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Good Cameras for Birds


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In my experience if you want to take pictures of birds that you are happy with (the pictures, not necessarily the birds), you're not going to want to go too cheap.  However, you don't really have to spend $3500 on a camera body to be relatively happy with what you accomplish.  A friend has one ot these -

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1435399-REG/canon_3071c001_powershot_sx70_hs_digital.html 

I have its older brother, the SX60.  His pictures are a little better than mine, for two reasons.  One, his camera shoots at 20.3 megapixels, and mine at 16 mp.  Two, he's a more experienced and better photographer than I am.  I have also seen excellent pictures posted here taken by the even older brother, the SX50.  I say all this because you might be able to find something more in your price range by looking for a used SX60 or SX50, perhaps on Ebay or other online source.

Edited by JP48
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On 11/1/2020 at 6:59 AM, JP48 said:

In my experience if you want to take pictures of birds that you are happy with (the pictures, not necessarily the birds), you're not going to want to go too cheap.  However, you don't really have to spend $3500 on a camera body to be relatively happy with what you accomplish.  A friend has one ot these -

https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1435399-REG/canon_3071c001_powershot_sx70_hs_digital.html 

I have its older brother, the SX60.  His pictures are a little better than mine, for two reasons.  One, his camera shoots at 20.3 megapixels, and mine at 16 mp.  Two, he's a more experienced and better photographer than I am.  I have also seen excellent pictures posted here taken by the even older brother, the SX50.  I say all this because you might be able to find something more in your price range by looking for a used SX60 or SX50, perhaps on Ebay or other online source.

Ok, that is a good looking camera, thanks!

 

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For a point-and-shoot/bridge camera, I recommend the Canon PowerShot SX50HS ($150 on eBay).  The SX60 and SX70 are probably good as well, but I haven't tried them.  Nikon's P900 and P1000 also seem like good bridge cameras for birding, but, again, I haven't tested them.

For a DSLR, I recommend the Nikon D3400 or D3500 (around $300 on eBay) with the AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR lens (around $120 on eBay; make sure it's the VR version!).  DSLRs take better quality photos and are much faster, but you aren't going to get as much magnification/zoom as the above bridge cameras.

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2 hours ago, The Bird Nuts said:

Nikon's P900 and P1000 also seem like good bridge cameras for birding, but, again, I haven't tested them.

I really really like my Nikon Coolpix P900. That zoom is super useful. Only real downside is the low light capability, the photos are really bad for the first 30 and last thirty minutes of daylight. All my photos are from mine.

Edited by Aidan B
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If your looking for Canon DSLR, I have a Canon 70D, which I was able to get for $300, but the price might have gone up. It takes good photos, and has a good amount of features. If your interested, I’m going to be upgraded in a month or two, and I’m going to be selling it at some point. I’ve used the D5200 for Nikon, but I’m sure there are better deals out there as well. I don’t know much about Sony or other cameras. Somebody else should be able to tell you about them. 

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4 hours ago, The Bird Nuts said:

For a point-and-shoot/bridge camera, I recommend the Canon PowerShot SX50HS ($150 on eBay).  The SX60 and SX70 are probably good as well, but I haven't tried them.  Nikon's P900 and P1000 also seem like good bridge cameras for birding, but, again, I haven't tested them.

For a DSLR, I recommend the Nikon D3400 or D3500 (around $300 on eBay) with the AF-P DX NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4.5-6.3G ED VR lens (around $120 on eBay; make sure it's the VR version!).  DSLRs take better quality photos and are much faster, but you aren't going to get as much magnification/zoom as the above bridge cameras.

Ok thanks

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1 hour ago, Aidan B said:

I really really like my Nikon Coolpix P900. That zoom is super useful. Only real downside is the low light capability, the photos are really bad for the first 30 and last thirty minutes of daylight. All my photos are from mine.

Ok

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1 hour ago, Connor Cochrane said:

If your looking for Canon DSLR, I have a Canon 70D, which I was able to get for $300, but the price might have gone up. It takes good photos, and has a good amount of features. If your interested, I’m going to be upgraded in a month or two, and I’m going to be selling it at some point. I’ve used the D5200 for Nikon, but I’m sure there are better deals out there as well. I don’t know much about Sony or other cameras. Somebody else should be able to tell you about them. 

Ok thanks so much!

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I’ve been using the NikonP600 for the last 5 years, which I believe is virtually the exact same as the P900 & P1000 just with less zoom capability, but still goes very far. 

Totally agree with @Aidan B on it’s very bad in low light conditions, takes a while to focus and take the photo. I’ve struggled with it taking photos even in overcast days. But, in good lighting it can take some pretty good ones. It also takes a bit of time to focus and is not very good at taking action shots. Lots of blurry wings, heads, and feet! 

Mine has held up well after 5 years. Though it will sometimes go through phases of switching modes on its own continuously which renders the camera useless. Mine started to do it last year, and got very bad at one point where all it would do was change settings. Looking it up, it appears that many people eventually had the same problems and was a result of a manufacturing issue. Not sure if they have fixed it since then or if the P900 and 1000 have the same issue. Yet, mine has seemed to stop doing that *knock on wood* as it has been fine for the last 6 months or so. 

Overall though it’s a very easy to use camera and is definitely point and shoot. The zoom is also crazy!  All I do is have mine in bird watching mode and that’s it. I’ve been happy with it mostly, but also been angry with it a few times :). I can also fit mine in my jacket pocket so it’s not very big or heavy to carry around.
I think it’s a good beginner camera, but it definitely won’t give you the same quality as DSLR, but it gives good enough photos. If you want good photos of birds just for your own enjoyment  I’d recommend it. 
All my photos are from the P600 and I don’t think they’re all that bad. ?

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20 hours ago, Aaron said:

I’ve been using the NikonP600 for the last 5 years, which I believe is virtually the exact same as the P900 & P1000 just with less zoom capability, but still goes very far. 

Totally agree with @Aidan B on it’s very bad in low light conditions, takes a while to focus and take the photo. I’ve struggled with it taking photos even in overcast days. But, in good lighting it can take some pretty good ones. It also takes a bit of time to focus and is not very good at taking action shots. Lots of blurry wings, heads, and feet! 

Mine has held up well after 5 years. Though it will sometimes go through phases of switching modes on its own continuously which renders the camera useless. Mine started to do it last year, and got very bad at one point where all it would do was change settings. Looking it up, it appears that many people eventually had the same problems and was a result of a manufacturing issue. Not sure if they have fixed it since then or if the P900 and 1000 have the same issue. Yet, mine has seemed to stop doing that *knock on wood* as it has been fine for the last 6 months or so. 

Overall though it’s a very easy to use camera and is definitely point and shoot. The zoom is also crazy!  All I do is have mine in bird watching mode and that’s it. I’ve been happy with it mostly, but also been angry with it a few times :). I can also fit mine in my jacket pocket so it’s not very big or heavy to carry around.
I think it’s a good beginner camera, but it definitely won’t give you the same quality as DSLR, but it gives good enough photos. If you want good photos of birds just for your own enjoyment  I’d recommend it. 
All my photos are from the P600 and I don’t think they’re all that bad. ?

ok thanks! ? 

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On 11/2/2020 at 6:32 PM, Connor Cochrane said:

If your looking for Canon DSLR, I have a Canon 70D, which I was able to get for $300, but the price might have gone up. It takes good photos, and has a good amount of features. If your interested, I’m going to be upgraded in a month or two, and I’m going to be selling it at some point. I’ve used the D5200 for Nikon, but I’m sure there are better deals out there as well. I don’t know much about Sony or other cameras. Somebody else should be able to tell you about them. 

Okay, what are u doing to sell it for? The price u got it for? Thanks! ? 

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On 11/3/2020 at 5:21 PM, Charlie Spencer said:

I've been looking at the P900 and P1000.  How's the autofocus speed, and how easy is it to focus manually?

