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VtAnne

Good Camera For Beginning Birder?

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I've taken some nice photos with the only digital camera I've ever owned , a Kodak EasyShare Z740, as long as my subject sits still! I am ready to take my love of nature seriously and buy my first camera better suited for a moving animal. I've done some research online, and become quite confused, but I am certain this forum can steer me in the right direction.

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Well, the camera you have now has some features that could help reduce motion blur.  Manually changing ISO and using burst mode are some things that may help.  Others can probably give some more tips.

If you're looking to upgrade and you don't want something too complicated and expensive, I recommend getting a newer superzoom point-and-shoot.  I'd recommend them to any birder, not just beginners.  The zoom is so, SO helpful, not just for better composition, but for ID shots.  We have two from Canon - the Powershot SX40 (35x zoom) and Powershot SX50 (50x zoom).  But with that much zoom it is helpful to know how to hold a camera in a way that stabilizes it.  People who don't have steady hands will have difficulty taking clear photos, especially at max zoom.  It takes a lot of practice!

Example photos here! https://www.flickr.com/photos/birdnuts  Most were taken with the cameras I mentioned above.

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I'll agree with that.  Starting out, buying a canon sx500 superzoom was what really helped me start to enjoying myself while hiking.

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Thank you ferret. As per The Bird Nuts I've begun researching Canon cameras.

Sorry Bird Nuts - I'm having trouble with email and you may not have received my acknowledgement of your last kind response. My current Kodak camera is 2nd hand, and I never read the manual. Your recommendations lead me to download a manual and experiment more with settings. I haven't gotten any different results yet. I do have a fairly steady hand, but this camera only has a 10x zoom.  My biggest problem is trying to photo through window glass, as it will more often focus on the glass rather than the subject. Suggestions?

 

 

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After losing :( my Canon sx30 I am experimenting with a Panasonic Lumix zs50 - fits in a shirt pocket but has a 30x zoom - not having the bulk of the Canon is nice, still evaluating the picture quality. It has a shooting thru glass setting.

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2 hours ago, VtAnne said:

My biggest problem is trying to photo through window glass, as it will more often focus on the glass rather than the subject. Suggestions?

Does your camera have a light that shines on an object to help the camera focus on it?  Usually you can test to see if it's on if you hold down the shutter button halfway.  On my camera it's called AF-assist Beam.  I don't know if it will help, but I would try going to the options and turning that off when taking photos through a window if it's possible.  If that doesn't help, I'm not sure what else would...other than cleaning the window. :P

2 hours ago, VtAnne said:

Sorry Bird Nuts - I'm having trouble with email and you may not have received my acknowledgement of your last kind response.

Hmm, no, I haven't received any new messages from you.  Maybe you can try again?

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Hi VtAnne!

I am still using a beginners point and shoot camera. It's great for birding because it has built in high zoom ability, plus is has motion stabilization. I'm going to be upgrading to a better camera soon, but this camera was wonderful for getting me comfortable using a camera & happy with the quality of my photos.

Nikon Coolpix B700

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About a year ago, I upgraded from my beginner's Canon EOS T3i, which was actually very good, but had rather slow continuous shooting (maybe 5 fps) to a Canon EOS 7D Mark II.  It was a great choice.  There are dozens of combinations of ways to set the focus, from spot point to 64 point and 5 or 6 different methods to select the type of motion you're shooting.  All of that is pretty complicated, and I haven't mastered it all yet (including the daunting menu), but nailing down the basics is easy.  The best part of this camera for shooting birds, especially hummingbirds is it's speed.  You can get up to 10 fps.  That's pretty awesome. It's a bit heavier than what I was used but I can't imagine any better camera to capture motion.

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I've taken some nice photos with the only digital camera I've ever owned , a Kodak EasyShare Z740, as long as my subject sits still! I am ready to take my love of nature seriously and buy my first camera better suited for a moving animal. I've done some research online, and become quite confused, but I am certain this forum can steer me in the right direction.

