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Camera for Bird Photography (1 Viewer)

Hi All, I need to buy a camera for Bird Photography. I have Nikon P900 however since the sensor is slow it does not capture the pics well like flapping of wings is blurry. I want to capture Birds of Prey so what camera and what size lens do u recommend 300mm 600mm brand make? How is Sony RX IV?
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
Hello,

The P900 can capture birds in flight, but you need to use a high shutter speed. If you do not have good light, that might result in a grainy photo from high ISO. I usually use 1/1600 - 1/3000 for birds in flight, depending on their speed (swallows + humming birds get 1/2000 - 1/3000, most others 1/1250 - 1/2000). You might need to use M or S settings to force this.

You should decide how much focal length you think you need for the places you go. Use your P900 and zoom it to where you would be shooting it and look at the zoom setting. If you are consistently using 1200mm or more, you should stick with something like a P950 or P1000. Or maybe a Canon SX70. Or one of the Panasonic FZs.

If you are using 600mm - 1000mm, something like a Sony RX10 IV would be ok.

For a bridge camera, I don't think I'd go under 600mm. They do not crop well, so you want to get the right amount of optical zoom.

I have only used the P900 and RX10 IV. But there are some long threads on the P1000 and P950 in the Nikon forum.

Personally, I usually end up wanting 1200mm (equivalent) or more when shooting birds in flight, as the raptors I go after are usually no where near me and they do not come closer when I call. Except for those rare cases when a big bird flies right near me, then maybe 500mm. I shoot DSLR, so I can crop my way there from a 500mm or 700mm lens. But for a bridge camera, I think getting something with optical zoom of at least 1200mm would be the way to go.

Birds in flight are some of the most challenging things to photograph.

Marc
 
Hello,

The P900 can capture birds in flight, but you need to use a high shutter speed. If you do not have good light, that might result in a grainy photo from high ISO. I usually use 1/1600 - 1/3000 for birds in flight, depending on their speed (swallows + humming birds get 1/2000 - 1/3000, most others 1/1250 - 1/2000). You might need to use M or S settings to force this.

You should decide how much focal length you think you need for the places you go. Use your P900 and zoom it to where you would be shooting it and look at the zoom setting. If you are consistently using 1200mm or more, you should stick with something like a P950 or P1000. Or maybe a Canon SX70. Or one of the Panasonic FZs.

If you are using 600mm - 1000mm, something like a Sony RX10 IV would be ok.

For a bridge camera, I don't think I'd go under 600mm. They do not crop well, so you want to get the right amount of optical zoom.

I have only used the P900 and RX10 IV. But there are some long threads on the P1000 and P950 in the Nikon forum.

Personally, I usually end up wanting 1200mm (equivalent) or more when shooting birds in flight, as the raptors I go after are usually no where near me and they do not come closer when I call. Except for those rare cases when a big bird flies right near me, then maybe 500mm. I shoot DSLR, so I can crop my way there from a 500mm or 700mm lens. But for a bridge camera, I think getting something with optical zoom of at least 1200mm would be the way to go.

Birds in flight are some of the most challenging things to photograph.

Marc

Thanx a lot Marc for ur response. If wanna buy SLR with a zoom lens.. What are ur recommendation? How much minimum size should i buy 600mm. Also if i crop a pic taken by 600 mm.. ..to 1200mm will the quality be same? Which SLR camera do u recommend?
 
I never liked Nikons, for some reason. I don't do much serious photography because, what do you do with them? But I use a Canon SH60 for some photography when the birds are few and for ID other times. But any compact camera really sucks as soon as it gets cloudy. The light gathering just is not there.

Here are few samples from a year ago. Click the photo to get a bigger image.
http://esabirdsne.blogspot.com/2019/06/getting-into-summeronly-usual-for-few.html

Thnx exactly, Thats the problem
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
Thanx a lot Marc for ur response. If wanna buy SLR with a zoom lens.. What are ur recommendation? How much minimum size should i buy 600mm. Also if i crop a pic taken by 600 mm.. ..to 1200mm will the quality be same? Which SLR camera do u recommend?

Budget and your weight limit are the controlling factors. I should also mention that just jumping in to a top-end system will not get you great photos. It is a skill and you need to practice and understand the equipment. Birds in flight are hard. Personally, if I were just staring out, I'd look for something on the lower price end and build up the skills and make sure you enjoy it before putting down some serious cash. I want to emphasize that gear alone will not give you great pictures, you need technique and skills.

