Re:Digital SLR's for birding

Subject: Re:Digital SLR's for birding
From: Jim Smart <>
Date: Fri, 28 Oct 2005 16:18:08 +1000
Hello Peter,

I have recently taken the step into the Digital SLR world after having a Nikon film SLR for three decades and a Nikon 4500 compact digital for two years. I read extensively on the web about the virtues of the competing brands and finally bought a Canon 350D. The 18-55mm lens that comes with the camera is not very useful for bird photography so I bought second hand on eBay a 100-400 IS zoom lens. I also bought two spare batteries,a 2Gb memory card, a Canon 580EX flash plus a Better Beamer fresnel lens and a bag to carry the lot. The Manfrotto tripod that is used with my spotting scope will be used with the camera when needed. The image stabiliser (IS) feature on the Canon lens enables one to get remarkably sharp photos at 400mm (equivalent to a 640mm lens in 35mm photography) with a handheld camera. This feature is called VR in Nikon lenses. Some other manufacturers have similar vibration reduction devices either in the lens or in the camera body.

I would suggest that for reasonably satisfactory bird photography one needs at least a 400 mm lens and even then you will want more reach in many situations. The British site Bird Forum caters for the interests of bird photographers very well - <>. They have discussion forums of almost every aspect of birding as well a a gallery of about 60000 bird photographs. It is worthwhile to look at this gallery to see just what are the capabilities and limitations of each camera and lens before spending a lot of money.

I am quite happy with my Canon gear. On the other hand I am sure that the Nikon D50 or the Nikon D70s plus a 400 or 500 mm lens would be just as good. The main reason for choosing Canon 350D was the feel of the body in the hand plus remarkably good reputation of the Canon 100 - 400 IS lens as a nature and birding lens.I have not so far experienced the problem of mirror slap noise scaring off passerines

The big downside of any digital SLR of any brand, especially when used with a push-pull style zoom like the Canon 100 - 400 IS, is getting dust on the sensor. This can happen each time a lens is changed and each time the lens is zoomed in and out. Dust on the sensor is not a problem at largish apertures but is very obvious when stopped down to f22 or smaller. A job for me next week is to venture into the field of dSLR sensor cleaning.

Dust on the sensor is not a problem with digital cameras with fixed lenses. The top of the range models with 12X zooms such as the Panasonic FZ30 and equivalents by other manufacturers can produce some impressive bird photos. The cost of freedom from sensor dirt is sensor noise from the smaller sensors.

Jim Smart
East Maitland NSW
Birding-Aus is now on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message 'unsubscribe
birding-aus' (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU