Digital Cameras for recording sightings

To: "'Roaminoz Crew'" <>, "'Birding Aus'" <>
Subject: Digital Cameras for recording sightings
From: "Andrew Bell" <>
Date: Sat, 5 Dec 2009 12:14:45 +0930

Hi all

The slightly long answer: 

The main question I think is do you want a camera for record / ID purposes
or do you want to take portaits of birds to enjoy and display? For the
former there are many high end point and shoots that will do the job well
for less weight and space than an SLR , its worth checking on-line camera
review sites to see how models perform at the long end of their zoom range -
many lenses perform poorly at their maximum focal length. (Steve's Digicam
reviews used to be good but seems to have gone a bit commercial now). Even
if picture quality is not perfect at the long end, at least noone will be
able to dispute that White Wagtail.

If you are moving towards quality nature photography it is worth considering
an entry level SLR with something like a 70-300mm zoom with vibration
reduction/image stabilisation. I think the "learning curve" for many entry
level models is pretty gentle. As sales of point-and-shoots have fallen off
due to everyone already having one, the industry have been trying to
convince everyone they they need an SLR and have made them pretty simple at
the bottom end - ie point and shoot SLRs.

Picture quality is primarily about optics and the sensor. With an SLR you
can choose and later upgrade your optics. SLR sensors are bigger and so each
pixel is bigger. This allows greater light sensitivity and lower signal to
noise ratio - which adds up to higher picture quality and in particular
allows the higher shutter speeds necessary to get a sharp image with a
longer lens. As you pay more you get cameras with more sophisticated auto
focus and metering, higher frame rates etc, which makes that stunning shot a
higher probablity,  but they're much much the same as far as sensors go
(unless you go above $3000 for a body!) . If you buy good optics you can
upgrade the body later anyway, lenses outlast camera bodies if you don't
drop them in the sand. Don't let anyone tell you you need more that 10
megapixels, I took great bird shots with my old 6Mp Nikon D70.

I've used SLRs since my school days (my pride and joy as a teenager was my
second hand Minolta SRT 101)so am probably a bit blinkered. I've gone down
the route of buying a higher end camera body (Nikon D300) which gives me
full compatability with old second hand Nikon lenses - I take  my best shots
with a second hand Nikkor 300mm f4 and an older (25yo) Nikkor 600mm f5.6
manual focus, which is razor sharp and was a fraction of the price of a new
equivalent (- but you wouldn't want to carry it too far - with camera and
solid tripod  to support it its probably about 6kg all up. I often question
the wisdom of carting it all around, but then that recent shot of the
Gouldian...). The big lens with a 2X teleconverter has allowed  IDs to be
made at home that weren't possible from the shore with a scope and for a
days walking a light weight zoom will do.

You could look at an entry level Nikon SLR with a 70-300 VR lens (should be
able to get a good deal as a kit) or the Canon equivalent - many nature
photographers buy Canon for their lens range. By sticking with the big names
you increase the opportunity to buy second hand optics which can be a huge
saving if you get serious.


Andrew Bell
Katherine NT   

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Roaminoz Crew
Sent: Saturday, 5 December 2009 5:09 AM
To: Why ?
Subject: Digital Cameras for recording sightings

Thank you Dave and Cath for asking the question as I too would like to
upgrade my digital.

To everyone who replied, thank you. It really seems the way to go is with an
SLR according to some replies. So my question to those who have upgraded to
the SLR cameras


a) Is there such a 'learning curve' from the small auto camera to the SLR.
Price says there is!

b) Is the photo quality really  "that much better"


Steve, I had trouble opening your link to your USA photos.



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