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Switching to DSLR for Bird Photography - Advice appreciated

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Old Saturday 28th June 2008, 19:46   #1
lowcountrybird
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Switching to DSLR for Bird Photography - Advice appreciated

Hello,

I have only used film cameras and digital point and click (Olympus C740-Ultra Zoom). I do have a Canon Rebel S Film camera with a 35-105mm zoom lens. My c740 is inadequate for bird photography given I really want to take much better bird photos and it's just too soft and noisy at full zoom. I am also going to Costa Rica in January and want to be able to take good photos of wildlife there. So, I'm thinking it's time to consider going to DSLR rather than upgrading my point and click camera.

Weight is a consideration since I shouldn't be lugging too much weight around. I like to go out for long walks. I realize it is a contradiction to want to get more serious about bird photography and yet have weight limitations, but I really do have to be careful about how much weight I take on. So it will be about compromises there.

Ability to capture bird behavior is important as well. We live on a river and get eagles, hawks, gulls, terns, pelicans, osprey, and also lots of smaller birds as well. I get frustrated when a gorgeous osprey perches on a post two docks away eating a fish, and I cannot get a decent shot with my c740. We also get hummingbirds in our backyard each year that I'd love to be able to capture with more detail.

So I'm considering the following cameras:

Olympus E-520
Olympus E-3
Canon 40D
Canon Xsi
Pentax K20D

Do any of you on the Pentax forum have any advice regarding using a Pentax K20D for bird photograpy? I want to get into a system that I can grow with. I was a bit concerned about Pentax compared to Canon as a company. I have read about Pentax being acquired and also had a Ritz Camera sales person clearly trying to steer me away from Pentax, implying they might get sold off from Hoya (sp?). However, that could all be rubbish talk. The K20D looks like a great camera - It's weatherized so that it should handle being in the tropics. With Pentax, I believe I'll have plenty of good lens options, yes?

Any advice on factors to consider and on the equipment I'm considering would be appreciated since I'm a novice to the DSLR world.

Thanks!
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Old Sunday 29th June 2008, 08:28   #2
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Difficult - but keep trying

As a photography for many years, when it comes to birding, I have failed miserably. It is the most difficult subject I have tried to shoot. A challenge, so I will keep trying, but I am under no allusions about how difficult it is to get a good shot.

As for DSLR, well the question is what's the alternative, for lens selection none. So the other alternative is to use a spotting scope and an adapter with a compact camera. The down side of the DSLR, and that is what I use are. Noise size and weight. The noise of the mirror, the noise of the AF. (Built in lens motors are much quieter, but the joke is you often shoot manual).

Can't give you a recommendation as I have not had much success to know which is the best way to go, however should give you an idea of what things to consider.
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Old Sunday 29th June 2008, 08:36   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lowcountrybird View Post

Weight is a consideration since I shouldn't be lugging too much weight around. I like to go out for long walks. I realize it is a contradiction to want to get more serious about bird photography and yet have weight limitations, but I really do have to be careful about how much weight I take on. So it will be about compromises there.

Ability to capture bird behavior is important as well. We live on a river and get eagles, hawks, gulls, terns, pelicans, osprey, and also lots of smaller birds as well. I get frustrated when a gorgeous osprey perches on a post two docks away eating a fish, and I cannot get a decent shot with my c740. We also get hummingbirds in our backyard each year that I'd love to be able to capture with more detail.

So I'm considering the following cameras:

Olympus E-520
Olympus E-3
Canon 40D
Canon Xsi
Pentax K20D

Do any of you on the Pentax forum have any advice regarding using a Pentax K20D for bird photograpy? I want to get into a system that I can grow with.

Any advice on factors to consider and on the equipment I'm considering would be appreciated since I'm a novice to the DSLR world.

Thanks!
As an owner of both a Pentax DL and a K20D I think you might want to be more realistic about what you can do with a camera.

First. There is just no way that I know of where you will be able to get the kind of reach (magnification) and quality you want without using a large long lens on a tripod. A 500mm whould be minimum in my opinion and, in general, would have to be tripod mounted.

If I was to use a hand held DSLR for wildlife shots I'd think about perhaps a 50-300 or 400mm zoom and just accept it's limitations. This would give you about 9x magnification and would work for close in shots of opportunity.

