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Want to get into bird photography - advice on options

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Old Wednesday 7th September 2011, 00:03   #1
digiscope09
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Want to get into bird photography - advice on options

I currently digiscope but want to move into DSLR photography but not with heavy canon or nikon options. Been looking at Sony NEX-5 and the range of Panasonic 4/3's, G, GF, GH series (which has left me thoroughly confused), Olympus PEN etc. So I thought I would put down some must haves in hope I can make it easier to get advice ....

light weight
which zoom lens (need as much as possible within limitations of camera type and with autofocus) (also understand that panasonics might have an electronic converter to get more distance?)
decent viewfinder to track birds in flight
sharp image quality
burst capability

All views/advice welcome.

finno
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Old Wednesday 7th September 2011, 05:40   #2
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For what it's worth, I'll tell you what I'm using, as it might open some options you hadn't thought of. Or you might hate the idea.

I have an Olympus E-520, and I'm using an old Sigma 400mm manual focus prime lens on it. It stays fully open most of the time (f5.6) because it's too much trouble to change it. I used to stop it down when it was bright, but I gradually forgot I could.

I'm manually focusing every shot with reasonable success. I have a Dandelion focus confirmation chip on the lens adapter, so it beeps to confirm focus, but I mostly ignore it. I also have a 1.36x viewfinder magnifier, which helps a lot with the focusing.

The reason for all this is cost. The lens was about $90, the adapter and chip about $30. I think the magnifier was about $50 (plus the one I lost), but I'd want one of those anyway.

The reason I chose Olympus is because I wanted in body image stabilisation so I could use cheap lenses, and I wanted a camera that had a small enough lens flange to sensor distance that I could get adaptors for lots of different lens mounts. Olympus is the only candidate.

If I was getting set up now, I might consider something similar, but with one of the Pen series with the VF-2 electronic viewfinder. That (should?) give me a fairly clear view, and let me magnify the image many times (10?) for manual focusing at the press of a button.
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Old Wednesday 7th September 2011, 07:55   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by finno View Post
I currently digiscope but want to move into DSLR photography but not with heavy canon or nikon options. Been looking at Sony NEX-5 and the range of Panasonic 4/3's, G, GF, GH series (which has left me thoroughly confused), Olympus PEN etc. So I thought I would put down some must haves in hope I can make it easier to get advice ....

light weight
which zoom lens (need as much as possible within limitations of camera type and with autofocus) (also understand that panasonics might have an electronic converter to get more distance?)
decent viewfinder to track birds in flight
sharp image quality
burst capability

All views/advice welcome.

finno
I don't think any of those cameras you mentioned would fit all those 'must haves'. Basically suffice to say you need a fairly heavy lens to get both reach and decent IQ, those camera's selling points are that they are small hence the lenses that come with them are also small, for bird you need as much reach as you can get, the maximum reach for those type of cameras is a slowish 300mm zoom I think? You can use bigger lenses but none with AF.

300mm just isn't enough for birding I'd say.

I don't know about AF speed with the 300mm is or how good the viewfinders on the cameras are.

Worthy cameras they may be but IMO they just aren't designed for nature photography, especially small fast moving birds. Unless you use them for digiscoping I guess.
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Old Wednesday 7th September 2011, 09:51   #4
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I use a sony slt 33 and one of the lenses I use is an old minolta 500mm mirror lens which has got auto focus, that combo might be adequate for for you.
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Old Wednesday 7th September 2011, 14:10   #5
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300mm just isn't enough for birding I'd say.
This is one of those statements that is difficult to answer: on a full frame camera, 300 does not sound like much, but in angle of view, 300 on a micro4/3 body look like a 600 on a full frame or like about a 400 on a canon crop sensor body. On Pana m4/3 you can then use a smaller part of the sensor to get in camera crop that looks even closer if you so prefer.

Niels
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Old Wednesday 7th September 2011, 15:37   #6
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Originally Posted by njlarsen View Post
This is one of those statements that is difficult to answer: on a full frame camera, 300 does not sound like much, but in angle of view, 300 on a micro4/3 body look like a 600 on a full frame or like about a 400 on a canon crop sensor body. On Pana m4/3 you can then use a smaller part of the sensor to get in camera crop that looks even closer if you so prefer.

Niels
I know what you're saying but we shouldn't expect a slow 300mm zoom on one of these cameras to compare IQ-wise with a decent 400 or 420 (with t/c) on a Canon or Nikon DSLR when we're talking bird pics.

For large or tame birds in good light I'm sure thay can produce. Or 'record shots' too for that matter.
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Old Wednesday 7th September 2011, 17:48   #7
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It is always a question: which quality is good enough? And do you want the extra weight that a canikon with 400 would involve? Only the individual user can answer those two questions.

Niels
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Old Wednesday 7th September 2011, 23:43   #8
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Want to get into bird photography....

