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Bridge camera advice, please (1 Viewer)

This will be my first camera specifically for birding. I don't want to go down the DSLR route, mostly for budget reasons, but also because I'm looking for a camera for record shots and bird ID rather than cracking good images (though hopefully there'll be a few worth keeping). And I don't want my regular birding trips to become more about photography than birding.

I have been researching which bridge camera would work for me best. My birding is mostly walking rather than static, so something portable and quickly deployable is what I'm looking for. I'm usually toting a scope/tripod setup so don't want to be overly weighed down. I've looked at the Nikon Coolpix 950 and 1000 options, but don't think they're for me. Too bulky and slow auto focus (when I tried a friend's). I've narrowed things down to either the Panasonic Lumix FZ300/330 or the FZ2000/2500. The main thing that's causing my indecision is how to evaluate the small sensor + 600mm reach of the former against the 1"sensor and 480mm reach of the latter in practical terms of achievable end results.

Has anyone any thoughts that might help me decide, or a recommendation for alternative I might have missed?
 

GeorgeMac

Sutherland
Some camera companies offer loans so you can try a camera before buying. Not sure about availability or makes in your area, but it might be an option somewhere around town for you.
 

njlarsen

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Barbados
I've narrowed things down to either the Panasonic Lumix FZ300/330 or the FZ2000/2500.

In great light the first of these will likely be better and in awful light the opposite. What do you most often have?

Niels
 
In great light the first of these will likely be better and in awful light the opposite. What do you most often have?

Niels

Thanks Niels. The answer is we often have good light and often have bad light, frequently oscillating between the two! I can see why the FX2500 would be better in bad light, but I'd be interested to hear your reasons for putting the FX330 top in good light. Your input much appreciated.
 

Chosun Juan

Given to Fly
Australia - Aboriginal
Has anyone any thoughts that might help me decide, or a recommendation for alternative I might have missed?

Lissagriffin, I don't know that I would dismiss a DSLR set up so readily for your intended use. I can think of a great one for you.

You have some quite difficult requirements:-
Low light IQ (as well as good light)
As much focal length as possible (there's rarely enough ! :)
Good AF
Instantaneous start up for fleeting snap shots (sod's law has it that the birds you want a record of the most - will be the most fleeting ! :)
Size/weight/budget constraints.

It is going to be difficult to get that 'instant on' and ready for a shot with a bridge camera (or some mirrorless cameras) , and there can be delays with zooming, start up/shut down with bridge cameras in particular. Also in bright light, an Optical ViewFinder will be easier to use than a low spec EVF.

I'm going to suggest a DSLR setup that is only a bit more expensive than what you are contemplating, similar size, and a little bit more weight (I would suggest carrying it on a sling - very comfortable - makes most of the weight disappear, instantaneous to use, and a handy brace as well). You will have similar frame rates, more reach, better IQ, as good or better AF, and most importantly instantaneously ready to take a shot, and with vastly better battery life. They are very easy to use in Auto ISO - just point and shoot.

I would suggest the Nikon D7200 (2nd hand) and Tamron 100-400 f4.5-f6.3 .... it's a great balance between quality, value for money, size - it really is quite compact, weight - very light for what it is, IQ, AF, and focal length

* This will give you an equivalent focal length of 150-600mm @24MP of APS-C sized sensor (about 3.2 times the area of the 1" sensor you are contemplating - this is an important increase for low light).
Also, with the D7200 you can shoot it in 1.3x crop mode for 7fps.
This will give you 200-800mm equivalent @14.2MP.
* You should be able to source this setup for ~£1000
* Weight will be ~ 4lb (get a form fitted padded sling - like a Black Rapid).

The biggest benefit will be that you can walk around with the camera turned off even. If you spot something you want a shot of, you can turn one lever on/off switch, and zoom the lens out (manually with a twist) as fast as you can lift it suspended from your hip to eye level. There is no quicker camera setup available.

You can even leave the camera on as it uses a miniscule amount of power, and then you are just zooming the lens out to the desired length (I'm betting this will mostly be the maximum ! I use the same camera and sling setup with a larger, longer Tamron 150-600mm lens - and it's just about always 600mm, particularly on small birds).

I think that's a great option for you - at least get it in your hands and on a sling to see how it feels.

Otherwise if you are fixed on going for the bridge camera, then it's just learn to live with the frustrations and delays, and probably carry extra charged batteries too ! I found I couldn't live with those frustrations - you'd stumble across a close, low circling eagle, and by the time you got the bridge camera started up, zoomed out, and trying to focus - it would be gone ! No photos - only curses !

