I agree with pretty much everything that Paul has to say about cameras.
DSLRs are really the best way to go. Fast response time, more control and
more tools (lenses, filters, flash rigs, etc.) at your disposal. It's
really important when you are buying a camera to not look at just the body
and it's specifications but the lens system you are buying into. Buy an
Olympus body and you are going to be using the lens available to that
camera. That's why Nikon and Canon are so popular since they have such a
wide and deep selection of lenses. See what's available in the telephoto or
super telephoto range, what the prices are and read lots of reviews. 300mm
focal length is probably about the absolute minimum you'll want for good
As Paul mentioned, sensor size is important. Most point and shoots have
small sensors meaning they perform poorly in lower light situations than
larger sensors. Sensor size is more important that mega pixels, sometimes
larger megapixel ratings actually mean poorer pictures as more pixels are
crammed onto the sensor to the detriment of the whole image.
Light is the limiting factor of virtually all photography and with bird
photography you'll want all the light you can get. That's why you'll often
want to get the fastest lens possible (smallest f number.) This lets you
shoot "wide open" and get the most light, at the cost of depth of field.
You'll probably want a tripod as well. Some of the bigger telephotos (even
the smaller ones) can be quite a handful and if you can get a few more
stops of exposure time it could mean the difference between a badly exposed
image and a bright bird in the frame.
And when it comes to photo editing software, if you aren't already used to
Adobe Photoshop might I suggest GIMP, the GNU image manipulation program,
that does everything Photoshop does (well, nearly), but for free.
Have you given any thought to digiscoping?
On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 11:35 AM, Fr. Paul Kammen <
> Be warned this could get real expensive real quick :o). Also be warned you
> me going on a favorite topic, so if you have better things to do come back
> read later.
> I'm an avid birder and photographer, and get the most thrill out of
> chasing birds
> with my camera and trying to get the best shot. There are few things more
> exhilarating than getting the bird in the viewfinder, and getting him in
> focus. I
> also do all kinds of other photography as well, but birds are hands down my
> favorite subject.
> I don't think you can go wrong with any major manufacturer, but here's a
> couple of things to consider:
> 1) A cropped sensor. I shoot Olympus, kind of a step-sister among the hard-
> core photo geeks who swear by Canon and Nikon (photographers call them the
> Canikon folks). Olympus has what is called a "four-thirds" sensor; so what
> means is a 300mm lens on it would be 600 equivalent on a 35mm film camera.
> Nikon and Canon also make good cropped sensor cameras though as well.
> 2) Lenses can get very expensive very fast, but there are some decent
> zooms. The one I used for a long time was a 70-300 mm zoom from Olympus; it
> was around $300. Consider a good zoom, and you'd probably want to go with a
> lens that gives you a range - "prime" zooms are very expensive (but worth
> 3) Consider going refurbished. If you look online at a place like BH Photo
> Adorama, refurbished products abound. These are demo models or cameras and
> lenses used by sales reps at shows that can't be sold as new, but are
> and in great shape.
> 4) Go with a DSLR. There are good "point and shoot" cameras out there, but
> there's a lag time when you press the shutter release and when the camera
> taken. It's fine as a second camera, but down the road a DSLR offers you
> 5) Go online to Adorama or BH Photo. National Camera has very nice people,
> and nice equipment, but I am amazed they are still in business - they are
> simply overpriced. Adorama and BH are very reputable and I have purchased
> from both of them, and using them will save you hundreds over what National
> will offer you.
> 6) Get a filter. These are not too expensive, but you need 2 good filters
> - a
> circular polarizer and a UV filter. The former is for clear days to give
> you a deep
> blue background on the sky; the latter is for protection. They aren't too
> but all it takes is a misstep, a trip, or walking into a branch as you are
> at Mr. Red Tail in the tree and you can cost yourself a lens.
> 7) Depending on your lens, consider a teleconverter. I use one on all my
> shots, and have been happy - this costs you light though so you'll only
> want to
> use a 1.4x teleconverter on a budget-style lens.
> 8) Consider Photoshop and plug-in software. I got a steep discount as a
> because I have a school attached. Post-processing is a must; you can get a
> nice shot, but it needs fixing - but most every camera comes with some type
> of starter software to get you going.
> 9) Shoot RAW. RAW shots give you the most data - so you can adjust the
> exposure, clarity, sharpness, light balance, etc a little better. I didn't
> doing this until last year and now I rarely shoot JPEG anymore.
> 10) Budget right, but don't feel bad about what you spend unless someone
> really needs the money. We all have bills, but if you can reasonably afford
> something, you will get what you pay for. Bigger telephoto lenses are
> expensive, but they also are of very high quality.
> 11) Look for third-party lenses as well. Sigma is a good company that makes
> good quality zoom lenses - I used one that was a nice one, a 50-500 zoom
> bigma," that I got used at a good price.
> Do some research on brands and do go to a camera shop to get the feel for
> camera. As you get more into it, depending on what you buy, you may want to
> look at a tripod too. It's a wonderful hobby, and I hope you find something
> good. Feel free to send me any messages if you'd like an opinion on a
> OK, diatribe over - thanks for reading. Good luck in your hunt!
> Fr. Paul
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