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Should I by a bridge/superzoom camera *instead of* a scope? (1 Viewer)

tedthetrumpet

New member
That's the short version, here's the full question!

I'd like to be able to identify wintering/migrant wildfowl/waders that might be 200-500m away. The 20x Kowa TS-502 that I have is great, but doesn't quite cut it at that sort of range.

I was on the point of either buying something like the Svbony SV406P ED (£370) or an RSPB Harrier 80mm ED (£499). However, I stumbled upon this article…

A Guide to Birding with Long Lenses

… where there are some very experience birders talking about not using bins/scopes at all any more, but just bridge/superzoom cameras made by the likes of Nikon, Canon and, particularly, Panasonic Lumix – not for taking pictures, necessarily, but just for, well, birdwatching!

The cost comparison is very favourable: there are lots of perfectly ok looking s/h bridge cameras for sale online at under £200, even new I could get a Lumix FZ330 for under £400.

Thoughts? What is it really like peering at distant birds through a camera viewfinder instead of a scope?

(For clarity: I'm not particularly interested in taking actually taking photos, and, yes, I do have a good tripod. Also… sorry, not sure whether to post this in cameras or scopes!)
 

Mono

Hi!
Staff member
Supporter
Europe
The view is just not the same. At the end of the day you are looking at pixels on a screen. The camera will be old hat in a few years time and much more susceptible to damage, a scope will still be performing Sterling service in 20 years.
 

delia todd

If I said the wrong thing it was a Senior Moment
Staff member
Opus Editor
Supporter
Scotland
It also depends a bit on how you are going to do your birdwatching. If you will spend some hours in a hide sitting down, or stationary on a cliff top looking for birds in the far distance, a scope will give much more comfortable views. However, if walking a lot, a camera will be much lighter to carry and quicker to get into work.

I have a Nikon P900 camera and find myself using it more and more and my lovely Leica APO77 telescope less and less due to back and leg problems I just can't carry it any distance.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
Can you not get a higher magnification eyepiece for your scope?

Agree with Delia depends on your birding too. A superzoom can be great for occasional imaging of distant birds or getting record shots of far or even closer birds, but a scope will be nicer viewing.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
If the primary objective is waders or similar (sea watches or other open habitats at long distance), then you can't beat a decent scope. But you also can't beat having a record of what you see (photo). In other words you want both... So digi- or phone-scoping is the correct answer.

(If you were operating in closed or congested environments like rainforest then it's the other way around. You need an slr (or perhaps something like a rx10iv bridge camera which is much the same))

I should add that the main problem with superzooms is focus speed. This isn't such a problem for waders (cf passerines). Even so, you'll find it frustrating trying to get on to birds with your superzoom cf your telescope. I'd say my 100-400 slr is very roughly comparable with my Nikon ed 50 for magnification
 
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PaulCountyDurham

Well-known member
United Kingdom
If the primary objective is waders or similar (sea watches or other open habitats at long distance), then you can't beat a decent scope. But you also can't beat having a record of what you see (photo). In other words you want both... So digi- or phone-scoping is the correct answer.

(If you were operating in closed or congested environments like rainforest then it's the other way around. You need an slr (or perhaps something like a rx10iv bridge camera which is much the same))

I've just deleted the post as I've no idea why it came up "never". I was half way through typing something and my internet cut out. I've no experience of "a scope" so couldn't comment on which would be more suited to the situation. In truth, I don't even know what "a scope" is.
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
Given that you have a scope already, I would go with the camera next. Yes, you might eventually want a larger scope, but the value of the documentation is large enough, that would be my choice. I don’t usually bring a scope when I travel, but always bring camera and bins.
Niels
 

poledark

Well-known member
I have used big scopes, attached video cameras to them, attached still cameras to them, even told by some on here that it was not possible!
I now use a superzoom, and I use the word super deliberately. I sold all my scopes and purchased a Nikon with 10x zoom (can’t remember the number). Simply a revelation, but even better when the 900 came out. Of course the”experts” all said it was to slow, poor low light performance, small sensor, not much good at all for birding. Strangely enough I seemed to find it actually a very good camera,took a lot of very nice pictures of birds, bees and almost everything else, some of them at great distance.
And then the Nikon P1000 came on the market.......to big, to heavy, to slow, poor low light performance...but I purchased one anyway, pre ordered😀. I was delighted. The EVF was brighter, the manual focus ring is extremely useful, the zoom is superb, suddenly I had a new scope,pictures of birds at 300yards, ants at 3 inches, up to 7 FPS, simple manual.
All round almost the perfect walk about take pics of everything camera.
I use mine as a scope a great deal of the time, one of my favourite ways is to attach it to my iPad.
You may have guessed that I am very happy with my SUPER Zoom camera, speak from actual experience, not hearsay from many who have never used one.
There seems to be a lot of resistance from some posters to even consider that a superzoom can take good pictures, perhaps they should actually try one. I have sat with other birders with their scopes in hides and let them use my 1000 and met some of them a week or two later carrying one of their own 😀
I think mine is now 4 years old, taken thousands of pics,been dropped a couple of times and still works perfectly. I don’t have to ask if my equipment is good enough, I just point,zoom, and take the shot