I would agree a bridge camera (aka superzoom) is probably the best option. I haven't had experience with the Canon, but I did have a Nikon Coolpix P900 a while ago and it was really fun. The main attractive thing about it was the 83x optical zoom which was insane at the time, and probably still is today. It was good while it lasted, but I had two main gripes with it. One, though the zoom was phenomenal (it could practically fill the frame with a bird that was across a field etc.) it took a long time to get to the full zoom. Like 6-7 seconds. Which with non-moving targets that's fine, but with birds, I found I missed a lot of shots just waiting for the camera to extend. That said, you can leave the lens extended, but that results in a super narrow field of view so it's hard to find the bird. Second, they put an ancient processor in there. Sure you got 7 shots per second...for one second... Then the camera had to write to the card and that was several seconds in waiting. Even with a super fast card that was the case. If those issues don't bug you then it's a fantastic birding camera! 

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On 8/8/2017 at 5:21 PM, The Bird Nuts said:

Well, the camera you have now has some features that could help reduce motion blur.  Manually changing ISO and using burst mode are some things that may help.  Others can probably give some more tips.

If you're looking to upgrade and you don't want something too complicated and expensive, I recommend getting a newer superzoom point-and-shoot.  I'd recommend them to any birder, not just beginners.  The zoom is so, SO helpful, not just for better composition, but for ID shots.  We have two from Canon - the Powershot SX40 (35x zoom) and Powershot SX50 (50x zoom).  But with that much zoom it is helpful to know how to hold a camera in a way that stabilizes it.  People who don't have steady hands will have difficulty taking clear photos, especially at max zoom.  It takes a lot of practice!

Example photos here! https://www.flickr.com/photos/birdnuts  Most were taken with the cameras I mentioned above.

I have a bridge camera, a Panasonic DMC FZ-1000, probably similar to your Canon Powershots. I pretty much need to use a tripod to get clear shots when I zoom out, which is most of the time. I haven't had any schooling on photography save for one back in the early 80s, and for that I used my then boyfriend's 35 mm. How do you suggest I hold the camera to stabilize it when I'm not using the tripod? I think I've completely forgotten some of the things I must have learned all those years ago.

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Just now, FamiliarFace said:

I have a bridge camera, a Panasonic DMC FZ-1000, probably similar to your Canon Powershots. I pretty much need to use a tripod to get clear shots when I zoom out, which is most of the time. I haven't had any schooling on photography save for one back in the early 80s, and for that I used my then boyfriend's 35 mm. How do you suggest I hold the camera to stabilize it when I'm not using the tripod? I think I've completely forgotten some of the things I must have learned all those years ago.

There are a couple ways I like to hold my superzoom.  The first way is to tuck your elbows underneath the camera and against your rib cage.  The second way is to hold the camera out and pull on the neck strap against your neck.  Believe me, it works!  If you need better explanations I can draw the positions for you.

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Ok, thanks. I've done the tucking elbows technique but need to practice more with that. I've never tried the arms out/strap method. I'll try both of those and see how I do! I hope I improve!

By the way, I'm interested to learn how others get their shots. Almost all of mine are through a window, because my house sits at the top of a wooded ravine and this way I am nearest to the level that the birds are in the trees. Sometimes I even go to my upstairs, and get a higher view. This way, I'm not just getting a bottom view of a bird. However, when I'm out in the field, the birds are really high up. How do people on this website get such good shots of birds? 

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@FamiliarFace Well, if you go birding enough and take tons of photos, you'll eventually get that one great photo.  Pishing (or spishing or whatever you want to call it) often helps to get certain species to come into view, but I don't recommend doing that a lot, especially during breeding season (it upsets them).  Taking photos out of an open window is a good option when you have feeders or bushes near your house (I took our hummer profile photo out my window).  I open my windows from the top and it makes a nice place to rest my camera.  Setting up a blind in front of a feeder or other area the birds frequent can help, but it's not always necessary.  Sometimes just being still, quiet, patient, and quick with the camera will get you that shot.  Also, certain species are more comfortable around humans, such as hummingbirds and chickadees.

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I had to look up pishing and spishing. I had never heard either term. The most I ever have done to attract birds is to use bird feeders for those that do, and hope that there's enough variety of food there that others stop by for a look. I used to have a bird bath, but some critter knocked it over, which happened a lot in the summer, and the last time it finally broke into several pieces. I'm starting to look at replacements now, but the garden centers are shutting down inventory, so I may have to come up with something temporary for the winter months.

My question about how to get a better shot was meaning more in the way of getting a good view. I'm sure there are plenty of folks who go out hiking with cameras in tow. How does one get a quality shot of a bird that's so high in the trees? 

I have gotten lucky with *maybe* 5-10 shots. I guess the sun was right, and the angles were good, or something. Those great shots are so few and far between. I hope that as time goes on, as I get more comfortable with my camera, and as I venture down the path of this new hobby, that I'll improve. Being patient with my own screw ups is hard. It is easier to be patient with the birds!

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I have a few suggestions:

1.  You can create a hide.  It can be very primitive. For instance, I will sit on one of my padded patio chairs, set up my tripod and pull one of the other chairs in front of it (and me). The large pads are a brownish color so I'll put on a similarly colored shirt and hat. You can do similar things in the wild. If you remain still, the birds will come around.  

2. Get a decent  monopod. Right now I have a torn tendon in my shoulder. I feel naked going for a walk without my camera but can't hold it up or steady with the bad shoulder.  The monopod is light, expandable and allows for a variety of camera angles.

3. Lean on stuff a lot.  Tucking elbows, etc is all easier said than done.  Lean on a tree, a door jamb, a wall, a car all with an arm or both elbows.  Easy peasy. Some super advanced photographers will give a lot of well meaning advice.  I like to try to think of what would have helped me most.   Getting focused birds on high require a few things, the first of which is steadiness, so lean if you need to do so. Lens length is important, of course.  The other thing is the focus setting on your camera. To successfully shoot birds in trees, etc, your  camera must be set on spot focus.  It's hard enough to get the camera to focus on the critter and not the leaves or branches as it is.  Without a single spot focus, it's nearly impossible.

A quick comment about the bird bath.  My yard is surrounded by a brick wall.  Instead of a birdbath in my yard, I have three heavy dishes, each about 2 inches deep, placed on the walls.  They have to be filled every morning (I live in the desert so the agua tends to go fast) but they are easier to keep clean.  They are also better during the winter.  After sunset, I can dump the day's water out and refill with fresh in the morning.  I learned to do that because it's easier than trying to thaw frozen water when you wake up (yes, it freezes in the Sonoran desert).

Happy shooting!

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12 hours ago, AZLaurie said:

I have a few suggestions:

1.  You can create a hide.  It can be very primitive. For instance, I will sit on one of my padded patio chairs, set up my tripod and pull one of the other chairs in front of it (and me). The large pads are a brownish color so I'll put on a similarly colored shirt and hat. You can do similar things in the wild. If you remain still, the birds will come around.  

2. Get a decent  monopod. Right now I have a torn tendon in my shoulder. I feel naked going for a walk without my camera but can't hold it up or steady with the bad shoulder.  The monopod is light, expandable and allows for a variety of camera angles.

3. Lean on stuff a lot.  Tucking elbows, etc is all easier said than done.  Lean on a tree, a door jamb, a wall, a car all with an arm or both elbows.  Easy peasy. Some super advanced photographers will give a lot of well meaning advice.  I like to try to think of what would have helped me most.   Getting focused birds on high require a few things, the first of which is steadiness, so lean if you need to do so. Lens length is important, of course.  The other thing is the focus setting on your camera. To successfully shoot birds in trees, etc, your  camera must be set on spot focus.  It's hard enough to get the camera to focus on the critter and not the leaves or branches as it is.  Without a single spot focus, it's nearly impossible.

A quick comment about the bird bath.  My yard is surrounded by a brick wall.  Instead of a birdbath in my yard, I have three heavy dishes, each about 2 inches deep, placed on the walls.  They have to be filled every morning (I live in the desert so the agua tends to go fast) but they are easier to keep clean.  They are also better during the winter.  After sunset, I can dump the day's water out and refill with fresh in the morning.  I learned to do that because it's easier than trying to thaw frozen water when you wake up (yes, it freezes in the Sonoran desert).