For just starting out, a Nikon d5600 + 70-300 DX VR lens would be a good combo. Or you could try a 100-400 (Tamron or Sigma). If you are comfortable buying used, you can also try the d5500 or d5300 for about the same pictures (the 70-300 DX VR has slight user-interface limitations with d5500 and d5300). I'm sure there's the equivalent Canon, but I don't know that off the top of my head.

For entry-level, most any more-or-less current DSLR and a 300mm or 400mm lens (e.g. 100-400 f/6.3) would work. If that is enough zoom for you, you will get quicker handling, zippier autofocus, better pixel quality, and better high ISO performance than a bridge camera. For example, a Nikon d5600 or Canon Rebel T7. You can crop pretty well on one of those cameras and they give you a built-in 1.5x or 1.6x advantage due to smaller sensor size, so a 400mm lens is like a 600mm and you could crop it down to maybe a 1000mm equivalent.

In Sony-land, the a6500 with Sigma 100-400 or Sony 200-600. Sony is not cheap.

For mid-level, the Nikon d7200 or d7500 with a Tamron 150-600G2 or Sigma 150-600 C or Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 is a very nice kit. Or you could do a Canon 7d mark 2 with the same lenses (well, not the Nikon). These would give you a 900mm that could be cropped down to maybe a 1200mm equivalent, maybe even 1500mm. This option is generally the best balance of cost / weight / performance.

Towards the top-end is the Nikon d500 plus 150-600 or 500mm f/5.6e or the Canon 90d (not really as good as the d500 for wildlife from reviews I've seen). There's also some high-end 100-400 lenses (like the Canon L series) or the Nikon 80-400. This gets into the top-end of crop sensors for dslr wildlife cameras. Same focal lengths as above, but the d500 shoots faster, focuses better, and performs overall better. More money, more weight, more performance.

You can also look at full frame (which means you lose effective focal length), such as the Sony A7III, A7rIII, Nikon Z6, Nikon d750/d780, Canon 5dIV, Canon R. For Sony, you'd look at the Sony 200-600mm lens. For nikon or canon, likely the lenses I mentioned already.

At the top-end, you start looking at lenses in the $6000 - $13,000 range and they weight 6 lb - 8 lb just for the lens.

Once you start getting into the "mid-level", weight will be maybe 5 - 6 lb for camera + lens. You need a good support sling or monopod or tripod with gimbal head. Yet more cost and weight and bulk.

Marc
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
For a less bulky/heavy alternative: Panasonic G85 (currently new at Amazon for $697 - G7 slightly older model and cheaper) plus the 100-300 ii for $547 will give you 600 mm equivalent reach and better BIF than your nikon bridge model. There is plenty of options for upgrade if you later want to go that way.

Still, what Marc writes about skill is true -- have you reached the limit of what your current camera is able to do?

Niels
 

KC Foggin

Super Moderator
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
United States
Marc is correct.

Whatever camera you settle on, practice makes perfect ;)
 

Bill Atwood

Registered User
Supporter
United States
If you have the budget: Sony a9II, Sony 200-600 zoom & 1.4x teleconverter.
To save $1,000 you could get the Sony a9 instead of the a9II.
To save $3,000 you could get the a6600 instead of the a9II.

Currently the autofocus of these Sony bodies for birds in flight can't be beat.
 

Oldnintheway

Well-known member
Also agree with Marc. But if I was to buy right now I would go with a Nikon D500 & Tamron 150-600 G2. (I'm currently using a D7200 & Tamron 150-600 G1). And add lots of practice. The great thing about digital is that photos take very little room in storage and can be deleted very easily. :)
 

Chosun Juan

Given to Fly
Australia - Aboriginal
A lot of good advice covered so far.
By far the biggest factor in the equation will be your ability.

Not having enough focal length can be a bit of an exercise in frustration. Forget the 300 stuff straight off the bat.

The Sony RX10 IV is an excellent little camera and the quality hard to beat for the size. Less expensive bridge camera options are the Nikon P950 and P1000 which is noticeably larger.

DSLR's certainly have better ergonomics. Long lenses can get big and heavy though (and if you add fast to the mix - unavoidably expensive).

I'd be inclined to jump in at a mid-level. Excellent rigs can make you feel like somewhat of a Pro !

For the body, the first option is the 24MP Nikon D7200 (2nd hand as it's no longer made new). If you can't find a good one of those, then get a new 20MP Nikon D7500. Both of these cameras have a 1.3x in-camera crop - so effectively the focal length of the lens is doubled at reduced MP and fps speed is increased.
For a lens, pair it with a Tamron/Sigma 100-400 f6.3 as a minimum. Approx. ~1200grams for the lens.

