Re:Digital SLR's for birding

To: <>
Subject: Re:Digital SLR's for birding
From: "Alec Gillespie" <>
Date: Sat, 29 Oct 2005 20:47:45 +1000

-----Original Message-----
 Behalf Of Jim Smart
Sent: Friday, 28 October 2005 4:18 PM
Subject: Re:Digital SLR's for birding

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
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