Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2,250

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InvisibleAerobar
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Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2,250

Post by InvisibleAerobar »

I'm coming from a super-zoom camera with an auto-focus that is completely unusable for capturing images of birds. While I can get some photos using manual focus, it's slow and finicky to use. Furthermore, the record rate during medium to low lighting conditions is extraordinarily slow (one image recorded every 5-7 seconds). As such, I'd like to get a new set-up.

Some requirements as follows:
-Would want lens with at least 400 mm reach;
-Priority to auto-focus capabilities (in particular speed and quality);
-Trying to stay with the name-brand products (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, etc) and away from Sigma and Tamron;
-Don't mind buying used if I can get at least four years out of the set-up; and
-Ideally less than $2,250.

I have no idea if I should go mirrorless or more traditional DSLR. I also don't know if I'll have to go up to full-frame with a mirrorless, and whether this would sacrifice reach. Perhaps there's a camera that is both mirrorless and has APS sensor, which presumably would be most suited for capturing small-sized subjects far away? I think the Canon R7 + RF 100-400 mm lens comes below target price, but I'm not sure if it would deliver the quality I'd like to see (fine feather details).

Along the same lines, I would like suggestions re: where I could get very good condition equipment at significant discount.

Any images you could share would be great!

Thanks in advance.
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BrooklynInvest
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by BrooklynInvest »

A fun one!

The speed of a mirrorless would be useful I'd think.

A used Nikon Z5 with their 180-600 lens would be fun and near your budget. The teleconverters aren't too expensive. Image stabilization and the high speed shooting from mirrorless would be useful to you I'd think. And you'd have enough resolution to crop a bit as well. Canon may have a similar system. I'm just more familiar with the Nikon.

Good luck OP,
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Spootypuff »

The sony mirrorless systems have been great to me. If you can find a used sony A73 mirrorless body and a used 200-600 lens that's the ticket. I shoot birds with an A7RV and the sony 200-600 most weekends to stellar results.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Sandtrap »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am I'm coming from a super-zoom camera with an auto-focus that is completely unusable for capturing images of birds. While I can get some photos using manual focus, it's slow and finicky to use. Furthermore, the record rate during medium to low lighting conditions is extraordinarily slow (one image recorded every 5-7 seconds). As such, I'd like to get a new set-up.

Some requirements as follows:
-Would want lens with at least 400 mm reach;
-Priority to auto-focus capabilities (in particular speed and quality);
-Trying to stay with the name-brand products (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, etc) and away from Sigma and Tamron;
-Don't mind buying used if I can get at least four years out of the set-up; and
-Ideally less than $2,250.

I have no idea if I should go mirrorless or more traditional DSLR. I also don't know if I'll have to go up to full-frame with a mirrorless, and whether this would sacrifice reach. Perhaps there's a camera that is both mirrorless and has APS sensor, which presumably would be most suited for capturing small-sized subjects far away? I think the Canon R7 + RF 100-400 mm lens comes below target price, but I'm not sure if it would deliver the quality I'd like to see (fine feather details).

Along the same lines, I would like suggestions re: where I could get very good condition equipment at significant discount.

Any images you could share would be great!

Thanks in advance.
The Canon R7 and RF 100-400 lens (usm type) is in your target price and that and similar brands and lenses in that price range will yield quality results. A lot depends on your skill level, how the shots are taken, how you "post process", the quality of your software, etc. etc.

Bird photography is very very demanding on photographic skills and top level gear to get the "feather texture" image resolution you mention. Per Joel Sartore (National Geographic: "Photo Ark), animals, and people, is about the eyes, sure and crisp. To get the right depth of field and eye clarity on a bird is incredibly difficult, even if they are not moving. If you post process and zoom one to one, the eyes have to be perfect. It takes really good camera gear to do this.

Shop lenses. Canon, Nikon, Sony. The lst two preferably.

The lenses are the heart of imagery. This lens:
Canon EF 100-500 is an "L" lens. Each brand has their pro level line.
Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.com/Canon-100-500mm- ... 224&sr=8-4
You can put a apsc-sensor camera on it and get the 1.5 change, so that would turn a 100-500 into a 150-750. Great for birds.
Canon EOS R7: Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.com/Canon-100-500mm- ... 224&sr=8-4
Or a full frame Canon, but now your price range is way way exceeded.

Canon full frame with 600mm L lens.
Here's a recent picture I took of one of the hummers.
Image

Image

hummers on our back porch feeder.
Tripod with carbon fiber gimbal. Canon full frame, L Lens.
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rob
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by rob »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am -Ideally less than $2,250.
Anything that is likely better than what you have is going to bust this budget - good+ will completely blow it up.... It's also significantly technique and practice.
| Rob | Its a dangerous business going out your front door. - J.R.R.Tolkien
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Watty
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Watty »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am I have no idea if I should go mirrorless or more traditional DSLR.
Mirrorless is the future and it has a lot of advantages over DSLRs. I have a mirrorless R10 which will find and focus on the eye of an animal or person but I don't know if any DSLRs can do that. The big reason to buy a DSLR now is that you can often buy a better used DSLR at a lower price than a mirrorless camera on a limited budget, even a used one.

The next decision is if you should buy a full frame or crop sensor camera. Full frame cameras have a lot of advantages because of the larger sensor but they tend to be bigger, heavier, more expensive, and especially the lenses tend to be a lot heavier and more expensive so for something like bird photography you will often need to use a tripod. In addition to cost a big advantage of crop sensor camera like the R7 is that lenses have a crop factor of 1.6 so a 400mm lens on a crop sensor camera will be like 640mm on a full frame camera.

With you coming from a bridge camera superzoom I think a crop sensor mirrorless camera would be a good choice for your budget. If you get RF mount lenses to use on a Canon crop sensor mirrorless cameras you could upgrade to a full frame Canon Mirrorless camera at some point in the future if you wanted to.

You can also get the DSLR EF or EF-S mount lenses for less and use them on a mirrorless camera with an adapter.
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am I think the Canon R7 + RF 100-400 mm lens comes below target price, but I'm not sure if it would deliver the quality I'd like to see (fine feather details).
I have the Canon R10 and RF 100-400mm lens and I do not know much about brands other than Canon. The R10 is a step below the R7 in the Canon lineup.

I really like the RF 100-400mm lens for the price and it is really good in good light. The problem with it is that it is basically F8 at longer focal lengths. That is not great in low light but modern cameras are a lot better at higher ISOs than older cameras and I routinely use 1600 ISO which at least to me has barely noticeable noise issues and I can use higher ISO when needed. I do not do bird photography so to me a bigger problem with using it at F8 is that I cannot get a narrow depth of field to blur the background. For example I have taken pictures of my grandson batting at a little league game and all the people in the background were fairly sharp so the picture would have been better with a narrower depth of field where they would have been blurred. You could have the same problem with getting a nice blurred background with bird photography. Most lenses are also not their sharpest wide open so with that lens you may find yourself using a lower aperture than f8 too.

I was deciding between the Canon R10 and R7 for last fall and this is how I saw the differences;

1) The R7 has in body image stabilization(IBIS) - From what I read it sounds like it does not do a lot with longer lenses or if the lens already has lens image stabilization. It also does not help with subject movement so IBIS did not seem to be a big advantage to me.

2) The R7 is weather resistant but to be effective you also need a weather resistant lens. I don't do things like backpacking now so this was not a big plus for me.

3) The R7 is 32MP and the R10 is 24 MP. That sounds like a lot but the pixel dimensions are 6960 x 4640 and 6000 x 4000 so if you are trying to print a 300 DPI print each dimension is only about 15% larger. I was also concerned that putting 32MP on to the same size sensor would make it more prone to noise but I was not able to verify that one way or the other.

