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First serious birding camera advice (budget €2000 - 3000) (1 Viewer)

eldereth

New member
Belgium
Hi Everyone,

I got into birding and bird photography last year using a borrowed Nikon Z50 with a Nikkor 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 lens. I have taken some nice pictures with it, but I feel there is still room for improvement. I would also like a bit more zoom.

I'm now looking for an upgrade and am looking to spend around €2000 (can go up to €3000 if the quality upgrade warrants it)

I am by no means a professional photographer, most pictures I take are for ID purposes.
I will usually be walking 5-10 miles in mostly forested areas, so there needs to be at least some low-light capability (weather isn't always great where I live either).
A light weight is also important since I will be shooting handheld. The Z50 has been amazing in this aspect.

My most important dillemma's are:
DSLR-Mirrorless-Bridge cameras

Full frame-crop sensor.

DSLR: I'm looking at the Canon 7d Mk II with a 100-400mm sigma lens, but I'm a bit worried about the weight. Does anyone have experience lugging 3kg of equipment around and shooting handheld with it? How hard is it?

Bridge cameras: I'm a bit weary about low light performance and being able to track birds with the zoom. can you be quick enough to find a hyperactive bird in a brush?

Mirrorless: This seems ideal, but I've heard some complaints about the light body not balancing well with a heavier lens

Does anybody have any experiences with setups in this price range? Recommendations?
 

KC Foggin

Super Moderator
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
United States
Hi eldereth!

I'm just going to jump in here and wish you a warm welcome to you from those of us on staff here at BirdForum (y)
We're glad you found us and please join in wherever you like ;)
 

aespenica

New member
Portugal
My experience: Nikon D500 with AF-S Nikkor 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR. You can look to the results here: Escolha - Viagens e outras entretengas and some here: Media added by aespenica
I use a kind of support on my shoulders to carry it around - 3 kg. I walk frequently more than 5 km with no effort.
Forget Bridge cameras. They are only disappointing.
D500 is the best nikon camera for this kind of photos. Crop sensor - wich means I'm using a 300-750 zoom - with a very fast buffer, rugged enough for bad weather. I have also a D850, which is a wonderful camera but for bird photography the D500 is the best. JMHO.
I'd like to try a Z7 with the new 100-400 zoom. But I'm very pleased with what I have.
 
Last edited:

PaulCountyDurham

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Hi Everyone,

I got into birding and bird photography last year using a borrowed Nikon Z50 with a Nikkor 50-250mm f/4.5-6.3 lens. I have taken some nice pictures with it, but I feel there is still room for improvement. I would also like a bit more zoom.

I'm now looking for an upgrade and am looking to spend around €2000 (can go up to €3000 if the quality upgrade warrants it)

I am by no means a professional photographer, most pictures I take are for ID purposes.
I will usually be walking 5-10 miles in mostly forested areas, so there needs to be at least some low-light capability (weather isn't always great where I live either).
A light weight is also important since I will be shooting handheld. The Z50 has been amazing in this aspect.

My most important dillemma's are:
DSLR-Mirrorless-Bridge cameras

Full frame-crop sensor.

DSLR: I'm looking at the Canon 7d Mk II with a 100-400mm sigma lens, but I'm a bit worried about the weight. Does anyone have experience lugging 3kg of equipment around and shooting handheld with it? How hard is it?

Bridge cameras: I'm a bit weary about low light performance and being able to track birds with the zoom. can you be quick enough to find a hyperactive bird in a brush?

Mirrorless: This seems ideal, but I've heard some complaints about the light body not balancing well with a heavier lens

Does anybody have any experiences with setups in this price range? Recommendations?

`I reckon for 2 or 3 grand you should, at the very least, be expecting to get some very nice pictures you'll be more than happy with.

I can only speak of bridge cameras:

1) Small birds darting around is not an issue for me. It's a case of anticipating where they're going to land and being ready.

2) Yes, you will have a problem with bridge cameras in forests. I've managed a few nice pictures in the woods but that was in spring before the trees were in full bloom and when the sun was shining in. As much as I have no wish to move away from a bridge camera at the present time, due to the flexibility that type of camera gives me, I would not be buying one in the event I took a lot of pictures in forests. You'd be more or less expecting a bird to land in just the right spot where there's a bit of an opening and the light is shining in: that would take a boatload of hours wandering around in forests before the miracle happens.
 

Jim M.

Choose Civility
I would recommend Micro 4/3 mirrorless (Olympus & Panasonic) if your goal is high quality images with a light carrying weight. Nikon/Canon will have significantly heavier lenses for an equivalent amount of reach (unless you exclusively go the Phase Fresnel lens route).
 