For instance the following was taken at a distance of about 300 feet and required a large 100m (objective size not FL) Pentax spotting scope giving me 38x mounted on a very heavy tripod. This would be the equivalent of a 1920mm telephoto.
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Old Sunday 29th June 2008, 12:27   #4
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Hmm. I haven't considered scopes with a compact camera. I'll look into that. Thanks!
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Old Sunday 29th June 2008, 13:43   #5
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By the way, that's a gorgeous photo of the eagle.

I was interested in the four-thirds system given the 2x factor. My thought was that this would allow me to have a lighter weight kit.

I will definitely look into the scope option.

Thanks again.
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Old Monday 30th June 2008, 11:26   #6
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Hi I have a Pentax K10D it's as good a camera as you'll get for the money especially with the weather sealing I use a Sigma 50-500 and monopod on it for birding, it takes a fair photo and is quite portable. Take a look at my gallery
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Old Monday 30th June 2008, 12:11   #7
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You might want to think about some of the point and shoot camera with 15X zoom.
Getting into a DSLR is a whole new adventure. Light Weight and size they are not.
There are several zooms with 8 mega pixels or more that are under $500 and quite decent with equivalant reach of 400 mm or more.
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Old Monday 30th June 2008, 20:41   #8
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Yes, the Olympus SP-570 Ultra Zoom looks pretty impressive. I was just checking into that one today. Thanks!
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Old Thursday 10th July 2008, 21:17   #9
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If you go down the superzoom route you should also consider the Panasonic FZ18.

Here is a link to some photos recently taken on a rather wet holiday in Mull, Scotland with the FZ18 and in many cases using a 1.7x teleconverter.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/8773601...7606072883695/
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Old Sunday 27th July 2008, 23:03   #10
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Decided on the Pentax K20D

Well, I decided to take the plunge and get the Pentax K20D. I've been playing with it this weekend with some older manual lenses. I've ordered the DA 55-300mm lens. I'll post updates once I get the new lens. Thanks!
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Old Monday 28th July 2008, 07:54   #11
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Congrats on the purchase now let LBA begin(LBA) Lens Buying Addiction)
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Old Saturday 13th September 2008, 14:15   #12
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Just a quick update - I'm having a blast with the camera. I've really enjoyed the DA 55-300mm lens. I'll post some images soon. Thanks!
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Old Monday 15th September 2008, 11:55   #13
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Because you mentioned weight, have you considered the Panasonic or Olympus Micro two-thirds cameras that will be introduced perhaps this year.

Panasonic's camera has been previewed at dpreview. No info on the olympus, however, many are hoping that it will be smaller than the Pansonic. This is the link to the preview of Panasonic's camera:

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0809/08...nic_DMC_G1.asp

Here is a link to the announce of these cameras.

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0808/08...fourthirds.asp
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Old Wednesday 17th September 2008, 15:16   #14
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I am very gald to hear you are enjoying the camera. I recently bought a K200D (not being able to justify the K20D) and have been very pleased - build quality in particular is fantastic and I love all the weather seals. I bought a very average, but cheap, Pentax 75-300mm lens to go with it which can take great pictures - as always the more you spend on glass the better the results will be.

I also rather like being the only guy around not toting a Canon or a Nikon - a bit of reverse snobbery perhaps?!

Cheers

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Old Saturday 4th October 2008, 02:43   #15
lowcountrybird
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Micro four thirds...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob D View Post
Because you mentioned weight, have you considered the Panasonic or Olympus Micro two-thirds cameras that will be introduced perhaps this year.

Panasonic's camera has been previewed at dpreview. No info on the olympus, however, many are hoping that it will be smaller than the Pansonic. This is the link to the preview of Panasonic's camera:

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0809/08...nic_DMC_G1.asp

Here is a link to the announce of these cameras.

http://www.dpreview.com/news/0808/08...fourthirds.asp
Just noticed these the other day. Very interesting.
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Old Saturday 11th October 2008, 09:08   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by StrikingSlug View Post
I am very gald to hear you are enjoying the camera. I recently bought a K200D (not being able to justify the K20D) and have been very pleased - build quality in particular is fantastic and I love all the weather seals. I bought a very average, but cheap, Pentax 75-300mm lens to go with it which can take great pictures - as always the more you spend on glass the better the results will be.
Richard
I am interested in the K200D for the same reason as yours and on account of having six Pentax-M manual focus lenses from 28 to 400mm.
Is the viewfinder of the K200D bright enough for focussing with the long Pentax zoom which, I assume, is not autofocus, or with other manual focus lenses?
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Old Tuesday 14th October 2008, 20:29   #17
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Originally Posted by Chhayanat View Post
I am interested in the K200D for the same reason as yours and on account of having six Pentax-M manual focus lenses from 28 to 400mm.
Is the viewfinder of the K200D bright enough for focussing with the long Pentax zoom which, I assume, is not autofocus, or with other manual focus lenses?
I am afraid I have not done much manual focussing, because although I have 2 old manual lenses I have yet to do much with them on the camera. On the whole, however, I think the view-finder is bright enough, but it is a little difficult to be sure that you have the right focus because it does not have the split screen I was used to in the days that I had an ME Super film camera. The view-finder itself is also adjustable to make sure your eye performance is equivalent to the auto-focus performance.

