the success rate is close to 100%. When all those conditions were met, I did not have one single case of “no bird recognizable” with the Visio.

9. The rate of “no ID” is much higher than the rate of wrong IDs
That is my personal experience. I do get the occasional wrong ID that you would expect in situations where there are several bird species that look similar and ID would be tricky also for good birders. When I get a positive ID, it is usually right, or then I get a “no bird recognizable” much more frequently than a wrong ID.

10. The combination of binocular and camera is the greatest asset
Being able to observe and make a photo without having to put down the binocular is a fabulous thing. That alone (with the capability to later ID birds with the Merlin app) is much more important to me than the ability to ID a bird in the Visio right on the spot. Of course, the camera does by far not count as a “wildlife camera” with which you can shoot brilliant images of wildlife that you hang on your walls, but I think it is sufficient for recording and observation management tasks.

11. Other functions of the Visio
The “share discoveries” function of the Visio is useful when you are out with colleagues. Without a range measurement capability, the compass is of limited use to me. I haven’t used the mammal ID function; more useful is probably the possibility to ID butterflies and the like, but I haven’t used it much yet.

fwiw Canip
 

Attachments

  • Visio 260mm- 150m.jpg
    Visio 260mm- 150m.jpg
    6.5 MB · Views: 98
  • Lumix 370mm-150m.JPG
    Lumix 370mm-150m.JPG
    10.5 MB · Views: 101
To me, your point number 10 is why this concept interests me. That said, the idea of a binocular camera has been around for ages and I’m sure there’s going to be better versions in the future… Variable magnification, stabilization, etc.

When somebody finally comes out with that version of a binocular, that can replace my camera and scope with high magnification and stabilization, I’ll be all in and willing to sell many binoculars to pay for such a device.
 
Canip,

Thanks for an excellent summary based on real experience and not just opinionated hypotheses.
On point 6, have you thought of trying to put a teleconverter on the front of the camera lens? I don't know if there would be any suitable models available, but I remember the discussions on Cloudy Nights of fitting teleconverters on Canon IS binoculars. The Visio would need a rather small one, obviously.
 
On point 6, have you thought of trying to put a teleconverter on the front of the camera lens?
Tks Kimmo!
Interesting idea.
It somehow defies the purpose of the Visio concept (compact, simple, easy to handle), and I don‘t know how much the camera will tolerate, but it may be worth a try.
 
Canip, thank you for that report, following thorough testing, with fine analysis, and extremely informative, all as expected from you; and for sharing, again as usual, experiences which you are fortunate to have that many of us are not to help us decide on bird and nature optics.
 
I tried something like the Visio when the NL came out. It was Swarovski but as this device is fairly new I'm not sure what it was I sampled at a Swarovski trial day?
 
The following personal findings reflect my experience using the Visio on a daily basis for over a month, doing literally hundreds of bird identifications with it.

1. Not a “quick and easy” device
Unless you are willing to invest some time and learn how to best use the Visio, you will likely experience many frustrating moments. That’s probably what happened to some internet reviewers who spent a few hours with the Visio and then concluded that it wasn’t really a useful device, since it didn’t reliably identify birds. Give it some practice and you will find that the Visio actually does the job it is designed to do quite well.

2. Don’t expect the impossible
As mentioned somewhere else, you as an experienced birder may be able to identify birds that are partially hidden in branches and behind leaves so that you can only see a small part of their body. For an algorithm, this is a greater challenge. Don’t expect the machine to be as “smart” as you. I have had surprisingly good results with birds almost invisible in or behind bushes, but not on a reliable basis, so don’t get mad if the Visio doesn’t give you a bird’s name or doesn’t even see a bird that you have spotted in the binocular but that is not really clearly visible.

3. Distance, distance, distance
Large birds (herons, storks, large birds of prey etc) can be identified by the Visio at distances well beyond 150m or more, both in flight and sitting still. The same is not true for small birds. Even 40m may be too far for tits or chiffchaffs. You will know it in advance when you look through the Visio and the shape of the bird in question by far does not fill the red circle it is supposed to fill. You may get an ID, but more likely you won’t. Too great a distance between me and the bird has been one of the main reasons of frustration for me, esp. if the bird had been well visible in the binocular of the Visio.

4. Turn on and leave on
As mentioned earlier, it is advisable to turn the Visio on when you actively start birding, and to leave it on. It will last several hours, perhaps most of the day, with a single battery charge. This ensures the GPS is active and bird IDs have a good chance of success.

5. Backlight is bad
IDs are much more successful with birds sitting on the ground or flying at your altitude or when observing against an earthen background than with birds sitting high up in a tree when the bright daylight is behind that tree. The same is true when you observe from a dark shelter with a low roof, watching out into the bright daylight or sunshine. Results are better if you are in the same lighting situation as the bird.

6. Focal length is not the main issue with the camera
I have experimented a bit, trying to find out what it would bring if the 260 mm of the Visio were increased to something like 370 mm (using a Lumix with Leica DC Vario objective). The difference isn’t that great when it comes to detail recognition (see pics attached). More focal length would be welcome in the Visio, but it would not drastically change things.