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Tryglo

Member
United Kingdom
I second the mirrorless recommendation. In my case I switched from Canon DSLR to Fujifilm mirrorless a few years ago and would never go back. The smaller size and weight of the Fuji means that I take it with me far more than I used to with the Canon. Although elderly, my 40D was a similar weight to the 7D, and just too big and heavy to be carrying around all day. The Fuji works well as an all day carry when paired with a 70-300mm. As you may know, when using longer focal lengths hand-held, camera shake becomes more of an issue, more so in low light when longer exposure times can be necessary. For a 100-400 you might want to consider a monopod, especially in low light conditions, and/or if you want to capture fast movement. I use one that converts from a walking stick, but tree trunks can be useful to steady the hand too.

I haven't used the Sigma 100-400mm, but it's quite light for its size, so I think it should pair well with a Sony or Nikon mirrorless. I hear that the Sony autofocus is particularly fast and effective when tracking moving subjects. I wouldn't like to single out one camera or one brand, as all the main manufacturers have a good range of mirrorless. Most, if not all, modern DSLR's and mirrorless camera's are pretty good in low light situations.

The advice given to me years ago was to identify the lenses that you want and can afford, then find a camera that goes with them and that you're comfortable with using. I think that still holds today, as any modern good quality mirrorless or DSLR camera can take great pictures.

I don't have a balance problem with large lenses on my Fuji, as I support the lens with one hand and the camera body with the other. The Fujinon 100-400mm also has a tripod mount on the lens, so the setup is very well balanced on a monopod or tripod. Mind you the Fujinon 100-400 is expensive compared to the Sigma and heavier, but it is half a stop faster and therefore a little better in low light. I bought a cheaper, used, Fuji camera and used the money I saved to buy lenses for it.

An APS-C crop sensor camera is generally smaller and lighter and less expensive than full frame. For me, the slight increase in image quality that full frame gives is outweighed by the size and weight and cost of the gear. I get a lot more pictures with my APS-C mirrorless set up, simply because I carry it with me much more than I ever did with the big Canon. I also find that the lighter weight gives me a higher success rate when taking shots hand-held.

Weight will always be an issue with a 100-400, so you might also consider a 70-300 with a 1.4 teleconverter to give you a 420mm reach without so much weight. You lose an aperture stop so, for example, the Fujinon f4-5.6 70-300 would become f5.6-f8, about half a stop less than the f5-6.3 Sigma, that's a consideration in low light; however there is a weight saving and you would have the flexibility of using the 70-300 with its wider aperture when light is low. With a good quality 1.4 teleconverter there's very little impact on image quality.
 

MiddleRiver

Well-known member
United States
I’m just getting started with new rig but loving an a6600 and 70-350. If I find lens too short I’ll go with a FF lens and reach out further.
 

eldereth

New member
Belgium
Thank you all for your recommendations! It looks like mirrorless with a crop sensor is the way to go. Using a teleconverter instead of a larger lens is certainly an interesting option I hadn't considered before.

For now the fujifilm XT3 with the 70-300mm lens and 1.4x teleconverter looks promising.
 

MiddleRiver

Well-known member
United States
I love my x100 and Fuji IQ. They were back ordered everywhere due to chip shortages (as were the a6400’s).
But I’m happy I settled on a6600… the huge battery life, grip (much easier to hold) and 70-350 lens quality are all pluses.

Both good possibilities!
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
I believe you should not overlook the m4/3 options as posted by Jim. I shoot a panasonic with the panaleica 100-400 lens. Compared with the sony that middleriver talks about, my rig is 300 g heavier and the reach is up to 800 mm equivalent where their rig reaches to 525 mm equivalent. They will have to go to sony 200-600 to get a similar reach and then the weight balloons with almost 1800 additional g compared to the 70-350.
My rig: 1490 g
A6600 w 200-600: 2913 g
(weights in both cases per internet values).
Niels
 

Dan Miller

Avicasual Birder
Supporter
United States
My bird photography kit is an Olympus OMD-EM1 mark II coupled to a Olympus 40-150 f2.8 Pro, and with a 1.4x or 2x teleconverter as needed. With the 2x converter, you have 600mm equivalent. With the 2x converter, this kit weighs 1636g. As I am usually birding at the same time, I carry the camera on a Peak Design Capture clip. I have basic presets for still birds and birds in flight.

Key points are the excellent weather sealing, stabilization and internal zoom.

With the announcement of the new OM-1, the prices of the EM1 mark II and mark III are coming down.

Dan
 

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