If going bridge camera, I think I would be inclined to go for the extra reach of the Nikon P950.

Hope that helps - over to you :)






Chosun :gh:
 
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njlarsen

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Barbados
@Lisa
I am going to follow Chosun in calling you Lisa: the extra reach will come in handy with light good enough to use it.

@Chosun: I wonder if you ever had a mirrorless of current generation in your hands. On my own mirrorless setup, I touch the on switch while raising the camera to my eyes and it is ready before it reaches my eyes. Regarding startup times and to some extent AF, I think you are propagating some prejudices that were true about five camera generations ago but are not true anymore.

Niels
 

Chosun Juan

Given to Fly
Australia - Aboriginal
Niels, the last bridge camera I used was the Sony RX-10 IV (borrowed over a weekend - but it's over Lissagriffin's budget anyway I imagine). Not as bad as the one that haunted me - but unless there is a full-time manual zoom override option, then that powered zoom time is too much of a frustration for me. This can be exacerbated if it wants to standby or shutdown at a different 'home' focal length than the one you want to use (usually full extention). It's a trade-off, but one that I wish was addressed more.

I deliberately didn't go into mirrorless because of the cost. By the time you've put a 100-400mm zoom on MFT the cost becomes prohibitive compared to what I suggested.

The ready to go time from turning on for the DSLR I suggested is instantaneous. Do you know what the time is for your set up ? even if fractions of a second ? Thanks.





Chosun :gh:
 
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njlarsen

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Barbados
Niels, the last bridge camera I used was the Sony RX-10 IV (borrowed over a weekend - but it's over Lisa's budget anyway I imagine). Not as bad as the one that haunted me - but unless there is a full-time manual zoom override option, then that powered zoom time is too much of a frustration for me. This can be exacerbated if it wants to standby or shutdown at a different 'home' focal length than the one you want to use (usually full extention). It's a trade-off, but one that I wish was addressed more.

I deliberately didn't go into mirrorless because of the cost. By the time you've put a 100-400mm zoom on MFT the cost becomes prohibitive compared to what I suggested.

The ready to go time from turning on for the DSLR I suggested is instantaneous. Do you know what the time is for your set up ? even if fractions of a second ? Thanks.





Chosun :gh:

What I wrote to you was based on you including mirrorless as equally slow as bridge - per memory, I cannot see it now. If you never included mirrorless in your post, then I apologize.

I do not know how slow or fast my G85 is on startup. DPreview no longer includes this because it is simply no longer an issue. With mechanical shutter, it takes up to 9 images per second -- more with electronic shutter.

Another thing to try to convince you that mirrorless is no longer the mirrorless of yesteryear: there are several professional nature photographers who have been using especially Olympus cameras lately, again stressing that the division is not so much mirrorless vs DSLR but between exchangeable lens camera vs others.

All of this has become a distraction from what the OP asked about, and I want to apologize for that. To bring it back a bit, notice the following weights:
FZ300 - 691 g
fz2500 - 915 g
Nikon p1000 - 1415 g
Nikon D7200 - 765 g plus lens as described (Tamron 100-400mm F4.5-6.3) - 1135 g for total of 1900 g.

Niels
 

Chosun Juan

Given to Fly
Australia - Aboriginal
Niels - no need for apologies, it was probably my clumsy words - I didn't intend to lump all mirrorless in together - only those slow to start up - some are as quick as you can move hand to eye. The biggest issue as I have said is the power zooming and home position time and power used in bridge cameras.

Yes, I realize my suggestion came in at 1.9kg (a smidge more than 4lb), however it's nicely balanced - hence the suggestion to try it out in the hand. I think it is better to have that on a sling harness rather than something lighter by half, hanging around the neck.

The Nikon P950 is 1005 grams.

It is interesting that even some users of the new high $ Canon R5 are less than fully impressed with that 5.76Mdot EVF during shooting. In general I agree, the transition to mirrorless is about to pass a point of no return - particularly DSLR development will now be very slow to non-existent. Today's DSLR's are the best there has ever been though, and if video is not a super high priority, will give excellent service probably outspanning the interest of the owner. With the Sony a7S III having a 9.44M dot EVF at up to 120Hz I think we are finally getting closer to the OVF provided the latency is low enough.

I think Lissagriffin has a difficult quandary - it may come down to how much he is willing to carry and spend. My suggestion was just an option to consider .....