7. IS would be a clear improvement
Had the camera an image stabilization, many of those shots that I messed up when in a hurry, or when I was more jittery than usual, would have come out usable. Of course, this would further increase the size and weight of the Visio. So you may want to find other means to ensure stable shots (monopod, tripod, leaning against a tree, resting your elbows on something, etc.)

8. If you can get close enough and the bird is well visible, the Visio works almost 100%
You may get many birds identified even if the conditions mentioned in the manual are not fulfilled; but then the risk is high that the Visio will turn out a “no bird” result. However, if you get a clear shot at a bird that fills a large portion of the ID circle in the display, is well visible, the backlight is not too strong and you don’t jitter like hell, the success rate is close to 100%. When all those conditions were met, I did not have one single case of “no bird recognizable” with the Visio.

9. The rate of “no ID” is much higher than the rate of wrong IDs
That is my personal experience. I do get the occasional wrong ID that you would expect in situations where there are several bird species that look similar and ID would be tricky also for good birders. When I get a positive ID, it is usually right, or then I get a “no bird recognizable” much more frequently than a wrong ID.

10. The combination of binocular and camera is the greatest asset
Being able to observe and make a photo without having to put down the binocular is a fabulous thing. That alone (with the capability to later ID birds with the Merlin app) is much more important to me than the ability to ID a bird in the Visio right on the spot. Of course, the camera does by far not count as a “wildlife camera” with which you can shoot brilliant images of wildlife that you hang on your walls, but I think it is sufficient for recording and observation management tasks.

11. Other functions of the Visio
The “share discoveries” function of the Visio is useful when you are out with colleagues. Without a range measurement capability, the compass is of limited use to me. I haven’t used the mammal ID function; more useful is probably the possibility to ID butterflies and the like, but I haven’t used it much yet.

fwiw Canip
feel similar in system here.
also think taking photo without taking your eye off the bino is the best advantages Visio have.
user can identify the bird not only by the bird id system in visio but also putting photo taken by identifying system visio have to merlin, like other birders do with their own photos.
20240304_232431.jpg
above left is the photo that visio misidentified in bird id, because the bird is too small compared to the range of ID (red circle in display) but if I go to merlin and adjust the same photo, I can have chances of right match.

and for the distance, user can boost the identification accuracy by softly push (load)the shutter before operating the bird id.

below is the three result of the same bird at same distance.

20240304_160622.jpg
first (top) I don't load the shutter so I can get an identification

second (mid) after 2sec of loading, I got an identification but wrong one.

third (bottom) after about 5second of loading, I got a right identification.

it is same in the photo below

when I just push the ID button, visio gets a wrong ID
20240305_212325.jpg

when I load a bit (see the half of the circle thicken)
I got right ID with half of the red circle filled.
20240305_232739.jpg
when I waited longer (also see the thickness of the circle.) I can get full - circle - identification of Northern Pintail.
20240305_212407.jpg

but still, It's slow focusing and need of the loading make hard to identify small birds moving dynamically.
user may have to practice focusing and taking photo with visio or waiting for a merlin ID system itself to be updated.

merlin is a helper not a master of the bird identification.
If the user knew the limitations of merlin system, him(or she) will be very satisfied to Visio, but if the user don't get enough knowledge about merlin, and think ax visio will find and identify every bird he(or she) come across, maybe it is still just a dream yet. to them
 
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For the price of the AX I think most birders would be better served by getting an outstanding 8x32 and a good field guide (that would likely be lighter in total than this 10x32 with the weight/bulk of a 10x56). But I'm grateful to Canip and the others who have tried it and noted their observations. The concepts behind it are definitely interesting and can only evolve/improve with time, assuming there is interest. Maybe Jan would be so kind as to provide us with sales figures for the AX in a year or two (although I'm sure he would rather everyone interested all buy one, of course...).

PS. @jackjack - after the "white-tailed eagle" identification I would be laughing so hard I would not be able to continue...
 
The following personal findings reflect my experience using the Visio on a daily basis for over a month, doing literally hundreds of bird identifications with it.

1. Not a “quick and easy” device
Unless you are willing to invest some time and learn how to best use the Visio, you will likely experience many frustrating moments. That’s probably what happened to some internet reviewers who spent a few hours with the Visio and then concluded that it wasn’t really a useful device, since it didn’t reliably identify birds. Give it some practice and you will find that the Visio actually does the job it is designed to do quite well.

2. Don’t expect the impossible
As mentioned somewhere else, you as an experienced birder may be able to identify birds that are partially hidden in branches and behind leaves so that you can only see a small part of their body. For an algorithm, this is a greater challenge. Don’t expect the machine to be as “smart” as you. I have had surprisingly good results with birds almost invisible in or behind bushes, but not on a reliable basis, so don’t get mad if the Visio doesn’t give you a bird’s name or doesn’t even see a bird that you have spotted in the binocular but that is not really clearly visible.