I still use my Nikon P900 and while it does have it's limitations and won't produce the same quality of image as a DSLR with a long quality lens, I'd highly recommend it for a birding camera, especially in Bird Watching mode. It is fairly quick to auto focus but like any camera, it slows down as the light drops. Manual focus is terribly slow making it virtually useless, or I don't understand how it's suppose to work which makes it useless. I just don't use manual focus, or manual exposure, with the P900. With the 2000mm optical zoom it's pretty easy to fill the frame with the bird which allows auto focus to find the target easily and get the right exposure. I often zoom right past the branches that the AF might otherwise focus on thus eliminating the need for manual focus most of the time. In my opinion, the zoom or reach of your camera is the main factor in getting decent bird photos. If you can zoom in close enough on your bird and fill the frame with your subject, there's less chance the camera will get the wrong focus point or the wrong exposure while using the auto settings. While the image quality of point and shoot super zooms can't compare to the quality of DSLR cameras with long lenses, you simply can't get a DSLR with 2000mm of optical zoom. For birding and getting IDable photos, I would recommend the longest lens possible, whether it's on a point and shoot or a DSLR. For the best quality images I would recommend buying lottery tickets  :classic_laugh: because quality lenses for DSLRs get more and more expensive as they get longer. 

These first 2 photos show how the reach of a super zoom can come in handy. I spotted a bird fly into the tree on the far side of the yard, marked with a small circle in the first image taken at 24mm. The second photo shows the detail I could make out when the camera was at 2000mm. Neither photo is anything special, but as you can see, the super zoom put me close enough to easily ID the flicker.

DSCN0250-2.thumb.jpg.28de9d3b2e9f6b1a9273d0a5799b3237.jpg

DSCN0247.thumb.JPG.103a5256f664d1639a9093574c0c07a3.JPG

 

This last photo is one where I had trouble locking focus on the bird because of the branches in front of it. The solution was to zoom in far enough to make the small opening in front of the bird a bigger opening. Again, not a stellar shot, but I'd consider it to be a decent shot and worthy of the keeper pile.

DSCN0846-2.thumb.jpg.230dcbb18a8a9f98eafbddb8c69702cb.jpg

 

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47 minutes ago, lonestranger said:

I still use my Nikon P900 and while it does have it's limitations and won't produce the same quality of image as a DSLR with a long quality lens, I'd highly recommend it for a birding camera, especially in Bird Watching mode. It is fairly quick to auto focus but like any camera, it slows down as the light drops. Manual focus is terribly slow making it virtually useless, or I don't understand how it's suppose to work which makes it useless. I just don't use manual focus, or manual exposure, with the P900. With the 2000mm optical zoom it's pretty easy to fill the frame with the bird which allows auto focus to find the target easily and get the right exposure. I often zoom right past the branches that the AF might otherwise focus on thus eliminating the need for manual focus most of the time. In my opinion, the zoom or reach of your camera is the main factor in getting decent bird photos. If you can zoom in close enough on your bird and fill the frame with your subject, there's less chance the camera will get the wrong focus point or the wrong exposure while using the auto settings. While the image quality of point and shoot super zooms can't compare to the quality of DSLR cameras with long lenses, you simply can't get a DSLR with 2000mm of optical zoom. For birding and getting IDable photos, I would recommend the longest lens possible, whether it's on a point and shoot or a DSLR. For the best quality images I would recommend buying lottery tickets  :classic_laugh: because quality lenses for DSLRs get more and more expensive as they get longer. 

These first 2 photos show how the reach of a super zoom can come in handy. I spotted a bird fly into the tree on the far side of the yard, marked with a small circle in the first image taken at 24mm. The second photo shows the detail I could make out when the camera was at 2000mm. Neither photo is anything special, but as you can see, the super zoom put me close enough to easily ID the flicker.

This last photo is one where I had trouble locking focus on the bird because of the branches in front of it. The solution was to zoom in far enough to make the small opening in front of the bird a bigger opening. Again, not a stellar shot, but I'd consider it to be a decent shot and worthy of the keeper pile.

I agree, the sapsucker is a definite keeper.

It seems my trade off is reach vs. ease of focus.  I just discovered there's a P950, so I'll compare it.  The zoom on the P1000 is ridonkulous, and I think I read it can be focused manually with a ring.   I'm also looking at a D7500 DSLR and Z 50 mirrorless, which have comparable size sensors with the P1000,  but I just don't know if I can afford lenses with the reach I've become accustomed to.

Thanks.

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I saw someone with the P1000 once and it’s a very chunky looking camera. It’s almost a pound heavier than the P950 at ~3lbs. 
Though, I suppose DSLR cameras get way heavier 

I almost bought the P1000 as an upgrade from the P600, but I don’t think it has any actual difference other than the zoom. 

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