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Observations on the latest “Bridge” Cameras for Birders

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Observations on the latest “Bridge” Cameras for Birders

Are you a budding bird photographer, intimidated by the size, weight and price of profesisonal equipment? This may be of interest.

“Bridge” or “Superzoom” cameras have been used for years by naturalists because of their portability and flexibility but other than for the convenient taking of record shots or of particularly obliging small birds sitting quietly close to the photographer they have generally been derided  as being “not real cameras”. Why? Because of their restricted zoom range and their tiny, tiny sensors.

I confess to having been amongst those who didn’t want to spend my money of one of these cameras because (a) I had seen good evidence that they weren’t up to the bird photography job however suitable they might have been for other photographic subjects and (b) I was already heavily invested in big DSLR cameras and multiple heavy and expensive lenses – not to forget that long white lenses give you credibility 🙂

But then I started to feel, as I have aged, a need for something lighter and more compact that would bridge the gap between snapshot -capable cameras and the pro-glass. I first of all got a top of the range Sony mirrorless camera with a full-size sensor which accepts, via adapters, a couple of Canon landscape and macro lenses that I already had in my bag but that still didn’t address the bird issue. Finally, under the increasing weight of my camera bag(s) and the new houshold rule that “no new cameras come in unless an equivalent number depart” I decided there was nothing for it but to bite the bullet and sell (most of) my Canon gear.

Enter the new-on-the-market Sony RX10 mark 3 superzoom camera with a 1-inch sensor and an 600mm equivalent Zeiss zoom lens plus inbody five axis stabilisation. You can read about its technical details here – (http://www.sony.ca/en/electronics/cyber-shot-compact-cameras/dsc-rx10m3). This new camera is something altogether new and may finally be just what many of us have been seeking … plus, yes, it is significantly more portable than “big glass” ever was.

So, I have spent the past two or three months learning to drive this camera and have been enormously impressed by its capabilities. To get the best out of it you do have to be prepared to put some effort into learning its complex menus and buttons, but that applies to any decent camera. Yesterday, I finally discovered, almost by accident, what it is truly capable of and am still somewhat amazed … of course, the Zeiss lens is a big help !! I wasn’t birding, I was taking pictures of stunning fall colours at a local wetland area (Anse-a-l’Orme) when a small group of Killdeer flew across my viewfinder as I composed my shot. As I said, I was concentrating on the trees and when I first looked at the picture I had recorded, I simply dismissed the birds as so many silhouettes, as shown in this image:

20161019-016
I liked their distribution however and was in search of something suitable for a new banner image on my Facebook page – so I did some cropping and came up with this image which showed a lot more detail in the birds than I had ever expected:

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Naturally then, I had to push the cropping further:

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….. and further still. Remembering that this was all hand-held, not a tripod in sight:

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Conclusions 

We finally appear to have a portable photographic system that doesn’t weigh down the elderly birder, that is easy to carry yet which captures remarkable detail of fast moving birds in flight at a distance and all at a very reasonable price. Short of trying to sell our images to National Geographic, I suspect this is going to be more than good enough for most birders. Life is full of compromises, and this one certainly works for me. I understand that other camera manufacturers will be taking this route and adding to their bridge camera ranges before long. Give it some thought.

 


All the above photographs were recorded in Sony RAW format and processed for the web via Capture One software.

By | 2016-10-20T22:01:09+00:00 October 20th, 2016|birds, photography, Uncategorized|0 Comments

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