4) I did not need the dual card slots which the R7 has since I do not do things like wedding photography where I need that backup just in case there is a problem with the SD card.

To me the R7 did not have a lot of advantages that I would use and there was a great Black Friday sale on the US Canon Refurbished web site for the R10 with the 18-150mm lens so I bought that. When they have inventory the prices are normally lower than what you will see normally and they recentently had that R10 bundle for $899 which is a bit higher than I paid but still a very good price which would leave money in your budget for a good long lens too. You can set up alerts on that web site to get an email when they have something you are interested in.
https://www.usa.canon.com/shop/cameras/ ... =price_asc

If you would be OK with an R10 bundle like that then you would have a lot of money left in your budget for a good longer zoom lens which is maybe F4 or even F2.8 but I don't know a lot about those.
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am Trying to stay with the name-brand products (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, etc) and away from Sigma and Tamron;
I would not be quick to rule out Sigma for lenses, I do not have it but I have heard good things about their 150-600 zoom which could work very well for bird photography and on a crop sensor camera like the R7 or R10 600mm would be like 960mm.
Last edited by Watty on Tue Jul 09, 2024 2:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
TN_Boy
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

rob wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 1:45 pm
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am -Ideally less than $2,250.
Anything that is likely better than what you have is going to bust this budget - good+ will completely blow it up.... It's also significantly technique and practice.
Alas, I must completely disagree with the first part of the sentence above :-).

For example, you can get a used Nikon D7500 for well less than a grand; a used D500 for not much over a grand. Pick up a new Tamron 100-400 for it, and you've spent well less than 2k for a pretty good birding setup, including BIF. Much much more competent than a super-zoom. I know this because I used such a setup a lot.

My primary setup is now a D500 plus the 500 pf -- a combo that was cutting edge five years ago, but now can't hang with the latest $$$ mirrorless.

And yes, technique is absolutely important, but without the right gear, you'll still not get a lot of good BIF pictures.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

BrooklynInvest wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:45 am A fun one!

The speed of a mirrorless would be useful I'd think.

A used Nikon Z5 with their 180-600 lens would be fun and near your budget. The teleconverters aren't too expensive. Image stabilization and the high speed shooting from mirrorless would be useful to you I'd think. And you'd have enough resolution to crop a bit as well. Canon may have a similar system. I'm just more familiar with the Nikon.

Good luck OP,
I think the AF on the Z5 would disappoint me. It's not aimed at wildlife photography, as best I can tell. I'd rather have the top-end dSLRs (cheaper now used) than a Z5 for *wildlife*.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am I'm coming from a super-zoom camera with an auto-focus that is completely unusable for capturing images of birds. While I can get some photos using manual focus, it's slow and finicky to use. Furthermore, the record rate during medium to low lighting conditions is extraordinarily slow (one image recorded every 5-7 seconds). As such, I'd like to get a new set-up.

Some requirements as follows:
-Would want lens with at least 400 mm reach;
-Priority to auto-focus capabilities (in particular speed and quality);
-Trying to stay with the name-brand products (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, etc) and away from Sigma and Tamron;
-Don't mind buying used if I can get at least four years out of the set-up; and
-Ideally less than $2,250.

I have no idea if I should go mirrorless or more traditional DSLR. I also don't know if I'll have to go up to full-frame with a mirrorless, and whether this would sacrifice reach. Perhaps there's a camera that is both mirrorless and has APS sensor, which presumably would be most suited for capturing small-sized subjects far away? I think the Canon R7 + RF 100-400 mm lens comes below target price, but I'm not sure if it would deliver the quality I'd like to see (fine feather details).

Along the same lines, I would like suggestions re: where I could get very good condition equipment at significant discount.

Any images you could share would be great!

Thanks in advance.
I'll post a longer reply later, but in general, you are right to be thinking "strategically." Yes, mirrorless is the future (and really the present). I'm familiar with the Nikon line. But in your budget, I wouldn't buy a Nikon mirrorless because the only bodies they have which I'd want for serious bird photography are the Z8 and Z9, and they are pricey. I mean, the Z8 and Z9 are GREAT for wildlife and Nikon has some truly awesome lenses, but they are expensive. I have Nikon dSLRs and will be upgrading to their mirrorless at some point.

I have two Tamron lenses that are excellent values for the money, so I wouldn't shy away from them.

In addition to the features you mention, you (should :-) want a camera body with an extensive set of physical controls, so that you can quickly change aperture, shutter speed and ISO (most serious wildlife photographers shoot in full manual mode, or manual with auto ISO set). But most wildlife oriented cameras have that. And you want weatherproofing, so a bit of rain is not an issue.

I'll ramble on at more length a bit later.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Sandtrap »

TN_Boy wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 2:32 pm
rob wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 1:45 pm
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am -Ideally less than $2,250.
Anything that is likely better than what you have is going to bust this budget - good+ will completely blow it up.... It's also significantly technique and practice.
Alas, I must completely disagree with the first part of the sentence above :-).

For example, you can get a used Nikon D7500 for well less than a grand; a used D500 for not much over a grand. Pick up a new Tamron 100-400 for it, and you've spent well less than 2k for a pretty good birding setup, including BIF. Much much more competent than a super-zoom. I know this because I used such a setup a lot.

My primary setup is now a D500 plus the 500 pf -- a combo that was cutting edge five years ago, but now can't hang with the latest $$$ mirrorless.

And yes, technique is absolutely important, but without the right gear, you'll still not get a lot of good BIF pictures.
Very true.
j
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InvisibleAerobar
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by InvisibleAerobar »

Thanks for all the responses so far (though I respectfully disagree with the post suggesting a camera with a larger sensor won't help). I have noted various models suggested and will do a bit more research into each.

I had a very low hit rate with my super-zoom. It cost me $180 used, and there were large percentages of photos that I had to toss. The upside was that at least I could confirm what I saw. Eventually, I decided not to take any photos when minimum ISO was 400, unless it was for a rare-ish bird such as rose-breasted grosbeak. The most effective manual focus the camera had was a point focus system (as opposed to a matrix of focus points), and this resulted in shots that had some part of a bird in focus but other parts looking off.

The following was perhaps one of the better shots I took, as there's some feather detail; however, it's ever so slightly out of focus. There are about 5-10 other photos such as this one out of probably 800 (mostly subpar) photos of cardinals. When it came to birds that won't sit still (swallows), it was a completely lost cause. Ditto for birds under foliage (tanagers and buntings).

Image

I think $2k spent on well-depreciated but still fully serviceable equipment would be my preferred choice (as compared to say spending $2k on new Canon R7 paired to Canon RF 100-400).

For the most part, I wouldn't even dream of getting good birds-in-flight photos, even with $3k spent on new equipment.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Sandtrap »

Great horned owl.
Canon 5D-Mk-IV.
Canon "L" lens, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens
Image
Canon 5dMkIV 200mm L lens.
Image

Image

Sony Cybershot RX-10 Mk4 (surprising quality and resolution for a small sensor.
The Zeiss lens is what makes for such clarity and resolution.
The original TIFF after raw is razor sharp, fine feather detail and glassy clear eyes.
Image
Last edited by Sandtrap on Tue Jul 09, 2024 6:57 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by InvisibleAerobar »

Sandtrap wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 1:30 pm Shop lenses. Canon, Nikon, Sony. The lst two preferably.

The lenses are the heart of imagery. This lens:
Canon EF 100-500 is an "L" lens. Each brand has their pro level line.
Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.com/Canon-100-500mm- ... 224&sr=8-4
You can put a apsc-sensor camera on it and get the 1.5 change, so that would turn a 100-500 into a 150-750. Great for birds.
Canon EOS R7: Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.com/Canon-100-500mm- ... 224&sr=8-4
Or a full frame Canon, but now your price range is way way exceeded.

