Some notes on digital still cameras for bird photography: Part 1

To: <>
Subject: Some notes on digital still cameras for bird photography: Part 1
From: "Robert Inglis" <>
Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 07:02:16 +1000
Hello all,

Now and then there is an enquiry requesting info on digital cameras for bird
Well..... there hasn't been one for a while but nevertheless.....

I am sure that I have mentioned in the past that I plunged into the digital
morass and purchased an Olympus C-700 Ultra Zoom model, Sept 2001.

Did I do the right thing?
Mmmmm.......well....yes and no.....

My personal experience with the Olympus C-700, along with some additional
research, has revealed a few points that could be worth noting by anyone
contemplating purchasing a digital camera for bird photography.

Digital cameras are a fascinating innovation in the field of photography.
But they are not yet, in my opinion, a complete replacement for film-based
I believe they have their virtues and many people will find them ideal
but there are a number of factors that need to
be realized when considering using digital cameras for the different types of
I will try to keep these notes to the point of using digital cameras for bird
The notes will cover a deal of territory and therefore I will split this info
into several parts posted progressively.
Except in the most general terms I will not attempt to explain the technical
principles of digital cameras or digital photography.

Please note that these are my personal opinions gained from personal experience
and observation; other people may have other opinions and different experiences.
What I have written below is not intended to be absolute.
Anyone contemplating purchasing a digital camera for any reason or purpose would
be advised to seek advice from other sources as well.
Note that, except where a particular model of digital camera is mentioned, these
comments and notes are meant to be general by nature.
These comments and notes are not intended to be an endorsement for or a
statement against any particular brand or model of digital camera; they are
intended only to be a point of discussion and reference for people who may be
considering purchasing and/or using digital cameras for bird photography.
It should be realized that changes are occurring seemingly daily in this field
and therefore features and usability of digital cameras are changing also.
The types of digital cameras will change regularly as will the quality of image

There are basically two 'classes' of digital cameras on the market:
- Professional
- Consumer

Professional digital cameras are, in effect, top quality 35mm SLR film cameras
with the film mechanism replaced by a digital one.
They look like 35mm SLR cameras and usually can use the same interchangeable
lenses as their film-type stable-mates.
The 'pro' digital cameras are amazing machines with even more features than film
cameras and usually produce top quality images.
If you already own a high quality Canon or Nikon 35mm SLR camera with a set of
expensive lenses you might want to consider the digital equivalent.
However, be prepared to pay at least an arm and a leg (most probably both of
your arms and both legs along with those of most of your family and friends)!!
The RRP for the Nikon DX1 is $12735 for the body, battery charger, storage card
and capture software (note you need to bring your own lens at this price).
The Canon EOS D60 is far more reasonably priced at $5499 (RRP) for the camera
body and battery.

If you are serious about your photography and plan to make a living or to win
prizes from it you really should only consider something like the two cameras
mentioned above (Note: there are other brands and models in this class).
There is no doubt that 'pro' digital cameras are the best type to use for
serious bird-photography.

However, if you are like me (severely wealth-disadvantaged) and only want to
PRETEND that you are a serious nature photographer or want to have FUN and
simply take reasonable photos of the birds you see then you will be looking at
the 'Consumer' range of digital cameras.
You should note that while these cameras are more affordable than the 'pro'
class, digital cameras are always considerably more expensive than film cameras
of the same 'type'.
Prices are coming down, however, and it is always worthwhile hunting around for
the 'best' price for the model you settle on.
Don't be surprised, though, if the model you looked at last week has been
replaced this week; also be aware that the replacement model may not have those
features you were keen on even if it still looks like the previous model.
Be sure to check that the current model digital camera actually does what you
want it to do.
Often some of the really good features of a particular model have been deleted
on the replacement model in the name of cost cutting.
More on that later.

I would think that 'consumer' type cameras would be the most likely choice in
digital cameras for most birdwatchers so I will concentrate on them starting
with the next part of this story in my next posting on this topic.

In future postings:
- Why go digital for bird photography?
- CCD pixel count, resolution, and picture quality
- Zoom power
- Accessories: lens, filters and other items
- Viewfinder: optical or digital
- Power: batteries mainly
- External flash
- Digiscoping
- Storage media
- Computer requirements
- Misc software: to create CD slide-shows, for example
- more?

In Part 2 I will ask the question "Why go Digital?"

In the meantime, anyone interested in a particular digital camera should have a
look at the web-site: Digital Photography Review (or
Go to:
Also check out the 'forums' on that site for specific and general info and

Australian magazines that I have found on digital cameras and photography
- Australian Digital Camera ($6.50), bi-monthly; usually up-to-date reviews and
news but the reviews have been getting a bit too brief.
(Apparently no web-site.)
- Digital Photo Review ($7.50), bi-monthly; more 'in-depth' reviews and
- Pixel Magazine (or Pixel Mag as it says on the cover) ($5.95), bi-monthly
companion magazine to the monthly "Australian Video Camera and Desktop Video
Magazine"; less digital still camera reviews, more general articles on digital
and including video .
or if that doesn't work try: )
There are other magazines on the market but they either are 'foreign' in origin
or esoteric in their content, eg, concentrate on the 'arty' aspect of picture
taking or enhancing.

Happy snapping for now,

Bob Inglis
Woody Point

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