Camera Advice is the subject I get asked most about ie "What magnification can cameras go up to?", "Which camera should I buy/use?", "How do I photo birds?", "What about post-processing?" etc, etc.
It's a wide subject (from mobile phone cameras to DSLR or mirrorless kits) and there's no simple answer as it depends on needs, budget, personal taste etc but I'll try and give a few "general" views! The choice is really up to you!
Camera Lens Magnification (a complicated subject in its own right!)
Basically divide the "mm" of your lens by 50 to get an equivalent magnification figure. Therefore a 300mm lens is equal to a 6x magnification and a 150-600mm zoom lens has a magnification varying from 3x to 12x. So, at the 600mm level - looking through the camera viewfinder is 1.5 times more powerful than 8x magnification binos.
The above is true for "full frame" DSLR cameras from Canon, Nikon & Sony etc plus most compact cameras. However, some DSLR's from Nikon & Canon etc have cropped sensors which increases the effective "mm" of the lens. The conversion figures are 1.5 for Nikon and 1.6 for Canon - which has the following effect:-
Nikon 300mm lens = 300 x 1.5 = 450/50 = 9x magnification equivalent.
Nikon 150-600mm lens = 225-900/50 = 4.5 to 18x magnification.
Canon 300mm lens = 300 x 1.6 = 480/50 = 9.6x magnification equivalent.
Canon 150-600mm lens = 240-960/50 = 4.8 to 19.2 magnification Hope all that makes sense!!
So, when you see photographers with their DSLR cameras + big lenses (usually up to 500 or 600mm) - they're getting an equivalent magnification of up to approx 18-19x. Then, along comes someone with one of the newish/smaller Nikon P1000 bridge cameras which has an optical zoom going up to 3000mm - equivalent to 60x magnification (+ a digital zoom taking it up to an approx 125x magnification)!
Why use a DSLR with a big/heavy lens? (I often wonder more and more these days!)
Basically, because they have larger sensors (to record the picture on), better lenses (to get detail and work in darker conditions etc), easier to use viewfinders (to find birds in bushes and see them in flight easier), better weather sealing etc and they shoot quicker (get an instant shot).
Why not use something like a Nikon P900, P950 or P1000 Bridge Camera?
Lighter, smaller & cheaper than most DSLR set ups + have that zoom advantage for distant subjects. P900 & P950 go up to 40x magnification equivalent optically (P1000 60x) and 80x digitally (P1000 120x) but P900 doesn't have as good a viewfinder as the P950 & P1000 or raw mode for those who want it. So, nothing wrong with using them or any other bridge camera - just bear in mind potential drawbacks as shown by DSLR advantages in previous section.
Photographers will have many different views here but I like to shoot in Manual mode.
For "Birds In Flight" (BIFs) I'd use a shutter speed ideally of at least 1250th/sec with an aperture of f8 and focus set to AF-C on a DSLR and perhaps also have shutter set to continuous in order to take 2-6 pics a second - so I'll hopefully get a pic where the wings and head are in the right position!
On a P950 & P1000 I used to use Shutter mode set to 1000th/sec or faster with focus set to Target Finding.
For stationary birds I ideally use 1000-1250th/sec and f8 again on a DSLR with focus set to AF-S + perhaps in camera cropping also in action to fill the picture more with the subject.
NB...Different lighting may mean adjustments to these settings!
On the P950 & P1000 I used the Bird Mode which automatically gives spot focus and best aperture/shutter speed etc.
On my RX10 Mk4 I use Aperture or Shutter Priority mode with focus switch set to "S" or "C" depending on subject.
What Camera(s) do I use?
For over 40 yrs I was a Nikon shooter - progressing to the D7200 with a Sigma 150-600mm lens but thats now been traded in along with my Nikon P950 & P1000 which I did enjoy for those longer shots. I'm now using a Canon R5 mirrorless camera with mainly the RF100-500mm lens for most shots + I often take along a R7 with the RF800mm f11 lens if I think the bird could be quite distant. In addition, I use a Sony RX10 Mk 4 for those trips where I want to travel light or if needing a camera on holiday etc.
Carrying a camera set up (maybe DSLR) with your binos, perhaps a scope/tripod and possibly even having a dog on a lead isn't easy! I certainly find the following Camera Strap and Holster from Peak Design really useful and they should fit every type/make of camera. Click on links below for further info:-
Photo Processing Software
Lots of different software is available to edit/improve your pics such as the Adobe Photoshop package at £9.99 per month + free ones such as GIMP or PhotoScape X Pro (all of which I've used).
Personally, I use "Faststone Image Viewer" (foc) on Windows to quickly view my Raw files from the camera. I then open the ones I like in "Digital Photo Professional" (foc) which converts them to a Tiff file. On a MacBook I view my Raw files in "XnViewMP". I then use Adobe Lightroom Classic for any quick tweaks + maybe "Topaz DeNoise", "Topaz Sharpen" or "Topaz Photo Al" if the shot really needs it. Finally, I might run them through "Adobe Photoshop". Fortunately though most pics don't need that full treatment!
Why not just use a Telescope and digiscope pics with your mobile phone?
Could be a useful way to do things but tricky for those birds in flight!
Why not just use a bridge camera on a monopod?
I've seen people using P1000s that way as a telescope + works well but birds in flight!? Could be OK!
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