Canon full frame with 600mm L lens.
Here's a recent picture I took of one of the hummers.
Image

Image

hummers on our back porch feeder.
Tripod with carbon fiber gimbal. Canon full frame, L Lens.
Thanks for sharing those incredible images.

I haven't even seen too many hummingbirds, and any attempt at capturing their image on my super-zoom would result in smudgy orbs.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by tibbitts »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 3:15 pm Thanks for all the responses so far (though I respectfully disagree with the post suggesting a camera with a larger sensor won't help). I have noted various models suggested and will do a bit more research into each.

I had a very low hit rate with my super-zoom. It cost me $180 used, and there were large percentages of photos that I had to toss. The upside was that at least I could confirm what I saw. Eventually, I decided not to take any photos when minimum ISO was 400, unless it was for a rare-ish bird such as rose-breasted grosbeak. The most effective manual focus the camera had was a point focus system (as opposed to a matrix of focus points), and this resulted in shots that had some part of a bird in focus but other parts looking off.

The following was perhaps one of the better shots I took, as there's some feather detail; however, it's ever so slightly out of focus. There are about 5-10 other photos such as this one out of probably 800 (mostly subpar) photos of cardinals. When it came to birds that won't sit still (swallows), it was a completely lost cause. Ditto for birds under foliage (tanagers and buntings).

I think $2k spent on well-depreciated but still fully serviceable equipment would be my preferred choice (as compared to say spending $2k on new Canon R7 paired to Canon RF 100-400).

For the most part, I wouldn't even dream of getting good birds-in-flight photos, even with $3k spent on new equipment.
I agree with you: superzoom sensors (and I'm guessing you don't have even a 1" superzoom) aren't suitable for what you're trying to do.

My dslr AF is most suitable for photographing dead birds, but I would say if you go the dslr route to save money, make sure your body has multiple AF adjustments available per-lens, since with a zoom it's common to need different adjustments for the short and long end of the zoom. Of course mirrorless essentially does away with the need for AF adjustments by performing AF off the sensor itself.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Watty »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 3:15 pm I think $2k spent on well-depreciated but still fully serviceable equipment would be my preferred choice (as compared to say spending $2k on new Canon R7 paired to Canon RF 100-400).
You could also look at a combination of new and used equipment. With Canon gear you could buy good older used EF lens and put them on a newer mirrorless camera body using an adapter.

With Canon when looking at older camera bodies be sure to look at which image processor it has in it since that will control a lot of things including focusing and burst speed which will be important in bird photography.

Canon calls theirs DIGIC processors and this wiki lists which bodies have which version of it. Some of them may be listed with their international name instead of their US name like 850d instead of T8i.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIGIC
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

Watty wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 4:48 pm
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 3:15 pm I think $2k spent on well-depreciated but still fully serviceable equipment would be my preferred choice (as compared to say spending $2k on new Canon R7 paired to Canon RF 100-400).
You could also look at a combination of new and used equipment. With Canon gear you could buy good older used EF lens and put them on a newer mirrorless camera body using an adapter.

With Canon when looking at older camera bodies be sure to look at which image processor it has in it since that will control a lot of things including focusing and burst speed which will be important in bird photography.

Canon calls theirs DIGIC processors and this wiki lists which bodies have which version of it. Some of them may be listed with their international name instead of their US name like 850d instead of T8i.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DIGIC
Does Canon have as good a selection of wildlife oriented lens as Nikon? The Nikon mirrorless selection is already outstanding. For that matter, on the F-mount (dSLR front) Nikon lenses like the 500 pf are outstanding, and I'm not sure Canon has comparable offerings.

I have the *impression* which I candidly admit might be wrong, that most hardcore wildlife photographers are using Nikon or Sony right now, because these vendors have both the high-end AF and a good selection of lenses.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by bd7 »

Image

Unfortunately this is a somewhat compressed JPG, the 8x10 print I have on the wall is slightly sharper. IDK where the original file is right now.

This is a Canon 80D (crop frame) and the orginal Canon 100-400 L zoom lens. Supposedly the newer II 100-400 is a bit sharper. There's some debate over whether crop frame cameras with high-end zoom lenses are a good thing or not, but you can certainly put together a system for under your budget this way.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by InvisibleAerobar »

bd7 wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 5:15 pm Image

Unfortunately this is a somewhat compressed JPG, the 8x10 print I have on the wall is slightly sharper. IDK where the original file is right now.

This is a Canon 80D (crop frame) and the orginal Canon 100-400 L zoom lens. Supposedly the newer II 100-400 is a bit sharper. There's some debate over whether crop frame cameras with high-end zoom lenses are a good thing or not, but you can certainly put together a system for under your budget this way.
Nice photo, and thanks for sharing. And good to know that a 400 mm can resolve quite a bit clearly.

I was going to guess that the bird were an Aussie cousin of a mockingbird or shrike, but i now see that the file name indicates White Bellied Blue Robin.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Sandtrap »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 3:21 pm
Sandtrap wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 1:30 pm Shop lenses. Canon, Nikon, Sony. The lst two preferably.

The lenses are the heart of imagery. This lens:
Canon EF 100-500 is an "L" lens. Each brand has their pro level line.
Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.com/Canon-100-500mm- ... 224&sr=8-4
You can put a apsc-sensor camera on it and get the 1.5 change, so that would turn a 100-500 into a 150-750. Great for birds.
Canon EOS R7: Amazon.com
https://www.amazon.com/Canon-100-500mm- ... 224&sr=8-4
Or a full frame Canon, but now your price range is way way exceeded.

Canon full frame with 600mm L lens.
Here's a recent picture I took of one of the hummers.
Image

Image

hummers on our back porch feeder.
Tripod with carbon fiber gimbal. Canon full frame, L Lens.
Thanks for sharing those incredible images.

I haven't even seen too many hummingbirds, and any attempt at capturing their image on my super-zoom would result in smudgy orbs.
I love hummers. They are amazing.

I'm not a semi pro or expert photographer for birds and definitely not BIF (birds in flight). It takes high skill levels and excellent gear and patience to get these profound images that we see from others on the forum ie: the bird thread
("tn" others, etc) from fellow posters. They are great photographers and know their gear.

But, I do enjoy photography of all types and playing with the toys.
j
Last edited by Sandtrap on Tue Jul 09, 2024 6:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by rob »

TN_Boy wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 2:32 pm
rob wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 1:45 pm
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am -Ideally less than $2,250.
Anything that is likely better than what you have is going to bust this budget - good+ will completely blow it up.... It's also significantly technique and practice.
Alas, I must completely disagree with the first part of the sentence above :-).

For example, you can get a used Nikon D7500 for well less than a grand; a used D500 for not much over a grand. Pick up a new Tamron 100-400 for it, and you've spent well less than 2k for a pretty good birding setup, including BIF. Much much more competent than a super-zoom. I know this because I used such a setup a lot.

My primary setup is now a D500 plus the 500 pf -- a combo that was cutting edge five years ago, but now can't hang with the latest $$$ mirrorless.

And yes, technique is absolutely important, but without the right gear, you'll still not get a lot of good BIF pictures.
Well sure but I based my response off these two parts from the OP...
Furthermore, the record rate during medium to low lighting conditions is extraordinarily slow (one image recorded every 5-7 seconds). As such, I'd like to get a new set-up.
-Would want lens with at least 400 mm reach
Most of the lenses I do see above are f6.3 - f8 @400mm from memory without looking them up and it's going to be an ISO fight in "low lighting" without great technique. None of those 100-400 lens suggestions are really "at least 400mm" (I guess we can quibble at 400 - if the lens is really 400 as some zooms are a tad shy :D ).

Not saying these options just over 2K used are bad (that RF100-400 is a real sleeper lens and far better than it's price but it's f8 on the long 1/3)... just setting expectations for low light and likely a heavy crop to use a 400mm lens at 600 or 800 reach. Shots during daylight with larger birds can be improved from a bridge camera fairly easily in that budget.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by jfave33 »

Used Om1 and the Om100-400mm should be just under your budget. On micro 4/3 that reach is 800mm full frame equivalent. Can also take teleconverters if you need more reach.

Om systems bought out olympus btw.
Last edited by jfave33 on Tue Jul 09, 2024 8:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Sandtrap »

jfave33 wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 8:14 pm Used Om1 and the Om100-400mm should be just under your budget. On micro 4/3 that reach is 800mm full frame equivalent.

Om systems bought out olympus btw.
I have the OM1 body and pro zuiko lens systems, also the prior Olympus bodies.
Even with the most meticulous use in manual mode, raw, and excellent post processing, it does have its resolution limits simply because of the smaller sensor compared to APSC and Full Frame. But, yes, they would cost a lot more.

I also have several Canon full frame bodies and all the "L" pro lens systems.

I don't know what the expectations of the OP are as far as end quality imagery, whether only displayed digitally and shared email, etc, or tiffs to a photo lab and enlarged at least to 2x3 or greater for wall mounting, or commercial quality.

The budget does seem to be the limitation, and, though there are great system setups within that budget, it is within that budget.
You're right in that the OM-1 and the very high quality they have in that body and the zuiko pro lenses are a strong return per dollar.

A full frame Canon 5D Mk III, older, cheaper than new, with excellently selected Sigma lenses, coupled with a lot of skill, can yield incredible images as long as there's quality from "in camera raw" to "post". So, there's also that direction of things.

We also don't know if or how the OP does post processing, if shooting raw, what software flow, etc.

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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

rob wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 6:21 pm
TN_Boy wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 2:32 pm
rob wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 1:45 pm
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am -Ideally less than $2,250.
Anything that is likely better than what you have is going to bust this budget - good+ will completely blow it up.... It's also significantly technique and practice.
Alas, I must completely disagree with the first part of the sentence above :-).

For example, you can get a used Nikon D7500 for well less than a grand; a used D500 for not much over a grand. Pick up a new Tamron 100-400 for it, and you've spent well less than 2k for a pretty good birding setup, including BIF. Much much more competent than a super-zoom. I know this because I used such a setup a lot.

My primary setup is now a D500 plus the 500 pf -- a combo that was cutting edge five years ago, but now can't hang with the latest $$$ mirrorless.

And yes, technique is absolutely important, but without the right gear, you'll still not get a lot of good BIF pictures.
Well sure but I based my response off these two parts from the OP...
Furthermore, the record rate during medium to low lighting conditions is extraordinarily slow (one image recorded every 5-7 seconds). As such, I'd like to get a new set-up.
-Would want lens with at least 400 mm reach
Most of the lenses I do see above are f6.3 - f8 @400mm from memory without looking them up and it's going to be an ISO fight in "low lighting" without great technique. None of those 100-400 lens suggestions are really "at least 400mm" (I guess we can quibble at 400 - if the lens is really 400 as some zooms are a tad shy :D ).

Not saying these options just over 2K used are bad (that RF100-400 is a real sleeper lens and far better than it's price but it's f8 on the long 1/3)... just setting expectations for low light and likely a heavy crop to use a 400mm lens at 600 or 800 reach. Shots during daylight with larger birds can be improved from a bridge camera fairly easily in that budget.
The Tamron is 6.3 at 400. The 500 pf prime (which is a different class of lens) is 5.6. The latter is an outstanding birding lens, the Tamron (at less than $800) is a solid general purpose wildlife lens. Low light is ... subjective. Obviously if you really want a top end lens for low light photography you are looking at something like a 600 f/4, but that's a 10k+ lens weighing 7 or 8 pounds. I didn't think that was a requirement ....

I would agree that for birding, especially smaller birds, 400 is about as short as you want. But a good 400 is capable and affordable, and obviously 100 times better than a super-zoom for things like BIF. I was mostly disagreeing with this:
Anything that is likely better than what you have is going to bust this budget
The Tamron and D7500 is like 10 times better than a super zoom for bird photography in most situations, and you can get that rig for well less than $2,250; good AF, 8 fps, etc. A few shots with that combo:

Willet at the seashore:

Image

A hummingbird perched:

Image

Egret collecting materials for a nest:

Image

Osprey hunting:

Image

Perched dragonfly:

Image

I included the dragonfly because one nice use of something like a 100-400 is closeups of insects.

I mean, I use the 500 pf more, because while the prime is less versatile, it's just a better lens. And I use the D500 more than the D7500 because it is 10 fps, and the AF is a little better. And I can use buttons to switch AF modes quicker.

For what it is worth. For truly low light you want a really fast lens, but taking action shots in low light means big dollar lens. You can take action shots in okay light with lesser equipment without breaking the bank (it will help if you shoot in RAW mode and know a little about post-processing).
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Sandtrap »

TN_Boy wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 9:05 pm
rob wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 6:21 pm
TN_Boy wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 2:32 pm
rob wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 1:45 pm
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am -Ideally less than $2,250.
Anything that is likely better than what you have is going to bust this budget - good+ will completely blow it up.... It's also significantly technique and practice.
Alas, I must completely disagree with the first part of the sentence above :-).

For example, you can get a used Nikon D7500 for well less than a grand; a used D500 for not much over a grand. Pick up a new Tamron 100-400 for it, and you've spent well less than 2k for a pretty good birding setup, including BIF. Much much more competent than a super-zoom. I know this because I used such a setup a lot.

My primary setup is now a D500 plus the 500 pf -- a combo that was cutting edge five years ago, but now can't hang with the latest $$$ mirrorless.

And yes, technique is absolutely important, but without the right gear, you'll still not get a lot of good BIF pictures.
Well sure but I based my response off these two parts from the OP...
Furthermore, the record rate during medium to low lighting conditions is extraordinarily slow (one image recorded every 5-7 seconds). As such, I'd like to get a new set-up.
-Would want lens with at least 400 mm reach
Most of the lenses I do see above are f6.3 - f8 @400mm from memory without looking them up and it's going to be an ISO fight in "low lighting" without great technique. None of those 100-400 lens suggestions are really "at least 400mm" (I guess we can quibble at 400 - if the lens is really 400 as some zooms are a tad shy :D ).

Not saying these options just over 2K used are bad (that RF100-400 is a real sleeper lens and far better than it's price but it's f8 on the long 1/3)... just setting expectations for low light and likely a heavy crop to use a 400mm lens at 600 or 800 reach. Shots during daylight with larger birds can be improved from a bridge camera fairly easily in that budget.
The Tamron is 6.3 at 400. The 500 pf prime (which is a different class of lens) is 5.6. The latter is an outstanding birding lens, the Tamron (at less than $800) is a solid general purpose wildlife lens. Low light is ... subjective. Obviously if you really want a top end lens for low light photography you are looking at something like a 600 f/4, but that's a 10k+ lens weighing 7 or 8 pounds. I didn't think that was a requirement ....

I would agree that for birding, especially smaller birds, 400 is about as short as you want. But a good 400 is capable and affordable, and obviously 100 times better than a super-zoom for things like BIF. I was mostly disagreeing with this:
Anything that is likely better than what you have is going to bust this budget
The Tamron and D7500 is like 10 times better than a super zoom for bird photography in most situations, and you can get that rig for well less than $2,250; good AF, 8 fps, etc. A few shots with that combo:

Willet at the seashore:

Image

A hummingbird perched:

Image

Egret collecting materials for a nest:

Image

Osprey hunting:

Image

Perched dragonfly:

Image

I included the dragonfly because one nice use of something like a 100-400 is closeups of insects.

I mean, I use the 500 pf more, because while the prime is less versatile, it's just a better lens. And I use the D500 more than the D7500 because it is 10 fps, and the AF is a little better. And I can use buttons to switch AF modes quicker.

For what it is worth. For truly low light you want a really fast lens, but taking action shots in low light means big dollar lens. You can take action shots in okay light with lesser equipment without breaking the bank (it will help if you shoot in RAW mode and know a little about post-processing).
Epic dragonfly shot!!!!
Nice....very nice...

j
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by MGBMartin »

Despite being an avid camera person I’m sorry I can’t add to the discussion; but I’ve got to say I’m really impressed with some of the photos posted on this thread.
I have one rule in my photography that is don’t take pictures of things that move; however, I did take a photo of a glacier once.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

Sandtrap wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 9:08 pm
stuff deleted

Epic dragonfly shot!!!!
Nice....very nice...

j
Thanks!

If you like dragonflies, this is one of my favorite shots of them:

Image

That was taken with the D7500, but I was using the 500 pf lens.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 3:15 pm Thanks for all the responses so far (though I respectfully disagree with the post suggesting a camera with a larger sensor won't help). I have noted various models suggested and will do a bit more research into each.

I had a very low hit rate with my super-zoom. It cost me $180 used, and there were large percentages of photos that I had to toss. The upside was that at least I could confirm what I saw. Eventually, I decided not to take any photos when minimum ISO was 400, unless it was for a rare-ish bird such as rose-breasted grosbeak. The most effective manual focus the camera had was a point focus system (as opposed to a matrix of focus points), and this resulted in shots that had some part of a bird in focus but other parts looking off.

The following was perhaps one of the better shots I took, as there's some feather detail; however, it's ever so slightly out of focus. There are about 5-10 other photos such as this one out of probably 800 (mostly subpar) photos of cardinals. When it came to birds that won't sit still (swallows), it was a completely lost cause. Ditto for birds under foliage (tanagers and buntings).

Image

I think $2k spent on well-depreciated but still fully serviceable equipment would be my preferred choice (as compared to say spending $2k on new Canon R7 paired to Canon RF 100-400).

For the most part, I wouldn't even dream of getting good birds-in-flight photos, even with $3k spent on new equipment.
Starting from the end:

You can *absolutely* get decent BIF shots with equipment under $3k, if you are willing to buy things like good used dSLRs and decent lenses.

A better camera can handle higher ISOs. With the Nikon crop sensor cameras I have, lower is better of course, but I have decent shots at ISO 1600, 3200, etc. But I shoot in RAW mode and post-process in Lightroom, which which allows one to do better with low light situations than the out of camera jpgs. From a technique standpoint, you have to figure out the tradeoffs between shutter speed, aperture and ISO while shooting.

The AF on the latest dSLRs are pretty sophisticated, and even more so on the mirrorless. It takes a bit of time to understand how best to use them.

I'll note again that Nikon and Sony *definitely* have outstanding solutions for wildlife shooting. I am less clear on Canon.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

Watty wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 1:46 pm
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:31 am I have no idea if I should go mirrorless or more traditional DSLR.
Mirrorless is the future and it has a lot of advantages over DSLRs. I have a mirrorless R10 which will find and focus on the eye of an animal or person but I don't know if any DSLRs can do that. The big reason to buy a DSLR now is that you can often buy a better used DSLR at a lower price than a mirrorless camera on a limited budget, even a used one.

The next decision is if you should buy a full frame or crop sensor camera. Full frame cameras have a lot of advantages because of the larger sensor but they tend to be bigger, heavier, more expensive, and especially the lenses tend to be a lot heavier and more expensive so for something like bird photography you will often need to use a tripod. In addition to cost a big advantage of crop sensor camera like the R7 is that lenses have a crop factor of 1.6 so a 400mm lens on a crop sensor camera will be like 640mm on a full frame camera.


stuff deleted

I would not be quick to rule out Sigma for lenses, I do not have it but I have heard good things about their 150-600 zoom which could work very well for bird photography and on a crop sensor camera like the R7 or R10 600mm would be like 960mm.
I wanted to touch on a couple of points here. You are absolutely right, there are some terrific deals on dSLRs now.

One of the reasons I am a Nikon fan is they have some superb lightweight lenses so you *don't* need a tripod. The F-mount 500 pf (maybe 4k new but available used for a lot less now) is loved by many in the Nikon world; a very very sharp 500 mm prime that weighs 3.2 lbs. It's not that fast -- 5.6 -- but sharp with fast AF. You can throw a 1.4 teleconverter on it and lose very little image quality (you do hurt AF performance quite a bit, as the converter turns it into a f8 lens.). But with the teleconverter you have a 700mm equivalent lens you can actually carry around all day and shoot with handheld. I've taken BIF with that combo, albeit larger birds in obviously pretty good light.

For the mirrorless cameras, Nikon has things like a 600 pf and 800 pf, which you can also use without a tripod (well, the 800 over 5 lbs, but it is still usable handheld). And Nikon has really expensive and exotic lenses as well.

Sigma makes some well-regarded lenses, as does Tamron. I would not rule them out either. I like the Tamron 100-400 as mentioned -- it has limitations, but is a good lens for the money. I also have a Tamron 90 mm macro lens which is well regarded, and very sharp.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Badinvestor »

bd7 wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 5:15 pm This is a Canon 80D (crop frame) and the orginal Canon 100-400 L zoom lens. Supposedly the newer II 100-400 is a bit sharper. There's some debate over whether crop frame cameras with high-end zoom lenses are a good thing or not, but you can certainly put together a system for under your budget this way.
I've used a setup sort of like this and gotten a lot of nice static bird shots. It's certainly usable.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by snackdog »

I would start with a full frame DSLR. Given your price target, I would get a used Canon 5D2 for about $1000. Pair it with an L lens like the 100-400, 400 or 500. Add a teleconverter if you like.

Your bird stalking technique will have more impact on your results than your equipment!
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

snackdog wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 10:44 pm I would start with a full frame DSLR. Given your price target, I would get a used Canon 5D2 for about $1000. Pair it with an L lens like the 100-400, 400 or 500. Add a teleconverter if you like.

Your bird stalking technique will have more impact on your results than your equipment!
Why full-frame? Bigger, usually more expensive.

I agree that fieldcraft is really important, but I've been in tons of situations where a good AF and a sharp lens with some reach is better than all the stalking in the world.

I'm also going to ask the Canon folks again, what is the selection of wildlife oriented lenses.

Why the 5D2? This review:

https://www.sharkandpalm.com/camera-rev ... l-worth-it

seems to indicate that it has poor AF. And only 21 megapixels. I'd much rather have a crop-sensor Nikon with a top end AF. If I went with a FF camera, I'd insist upon something with 40+ megapixels to allow more cropping.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by tm3 »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 3:15 pm Thanks for all the responses so far (though I respectfully disagree with the post suggesting a camera with a larger sensor won't help).
A larger sensor will help if you are going to be printing large photos and standing close to view them, or if you are going to be zooming in 100% or more on your computer and closely examining fine details.

A larger sensor will hurt when you decide to purchase a long telephoto, both in the hit to your credit card and the hit to your back when you lift/carry it. This is why many, not all, bird photographers use m4/3 gear.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Sandtrap »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 3:15 pm Thanks for all the responses so far (though I respectfully disagree with the post suggesting a camera with a larger sensor won't help). I have noted various models suggested and will do a bit more research into each.
<snip>
to op:
Historically. . . . larger sensors meant greater saturation, tonality, and very importantly, resolution.
When post processing, if one zoomed in to 1:1, the larger sensor of several shots taken of the same test print in a studio or image IRL (in real life), the image would get more "grain and noise", and less clear, as the sensor size decreased.

This changed with technology as smaller sensor, IE: the venerable SONY 1 inch sensor that's in so many camera's, increased the MP count, (dots per square inch for example...cram more dots then higher MP (more sales and marketing as well. . and so began the megapixel wars).

But, note that as all this was happening, the major flagship full frame cameras from Nikon and Canon, still stayed at, for example, 20 MP. They were fat dot sensors that soaked up imagery vs many tiny dots in a smaller sensor that is trying to "keep up".

Note that medium format cameras like Mamiya, Hassle Bland, etc, lag behind the megapixel wars, but are not increasing with technology. The sensor on these cameras are huge compared to APS=c, and even full frame, etc. And, these cameras are used in an uncompromising world of unlimited dollars and image perfection: "fashion in Europe", etc.

Again, The sensor is the heart of the camera, the "eyes". Not mirror or mirrorless, or a gazillion features and ICP in camera processing.
And, the "glass". The lenses.

Also: for BIL photography, there are excellent tripods and "gimbal heads (ie: Benro carbon fiber) that will help tracking. With heavier lenses, the setup is critical. Cheap light tripods and no gimbals are marginal and unsafe for the gear.
Then....the best lens filters, best polarizers (a must), ND filters, etc.
So, this is in your budget as well.

So, what you say is very true, but nowadays especially on a budget which everyone has at some point, the "best tools" for the type of photography and imagery someone wants to do, are going to have a balance between price, etc, etc, for "that unique person".

Especially in photographic gear, etc, whether hobby or professional (paid to shoot), what's great for one person does not mean all or others.

So, you are the ultimate judge of how best to spend your money on what you need for BIL photography.

Good luck on your search.
j
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DW has been a professional commercial and studio photographer for over 40 years. (since film)
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Watty »

Badinvestor wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 9:46 pm
bd7 wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 5:15 pm This is a Canon 80D (crop frame) and the orginal Canon 100-400 L zoom lens. Supposedly the newer II 100-400 is a bit sharper. There's some debate over whether crop frame cameras with high-end zoom lenses are a good thing or not, but you can certainly put together a system for under your budget this way.
I've used a setup sort of like this and gotten a lot of nice static bird shots. It's certainly usable.
The 80D would great to use if you already had one but I just checked and they are costing at least $450 in good condition now at a used camera store so they are not real cheap yet. You can get a used mirrorless R10 for around $750 or even less when the Canon Refurbished site has inventory. The OP has a budget of over two thousand dollars so spending a couple of hundred dollars for the more for the mirrorless would be well worth the cost.

Sometimes the choice is between being able to afford a used full frame DSLR or a new crops sensor camera and that could be a situation where a used full frame DSLR could make sense if you were doing something like portrait or landscape photography where fast focusing and long lenses were not as important.
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by InvisibleAerobar »

First of all, thanks for all of the helpful posts, and images are certainly much appreciated (esp. dragonflies). I'm reading everything thrice to make sure I don't miss anything.

Also appreciate the posts explaining the nuance behind sensor size. I just realized that in contrast to a good BH recounting of existing facts, I have not mentioned a thing about my present techniques (in the way a thread soliciting advice for personal finance or investing would have info on income and saving rates, etc). So a mea culpa for the oversight.

My current set-up is a Panasonic FZ-70, a camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor and max reach of 200 mm (at f5.9). For bird photography, I primarily use its aperture-priority mode and shot in raw format. Technically, the camera should be able to record at 9 photos/sec., but when shooting in raw mode, this was down to 2-3 photos/sec., often much less (at ISO of 400 or above). I often lost out good shots while the camera was writing to the SD card. Post processing was done on Panasonic's software, which was free. Auto-focus, even in favorable lighting, was next to useless for birds, and I very soon learned not to waste time when lighting wasn't optimal, which also happen to account for a lot of times when birds are out (early mornings and late afternoons).

So the sensor on my current camera is perhaps way too undersized.
Watty wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 7:55 am
Badinvestor wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 9:46 pm
bd7 wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 5:15 pm This is a Canon 80D (crop frame) and the orginal Canon 100-400 L zoom lens. Supposedly the newer II 100-400 is a bit sharper. There's some debate over whether crop frame cameras with high-end zoom lenses are a good thing or not, but you can certainly put together a system for under your budget this way.
I've used a setup sort of like this and gotten a lot of nice static bird shots. It's certainly usable.
The 80D would great to use if you already had one but I just checked and they are costing at least $450 in good condition now at a used camera store so they are not real cheap yet. You can get a used mirrorless R10 for around $750 or even less when the Canon Refurbished site has inventory. The OP has a budget of over two thousand dollars so spending a couple of hundred dollars for the more for the mirrorless would be well worth the cost.

Sometimes the choice is between being able to afford a used full frame DSLR or a new crops sensor camera and that could be a situation where a used full frame DSLR could make sense if you were doing something like portrait or landscape photography where fast focusing and long lenses were not as important.
I like the suggestion of a mirrorless crop sensor camera. I know that with a crop sensor (APS) camera paired to a 400 mm gets me the reach of a full-frame paired to a 600 mm. Given that a crop sensor is already many times larger than a 1/2.3", I don't feel the need to get an even larger sense. Seems like optimal choice with respect to cost, mass, and reach.

I think I would probably be mostly happy with a 100-400 mm lens on a crop sensor, though 500 mm would be ideal. I hear somewhere that at 600 mm, there are issues with both the high f-value and loss of sharpness.

So I guess to further develop my original inquiry. For a reasonably rugged (as in, won't die on me in a drizzle) crop sensor mirrorless set-up, what body + lens would be optimal? A lens having a 500 mm reach would probably be favored over one with a 400 mm reach. Are Canon and Fuji the two main manufacturers doing crop sensor mirrorless?
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

tm3 wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 7:29 am
InvisibleAerobar wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2024 3:15 pm Thanks for all the responses so far (though I respectfully disagree with the post suggesting a camera with a larger sensor won't help).
A larger sensor will help if you are going to be printing large photos and standing close to view them, or if you are going to be zooming in 100% or more on your computer and closely examining fine details.

A larger sensor will hurt when you decide to purchase a long telephoto, both in the hit to your credit card and the hit to your back when you lift/carry it. This is why many, not all, bird photographers use m4/3 gear.
Well .... the larger sensors are better in low light, generally. I'm using a crop-sensor now and looking forward to an upgrade to FF. As I mentioned, Nikon in particular has some outstanding wildlife lenses with a lot of reach that can be carried around all day, like the 500 pf and 600 pf.

I believe that most serious wildlife/bird photographers do NOT use m4/3 gear because they do not do as well in low light situations. Many do use that rig because of the light weight, especially for a long reach. But even there, the really good glass is pricey.
TN_Boy
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 8:53 am First of all, thanks for all of the helpful posts, and images are certainly much appreciated (esp. dragonflies). I'm reading everything thrice to make sure I don't miss anything.


stuff deleted

I like the suggestion of a mirrorless crop sensor camera. I know that with a crop sensor (APS) camera paired to a 400 mm gets me the reach of a full-frame paired to a 600 mm. Given that a crop sensor is already many times larger than a 1/2.3", I don't feel the need to get an even larger sense. Seems like optimal choice with respect to cost, mass, and reach.

I think I would probably be mostly happy with a 100-400 mm lens on a crop sensor, though 500 mm would be ideal. I hear somewhere that at 600 mm, there are issues with both the high f-value and loss of sharpness.

So I guess to further develop my original inquiry. For a reasonably rugged (as in, won't die on me in a drizzle) crop sensor mirrorless set-up, what body + lens would be optimal? A lens having a 500 mm reach would probably be favored over one with a 400 mm reach. Are Canon and Fuji the two main manufacturers doing crop sensor mirrorless?
A couple of comments here. The "reach" of a crop sensor versus a FF is a bit misleading. Suppose you are comparing a crop sensor with 21 MP versus a FF with 45 MP. The image you get from the crop sensor camera will be "closer." Except that you can crop the FF image to match with a similar amount of pixels after cropping. I.e. the greater "reach" is an illusion in this situation. And the FF with its larger field of view will make it easier to keep BIF in the viewfinder, and in general give you more freedom of composition. And if the subject is really close, you have more total pixels on it for a better image. There are good reasons FF is the preferred solution for what I'll call "really serious work."

100-400 is about the minimum for birding with smaller critters. I use a 500 on a crop-sensor and often put a teleconverter on if I have enough light and AF speed is not critical.

Nikon has crop-sensor mirrorless, but they are not considered as good for wildlife as their FF cousins. Unless things have changed a lot since I last looked, Fuji lacks the range of lenses a wildlife photographer wants. They wouldn't be on my shopping list at all.

I'll keep repeating this until someone contradicts me: I don't believe Canon's selection of wildlife lenses is as good as Sony or especially Nikon. And when you buy a camera, you really want to think a lot about choices there. I wouldn't buy a Canon either. And yes, I'm biased, I own Nikon gear.

You might want to find some wildlife photography forums to hang out on a bit. Some of the advice I've seen in this thread is (yes, one person's opinion) contradictory to what I have found helpful and useful shooting wildlife. For a review site, I find that

https://photographylife.com/

has a lot of reviews oriented toward this type of photography.
mrb09
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by mrb09 »

I have a full frame Canon R5 with the much mentioned 100-400 lens. As folks have mentioned, it is F8 at the long end, which would be terrible for an SLR, since you’d barely be able to see through the viewfinder. But for a mirrorless camera, it isn’t an issue. The only issue I have with shutter speed is for bird movement, not camera movement.

I even have the Canon 1.x extender (teleconverter), that pushes it to F11 at the long end, and it is still usable.

The R5 body alone would push you over a $2K budget, but it is overkill for what I use it for. And I almost always crop my bird photos, so for me an APS-C probably would have been fine for that, with “pre-cropped” photos .

I may have missed it in the responses, but if you’re looking at doing birds on flight, make sure you have a body with good animal detection and a servo mode for focusing. And you may already do this with your existing camera and raw mode, but some kind of photo processor with a good anti-alias does wonders at higher iso — I’m using Lightroom with an NVIDIA card for this (I’m sure that’s why NVIDIA is so valued — its for bird photographers doing photo post processing, right?).
TN_Boy
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 8:53 am First of all, thanks for all of the helpful posts, and images are certainly much appreciated (esp. dragonflies). I'm reading everything thrice to make sure I don't miss anything.

Also appreciate the posts explaining the nuance behind sensor size. I just realized that in contrast to a good BH recounting of existing facts, I have not mentioned a thing about my present techniques (in the way a thread soliciting advice for personal finance or investing would have info on income and saving rates, etc). So a mea culpa for the oversight.

My current set-up is a Panasonic FZ-70, a camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor and max reach of 200 mm (at f5.9). For bird photography, I primarily use its aperture-priority mode and shot in raw format. Technically, the camera should be able to record at 9 photos/sec., but when shooting in raw mode, this was down to 2-3 photos/sec., often much less (at ISO of 400 or above). I often lost out good shots while the camera was writing to the SD card. Post processing was done on Panasonic's software, which was free. Auto-focus, even in favorable lighting, was next to useless for birds, and I very soon learned not to waste time when lighting wasn't optimal, which also happen to account for a lot of times when birds are out (early mornings and late afternoons).


stuff deleted

I think I would probably be mostly happy with a 100-400 mm lens on a crop sensor, though 500 mm would be ideal. I hear somewhere that at 600 mm, there are issues with both the high f-value and loss of sharpness.

So I guess to further develop my original inquiry. For a reasonably rugged (as in, won't die on me in a drizzle) crop sensor mirrorless set-up, what body + lens would be optimal? A lens having a 500 mm reach would probably be favored over one with a 400 mm reach. Are Canon and Fuji the two main manufacturers doing crop sensor mirrorless?
I had a Panasonic FZ1000 before I got the Nikon D7500. With a 1" sensor, it's a major step up from your current camera, but no where near as good as the Nikon for BIF, low light capability, etc. But it could track larger moving objects okay in good light. The D7500 shoots 8 frames a second with RAW and a good buffer. The D500 will shoot 10 fps. Both cameras can shoot, I don't know, 30+ shots without filling the buffer; the D500 will go a looong time. Note that you do need a card that is fast enough (old slow cards won't cut it).

The D500 and D7500, while not mirrorless, would be better for birding than some of the options mentioned here. I mean, mirrorless is where everybody is going, but what I personally would not do is buy a mirrorless that is not as good for birding as some of the last generation of dSLRS. Because I want results now :-).

What I will be doing is buying a Nikon Z8 which will, with adapter, work with the 500 pf and then eventually get something like the 800 pf. [Edited to add: I don't think Canon has anything like the 500 pf in its portfolio and once I got the 500 pf I rarely used the 100-400 for birding. The 500 pf is one awesome lens).

At any rate, almost anything will be better for BIF than what you have. Just don't buy a mirrorless that is lousy for birding.
Last edited by TN_Boy on Wed Jul 10, 2024 10:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
TN_Boy
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

mrb09 wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 9:49 am I have a full frame Canon R5 with the much mentioned 100-400 lens. As folks have mentioned, it is F8 at the long end, which would be terrible for an SLR, since you’d barely be able to see through the viewfinder. But for a mirrorless camera, it isn’t an issue. The only issue I have with shutter speed is for bird movement, not camera movement.

I even have the Canon 1.x extender (teleconverter), that pushes it to F11 at the long end, and it is still usable.

The R5 body alone would push you over a $2K budget, but it is overkill for what I use it for. And I almost always crop my bird photos, so for me an APS-C probably would have been fine for that, with “pre-cropped” photos .

I may have missed it in the responses, but if you’re looking at doing birds on flight, make sure you have a body with good animal detection and a servo mode for focusing. And you may already do this with your existing camera and raw mode, but some kind of photo processor with a good anti-alias does wonders at higher iso — I’m using Lightroom with an NVIDIA card for this (I’m sure that’s why NVIDIA is so valued — its for bird photographers doing photo post processing, right?).
The animal detection is a step up, but not required. With the Nikons I have I'm sure my hit rate on BIF is 80 to 90% in focus. Okay, swallows in flight maybe not. But anything larger, the AF on the dSLRs is good. The nuance/soapbox that I am standing on is that I wouldn't buy a mirrorless with subject detection that didn't have fast AF tracking and a high burst rate, etc. Which is usually expensive.

F11 ... is really really slow for wildlife. Not much light getting in! What are the good Canon wildlife lenses? I.e. the 500s, the 600s, etc?
tm3
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by tm3 »

TN_Boy wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 9:31 am
Well .... the larger sensors are better in low light, generally.
True. But, for equivalent DOF the larger sensor camera lens has to be stopped down, negating some (all?) of its ISO advantage ...... if that DOF is needed.

Lots of trade offs, the final answer certainly depends on the application and individual preference.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by Sandtrap »

InvisibleAerobar wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 8:53 am First of all, thanks for all of the helpful posts, and images are certainly much appreciated (esp. dragonflies). I'm reading everything thrice to make sure I don't miss anything.
<snip>

So I guess to further develop my original inquiry. For a reasonably rugged (as in, won't die on me in a drizzle) crop sensor mirrorless set-up, what body + lens would be optimal? A lens having a 500 mm reach would probably be favored over one with a 400 mm reach. Are Canon and Fuji the two main manufacturers doing crop sensor mirrorless?
Not all interchangeable lens cameras have good weather sealing.
Not only the camera itself, but the seal between camera and lens, and the lens itself.
Although there are ziplock bags and brocolli rubber bands.