For more length with either of these bodies, go for the Tamron G2 150-600 f6.3. 1990grams for the lens alone. Best bang for your buck you will find. This is my rig, which I carry walkabout on a sling.

At a similar level but in a Canon body you could pair either of those lenses with the 32MP 90D.

Stepping up in quality and price, you could pair the 90D with the Canon 100-400L IS II f5.6 lens ~ 1600 grams.

At a similar level in the Nikon you could get the D500 body (hands down the best crop DSLR) and pair it with the Tamron G2 150-600 f6.3.

You'd be very happy and well occupied with any of these rigs so far.

If you wanted to step up in quality again get the Nikon PF 500 f5.6 lens (~1600 grams - lightest fastish long telrphoto lens you can get due to the Diffractive Optics technology) and put it on the D500 body. Sensational. Using the 1.3x in-camera crop mode you are at 1000mm f5.6. A very hard to beat combination though you've just outlayed the better part of 5 grand.

For a similar spend in the Sony go for the Pro level Mirrorless A9 II body and 200-600 f6.3 lens.

Beyond this you are spending small car $ for rigs and carting ~50% more weight .....






Chosun :gh:
 

marcsantacurz

Well-known member
Adeel,

So, that was a lot of advice!

Once you get to DSLR/mirrorless (crop or full frame), there will be entry-, mid-, high-, pro-level gear in the current versions and the previous one or two versions (if you want to buy used). It's a lot of choices.

Think of what sort of budget and weight you want to carry.

If you are under USD$500, think bridge camera.

If you are USD$1000 or less or want under 2kg, think bridge camera. You might be able to get something used dslr + lens in this range, like a used d7200 + 100-400 or 70-300 and be right up against that $1000 and 2kg limit.

If you are under USD $2000 or under 3kg, think those mid-level cameras (d7200/d7500 + tamron 150-600 or 100-400). Or used you might be able to squeeze in a d500 + 150-600g2 (both used), but you need to know the gear a little to buy a good deal.

I used Nikon above, but there are Canon options too.

Micro four thirds (MFT or M43), which was mentioned for the Panasonic G85 is also something to think about. It will be a fair bit lighter than a DSLR or full frame mirrorless option. In addition to that G85 + 100-300, you could look at a G9 + Panasonic 100-400 would be a great system. About $2500 new and 1.6kg. I am not sure where used prices are, but it's like still close to $2000. That is a 200mm - 800mm equivalent setup, and you should be able to crop that to 1000mm or 1200mm equivalent ok.

If you want to go Sony, the A7II, which is a generation or two old, is a good budget way to break in to Sony. Or go with one of the crop cameras (a6500, a6600). An A7II + sigma 100-400 lens is about $1850 @ 1.8kg (new). The Sigma lens is brand new and not yet shipping. The Sony-branded lenses (100-400GM or 200-600G) are $2500 or $2000 (respectively) just for the lens.


Marc
 
I never liked Nikons, for some reason. I don't do much serious photography because, what do you do with them? But I use a Canon SH60 for some photography when the birds are few and for ID other times. But any compact camera really sucks as soon as it gets cloudy. The light gathering just is not there.

Here are few samples from a year ago. Click the photo to get a bigger image.
http://esabirdsne.blogspot.com/2019/06/getting-into-summeronly-usual-for-few.html

Thanx, I need it for bird photography. crisp and detailed Images of raptors.
 
A lot of good advice covered so far.
By far the biggest factor in the equation will be your ability.

Not having enough focal length can be a bit of an exercise in frustration. Forget the 300 stuff straight off the bat.

The Sony RX10 IV is an excellent little camera and the quality hard to beat for the size. Less expensive bridge camera options are the Nikon P950 and P1000 which is noticeably larger.

DSLR's certainly have better ergonomics. Long lenses can get big and heavy though (and if you add fast to the mix - unavoidably expensive).

I'd be inclined to jump in at a mid-level. Excellent rigs can make you feel like somewhat of a Pro !

For the body, the first option is the 24MP Nikon D7200 (2nd hand as it's no longer made new). If you can't find a good one of those, then get a new 20MP Nikon D7500. Both of these cameras have a 1.3x in-camera crop - so effectively the focal length of the lens is doubled at reduced MP and fps speed is increased.
For a lens, pair it with a Tamron/Sigma 100-400 f6.3 as a minimum. Approx. ~1200grams for the lens.

For more length with either of these bodies, go for the Tamron G2 150-600 f6.3. 1990grams for the lens alone. Best bang for your buck you will find. This is my rig, which I carry walkabout on a sling.

