Digital Cameras for recording sightings

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Digital Cameras for recording sightings
From: David Adams <>
Date: Thu, 3 Dec 2009 16:13:24 +1100
On Thu, Dec 3, 2009 at 3:46 PM,  <> wrote:
> G'day David
> I have a Panasonic Lumix FZ18.  This has an SLR equivalent 28-504 mm lens.
>  It weighs next to nothing and takes quite good bird pics.  I used mine in
> the USA earlier this year and was very pleased with many of the pics.

I have the same camera and have found it _invaluable_ when confronted
with unfamiliar birds, particularly overseas. (It would also be good
for rarities seen at home, what I think the original question was
about.) 18x is long enough to get a snapshot of even distant or small
birds much of the time. When in a new area - particularly one where
the birds and even bird families are unfamiliar - it's a great thing
to be able to get some shots for later review. In the past I've tried
sketching, writing notes, and flipping wildly through field guides.
What I've found from that is:

* It's hard to do two things at once and I'd rather be studying the
bird as best I can.
* Sketching is probably the single best way to learn birds but it's not quick.
* Memory is unreliable! I'll _very_ clearly remember colors or marks
in the wrong places. (This is worse with fish, it's typical to reverse
the colors on fish when you're relying on memory.)
* It's a rare overseas trip where I don't discover one or two birds
new to science a day ;-)

The camera is great because:
* I can get a few snaps and stop worrying about it.
* The pictures keep me honest - I've found several times when I
clearly remembered marks that simply weren't there - and missed ones
that were in plain view.
* I learn more about the birds. When I get back to where I'm reseting
up at mid-day, I can review my field guides and whatever else I've got
and try to sort out tricky birds. Can I always sort them out from my
snapshots? No. I don't care though because what I do get is a better
idea of what field marks to look for when next I see the bird. Just
narrowing down the list of possibilities to a few birds is a great
benefit for the next time you're in the field.

I think by now there are actually cameras smaller than the DMC-FZ18
but I haven't tried any. The model I'm using has a remarkably decent
lens and, as noted, it's not heavy. A few negatives:

* There's no underwater case available, for those that care.
* It's not a great camera for night shots or very low-light
conditions, at least as far as I can sort out.
* It uses a custom battery. With that said, I can go all day on one
charge so I only have one spare and haven't had any trouble. I just
prefer to use standard battery sizes, where possible, for all of my

...another helpful tool to bring along on trips is a tiny notebook. We
got an HP Mini 2140 running XP and couldn't be happier. (And I'm a Mac
guy....) It's really great to be able to pop the picture card in and
review things on a somewhat bigger screen. Not to mention being able
to bring along birding software, reference pictures, etc.

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