Quote:
Originally Posted by njlarsen View Post
It is always a question: which quality is good enough? And do you want the extra weight that a canikon with 400 would involve? Only the individual user can answer those two questions.

Niels
Thanks to all respondents - appreciated the info. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

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Old Thursday 8th September 2011, 00:06   #9
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Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
I know what you're saying but we shouldn't expect a slow 300mm zoom on one of these cameras to compare IQ-wise with a decent 400 or 420 (with t/c) on a Canon or Nikon DSLR when we're talking bird pics.

For large or tame birds in good light I'm sure thay can produce. Or 'record shots' too for that matter.
With all those qualifications it's hard to disagree. But the more interesting fact I think is just how close the micro 4/3 panasonics come in many situations to DSLR's in image quality, and at what I would imagine is about one-third of the weight and expense of the setup you describe. See here for example: http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=209305 Moreover, the micro 4/3 lens lineup seems likely to expand in the future, so the availability of TCs and 400mm lenses may only be a temporary advantage for DSLRs.

Best,
Jim
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Old Thursday 8th September 2011, 03:13   #10
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With all those qualifications it's hard to disagree. But the more interesting fact I think is just how close the micro 4/3 panasonics come in many situations to DSLR's in image quality, and at what I would imagine is about one-third of the weight and expense of the setup you describe. See here for example: http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=209305 Moreover, the micro 4/3 lens lineup seems likely to expand in the future, so the availability of TCs and 400mm lenses may only be a temporary advantage for DSLRs.

Best,
Jim
One additional thought: Sigma have announced they are interested in m4/3 -- maybe they will produce one of their longer lenses with the m4/3 mount. I realize there will be no weight advantage there, but it could be the step up for the person unhappy with the 300mm reach.

With the 100-300, I am personally happy with photos such as this and this.

Niels
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Old Thursday 8th September 2011, 06:44   #11
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Originally Posted by HokkaidoStu View Post
I know what you're saying but we shouldn't expect a slow 300mm zoom on one of these cameras to compare IQ-wise with a decent 400 or 420 (with t/c) on a Canon or Nikon DSLR when we're talking bird pics.
i am using Olympus EPL1 with Lumix 100-300mm zoom and it is not slow at all.

took this shot, with the liveview which i am not very good with.

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...0/ppuser/71763



i do agree that 300 mm on 4/3 sensor is just the start, it is good for garden birds, but for wild birds one need 500mm.

personally i am happy with my Bigma (Sigma 50-500mm) that i am using with Olympus E620, as there in an in body IS, but no for the lens, so a tripod is a must. but this is discontinued. wish sigma would release a newer one with OIS, and faster AF.
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Old Thursday 8th September 2011, 06:51   #12
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One additional thought: Sigma have announced they are interested in m4/3 -- maybe they will produce one of their longer lenses with the m4/3 mount. I realize there will be no weight advantage there, but it could be the step up for the person unhappy with the 300mm reach.

With the 100-300, I am personally happy with photos such as this and this.

Niels
Niels i am so glad to hear that Sigma will start making m4/3s, wish they consider the need for wild life photographers.

lovely two picture as all in your gallery, please can you tell me what f stop you have used for this shot, and what is the distance between you and the bird.

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...2/limit/recent
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Old Thursday 8th September 2011, 08:09   #13
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i am using Olympus EPL1 with Lumix 100-300mm zoom and it is not slow at all.
I meant slow as in aperture, it is only f5.6 I think.
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Old Friday 9th September 2011, 00:54   #14
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lovely two picture as all in your gallery, please can you tell me what f stop you have used for this shot, and what is the distance between you and the bird.

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...2/limit/recent
Thanks Doux,
It was at 300 mm setting on the lens, 1/640s, f6.3, iso160 (lowest possible on the GH2). Distance is a little more difficult, but it has not been cropped much and the bird is about the same size as a feral pigeon (33-36cm). I guess I was about 5-7 meters from the bird.

For comparison, the data for the lion was 1/1300s, f6.3, iso160 - I don't know the distance, but larger and the sun was hot at the time, so some air moving just due to that.

Niels
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Old Friday 9th September 2011, 02:13   #15
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Originally Posted by ammadoux View Post
i am using Olympus EPL1 with Lumix 100-300mm zoom and it is not slow at all.

took this shot, with the liveview which i am not very good with.

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...0/ppuser/71763



i do agree that 300 mm on 4/3 sensor is just the start, it is good for garden birds, but for wild birds one need 500mm.

personally i am happy with my Bigma (Sigma 50-500mm) that i am using with Olympus E620, as there in an in body IS, but no for the lens, so a tripod is a must. but this is discontinued. wish sigma would release a newer one with OIS, and faster AF.
Dear Doux,

When mounting your camera + 100-300 lens on a tripod, do you turn off the Image Stabilization for both the lens or your camera body or either one of them? What happens if you leave it on? Does it adversely affect image quality in the same way as Sigma's OS and Canon's non-pro lens IS (i.e. those without any sort of tripod-sensing stabilization)?

Thanks
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Old Friday 9th September 2011, 03:16   #16
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thanks Niels, for the info, i am really amazed by this lovely lens, as usually when shooting distant birds one need to stop down the lens more to get better sharpness (or at least that what i find), but you got such fabulous sharpness, on the max f, this is really super.
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Old Friday 9th September 2011, 03:23   #17
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Dear Doux,

When mounting your camera + 100-300 lens on a tripod, do you turn off the Image Stabilization for both the lens or your camera body or either one of them? What happens if you leave it on? Does it adversely affect image quality in the same way as Sigma's OS and Canon's non-pro lens IS (i.e. those without any sort of tripod-sensing stabilization)?

Thanks

hello my fiend

i have never used the EPL1 + the Lumix 100-300mm with a tripod, always hand-held, and always with the OIS on and the IS on the camera on also, i don't think i will turn them off even if i used a tripod.

these are three shots that show the IQ of my shots.

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...2/ppuser/71763

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...9/ppuser/71763

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...3/ppuser/71763

usually when i use the Bigma with a tripod, i do try to go for as low ISO as possible, but with the Lumix i have to go for ISO 500, but his will not be very noisy when shooting at good light, as it is always here.

BTW have you considered the new EPL3.
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Old Friday 9th September 2011, 03:42   #18
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hello my fiend

i have never used the EPL1 + the Lumix 100-300mm with a tripod, always hand-held, and always with the OIS on and the IS on the camera on also, i don't think i will turn them off even if i used a tripod.

these are three shots that show the IQ of my shots.

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...2/ppuser/71763

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...9/ppuser/71763

http://www.birdforum.net/gallery/sho...3/ppuser/71763

usually when i use the Bigma with a tripod, i do try to go for as low ISO as possible, but with the Lumix i have to go for ISO 500, but his will not be very noisy when shooting at good light, as it is always here.

BTW have you considered the new EPL3.
Thanks Doux. Great shots of yours, love the quality too

I'm currently using a Canon EOS 600D & a 400mm F5.6L lens i.e. no IS in this system. In the future I might consider a Micro 4/3 System as an alternative or back-up system, with Olympus being preferred due to in-body stabilization. I quite like the compact nature of the new EPL-3 and the tilt screen, but I've heard that the EP-3 has better image quality and more accessible functions. What is your opinion on this?

Reagrds,

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Old Friday 9th September 2011, 13:37   #19
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thanks Niels, for the info, i am really amazed by this lovely lens, as usually when shooting distant birds one need to stop down the lens more to get better sharpness (or at least that what i find), but you got such fabulous sharpness, on the max f, this is really super.
I think I have written this before, but it seems in my hands and used with the GH2, that the main determinant of sharpness is getting a short enough shutter time, and I strive to use 1/640 or shorter (in dark conditions I do go longer).

I would encourage you to try with the lens wide open, fast shutter, and compare the results with both IS on versus only one of them (and try to do each one alone, only in camera vs only in lens). Maybe using both is not the best - the only way to know is to test it I think.

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Old Friday 9th September 2011, 14:45   #20
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I think I have written this before, but it seems in my hands and used with the GH2, that the main determinant of sharpness is getting a short enough shutter time, and I strive to use 1/640 or shorter (in dark conditions I do go longer).

I would encourage you to try with the lens wide open, fast shutter, and compare the results with both IS on versus only one of them (and try to do each one alone, only in camera vs only in lens). Maybe using both is not the best - the only way to know is to test it I think.

Niels
WOW fast shutter, with wide open lens, will have to try it, with my Bigma and E620, will have an early birding tomorrow in a desert area, i just have to use the right angle of the sun, and hopefully the birds be cooperative.

at this time i gave the Lumix to a friend, so until i get it back, then i will also give it a try.

thanks Niels.
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Old Friday 9th September 2011, 14:52   #21
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Thanks Doux. Great shots of yours, love the quality too

I'm currently using a Canon EOS 600D & a 400mm F5.6L lens i.e. no IS in this system. In the future I might consider a Micro 4/3 System as an alternative or back-up system, with Olympus being preferred due to in-body stabilization. I quite like the compact nature of the new EPL-3 and the tilt screen, but I've heard that the EP-3 has better image quality and more accessible functions. What is your opinion on this?

Reagrds,

Hor Kee
i have not read about the EP3, but it should be great and better for those who are more then just amateurs, the EPL3 got the advantage of its small and compact size.

but if both are using the same sensor, them i don't see how one can be better than the other in IQ. IQ will be the issue of the lens you are using then.
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