P.S. Niels - please don't follow my naming - I seem to have had something of a brain fade ! :-O I'm very Sorry - I thought I checked it ! Posts edited ....



Chosun :gh:
 
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Singlereed

Well-known member
I used to have the Fz330 - and I have to say this was 4 or 5 years ago when they first came out. For your purposes it will probably be good - the range is quite good and it has a constant f2.8 aperture which is bright for the 600mm end. I got rid of mine for two reasons that may not affect you; firstly, the zoom got damaged (my fault but it was replaced under warranty) and secondly, IIRC the smallest aperture is f8.0. Coming, as I did, from a SLR background, I found this a strange limitation and this, together with worry about crunching the extended zoom another time, led me to return to DSLR in the micro four thirds format. I did get some great shots of garden birds and some wildlife with it and it's great using the Panasonic phone app to control it remotely - as it has a power zoom, you can zoom remotely. I set it up on a tripod outside, pointing at our bird feeder and got some great results. It won't really stretch to wading birds at a distance, I have 800mm equivalent on my current camera and many of them are still too far off. Hope that helps.
 

DJRWhittle

Well-known member
Hi Lissagriffin,

I have the Lumix FZ330. I also have a DSLR option available to me. I am not familiar with the Lumix FZ2000/2500.

My personal view is that the FZ330 is absolutely ideal for your purposes. Once you get your head round the settings, and there are a lot of them, the camera is capable of going well beyond the 600mm focal length. If you use ‘intelligent zoom’ and the correct associated settings, it is possible to push the zoom to 1200mm and beyond; and that is all optical - digital zoom is turned off (and in my humble opinion always should be). Great results are possible.

Google Graham Houghton, he has a you tube channel dedicated to Panasonic Lumix cameras. Loads of free videos and advice and he has written a book dedicated to setting up and using the FZ330 (amongst others) and has videos suitable for total novices to experienced users of these cameras.

I hope this is of some use to you.

Regards

Derek
 

Charlie Spencer

Active member
United States
More of the Eternal Question

I wasn't sure if I should piggy-back my question onto Lissagriffin's discussion. If this is offensive, let me know and I'll start a new thread.

I've asked this same question before. Last time I decided to remain with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70, but I'm financially ready to revisit this. Five years ago I chose it based solely on the 60x optical zoom, one of the few specifications I understand. This was my first camera with any controls beyond a single shutter button, and I've learned a lot from it, but I have a few complaints that have me looking for alternatives. The autofocus is too slow, and the manual focus is too cumbersome.

- I use a camera to A) take photos of what I couldn't identify in the field so I can research them at home, B) keep a record of what I've seen, C) use the zoom capabilities for birds outside the range of my binos. I'm after functional photos more than artistic ones.
- I shoot in .JPG; I find editing very frustrating since I don't know what my goals are or how to define 'finished'.
- The images will be viewed exclusively on large computer monitors and uploaded to eBird / Macauley, and won't be printed.
- I'm not interested in shooting video at this time.
- I don't care either way about WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, audio, editing on the camera, touch and / or tilt screens.

In priority order, I'm looking for these features:
- Fast autofocus
- Able to get identifiable images of 6" birds from at least 150 feet
- Easy manual focus when needed
- Decent battery life (350+ photos before changing)
- Relatively easy to get started with.

Outside of these features, I'm agnostic regarding brand, or P&S vs DSLR vs mirrorless, although I've never laid hands on the latter two platforms. I'm used to a viewfinder so I don't know the pros and cons of using a screen, but I could probably adapt if required.

Having said all that, I'm considering three Nikons - a bridge superzoom, a DSLR, and a mirrorless. For the last two, I've taken lenses into account financially but I haven't started looking for specific makes, models, or specs yet but I understand a 70/3000 is common. Why these Nikons? They looked like they would be easy to compare across platforms. So, any feedback regarding these three, or comparable models from other brands:

- CoolPix P950 (new) - https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1551798-REG/nikon_coolpix_p950_digital_camera.html
- D7500 (used) - https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1380709-REG/nikon_1581b_d7500_dslr_camera_body.html
- Z 50 (new) - https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1511294-REG/nikon_1634_z_50_mirrorless_digital.html/overview

Thanks for any responses!
 
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delia todd

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I'm doing fine with the P900 and guess the P950 will be much the same? Though bridge cameras probably don't focus quite so quickly as DSLRs apparently.

