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Longer lens or larger sensor ?... (1 Viewer)


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Currently using an Fz330 which generally performs pretty well. Though I find a lot of issues with images being out of focus, as such I'm considering an upgrade to either a Nikon p900 or a Sony RX10 iii (any other recommendations considered)

My question is exemplified by looking at the attached, I'm wondering which would produce a more detailed image of this diver (shot at 600mm equiv).

I'm assuming the longer lens of the Nikon would get me closer BUT having the larger sensor would the Sony allow me to crop and have a sharper image ?

Any help much appreciated.


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Are you allowing for atmospheric degradation in your conclusions, any small image from a distance stands the chance of looking unsharp when enlarged due to the crap in the atmosphere.
When shooting at long distance, no matter what the lens size or sensor size, you need to shoot at a pretty good shutter speed. The general rule is 1 / (k * focal_length), where k is 1, 1.25, or 1.5 or so. For example, if shooting at 600mm equivalent, you usually want to shoot around 1/600 - 1/1250. Image stabalization can give you a few stops improvement, where each stop is 2x, so 2 stops of IS would be 1/125 - 1/320 (rounding a bit). That's a minimum. Basically, it's how much shake you have versus how much a small angular deflection matters. The longer the equivalent focal length, the more it matters.

From cropping, you can usually get 1.4x - 2x of improvement (in a linear length measurement). Smaller sensors usually crop less well than larger sensors. Lower ISO also helps.

I think the sony would probably crop down to 900mm - 1500mm equivalent, assuming you shot well enough to have a sharp image. You'd be at a 5MP equivalent photo cropping down to 1200mm equivalent (1/4 the 21MP native). For most personal use, 5MP is just fine. I believe you can also shoot raw mode on the sony which helps cropping as you are not fighting the jpeg artifacts.

The p900 will go out to 2000mm without crop. it only shoots jpeg, so I did not find it crops that well, especially as you're up in higher ISO a often. I think it also caps out at 6400 ISO (vs 12800 sony). But it has pretty good IS (VR) so photographing stationary or slow moving things works pretty well. Again, your shooting technique needs to be good enough to get crisp images, though the automatic modes (e.g. P) do a decent job picking good shutter speeds.

I think the Sony is a better camera and has features like recording photos before you press the shutter release so you can go back in time, so to speak. I find the Sony menus awful and the RX10 is no exception. For an all-around camera, however, go with the Sony. If reach is your main concern, the P900 / P1000 would be your choice. I've not used the P1000, but I understand it takes good photos too and is likely more competitive with the RX10 on features. It's a lot bigger than the P900 though.

There's a pretty active P1000 thread on the forums you could check out.

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Hi Markus,

I'm assuming the longer lens of the Nikon would get me closer BUT having the larger sensor would the Sony allow me to crop and have a sharper image ?

It's possible to calculate approximate pixel size in terms of viewing angle for a camera, giving you an impression of actual resolution.

However, physically smaller "pixel" sensor elements usually have a lower quality due to generating higher random noise, so even that calculation will not provide a definite and clear-cut answer.

As far as I can tell, there's no single metric in common use currently that provides the kind of information one is primarily interested in when photographing birds.


Thanks guys, some food for thought there.

Interestingly on camera shake, I often find my video looks sharper than my stills. Perhaps I'm subconsciously holding the camera more steadily when recording.
Thanks guys, some food for thought there.

Interestingly on camera shake, I often find my video looks sharper than my stills. Perhaps I'm subconsciously holding the camera more steadily when recording.

Or the video has inherently lower resolution so you cannot see the shake.

For shots like the diver, I would set the camera on continues shooting and fire several series of 2-4 shots, hoping that one of them happen to hit a split-second where the atmosphere is better and your shake less than in the others. That has been my standard operating procedure for years, and in borderline situations, I always find it helps.

Your original question does to some extent depend on what and where you are shooting. Many years ago I went to Costa Rica shooting in the rainforest there. The light levels were so low that the superzooms of the time simply could not keep up. I therefore went to a larger sensor. If you are mostly shooting in good light, then the extra reach might be more important.

I think Mike, Marc, Henning, and Niels have made good points and given good advice.

I would recommend the Sony RX-10 IV much more over the excellent III version, as it is much more versatile for moving birds etc.

You either go with that, with it's excellent 1" sensor, or you would settle for limiting yourself to only taking photos of static subjects in very good light with the very much bigger (and slower lensed) Nikon P1000.

It would pay to read the two relevant threads, but for me, I would pick the Sony RX-10 IV.

Ymmv ;)

Chosun :gh:
Darius, if I read it right then your second image was at 600mm? With the p1000 you could probably have filled the frame and so no need to crop. A short burst of 3 and they would have all been ok.

My P1000 spends most of its time at 1000mm or often a lot more.
Re poor light, I tested mine in the woods yesterday and set the camera to “bird” and the camera picked 1/30 and the pics were good and sharp at 20mts and in deep shade and lens set to 1200mm

Altho i have Canon DSLRs i mainly use a Panasonic FZ330 when roaming around as the weight and convenience trumps the other kit. I also find distant stuff can be out of focus but the main issue (a small one as i think the camera is a great bit of kit) is that it struggles to focus on small distant stuff as it cannot ‘find’ infinity - i often have to autofocus on infinity before latching onto a distant subject. I have started carrying a monopod which might help and i also shoot on 4k burst which usually ensures something acceptable:t:

Laurie -
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