At a similar level but in a Canon body you could pair either of those lenses with the 32MP 90D.

Stepping up in quality and price, you could pair the 90D with the Canon 100-400L IS II f5.6 lens ~ 1600 grams.

At a similar level in the Nikon you could get the D500 body (hands down the best crop DSLR) and pair it with the Tamron G2 150-600 f6.3.

You'd be very happy and well occupied with any of these rigs so far.

If you wanted to step up in quality again get the Nikon PF 500 f5.6 lens (~1600 grams - lightest fastish long telrphoto lens you can get due to the Diffractive Optics technology) and put it on the D500 body. Sensational. Using the 1.3x in-camera crop mode you are at 1000mm f5.6. A very hard to beat combination though you've just outlayed the better part of 5 grand.

For a similar spend in the Sony go for the Pro level Mirrorless A9 II body and 200-600 f6.3 lens.

Beyond this you are spending small car $ for rigs and carting ~50% more weight .....






Chosun :gh:

Thanx a lot for helping me out. Your post and Marc's and others did help me a lot. But im still reading since there are so many options in market. Also trying to understand what would suit me best for raptor photography. One question though in 600 mm lens which is better sigma or tamron and in sigma there are two.. sigma contemporary and sigma sports.. whats the difference?
 
Last edited:
Budget and your weight limit are the controlling factors. I should also mention that just jumping in to a top-end system will not get you great photos. It is a skill and you need to practice and understand the equipment. Birds in flight are hard. Personally, if I were just staring out, I'd look for something on the lower price end and build up the skills and make sure you enjoy it before putting down some serious cash. I want to emphasize that gear alone will not give you great pictures, you need technique and skills.

For just starting out, a Nikon d5600 + 70-300 DX VR lens would be a good combo. Or you could try a 100-400 (Tamron or Sigma). If you are comfortable buying used, you can also try the d5500 or d5300 for about the same pictures (the 70-300 DX VR has slight user-interface limitations with d5500 and d5300). I'm sure there's the equivalent Canon, but I don't know that off the top of my head.

For entry-level, most any more-or-less current DSLR and a 300mm or 400mm lens (e.g. 100-400 f/6.3) would work. If that is enough zoom for you, you will get quicker handling, zippier autofocus, better pixel quality, and better high ISO performance than a bridge camera. For example, a Nikon d5600 or Canon Rebel T7. You can crop pretty well on one of those cameras and they give you a built-in 1.5x or 1.6x advantage due to smaller sensor size, so a 400mm lens is like a 600mm and you could crop it down to maybe a 1000mm equivalent.

In Sony-land, the a6500 with Sigma 100-400 or Sony 200-600. Sony is not cheap.

For mid-level, the Nikon d7200 or d7500 with a Tamron 150-600G2 or Sigma 150-600 C or Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 is a very nice kit. Or you could do a Canon 7d mark 2 with the same lenses (well, not the Nikon). These would give you a 900mm that could be cropped down to maybe a 1200mm equivalent, maybe even 1500mm. This option is generally the best balance of cost / weight / performance.

Towards the top-end is the Nikon d500 plus 150-600 or 500mm f/5.6e or the Canon 90d (not really as good as the d500 for wildlife from reviews I've seen). There's also some high-end 100-400 lenses (like the Canon L series) or the Nikon 80-400. This gets into the top-end of crop sensors for dslr wildlife cameras. Same focal lengths as above, but the d500 shoots faster, focuses better, and performs overall better. More money, more weight, more performance.

You can also look at full frame (which means you lose effective focal length), such as the Sony A7III, A7rIII, Nikon Z6, Nikon d750/d780, Canon 5dIV, Canon R. For Sony, you'd look at the Sony 200-600mm lens. For nikon or canon, likely the lenses I mentioned already.

At the top-end, you start looking at lenses in the $6000 - $13,000 range and they weight 6 lb - 8 lb just for the lens.

Once you start getting into the "mid-level", weight will be maybe 5 - 6 lb for camera + lens. You need a good support sling or monopod or tripod with gimbal head. Yet more cost and weight and bulk.

Marc

Hi Mark, Thank u so much for ur valuable inputs :) Im reading about all the equipments which you have mentioned. Comparing D7200, D7500 and D500. Since im new i dnt understand few terms so reading abt everything I guess this is how u learn :) One thing Nikon and Canon lenses are expensive as compared to Sigma and Tamron. Is there a huge difference in qualtiy too?
 