3. Distance, distance, distance
Large birds (herons, storks, large birds of prey etc) can be identified by the Visio at distances well beyond 150m or more, both in flight and sitting still. The same is not true for small birds. Even 40m may be too far for tits or chiffchaffs. You will know it in advance when you look through the Visio and the shape of the bird in question by far does not fill the red circle it is supposed to fill. You may get an ID, but more likely you won’t. Too great a distance between me and the bird has been one of the main reasons of frustration for me, esp. if the bird had been well visible in the binocular of the Visio.

4. Turn on and leave on
As mentioned earlier, it is advisable to turn the Visio on when you actively start birding, and to leave it on. It will last several hours, perhaps most of the day, with a single battery charge. This ensures the GPS is active and bird IDs have a good chance of success.

5. Backlight is bad
IDs are much more successful with birds sitting on the ground or flying at your altitude or when observing against an earthen background than with birds sitting high up in a tree when the bright daylight is behind that tree. The same is true when you observe from a dark shelter with a low roof, watching out into the bright daylight or sunshine. Results are better if you are in the same lighting situation as the bird.

6. Focal length is not the main issue with the camera
I have experimented a bit, trying to find out what it would bring if the 260 mm of the Visio were increased to something like 370 mm (using a Lumix with Leica DC Vario objective). The difference isn’t that great when it comes to detail recognition (see pics attached). More focal length would be welcome in the Visio, but it would not drastically change things.

7. IS would be a clear improvement
Had the camera an image stabilization, many of those shots that I messed up when in a hurry, or when I was more jittery than usual, would have come out usable. Of course, this would further increase the size and weight of the Visio. So you may want to find other means to ensure stable shots (monopod, tripod, leaning against a tree, resting your elbows on something, etc.)

8. If you can get close enough and the bird is well visible, the Visio works almost 100%
You may get many birds identified even if the conditions mentioned in the manual are not fulfilled; but then the risk is high that the Visio will turn out a “no bird” result. However, if you get a clear shot at a bird that fills a large portion of the ID circle in the display, is well visible, the backlight is not too strong and you don’t jitter like hell, the success rate is close to 100%. When all those conditions were met, I did not have one single case of “no bird recognizable” with the Visio.

9. The rate of “no ID” is much higher than the rate of wrong IDs
That is my personal experience. I do get the occasional wrong ID that you would expect in situations where there are several bird species that look similar and ID would be tricky also for good birders. When I get a positive ID, it is usually right, or then I get a “no bird recognizable” much more frequently than a wrong ID.

10. The combination of binocular and camera is the greatest asset
Being able to observe and make a photo without having to put down the binocular is a fabulous thing. That alone (with the capability to later ID birds with the Merlin app) is much more important to me than the ability to ID a bird in the Visio right on the spot. Of course, the camera does by far not count as a “wildlife camera” with which you can shoot brilliant images of wildlife that you hang on your walls, but I think it is sufficient for recording and observation management tasks.

11. Other functions of the Visio
The “share discoveries” function of the Visio is useful when you are out with colleagues. Without a range measurement capability, the compass is of limited use to me. I haven’t used the mammal ID function; more useful is probably the possibility to ID butterflies and the like, but I haven’t used it much yet.

fwiw Canip
„Postscriptum“:

12. iNaturalist works well with the Visio photos

As discussed, the „natural“ reaction when birds have not been recognized / identified in the Visio is to later use the Merlin app with the Visio photos, which in my experience has a high chance of success (80% or more).

The app „iNaturalist“ seems to work even better. In the Merlin app, photos often have to be „blown up“ for the app to successfully identify a bird. iNaturalist doesn‘t need this step and has given me consistently good results.

When birds have been too far away and therefore their image is too small for the Visio, I now use iNaturalist for identifications instead of Merlin, with an even higher success rate.

fwiw Canip
 
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„Postscriptum“:

12. iNaturalist works well with the Visio photos

As discussed, the „natural“ reaction when birds have not been recognized / identified in the Visio is to later use the Merlin app with the Visio photos, which in my experience has a high chance of success (80% or more).

The app „iNaturalist“ seems to work even better. In the Merlin app, photos often have to be „blown up“ for the app to successfully identify a bird. iNaturalist doesn‘t need this step and has given me consistently good results.

When birds have been too far away and therefore their image is too small for the Visio, I now use iNaturalist for identifications instead of Merlin, with an even higher success rate.

fwiw Canip

Excellent finding and thanks a lot for your feedback
 
Just remember, inat isn’t infallible either.
Of course (neither am I, nor probably you;)). But I found it interesting that it seems to cope better than Merlin with small, distant birds. However, I so far only tested it with birds in Switzerland, where there are perhaps more previous sightings (which iNaturalist uses) than in other places.
 
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„Postscriptum“:

12. iNaturalist works well with the Visio photos

As discussed, the „natural“ reaction when birds have not been recognized / identified in the Visio is to later use the Merlin app with the Visio photos, which in my experience has a high chance of success (80% or more).

The app „iNaturalist“ seems to work even better. In the Merlin app, photos often have to be „blown up“ for the app to successfully identify a bird. iNaturalist doesn‘t need this step and has given me consistently good results.

When birds have been too far away and therefore their image is too small for the Visio, I now use iNaturalist for identifications instead of Merlin, with an even higher success rate.

fwiw Canip
Thank you!
 

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