Happy shooting!

Thank you very much for all those tips!  When I was first investigating a new camera after my point and shoot, the salesman at the camera store suggested a monopod too. Between the new camera and the monopod, I couldn't get good shots, so I returned them and hunted around for a different camera, which I eventually got last Christmas. At that point, I bought a fairly inexpensive tripod, and the results have been much better. Now that I've grown more used to the weight of the camera, I'm interested in the monopod idea again, especially since you've mentioned it. How do you use it? Perhaps I should google that and see if someone has made a video demonstrating it. 

Since you've brought up the spot focus, I will have to look into that as well. There are lots of features on this camera that I haven't explored yet, and that is probably one of them. I mostly use the intelligent focus feature, but it does often focus on the leaves and twigs around instead of the bird that I'm looking at. Very frustrating when birds are usually only around for a few seconds, especially the smaller ones!

I like your idea of the bird bath dish that you empty out every day and fill every day. I appreciate your suggestions and welcome others if you think of anything more! Thanks so much for your help!

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Glad I could help, FF.  I bought the monopod at the same time as my tripod and thought I had wasted my money.  I didn't see any benefit from it at all.  I've gotten some great shots when I haven't had time to set up my tripod or had it with me.  Leaning has allowed me to do that.  I've had shoulder and elbow injuries which have prevented me from being able to use my better camera (Canon 7D Mark II) because of it's weight, plus the lenses, so I've experimented with the monopod.  When I walk around with it, I keep it attached to the camera with the leg collapsed.  That way, when I see a quick bird I only have to drop and snap the leg and I'm ready to shoot.  My left arm has been in a sling for 5 months.  I am able to move about and still shoot because of it.  There's not much of a learning curve.  Just take it out and play with it.

I upgraded to my current camera from my first DSLR, a Canon T3i, about a year ago.  I figure out something new about it every day.  I was completely self-taught so I had just gotten the hang of the T3i (FIVE YEARS LATER) when I tossed myself to the wolves.  :-)  I'm finding the best way to learn is to simply try  different things.  I usually keep a little notebook in my pocket and jot down the settings, etc, I've used for a shot, then readjust the camera, take the notes and shoot the same scene.  Then I have something with which to compare when I look at the shots.  Last tip about that...don't delete in camera.  It will help you keep your notes organized.  It's so easy to delete oodles at a time on your computer.  

The one recommendation I would make to improve your tripod shots even more is to use a remote.  Wireless remotes usually have to be used from the front. Occasionally, they'll work from the side.  I use a wired remote.  Pressing the shutter button, even if the camera is firmly attached and tightened, still gives enough of a vibration to make the difference between a great shot and an incredible one.

The one thing I would look for YouTube videos on would be different ways to adjust your camera's focus (although it's hard for me to learn that way).  Every camera is different.  Mine has about a zillion different ways.  I shoot a lot in Madera Canyon in SE Arizona and more and more photographers there have my camera.  I pick their brains all the time about settings, etc.  Photographers are a friendly bunch.  The largest camera club in the state is in my town, yet there wasn't anyone yet with my equipment.  So I hang out where I can find people who like to shoot what I do.  They tend to have kits similar to mine .

So shoot, shoot, shoot. Experiment, mess around, play with all the do-dads. Unless you're doing this professionally at this point, the whole idea of engaging in this wonderful hobby is to have fun. You don't have to always practice and learn on birds, either.  Shoot everything and anything.  Fire hydrants in the shade, fire hydrants in the sun. Moving cars. Raindrops.  Dew.  All sorts of moving or inanimate objects under every possible condition.  It's not like you're wasting any film!  Let's hear it for technology!!

If you're interested, there's a wonderful international photo journal site called blipfoto.com.  The skills of the members range from professional to novice. There's no pressure.  The site is literally owned by the members. There are amazing bird, landscape, portrait, street, you name it, photographers on the site who are always willing to share.  I love the community.  In a couple of days I will hit my 2500th consecutive post [blip]. You can check out my journal at https://blipfoto.com/laurie54

Edited by AZLaurie
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