The batteries seem to last quite a long time, though I've never counted the number of frames before having to change. I always take a spare with me anyway.
 

njlarsen

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Charlie Spencer

Active member
United States
How important is portability for you? With the demand of being able to id a 6'' bird at 150 feet, I think you would have to have a really big and bulky lens to make the dSLR/mirrorless options work. Therefore, something like the nikon superzooms immediately spring to mind.

Here is a couple of threads you might want to peruse:
https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=391218
https://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=391301

Niels

Thanks, I'd already visited both of those.

Portability? I'm usually out less than four hours at a time, and only for a full day a couple of times a year. Binos will remain my primary tool, so I plan on hanging the camera off a strap, sling, harness, etc. We mostly travel by car, and only travel by air every other year or so, so suitcase space isn't a concern.

I'm leaning toward the D950 although I haven't ruled anything out yet. The FZ70 has just addicted me to being able to reach out and touch someone. The second thread you linked links to a nice shot of an owl taken with the D950 at 90 meters, Yeah, it's bigger than 6", but it's also well beyond my 150 foot / 45 meter targeted range.
 

njlarsen

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What I meant by portability probably should be explained by asking back: what do you do those four hours? if you are constantly on the move, then I think the smaller camera will suit you better. If you have intention of placing a really big lens onto a tripod and wait for a while (hide or similar) then the dSLR option becomes more of an option.

Another comment (repeated from elsewhere): in great light almost any camera will be able to do great. In really awful light the big and heavy dSLR equipment will usually win, especially if good quality images are needed.

Niels
 

Charlie Spencer

Active member
United States
What I meant by portability probably should be explained by asking back: what do you do those four hours? if you are constantly on the move, then I think the smaller camera will suit you better. If you have intention of placing a really big lens onto a tripod and wait for a while (hide or similar) then the dSLR option becomes more of an option.

Another comment (repeated from elsewhere): in great light almost any camera will be able to do great. In really awful light the big and heavy dSLR equipment will usually win, especially if good quality images are needed.

Niels

I move more than remain stationary. I don't set up shop in a blind, don't remain in one spot for hours, don't do a 'Big Sit'. I may remain in a spot 10 or 15 minutes but then usually move on.

It looks like the bigger killer for the DSLR or mirrorless is (surprise) the cost of a lens with a reach comparable to what I'm used to. I haven't completely closed those doors yet, but I may be ready to oil the hinges. My primary goal remains identifiable images; they won't be printed or posted anywhere other than Macaulay. That lowers the bar on 'good quality images' quite a bit. ;)

Thanks.
 
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pshute

Well-known member
I've narrowed things down to either the Panasonic Lumix FZ300/330 or the FZ2000/2500. The main thing that's causing my indecision is how to evaluate the small sensor + 600mm reach of the former against the 1"sensor and 480mm reach of the latter in practical terms of achievable end results.

It sounds like you need to see some comparative shots from the two models. Here's the dpreview sample gallery for the FZ300:
https://www.dpreview.com/sample-galleries/7101308391/panasonic-lumix-fz300-gallery/1361469003
You can expand the focal length section on the right hand side, and tick the box to just see the maximum focal length samples. There are a couple of birds in the three highest categories close to 108mm (600mm equivalent).

Here's the FZ2000 gallery:
https://www.dpreview.com/sample-gal...0-fz2000-real-world-sample-gallery/6482227165
Unfortunately there's only one bird in the 176mm (480mm equivalent) group.

Note that you really need to be comparing bird photos taken at the same distance, and that's not specified. Maybe you could ask for opinions in the Panasonic forum.

Here's the side by side specs comparison for them:
https://www.dpreview.com/products/c...fz300&products=canon_sx70hs&sortDir=ascending
I've added in a couple more options - the Canon SX70 because of its much longer zoom, and the Panasonic TZ95. The latter because I have a TZ80 and it works for me "for record shots and bird ID rather than cracking good images", and fits in my pocket. Its main problem is the slow lens, which leads to using high ISO which leads to noisy images.

Some things I'd take into consideration:
- viewfinder resolution. My TZ80 has 1.1Mdots, and is sort of ok. I suspect the higher the better for finding birds in the viewfinder when in foliage, and for judging focus.
- minimum AF size. I think this is important. The best camera is half useless for birds if the AF square is too big to fit between the twigs the bird is hiding behind. My TZ80 does ok for this, don't know about the others. It can be hard to find out, and you might need to check the manuals. Note that the higher the focal length, the smaller the effective AF square because you're zoomed in more.
 

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