Also agree with Marc. But if I was to buy right now I would go with a Nikon D500 & Tamron 150-600 G2. (I'm currently using a D7200 & Tamron 150-600 G1). And add lots of practice. The great thing about digital is that photos take very little room in storage and can be deleted very easily. :)

Thnx im comparing and reading reviews about both D500 and D7200. Actually im getting few times used D7200 at 50% price of D500 so in process to make a decision
 
If you have the budget: Sony a9II, Sony 200-600 zoom & 1.4x teleconverter.
To save $1,000 you could get the Sony a9 instead of the a9II.
To save $3,000 you could get the a6600 instead of the a9II.

Currently the autofocus of these Sony bodies for birds in flight can't be beat.

Hi Bill, Comparing to Nikon/Canon and Sigma/Tamron they are goin out of budget
 

Chosun Juan

Given to Fly
Australia - Aboriginal
Thanx a lot for helping me out. Your post and Marc's and others did help me a lot. But im still reading since there are so many options in market. Also trying to understand what would suit me best for raptor photography. One question though in 600 mm lens which is better sigma or tamron and in sigma there are two.. sigma contemporary and sigma sports.. whats the difference?
With all the zoom 600mm lenses, there is not much difference optically. Bigger differences are weight and cost. Of these I think weight has the biggest impact on usability and enjoyment.

The (150-600) Sigma Contemporary, Tamron G1, and Tamron G2 are the lightest.

The Sigma Sports (150-600) , (60-600) are much heavier

Personally I think the Tamron G2 150-600 is the pick of all of them. I wouldn't want to carry the heavier Sigma lenses. Even with the Tamron G2 I use it on a sling. It is optically equal or better than any of these, is light, and has high quality construction with good weather sealing. It also has the tap-in dock so you can fine tune it (very easy) to your individual camera.

I would put this on a Nikon D7200 (great value), D7500, or D500 (best). These will perform similarly, but obviously the D500 is arguably the best crop body you can get, and so you could expect the best performance for BIF on this body.






Chosun :gh:
 
With all the zoom 600mm lenses, there is not much difference optically. Bigger differences are weight and cost. Of these I think weight has the biggest impact on usability and enjoyment.

The (150-600) Sigma Contemporary, Tamron G1, and Tamron G2 are the lightest.

The Sigma Sports (150-600) , (60-600) are much heavier

Personally I think the Tamron G2 150-600 is the pick of all of them. I wouldn't want to carry the heavier Sigma lenses. Even with the Tamron G2 I use it on a sling. It is optically equal or better than any of these, is light, and has high quality construction with good weather sealing. It also has the tap-in dock so you can fine tune it (very easy) to your individual camera.

I would put this on a Nikon D7200 (great value), D7500, or D500 (best). These will perform similarly, but obviously the D500 is arguably the best crop body you can get, and so you could expect the best performance for BIF on this body.






Chosun :gh:

Thanx Chosun, One more question which u or @Marc can reply...for raptor photography BIF if you had to choose between Sony RX 10 and Tamron 600 G2 + Canon 7D mark 2/Eos 9D/D500/D7200 which one would u have chosen? Will both Rx 10 IV and DSLR + Tamron/Sigma offer same image quality? On cropping will the pics be same. Another thing I dont need to print out pics just sharing on FB, Insta, For my record.. May b in some newspapers magazines etc.
 

Chosun Juan

Given to Fly
Australia - Aboriginal
Thanx Chosun, One more question which u or @Marc can reply...for raptor photography BIF if you had to choose between Sony RX 10 and Tamron 600 G2 + Canon 7D mark 2/Eos 9D/D500/D7200 which one would u have chosen? Will both Rx 10 IV and DSLR + Tamron/Sigma offer same image quality? On cropping will the pics be same. Another thing I dont need to print out pics just sharing on FB, Insta, For my record.. May b in some newspapers magazines etc.
I don't have time to go right through the numbers now, but if weight, and size and cost are not determining factors, then the best performing rig for BIF will be the Nikon D500 + Tamron G2 150-600. You can't do better at the moment than the Nikon D500 - it is professional level, and as such, great value. In short, this offers more larger pixels at greater focal length than the Sony, and more ability than the other camera bodies you mentioned. The benefit of this rig is the optical viewfinder and the ability to instantly zoom out then back in (manual twist of the zoom ring) to get a bird in frame if needed.

It would not take long to become capable of you doing the pointing to track birds in the sky. Despite the long physical zoomed out length of this rig, it actually points, swings around and changes direction etc quite well. I use a Black Rapid Sling. You should budget the $50-$100 for one of these - they are invaluable for managing the 2.8kg (6&1/4lb) weight. In my experience the most important factor in getting good (and staying good) is regular practice.







Chosun :gh:
 

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