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Old Dec 25, 2010, 5:06 PM   #1
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Hi, I study small mammals and I am finally getting back into SLR photography (it's been quite a few years) and I'm going to buy a digital SLR now. I need to take better photos of the animals I work with for presentations, etc and I'm hoping the new camera and some serious practice will do the trick. I've been doing a bunch of reading and I've decided to buy a lower end body so I can spend more money on lenses as it sounds like they are what is going to be the key to getting good results. Is this correct? Do you have any recommendations on a good model to get? I don't really care about video so the whole HD video thing is not important to me. Currently I work with animals about the size of small rabbits or guinea pigs and I'm within 100 meters of them and usually much closer than that. However, they don't always stand still for me and I would like to be able to take some action shots.

Thanks,
Amanda
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Old Dec 25, 2010, 7:37 PM   #2
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Canon, Nikon and Sony all have excellent 70-300 lenses, but that may not be enough. Canon and Sony have excellent -400 lenses for wildlife, and Sigma makes some -400 and -500 lenses that will work with Canon, Nikon, Pentax and sony bodies.

In their entry level camera product lines, Canon has the best AF system for what you want to do.

Have you tried any cameras?
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Old Dec 25, 2010, 7:40 PM   #3
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Hope you had a very Merry Christmas, Amanda,

Small mammals in the wild, at 300 feet, would be fast, probably not the best in lighting and having to deal with a lot of shadows. So, you would be probably at the 300mm + end of lenses. Autofocus if not necessary would be very helpful and I am guessing that the camera would be hand held (unless you have some sort of blind set up where you could use a tripod), so weight could be somewhat of a factor.

Since you may be hand holding the body, some sort of image stabilization (IS) would probably help. Canon and Nikon have their IS in the lenses (making the lenses more expensive and a bit more bulky), while Sony and Pentax have their IS built into the body, so that any lens mounted will be stabilized. (note - if you are using a tripod, then IS would need to be turned off.)

Going back to autofocus, Canon and Nikon have the best for fast acquisition, speed and tracking. Pentax and Sony lag behind in that department. Also, Canon and Nikon have a wider assortment of lenses, especially at the telephoto end (beyond 300mm).

So, when you consider all of this, Canon and Nikon have an advantage where your interest lie, however it does come at a price - expensive glass and larger, heavier lenses. I do think that going with a less expensive somewhat entry level body, will provide you with funds towards a better lens to start off with - maybe not the absolutely best glass, but something good to start with.

I really have not said anything about ISO speed (the sensitivity of the sensor), since just about all camera makes, are doing a pretty good job with this.

I think that others would be better suited at suggesting specific Canon and Nikon equipment than me (since I use Pentax). Here are the basics as to why you would want to lean in one direction as opposed to another. Essentially, it all comes down to your budget.

I will say that, Pentax has the K5 body which has a new Sony sensor that they have pulled every last ounce of capability out of. It does magnificent with low light and especially shadows. The Nikon D7000 uses the same sensor, and has the Nikon's faster auto focusing system. I do not know how much your budget can stretch, however that may be a good body to consider, with perhaps a good prosumer IS zoom lens that goes out to 300mm. The lens would be lighter, would probably not be f2.8 (low light), but with the capability of the sensor, you should be able, through post processing to lighten up the images, pulling the detail out of the shadows. It might be an affordable combination.

_______________________

Having said all of that - you probably need to check out this posting...
The gentleman specializes in birds - hummingbirds. Marc uses Pentax, usually not noted for fast auto focusing acquisition and lock on. He also uses older bodies - but first rate glass, however - no one can dispute the wonderful images that he captures. There are very few that can equal his work.

I bring this up, because the difference is equipment comes down to the success rate. The number of keepers you get. Your success rate will be higher with equipment that has a better auto focus system. Marc's work shows that its not impossible with other system, it just might be easier with some brands than others.

hope that helps....
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Old Dec 25, 2010, 8:50 PM   #4
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My choice would be any cropped sensor camera plus a Sigma 50-500 OS lens. It's very heavy but also very capable. The camera I would choose for myself would be either a Nikon D7000 or a Canon 7D.
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Old Dec 26, 2010, 8:41 AM   #5
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Some options:

1. Canon SX30 IS (850mm equivalent) (around $450)
2. Pentax K-x + Sigma 50-500 (750mm equivalent) (around $2,000)
3. Canon 7D + 100-400L IS (680mm equivalent) (around $3,200)
4. Canon 1DMkIV + 500mm f4 IS (650mm equivalent) (around $10,000)

And a decent tripod. Around $250-$500 depending on weight.

For research purposes I would be very strongly tempted to go with the SX30 IS, not a DSLR. If instead you want ultra-high resolution images for sale, etc then something more expensive will be required.

