Article Equipment DIY

Customized Bushhawk Mount

As I’ve started spending a lot of time doing nature photography, so I though it would be a good idea to find a substantial way to reduce camera shake when using long telephoto lenses. Using tripods out in the field to photograph wildlife has mobility limitations, so I wanted to try something unique.

Through research I learned about the Bushhawk camera mount system, which uses your shoulder to improve stability and overall improve your ability to smoothly pan the camera to follow moving subjects.

As I am on a budget, I opted to buy what I considered the bare essentials to get started. The main mount (shoulder stock and hand grip that has a button for auto focus and shutter) as well as the second grip that attaches to the front of the primary hand grip. The issue I was having with this setup is that the camera only attached to the mount by one screw. This allows for horizontal rotation of the camera if it gets bumped making things difficult.

Luckily, I have a friend who works in a machine shop that was willing to create a custom adapter bracket for me. My goal was the have both the camera mounting screw as well as the lens mounting screw attached to the Bushhawk.

Here is the completed custom setup:

That is a Pentax K-7, DA* 300mm lens, and a Kenko 1.5x Pz-AF SHQ teleconverter (currently wrapped in silicone tape).

The Bushhawk has two screw holes. One hole goes completely through the mount and attaches to whatever is above it. The second hole (behind the first) is designed to have a shorter screw screwed into the mount (this is used for their pricey quick-release add-on). So the plan was to use both holes to stop the camera from rotating left and right (from the user’s point of view) on accident and generally make the connection between the camera and Bushhawk stronger.

Here is a photo of the second screw:

My friend made a flush screw hole in the adapter, so the screw itself stay flush to prevent it from causing an issue with the lens tripod mount. The two screws in the back allow me to use just the DA* 300mm lens or the lens plus a Kenko 1.5x teleconverter which pushes the camera body back around an inch.

In the back where the camera connects to the adapter, the thumb screw that came with the Bushhawk was used with a metal spacer and a few simple washers to be placed between the camera to the adapter. The size of the spacer material needed to be pretty exact or else the thumb screw would torque down too much (or not enough) possibly damaging the camera, TC, or lens. A solid material with a close fit needed to be used as apposed to rubber for the same reason. Eventually, I’d like to make one solid piece to the exact size, but the spacer and washers work just fine as is… if not a bit difficult to get hold in place as I tighten the thumb screw. It would probably be a good idea to have a thin piece of rubber between the spacer and camera body too.

Here is the adapter plate up-close:

The two screws on the left were bought at a hardware store (Ace Hardware in the USA). The third screw is one that came with the Bushhawk mount.

I also made my own shutter release cable:

The two connectors are standard. The one connecting to the Bushhawk is a standard 3.5mm stereo audio connector, and the once connecting to the Pentax camera is a standard 2.5mm stereo audio connector (also called sub-mini). The gotcha is that Bushhawk flips the left and right “speaker” lines, so just buying a 3.5mm to 2.5mm cable won’t work as the auto focus and shutter release will be flipped.

Was the modification successful?
Absolutely! I used the setup for a good 6 hours out in the field without any issues what-so-ever. I think this will be a great setup to photograph birds in flight as well as other creatures far enough away that I need this. All of the photos from this linked article were taken with the setup. The strap that came with the Bushhawk was too short, so I used one of my other camera straps.

How much range does that setup provide?
K-7 has a 1.52x crop factor I believe and the Kenko TC is 1.5x, so I have an equivalent focal length of 684mm. It’s not the easiest setup to use, but I feel that I was able to get some decent results from my first outing with it.