Optics Review

Minox DCM 5.0 Digital Camera Eyepiece

The Minox DCM 5.0 digital eyepiece is a unique device in a market flooded with brand only digiscoping equipment. This digital camera/eyepiece which runs about $150 online comes in multiple SKUs that match up with sixteen current spotting scopes. I had the privilege to try it for about an hour with a premium spotter in the field just behind our offices. The time was mid-day and in the city… with eighteen wheelers and delivery trucks very close by so it was not the ideal time nor place to attempt to be Ansel Adams as John James Audubon.

There’s a lot of potential in this product. Like anything else I’m sure that with more experience you’ll get better results. My limited time did show me the pro’s and cons of the camera. The pros are that it is relatively inexpensive to acquire, easy to set and operate, and produces decent results; even on the first try. I photographed some common birds on the top of a power pole 92 yards away (distance verified with a very high end rangefinder). I used the default settings and used it straight out of the box. I’d imagine that shooting later in the day and tweaking the white balance would give me better pictures but I didn’t have time to dive that deeply into it. Here is what I found…maxing out the zoom at noon on a windy day isn’t going to win you digiscoper of the year. If you back off the zoom to the lowest setting which is probably 20x…you’ll get a good picture and with experience and patience probably some to frame. Also, you could probably get closer to you subject than 100 yards and that would yield better results as well. Interestingly enough, the device comes with a remote control in lieu of a cable shutter release. A remote shutter is essential because the manual two second time delay and mother nature isn’t going to work most of the time. Also pressing the button manually will give you blurry pictures. On top of that, high magnification will always magnify vibration; even your finger daintily pressing a shutter can blur a pic. There was still a lag with the remote but not too bad. One thing that was nice with the remote was that it only has three buttons and can switch from pictures to soundless video instantly. You can even toggle between two set zooms during the video taping. You can step zoom while in the camera mode. If you had this thing pointed at a bird feeder in you back yard 50 feet away you’d get some awesome shots and video. When you put an SD card in there be sure to shoot away and play the numbers. Eventually a beauty will happen. The images are 5 Mega Pixel so that’s printable even at a larger scale.

As much as I like the product there are some disappointments.  One thing that bugged me was that it was hard to get on target and know I was spot on with the focus because I was seeing my own reflection in the display window. Some of this might be corrected by changing the time of day, type of sunlight and maybe using a straight spotting scope. Actually I wouldn’t recommend changing the spotting scope to a straight unless you are never going to look higher than the horizon; that’s just spotting scope 101 knowledge. I guess the way around it would be to march out there like an old timer with a black cloth and put it over the eyepiece and your head, That would probably fix a lot of issues; if you don’t mind being a little different around the other birders and consider yourself a slave to your artform. Another thing that bothered me was that it kept shutting off to save the battery every 60 seconds so I had to shoot the empty pole every 40-50 seconds just to keep it on. After the session I stumbled across the ability to turn that feature off. It would have been handy to know that earlier and saved me the aggravation of turning it back on when a bird showed up because I forgot to take a dummy shot and keep it on, so if you buy this thing be sure to find the battery saver feature and turn it off. The last thing I didn’t like, and this kind of applies to the battery save feature I just mentioned, but the instructions for this thing are at a Dick and Jane kind of level with no hard specifics as to things like where to plug in the USB cable; I had to call them for that information. I’m not kidding. There was a knob underneath but it didn’t want to come off nor seem like the logical place to plug in a cable and the last thing I wanted to do was remove a sealed knob and see a circuit board and wires.

All in all I’d give this device a four out of five based on performance to cost. If you are just starting off with digiscoping around the backyard and at the local state park…it is awesome. Really…it’s about time somebody put this out. You’ll have fun with it and have fun shots for your hobby and even a winner every now and then. However, if your planning a once in a lifetime trip to Argentina…maybe you should look at what your scope manufacturer has that matches your $1500 camera. That’s the scoop on the Minox Digital Camera Module 5.0.

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Chris Wisecarver

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