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-   -   DSLR and Lens for birding. (

ThomasW Nov 1, 2006 1:24 AM


I have been thinking about buying a DSLR to take hiking and tramping with me which could be in serve weather and wet conditions, the main purpose would be to take photos of birds both resting and in flight. Same of the photos would be taken under the forest canopy so low light conditions might occur.

With regards to a budget. I have not exactly decided how much I would like to spend, but would like suggestions on a $1500 option and for a $3000 option. Would it also be possible to explain what I would gain from spending more. Like I said earlier, I am mainly interested in a body and a good lens for birding, maybe a couple of lenses but would like to keep weight down.

Thomas Walsh

ecap Nov 1, 2006 3:02 AM

Me personally i shoot minolta but since they are sold out now i would look at the nikon d70s with 80-200 f2.8 ($650 body, Less than $1,000 for lens.) This would give you built in stabilization, good iso settings and shutter speed up to 1/8000 of a second which you will rarely use but have if ever necessary. If you look at the $3000 price range i would go nikon d200 with the same lens. Havent priced d200 lately but i think like 1500-1700 dollars. That will give you 4 more megapixels and a sealed body for more protection in the harsh weather. Nikon usually offers good rebates on that kind of stuff this kind of year. check their web site for latest offers. Could also consider the canon 30d with same type of lens. i think the canon lens is a good bit more than the nikon though.

Edvinas Nov 1, 2006 7:00 AM

ecap, 200mm is too short for birding. You need at least 300mm.

sr2002 Nov 1, 2006 10:00 AM

try the Canon 30D or the nikon D80 ... and save as much as u can for a good lens ... if ur budget i s 2000$ or somethin then u'll be able to get a cam plus a nice tele lens as well ...

try the canon L series lenses ... the ones with the red band ... or some lenses that come with a flourite element ....

In the Dslr section According to me ... the more u spend .. ur just gonna get more features lik higher shutter speeds ... or good flash sync .. or battery life ... ... but the over all Iso performance and picture quality is gonna stay almost the same ... *atleast in case of canon ..... if u see the photos taken by the Xt and the Mark II 1Ds ... the Iso performance is almost the same .. the difference is negligible ... in case of megapixels ... they are only gonna come in handy if u are lookin for real big enlargements ...

So i would say ... get a good heavy body cam ... and save for a nice lens .. cuz finally its the lens that matters....

And instead of getting a full frame Sensor ... get a cam with 22.5-15mm sensor ... like the Xti or 30D ... so u'll get the 1.6x crop factor ... which will help u in getting a good telephoto .... so ur 300mm lens will be around 450mm ...

I own a 350D ... with a kit lens ... so im no pro ... but i have done tonnes of research while buying my cam ... And the above were the conclusions i have got ....

I hope this helps u a bit

bobbyz Nov 1, 2006 12:49 PM

I can only say about the canon stuff. For starters, any camera would do, like 350d, 20d/30d, or the new Xti. I have 10d and 30d and 30d is nicer as it gives me more fps. If 3 fps is fine and you don't mind rebel's handling then XTi should serve well as it has same AF as 30d.

Regarding lens, you have

400mm f5.6 prime - Really nice for flight shots. Can use 1.4xTC to get to 560mm

100-400L IS - has zoom & IS but slow for flight shots

300 f4 IS - You will need 1.4xTC to get to 400mm

mtngal Nov 1, 2006 7:17 PM

You might want to look at the Pentax K10D when it comes out. It is supposed to be sealed so better weather-resistant than the current Pentax dSLRs, and has in-camera SR, so any lens you get will be stabilized. There are a number of older, long tele lenses (some are f2.8, some, like my A*300,are f4 or f4.5)that appear on ebay occasionally that would work with the camera. The big question mark is the camera itself- it hasn't been released yet (supposed to come out this month?).

jacks Nov 1, 2006 7:32 PM

You need the longest lens you can get for birding.
The cheapest option worthy of a dslr is the bigma 50-500. It's big, heavy and slow and best used off of a monopod, but it is less than US$1000.
Better would be a sigma 120-300f2.8 with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters. NHL posts on here all the time with this set-up and has some wonderful pics. Canon 100-400 is probably worth a look too - it is much lighter. These will probably cost a bit more than your $3000 budget with a body.
Next up are the canon big whites and the sigma 300-800 all of which are obscenely expensive...
There aren't many cheap options long enough. All the budget telephotos stop at around 300mm. A sigma 70-300APO might be a usable stop-gap while you contemplate all the money you are going to have to blow on your hobby now you have gone dlsr.

peripatetic Nov 2, 2006 3:47 AM

There are dozens of possible permutations, but a decent starter setup for birding is a Canon 30D + Sigma 100-300 . You should also get a good flashgun and "better beamer".

30D body ($1100)
Sigma 100-300 ($900)
Sigma 1.4x converter ($170)
580EX flash ($370)
Better beamer ($40)

Total = $2600

Of course you will probably want a lens that is a bit wider than 100mm too, so any of the zooms that start at around 17mm -> 55 or longer would be fine. The defects of the Canon basic kit lens are vastly exaggerated on the internet, but there are many other good alternatives if you want to avoid the stigma of using the humble kit lens.

So you could stick with the Canon 18-55 kit ($150 extra) or alternatively going up-market: the new Tamron 17-50 f2.8 ($450) is very nice, or you could choose the Canon 17-85 as part of a 30D kit ($400 extra).

You will also need storage cards, probably a spare battery, maybe a tripod or monopod. $3000 is a bit of a tight squeeze.

kenbalbari Nov 2, 2006 4:24 PM

If you want to be able to shoot in poor weather conditions, you really should want a weather sealed camera and lenses. That would rule out any Canon model below the 1D series.

Consider this from a review of the Canon EOS-5D:
Construction quality is one thing but weather-sealing is another. A clear advantage of the 1-series bodies is the presence of weather seals throughout the body. The 5D does not have these and I do miss them. I used my 1Ds (with sealed lenses) in heavy rain and snow without a problem. Doing the same thing with a 5D is like playing Russian Roulette; the camera may survive or it may not. I've heard first-hand reports both ways about the non-sealed 10D and 20D. Many people have used them in the rain without consequence. Some others have inadvertently destroyed their cameras this way. It's not a chance that I particularly want to take with a $3000.00 camera body that I need as a work tool. I don't think that adding weather seals to the 5D would add all that much weight or bulk but it might further muddy the distinction between Canon's professional and non-professional bodies. Until recently, the only lightweight DSLR to have weather seals was the Olympus E-1. Nikon's new D200, however, has them and I hope competitive pressure leads Canon to follow suit. Mechanical cameras using film could get soaked and survive - cameras with computers inside don't necessarily fare as well.

So, within your budget, you should really stick to the Nikon D200, the Pentax K10D, or the Olympus E1 if you really want to shoot in those conditions. And look into weather sealed lenses.

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