Den
 

Mike C

Emeritus President at Burnage Rugby Club
Supporter
England
give phone scoping a try, I see some shots on t’internet that are remarkably good and you already own 66% of the kit you need (you might eventually need a phone holder to keep the scope and phone camera correctly aligned)
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
There's nothing wrong with having a superzoom. I use one (canon sx60 hs) as well as my telescope and slr. My comments in the earlier post reflect this experience. At extreme long range it can be very tricky to focus the camera and hold it steady.
 

tedthetrumpet

New member
Thanks for all of these perspectives. I'm going to have to think about it some more. Actually, it occurs to me that what I should do is ask around the local birdwatching community to see if there is anyone with a camera who would let me have a try, to get a feel for it myself. If I come to any interesting conclusions I'll post back here – right now I'm off for a 1 January walk around the Ardmore peninsula ///courts.motivations.cycle on the Firth of Clyde to see what I can see: happy new year!
 

PaulCountyDurham

Well-known member
United Kingdom
I have used big scopes, attached video cameras to them, attached still cameras to them, even told by some on here that it was not possible!
I now use a superzoom, and I use the word super deliberately. I sold all my scopes and purchased a Nikon with 10x zoom (can’t remember the number). Simply a revelation, but even better when the 900 came out. Of course the”experts” all said it was to slow, poor low light performance, small sensor, not much good at all for birding. Strangely enough I seemed to find it actually a very good camera,took a lot of very nice pictures of birds, bees and almost everything else, some of them at great distance.
And then the Nikon P1000 came on the market.......to big, to heavy, to slow, poor low light performance...but I purchased one anyway, pre ordered😀. I was delighted. The EVF was brighter, the manual focus ring is extremely useful, the zoom is superb, suddenly I had a new scope,pictures of birds at 300yards, ants at 3 inches, up to 7 FPS, simple manual.
All round almost the perfect walk about take pics of everything camera.
I use mine as a scope a great deal of the time, one of my favourite ways is to attach it to my iPad.
You may have guessed that I am very happy with my SUPER Zoom camera, speak from actual experience, not hearsay from many who have never used one.
There seems to be a lot of resistance from some posters to even consider that a superzoom can take good pictures, perhaps they should actually try one. I have sat with other birders with their scopes in hides and let them use my 1000 and met some of them a week or two later carrying one of their own 😀
I think mine is now 4 years old, taken thousands of pics,been dropped a couple of times and still works perfectly. I don’t have to ask if my equipment is good enough, I just point,zoom, and take the shot

Den

I've stood next to people taking pictures with more expensive equipment than a bridge camera/superzoom and looked at their pictures. I reckon there is no doubt that such equipment will get you a better image, all other things being equal. It is more noticeable at a distance and in low light. On one particular occasion I wasn't bothering to take pictures because I knew at the range and in the low light it would be a waste of time, others were taking pictures with the more expensive equipment and when I looked at them I was impressed.

It depends on what you're aspiring to. The OP mentioned identifying birds, so one of the Nikon bridge cameras would seem a cost effective means of doing that. I don't know what the focus is like on the more expensive equipment, but depending on the conditions it can be tricky with the Nikon P950, grey wagtails, for example, on a bright day or a light bird on a gloomy day when you're aiming into the sky. In terms of low light, to an extent it depends on the colour of the bird and what is in the background: low light makes it more difficult but you still have a chance providing the background is conducive. Aiming into trees or into the sky on a gloomy day: forget it. The OP mentions waders so there's a chance he's going to have water in the background, which will be a problem in low light as he's not going to have much contrast in the picture: the OP will probably get focus, he'll get a picture, it'll be good enough to ID birds but the picture isn't going to be up to much.

I reckon the main advantage of a bridge camera/superzoom is in its size. If you have say a kestrel on a perched bank and because of the lie of the land you have a chance of sniping up to the lip of the bank without him/her seeing you, how would you do that with bulky equipment? The fact the camera is small and lightweight by comparison means you have a chance of getting much closer, and I've found birds are nowhere near as wary of you when you're lying down rather than stood up.

On the other side of the coin, birds in flight are going to be much more difficult with a bridge camera and in a situation where you know certain birds are around that you want to see and so you patiently stake it out until the bird lands in the right place, well, in that scenario the more expensive equipment should in all probability get you a better image. I'd imagine the proof is here in the BF gallery: the feather detail you see in some of the pictures are pretty much all posted by people with the more expensive equipment.

At the end though, you get what you pay for and 800 quid or whatever is a cost effective way of getting some nice pictures while learning about cameras and birds. I do find it quite interesting the amount of experienced posters who have spent years with the more expensive equipment and have then gone for a bridge camera. I'll probably go the other way in that I'll be happy with this camera for a couple of more years while I get used to video and so on, and will then invest in something more expensive.
 

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