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pianoplayer88key Feb 18, 2005 3:47 PM

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Does anyone have any suggestions for getting better shots of birds from far away? This little guy was sitting still, but he was like 500 feet away (or possibly farther). I was using a Canon PowerShot S1 IS. This first shot of him was using 32x digital zoom, 1/1250" shutter, F/3.1, not sure what ISO (probably 50 or 100 I think).

I should mention that getting physically closer is usually not an option.

pianoplayer88key Feb 18, 2005 3:48 PM

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Here's a somewhat cropped version of the previous shot showing the subject (and a white box I drew so you can see what I would like to fill an 8x10 frame with (except I drew the box with the wrong aspect ratio and the wrong orientation but hopefully you get some idea)). What do I need to get 8x10s of that at that distance?

pianoplayer88key Feb 18, 2005 3:49 PM

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Also I'd like to be able to get good shots of birds in flight.

Here's a shot I was more lucky on (I was about 3 feet away using full optical telephoto and the flash, and I was pre-focused (manual focus) and pre-metered (shutter button was already halfway pressed)).

pianoplayer88key Feb 18, 2005 3:51 PM

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Another one:

pianoplayer88key Feb 18, 2005 3:56 PM

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and one more.

See? you CAN get some subject isolation (shallow depth of field) without a dSLR.

Although my problem seems to be not enough figure of merit, too much noise, and too slow shutter speeds, as well (and in some cases, TOO shallow depth of field.

The first shot was F/6.3 with flash, the second was F/8.0, and the third was F/3.1. (the other two most likely were with flash, too.)

What do I need in order to stop the motion of his wings WITHOUT using the flash, AND get the shot from as far away as the other bird while he's in flight, and crop to get an 8x10 of his head? (also notice that in my first hummingbird post I said I was prefocused and premetered? I'd like to be able to go from in my pocket turned off to capturing the shot quickly enough to catch the subject in the act. A dSLR is not an option because of 1: price (even a used Canon D30 without a lens on ebay is too expensive), and 2: size (looking at specs and after measuring my pocket, a Sony V1 is probably the biggest camera that will fit in my pants pocket with a slight stretch maybe (Canon G-series are too big)) (although the two criteria are very close.))

pianoplayer88key Feb 18, 2005 4:12 PM

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One more super telephoto shot, taken with 32x digital zoom.
That mountain is about 10 miles from me, and the towers are probably several hundred feet tall, I'd guess.

What do I need to get 8x10's of people's faces from that distance, at night with the lights near them turned off, low noise (about like a professional studio shot and properly exposed like so), fast enough shutter speeds so I can handhold without IS, and moderately deep depth of field (about the same ratio as if I used hyperfocal at F/8.0 and wideangle on a tiny-sensor camera)?

I don't think a Panasonic FZ20 would be good enough. (although I do often use the movie mode on the S1 IS, I've been starting to think recently about getting a good camcorder (but I can't afford one right now so it'll have to wait) so if I get both at the same time movie mode won't be of much if any concern on the still camera.)

Tim_The_Sandman Feb 18, 2005 7:55 PM

Sounds like an excellent candidate for upgrading to a digital SLR camera, and investing in some quality lenses... The downside to this solution is the cost. I don't think you'll be able to achieve what you want with anything less... I suspect the more affordable solution would be a film SLR but that's a whole realm I know virtually nothing about.

The thing I noticed about the photos you've posted, it appears that the camera chose to focus on the things in the foreground instead of the bird, at least the foreground looks to be in focus more than the birds...

One thing that "might" help would be to practice with the focus. Play with it at various distances, and note the settings for various distances, so you can more accurately focus on exactly what you want.

robbo Feb 19, 2005 11:41 PM

I doubt any current digital SLR on the market will give you night shots of people standing in the dark 10 miles away so good that you can print them up without much noise. Maybe you can rent a spy satellte from somebody or talk to the NSA or CIA about some of their used equipment.

rob_strain Feb 20, 2005 2:01 AM


What you want has been and will be, at least for the next several years, maybe longer, impossible. Stop asking for it. You will not find it, and it is really getting annoying... It's not going to happen. Go get a 1600mm f/2.8 with a Canon EOS 1Ds Mk II and you might get close.

pianoplayer88key Feb 20, 2005 7:28 AM

ok so I'm not going to get THAT good of a telephoto... but I would at LEAST like either as much F.O.M. as the equivalent of what my S1 IS would have if its 32x digital zoom was actually OPTICAL zoom, or preferably as much as if you put a Crystalvue LX (not counting any image quality loss due to vignetting or whatever) on a Panasonic FZ20 or Nikon 8800 (doing the math I find the Nikon unaided actually edges out ahead of the Pana just slightly).

That said, I saw a few Canon D2000s on ebay. How good of a camera is that, except that it's only 2 megapixels (I think I'd need more to get room for cropping, and considering how old the camera is I wonder how good the sensor would be at high ISOs (3200, 6400, etc)?)

Or, what's another good dSLR (preferably used) that has a short side resolution of at least 1536 (or 2048) pixels (although if it's only 3 megapixels that might still be ok, with less MAYBE being ok depending on image quality especially when blown up or cropped and in low light)?
Also what's the typical recommendation for a few lenses to start out with, and the typical cost? I'd probably want to have a range of about (35mm equivalent) 27mm to around 450mm or so, and not too slow especially at the wide end (for example, a 50mm 1.4 or an 85mm 1.2 would be nice). What's the typical cost for something like that?
Is there any full-frame (or nearly so - 27x18mm for example) dSLR < $500 used that's no more than 6 or 8 megapixels?

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