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Serious compact for birding

Discussion in 'Open Gear Talk' started by Andrewteee, Jun 6, 2011.

  1. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    I made a post on the mu-43.com forums about birding and m4/3 cameras. But I'm wondering what other options exist in serious compacts for birding, particularly in the realm of the APS-C sensor? Ricoh does not have anything, Sony is not there yet, what about Samsung? Any leads I should follow for other brands/cameras/lenses? Or is the m4/3 option the best option right now?

    Right now "birding" is just a casual interest; were I to get serious about it I might reconsider the DSLR options. I have an Olympus E5 that I could use with Olympus teles.

    Thanks!
     
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  2. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    Well, it depends what you want ... you only have to look at the quality of some of the shots in the "Birds" thread to see what can be done with a m43 ... but "in the field", in less than ideal lighting, and for birds in flight, I personally wouldn't use m43 ... not, that is, if you want those super-sharp frame-filling shots of which the bird magazine and forums are full ... I use an E-P2 with an adapted 4/3 70-300mm , and I get "good enough" record shots, but then I also have gear that I actually leave the house with (which is why I went m43 in the first place ... I knew with a big dSLR + long fast prime, I'd actually end up with a very very expensive ornament - or door stop ...)
     
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  3. Janis

    Janis SC Regular

    145
    Nov 22, 2010
    Central Texas
    I'm sorry to say, for my sake as well as yours, I really think for anything other than perched birds you usually still need a DSLR. You need lightning fast AF, the ability to track a moving object, and the ability to use high ISO and get clean images, so you can pump the ISO up and use super-high shutter speeds. I frequently use shutter speeds of 1600 and up on birds in flight. Very fast, accurate AF is important because it's often hard for even a DSLR to pick the bird out of surrounding leaves and branches. I know people get some good shots of birds with all sorts of compacts -- in fact I have a few myself with the NEX in bright sun when the birds happened to be nearby -- but you would get a far higher keeper rate with a DSLR if birding becomes a serious hobby. If you do go with m43, the 100-300mm is supposed to be good, I think. Good luck!
     
  4. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Yeah, it seems like when it comes to things like birding the compacts may not work so well. The realm of the DSLR and a reason to own one too. But they are indeed big and heavy. I'll start with my backyard and Olympus tele zoom and see if it sticks.
     
  5. Mine

    I personally have a few great bird shots in the above mentioned thread using the NEX-3. and a manual Vivitar 70-150mm.
    https://www.photographerslounge.org/f20/show-birds-278/index22.html#post25419

    I personally have had a hard time getting great motion bird shots, but I also confess that I am rather new at photography. There are a few members in that thread that have some great motion bird shots, but most are static. As stated this is where a full DSLR will shine above a compact, but it can be done with a lot of practice.
    Check out these examples:
    https://www.photographerslounge.org/f20/show-birds-278/index10.html#post13914
    https://www.photographerslounge.org/f20/show-birds-278/#post2859
     
  6. pdh

    pdh SC Legend

    Jan 2, 2011
    interestingly Dave there are very few BIF shots in that thread, and those that there are are of birds that are generally easy to get near (gulls and pelicans, for instance) ... texascbx' eagle shots were taken with a superzoom, and he himself said that the m43 focus speed was too slow! ... many of the rest are perched in gardens or at the zoo ...
    I wonder if Good technique and an adapted manual lens might actually get more satisfactory results than AF on m43 ... though I haven't yet tried wither of the new m43 native long zooms 75-300mm (olympus) or 100-30mm (Panasonic) myself ... annoyingly, none of the camera shops I have been into ever has them, even big chains that sell m43 ..
    Janis really summed it up beautifully from my point of view.
     
  7. Armanius

    Armanius Bring Jack back!

    Jan 11, 2011
    Houston, Texas
    Jack
    Has anyone used the NEX with the 18-200? I'm thinking that 300mm (EFL) is probably not long enough for most birding, but the AF on the NEX is a bit faster than all the m4/3 cameras other than the GH2.

    I've never used the Pany 100-300 or the Oly 75-300. So not sure how fast the AF is on either of them.
     
  8. usayit

    usayit SC Regular

    113
    Sep 4, 2010
    I'm in agreement those still recommending DSLRs. For moving objects, the phase based autofocus systems in the typical DSLR will still be more accurate. Furthermore, you choice of AF lenses is far greater in that realm.

    M43 still is an option IF you need a lightweight solution and willing to work within limits.
     
  9. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    I've been reading up on bird photography and there are real skills involved, different than other kinds of photography. So beyond the camera and lens technique is critical. One interesting thing I learned is that bird photographers often crop heavily.
     
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  10. Janis

    Janis SC Regular

    145
    Nov 22, 2010
    Central Texas
    Thanks, PDH! Andrew, I crop birds heavily all the time because my longest lens is only 300mm (or 420 with a teleconvertor), and that's another reason that ideally you use a camera that gives clean, detailed images at high ISOs. Another thing that helps (when at home) is to set up some dead limbs near a birdfeeder so the birds will perch while waiting their turn at the feeder. Then you have a chance to catch them in flight as they go to the feeder, and you can pre-focus and fire a burst. Ideally, you would have as unobtrusive a background if possible. Since you'll be using a high shutter speed you'll probably have a fairly wide aperture, such as 5.6, to help blur the background. Also, think about the light at various times of day. You want to avoid a dark bird against a super-bright background because the bird will be too dark or the background will blow out. I use flash sometimes to deal with that situation but I don't like a bird to look obviously "flashed." For hummingbirds, I grow plants they like right next to the windows and shoot from inside. You need clean windows!
     
  11. Great hints there. You put a lot of thought into your bird shots.
     
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  12. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee SC All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    Thank you Janis!
     
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