And for research if I was going to spend $10,000 I would definitely go for a high-end video camera instead.
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Old Dec 26, 2010, 9:01 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peripatetic View Post
Some options:

2. Pentax K-x + Sigma 50-500 (750mm equivalent) (around $2,000)
In this price range, I think I'd go with the Canon T2i and the Sigma 120-400 OS. The greater resolution combined with the larger crop factor can make up for the shorter focal length, and Canon's better AF system will work better for wildlife.
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Old Dec 26, 2010, 10:14 AM   #7
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I forgot that Sony has a nice 500mm mirror lens available.

So a sony twin-lens kit going out to 300mm + the 500mm mirror is also an interesting possibility.

And Tamron has decent 200-500mm lens in most mounts, I'd look for a stabilized body to go with it.
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Old Dec 26, 2010, 10:50 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peripatetic View Post
I forgot that Sony has a nice 500mm mirror lens available.

So a sony twin-lens kit going out to 300mm + the 500mm mirror is also an interesting possibility.
Actually, it seems that Sony has discontinued the 500/8 Reflex.
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Old Dec 28, 2010, 10:15 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by interested_observer View Post
Hope you had a very Merry Christmas, Amanda,

Small mammals in the wild, at 300 feet, would be fast, probably not the best in lighting and having to deal with a lot of shadows. So, you would be probably at the 300mm + end of lenses. Autofocus if not necessary would be very helpful and I am guessing that the camera would be hand held (unless you have some sort of blind set up where you could use a tripod), so weight could be somewhat of a factor.

Since you may be hand holding the body, some sort of image stabilization (IS) would probably help. Canon and Nikon have their IS in the lenses (making the lenses more expensive and a bit more bulky), while Sony and Pentax have their IS built into the body, so that any lens mounted will be stabilized. (note - if you are using a tripod, then IS would need to be turned off.)

Going back to autofocus, Canon and Nikon have the best for fast acquisition, speed and tracking. Pentax and Sony lag behind in that department. Also, Canon and Nikon have a wider assortment of lenses, especially at the telephoto end (beyond 300mm).

So, when you consider all of this, Canon and Nikon have an advantage where your interest lie, however it does come at a price - expensive glass and larger, heavier lenses. I do think that going with a less expensive somewhat entry level body, will provide you with funds towards a better lens to start off with - maybe not the absolutely best glass, but something good to start with.

I really have not said anything about ISO speed (the sensitivity of the sensor), since just about all camera makes, are doing a pretty good job with this.

I think that others would be better suited at suggesting specific Canon and Nikon equipment than me (since I use Pentax). Here are the basics as to why you would want to lean in one direction as opposed to another. Essentially, it all comes down to your budget.

I will say that, Pentax has the K5 body which has a new Sony sensor that they have pulled every last ounce of capability out of. It does magnificent with low light and especially shadows. The Nikon D7000 uses the same sensor, and has the Nikon's faster auto focusing system. I do not know how much your budget can stretch, however that may be a good body to consider, with perhaps a good prosumer IS zoom lens that goes out to 300mm. The lens would be lighter, would probably not be f2.8 (low light), but with the capability of the sensor, you should be able, through post processing to lighten up the images, pulling the detail out of the shadows. It might be an affordable combination.

_______________________

Having said all of that - you probably need to check out this posting...
The gentleman specializes in birds - hummingbirds. Marc uses Pentax, usually not noted for fast auto focusing acquisition and lock on. He also uses older bodies - but first rate glass, however - no one can dispute the wonderful images that he captures. There are very few that can equal his work.

I bring this up, because the difference is equipment comes down to the success rate. The number of keepers you get. Your success rate will be higher with equipment that has a better auto focus system. Marc's work shows that its not impossible with other system, it just might be easier with some brands than others.

hope that helps....
Lot's of good info in this post. I use an old Pentax K10D and a newer KM body, usually with a Pentax 55-300...which unlike a number of lenses in this range, hold it's sharpness/ picture clarity from 250-300 mm quite well.

I do a fair amount of wildlife photography, especially during the winter along forest trails.

I find my Pentax k10D to be very rugged and functions well in very cold weather. I'm out for about an hour in 20-25 below C...sometimes a bit colder (all I can stand) and the K10D and 55-300 are functioning fine.

The K10D and the new Pentax K5 are weather sealed which is also a plus for being in the outdoors and I think you can buy a WR ..weather resistant, 55-300...or if the budget is there, that mighty fine Pentax DA 300 F 4.

The Pentax K5 also has been rated ...very highly...by DPreview.
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Old Dec 29, 2010, 3:35 PM   #10
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Thanks everyone for all your help. I have been looking at all your suggestions and have been looking into the canon T2i. I went to a store and the salesperson told me to get a t1i and said there was no difference but I've been doing some reading and there seems to be some differences between the cameras besides video capabilities. For my purposes do you think one would be better than the other? Right now with rebates there is not a substantial price difference between the two enough that that is a concern. I then will buy an extra telephoto lens to go with it to help with my work. Plus I have been reading a lot about the nikon d90 but the two stores I went to today didn't have one for me to try out.

Thanks
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