Equipment for bird photography?


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Sep 25, 2006
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#1
I plan to get get into bird photography. Any advice what equipment I can get within my budget of S$5k? Thanks!
 

Sep 25, 2006
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#5
I have a FM2 and F90x with some short lens. Going forward, I am looking at DSLR. So those equipment will remain in my dry cabinet for a long long time.

Keeping my options open, pre-own sets also can.
 

DeSwitch

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Oct 28, 2005
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#7
i would not recomend going into birding with limited budget of $5k. The reason is that its barely enough and if you go for alternatives, you will be frustrated. let me list the basic"

  1. a good tripod.....ard $300
  2. a good head say ard $150
  3. body... a 2nd hand 20D ard $1500
  4. 400mm lens minimum ard $1800
  5. flash and flash extender ard $800

This is very basic and to move on you need the 1 series body and min 500mm f4 IS lens

Birding will easily put you back by $20k. I hope you seriously consider if you want to walk into this most expensive path of photography.

Please, i'm not trying to put you off but just to let you be aware of the high cost. I did not have this advice when i step into this area.


My example is on the Canon system, and Nikon system will be around the same price too.
 

satay16

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Jan 14, 2006
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#8
bird photography + decent quality + decent price = Bigma!!!
 

fWord

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Jun 23, 2005
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#9
In addition to the Bigma, I've read good things about the Tamron 200-500mm as well, so try looking up reviews and opinions on that. Otherwise you will need to make do with a fast-focusing prime lens, such as a 400mm f/5.6.

Tripods don't need to be expensive. Recently I acquired a Manfrotto 055Pro (or 3021) plus a 488RC2 ball head at the B&S for a modest price. Even reviews online say that it should be able to handle a 500mm f/4 lens, which is pretty heavy to say the least. The tripod and head setup is rated to take 7kg of weight.
 

DeSwitch

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#10
bigma is f6.3 at 500mm which means normal body cannot AF but the pro body can. I had never use before so someone correct me if i'm wrong.
 

ehgme

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Sep 26, 2006
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#11
Bird park or nature?

For nature nothing less than 400mm and the faster the better. Get an extender as well. Solid tripod. The Manfrotto 055 is an excellent choice as it can go down low and can easily hold a 400mm. Powerful flash - GN45 and above with extender. And LOTS of PATIENCE. Best time is early morning after dawn or late afternoon. Light levels will be low hence a fast lens is essential. Bring along a 105/200mm macro so that you can take pictures of other insects/flowers etc while waiting for things to happen.

With DSLR your choices are better due to the 1.5X mag that you get with 35mm SLR lenses.

Refer to the books by Chew Yen Fook for a guide on what lenses are required and have fun.
 

Sep 25, 2006
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#12
Thanks for all the advices given so far. Been doing birdwatching for sometime. So tot of moving into photograghing the birds. Been trying to figure how far can I stretch my $$$ to get the best gears available.
 

scenar

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Aug 23, 2005
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#13
Maybe you could consider trying out a prosumer zoom like the S3 IS coupled with the teleconverter? Not exactly pro level gear, but if u dun intend to make huge prints, they'll prob suffice.
I use a 70-200 with a 2x TC...not exactly ideal...but i dun exactly have $10k to get a 500f4

my friend uses the 12x zoom S3 IS and the shots are really reasonably decent. u get ~648mm using the prosumer with TC
 

Garion

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Nov 26, 2002
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#14
Hi koolklamz,

Deswitch said:
Birding will easily put you back by $20k. I hope you seriously consider if you want to walk into this most expensive path of photography.
Deswitch is absolutely right. Bird photography is an expensive hobby. Birds are among the most difficult and challenging subjects in nature to capture on sensor/film. You need long, fast (bright) lenses and cameras with fast and robust autofocus performance to capture the action. Many bird photographers use top end gear costing few tens of k to ensure they can have increase the possibility of getting quality pictures. Don't get me wrong, it is not a luxury statement but a necessity of the hobby.

You will need have to have the following gear (minimum) to ensure good to excellent results:

1) A decent camera body, preferably digital SLR with a built in crop factor and which has full manual settings. Canon 20D/30D or Nikon D80/D200 are preferred choices. This will cost you between $2k-3k.

2) A telephoto lens (preferably 400mm or more). The most important part of your setup as this determines the quality of your images. This will set you back about $2.5k or more. A good starting point is the Canon 400mm f5.6L. Tack sharp and fast focusing.

3) A decent flashlight. Birds sometimes hide in shady or dense foliage or in low morning or evening light, a flash is sometimes essential in this instances. Canon 430EX or Nikon SB600 as starters, abt $400-500.

4) A good, sturdy tripod. If you can swing it, a Gitzo carbon fibre 1257 or even the bigger 13xx carbon fibre series ($700-$1k). If not, the cheaper Manfrotto 055 Pro is also very good (although heavier) - about $200.

5) A good ballhead. Markins M1Q Emile is excellent - small, light and rated for 30kg max load. This cost abt $480.

6) Assorted accessories like CF memory cards (standard 2 gig card costs around $100?), Better Beamer flash extender (available at TCW for $70), remote cable release switch ($80), a bag to put all the stuff into. ($100 upwards).

So as you can see, its not cheap. If you intend to get into it for the long run, my advice is: dun go for cheap. Get the best you can possibly afford in the beginning to spare your self the trouble of selling and then buying again later. Even if it means saving up for it. You might also consider purchasing used gear which goes for less than brand new street prices, you can save up quite a bit.

Another option is using digiscopes. If you are a birdwatcher, you might already have one. A quality digiscope from the likes of Leica or Swarovski, coupled with a good digicam and adapter, and a solid tripod, can yield impressive results, and fit somewhere around your budget (give or take a few hundreds). The downside of this setup is that you need lots of good light, and provided the bird is not in motion (i.e static or perching shots.)

Do check out this web forum, http://www.avianwatchasia.org . Its a local birdwatching cum bird photography forum where local and regional bird enthusiasts hang out to share pics and tips.

Good luck!
 

Garion

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#15
bigma is f6.3 at 500mm which means normal body cannot AF but the pro body can. I had never use before so someone correct me if i'm wrong.
The Bigma has a circuitry or chip which 'fools' the body into thinking the aperture is f5.6 instead of f6.3. Thus AF function is still available on non pro bodies. (the aperture read out on your LCD will show f5.6 but in reality its at f6.3).
 

DeSwitch

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#16
The Bigma has a circuitry or chip which 'fools' the body into thinking the aperture is f5.6 instead of f6.3. Thus AF function is still available on non pro bodies. (the aperture read out on your LCD will show f5.6 but in reality its at f6.3).
Thanks Garion for enlighting me on this technical fact.
 

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