I hope this helps - the camera is great and I do have a certain smug satisfaction carrying around something a bit different from all those common Canons and Nikons!
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Old Monday 20th October 2008, 08:19   #18
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Originally Posted by Chhayanat View Post
I am interested in the K200D for the same reason as yours and on account of having six Pentax-M manual focus lenses from 28 to 400mm.
Is the viewfinder of the K200D bright enough for focussing with the long Pentax zoom which, I assume, is not autofocus, or with other manual focus lenses?
I presume the viewfinder is similar to a K10D which I use with a 50-500 @f6.3 manual focus is quite good with the standard screen but I have fitted a Katzeye split prism screen which does make it easier Pentax are Known for having bright focus screen compared to other brands
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Old Thursday 30th October 2008, 23:44   #19
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Bird Photos taken with K20D and DA 55-300mm lens

Here are some photos of birds taken with my Pentax equipment.
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Old Saturday 1st November 2008, 14:08   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spot Focus View Post
I presume the viewfinder is similar to a K10D which I use with a 50-500 @f6.3 manual focus is quite good with the standard screen but I have fitted a Katzeye split prism screen which does make it easier Pentax are Known for having bright focus screen compared to other brands
Actually the K200D has a pentamirror and the K10D/K20D have pentaprisms. The latter are brighter and the Katzeye undoubtedly helps. I have heard from only one user who has actually employed a 400mm lens with the K200D.
His opinion is that the pentamirror is bright enough to use with such a small aperture long lens. More comments from actual users would be welcome.
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Old Friday 27th February 2009, 23:50   #21
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lowcountrybird,

I know I will get some jeers for this, have you considered a reflex lens?
500mm is very light, compact, cheap (make sure you get a "decent" lens) and it will still be stabilized.

I have had pretty darn good results with my 500 and 1000mm examples.

Just something to consider.

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Old Saturday 28th February 2009, 12:12   #22
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No Problems

I have a K100D which Pentax describe as Penta Mirror. ( I don't think there is any difference between this and Penta Prism) and use a 500mm mirror lens which is set at f8. You always need a reasonable amount of light, not just for the viewfinder, but also to shoot at a reasonable ISO level 800 or below. Higher and the noise levels do start to climb.
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Old Saturday 28th February 2009, 20:17   #23
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( I don't think there is any difference between this and Penta Prism)
A prism is a far more efficient way of reflecting the light through the viewfinder. It's just much more expensive. Believe me, you get a much brighter image in your viewfinder.

On the subject of mirror lenses, they're great in good, bright light but lousy at any other time. They also have a cripplingly low depth of field and are consequently very hard to get a sharp image with. They also tend to bias colour temperature to the cold end and have poor contrast.

If used well they can produce stunning long-range candid pictures or long-range sport action shots, but they're not a magic bullet.

By the way, I've been using one for years and will continue to do so, so I'm not biased against them, but I'm finding it quite limited for wildlife photography and have only achieved a few decent pics with it. Let's just say I've explored their limitations.
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Old Saturday 28th February 2009, 20:24   #24
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I have a K100D which Pentax describe as Penta Mirror. ( I don't think there is any difference between this and Penta Prism) and use a 500mm mirror lens which is set at f8. You always need a reasonable amount of light, not just for the viewfinder, but also to shoot at a reasonable ISO level 800 or below. Higher and the noise levels do start to climb.
I shoot my 500MM mirror at ISO200 (K100D Super and good sunlight of course) using shutter speeds of + 1/300th of a second.

Low light conditions would be a different story.

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Old Sunday 8th March 2009, 20:52   #25
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On the subject of long lenses, I just acquired (via birthday pressies) a Sigma Bigma 50-500 zoom so I guess my mirror lens might just be entering retirement except for a walkabout lens in excellent light.
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