So, research is in order.

j :D
Wiki Bogleheads Wiki: Everything You Need to Know
bradpevans
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by bradpevans »

See also here for great pictures as well as come sense of equipment choices:
https://www.birdsinaction.com/
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InvisibleAerobar
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by InvisibleAerobar »

TN_Boy wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 9:52 am I had a Panasonic FZ1000 before I got the Nikon D7500. With a 1" sensor, it's a major step up from your current camera, but no where near as good as the Nikon for BIF, low light capability, etc. But it could track larger moving objects okay in good light. The D7500 shoots 8 frames a second with RAW and a good buffer. The D500 will shoot 10 fps. Both cameras can shoot, I don't know, 30+ shots without filling the buffer; the D500 will go a looong time. Note that you do need a card that is fast enough (old slow cards won't cut it).

The D500 and D7500, while not mirrorless, would be better for birding than some of the options mentioned here. I mean, mirrorless is where everybody is going, but what I personally would not do is buy a mirrorless that is not as good for birding as some of the last generation of dSLRS. Because I want results now :-).

What I will be doing is buying a Nikon Z8 which will, with adapter, work with the 500 pf and then eventually get something like the 800 pf. [Edited to add: I don't think Canon has anything like the 500 pf in its portfolio and once I got the 500 pf I rarely used the 100-400 for birding. The 500 pf is one awesome lens).

At any rate, almost anything will be better for BIF than what you have. Just don't buy a mirrorless that is lousy for birding.
Thanks for all of your very insightful comments here.

One option I could go with is an used Nikon Z7 paired with a new Nikor Z 180-600 (used ones werent much cheaper). It'll exceed my preferred budget by ~$500, but it would be a rather permanent solution to my issue.

Or I guess the D500 paired with AF-S 200-500, both used (for ~$1,400 total before tax), and this would be a perfectly serviceable alternative. I think in the end, this might be what I go with. Back when I started (in 2018), it was difficult to even find a serviceable used lens for $1,000, so finding an entire set-up now for a similar price would be reasonable to me (and one that appeals to the price-conscious side of me).

One follow up for you, as you mentioned prime lens. How do you actually find your subject (either in viewfinder or in the flip screen) when using a 500 mm prime lens? When using my FZ70, it was really difficult to even get the camera to the general vicinity of a small bird if I have the lens fully zoomed (at 200 mm).
bighatnohorse
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by bighatnohorse »

So. . .it sounds like you're coming from a point-n-shoot super telephoto camera.
Which means you're on step-1 of a 10-step ladder - each step representing about $2,500 in value.

You will need about $5000+ to get anywhere near the performance that you seek - and that's if you buy used equipment.
Here's my take on a starting point (coming from a long time Nikon user).

Buy a used Nikon D810 - it's full frame digital with more features than you will ever learn in a year - its a proven pro camera.
Your next purchase must be at least a 400 mm lens - so save up - in the meantime any lens that you can afford will help you learn - but that lens is only a stepping stone to good quality glass lens.

https://www.mpb.com/en-us is a good company (among others) to buy "used" from.
see: https://www.mpb.com/en-us/product/nikon ... ku-2571148

You'll need a good tripod for a fast telephoto lens. Those lenses are beasts!

As for the latest mirrorless fad - don't! Mirrorless AI intelligent cameras are just around the corner and the current crop of mirrorless lenses will be abundant on the used market for cheap.
Best of luck on your quest. . .
TN_Boy
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

tm3 wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 10:09 am
TN_Boy wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 9:31 am
Well .... the larger sensors are better in low light, generally.
True. But, for equivalent DOF the larger sensor camera lens has to be stopped down, negating some (all?) of its ISO advantage ...... if that DOF is needed.

Lots of trade offs, the final answer certainly depends on the application and individual preference.
Maybe, but I do a lot of wildlife stuff and 9 times out of 10 I want less DOF, not more, for better subject isolation. And I think that is pretty common feeling. For an "environmental" shot I might want more DOF. Or critters really close. But I'm shooting the 500 pf wide open at 5.6 most of the time, and often would be thrilled at 4.0. I mean, a classic birding setup would be FF with a 600 pf.

Cost and camera size no object, I'd rather have the FF.
bople
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by bople »

bighatnohorse wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 10:56 am As for the latest mirrorless fad - don't! Mirrorless AI intelligent cameras are just around the corner and the current crop of mirrorless lenses will be abundant on the used market for cheap.
Can you expound on this? I am not sure I understand your comment.
TN_Boy
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Re: Suggestions for BH-approved (as in good value for the money) camera system for bird photography, preferably under $2

Post by TN_Boy »

bighatnohorse wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2024 10:56 am So. . .it sounds like you're coming from a point-n-shoot super telephoto camera.
Which means you're on step-1 of a 10-step ladder - each step representing about $2,500 in value.

You will need about $5000+ to get anywhere near the performance that you seek - and that's if you buy used equipment.
Here's my take on a starting point (coming from a long time Nikon user).

Buy a used Nikon D810 - it's full frame digital with more features than you will ever learn in a year - its a proven pro camera.
Your next purchase must be at least a 400 mm lens - so save up - in the meantime any lens that you can afford will help you learn - but that lens is only a stepping stone to good quality glass lens.

https://www.mpb.com/en-us is a good company (among others) to buy "used" from.
see: https://www.mpb.com/en-us/product/nikon ... ku-2571148

You'll need a good tripod for a fast telephoto lens. Those lenses are beasts!

As for the latest mirrorless fad - don't! Mirrorless AI intelligent cameras are just around the corner and the current crop of mirrorless lenses will be abundant on the used market for cheap.
Best of luck on your quest. . .
No. No. No. (sorry about the all caps to come). YOU DO NOT NEED TO SPEND 5K TO GET A VERY VERY HIGH QUALITY BIRDING SETUP. YOU DO NOT.

Go to mpb.com.

You can find a used new like D500 for about 1k.
You can find used new like 500 pf for about 2.1k
You can find a 1.4 III TC for about 300.
(okay, you have to buy batteries and such, and pay sales tax).

[Edited to add] Math alert. That's 3.5k, not 2.5k. But it is a high end setup. And go with the D7500 instead of the D500 and no TC and you are not much over the OP budget. With a setup that is still pretty high-end.

That's 2.5k before taxes. That setup would have been a *world class* birding setup in 2019 (by world class I mean it would be almost impossible to have better gear) and I assure you it is still very good now. You can save $300 or so by buying the slightly less capable d7500. Skip the TC as well and you are clearly under the budget mentioned, though obviously a 500 prime is a specialized lens. But ... it is an outstanding birding/wildlife lens. If you cannot get good wildlife shots with the gear above, you are doing something wrong.

And no, you .... do .... not .... need ..... a tripod. Though certainly they come in handy in many situations. I use the 500 pf (and the 100-400 Tamron I mentioned) handheld all the time. I also use the 500 pf + 1.4 TC handheld. Because shooting wildlife, you need shutter speed, and the lenses I mention are not that heavy.

Edited to add: Or you could buy a used D7500 and a Tamron 100-400 for maybe 1.5k and that setup would be light years better than what the OP has. It's not an ideal birding setup, but it is decent, light and affordable and will do well if light is even okay, and the subject is not extremely far. Plus that lens is good for insect closeups (the minimum focus distance on the 100-400 is about 5 feet and you have 12x magnification).
Last edited by TN_Boy on Thu Jul 11, 2024 10:04 am, edited 3 times in total.
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