Birder's Guide

DEC 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 21 of 51

Birding Photography tools that have all of the controls, manipulations, and many of the bells and whistles of a traditional camera. These are lightweight and exceptionally portable cameras. Unfortunately, the image quality is just not quite the same as an SLR's, and a super-zoom's performance under low-light conditions usually leaves something to be desired. Although my practice with them has been limited, I fnd it awkward and cumbersome to get on a bird, and especially to follow a bird in fight. Of course, like everything else, practice makes a big difference. More and more of my birding friends, however, are employing super-zooms for much, if not all, of their birding photography needs. Cameras such as the Leica V-Lux and Canon SX50 are impressive tools that do most of what a SLR can do, at a fraction of the price, size, and weight. Keep in mind that when shopping for a super-zoom (and a point-and-shoot; see below), you should pay attention only to the optical zoom capability. "Digital zoom" is nothing more than cropping, which you can do later on your computer anyway. Benefits ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ • Quality: especially in bright sunlight, a high-quality super-zoom will produce a splendid image that can be enlarged and reproduced. • Photography skill: super-zooms offer a good bridge to move from pointing and shooting to manipulating all of the variables in photography. ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ • Tripod: no tripod needed at any power. ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ • Size and weight: Portable and packable, super-zooms are easy to transport, carry in the feld, and pack for travel. ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ • Cost: Ranging from as little as $100 to as much as $1,000, there's a super-zoom for every budget, and even the most expensive are a fraction of the price of an equivalent (in terms of magnifcation) sLR. there are a lot of good offerings in the Optical Zoom vs. Power As we all know, a "10x" binocular roughly means that the image is magnifed by a factor of 10. that is, the image is larger (or more "powerful") by 10 times. on a camera, however, "10x" does not mean the same thing. instead, it is simply a ratio of a zoom lens's shortest focal length to its longest. for example, a 30mm–300mm lens would have "zoom ratio" of 10, or "10x". A bigger zoom ratio just means that there is a greater difference between the longest and shortest focal lengths. on the other hand, a "prime lens" is a fxed power (e.g., "a 300mm lens"), so it does not have an optical zoom ratio. Calculating the "power" (from a binocular point of view) of a camera lens is challenging as they are created by entirely different optical systems. With a camera, a variety of factors affect the magnifcation of the lens, including the range of focal lengths and the size of the camera's sensor. that being said, it seems that for a rudimentary approximation for a digital camera, you can simply divide the maximum focal length by 50. therefore, in our 30-300mm and 300mm lenses example, 300 divided by 50 = 6, or "6 power". to get the same magnifcation as a 10x binocular, you would need a 500mm camera lens. it's not a perfect formula by any means, but it gets you in the ballpark. 20 $300 to $500 range. ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ Birder's Guide to Gear | December 2013 Costs ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ • Quality: Most are a signifcant step down from sLRs in performance and image quality, especially under low-light conditions. ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ • Focus: Getting on the bird is often a signifcant challenge. Most super-zooms are not recommended for fight photography, for example. However, some cameras— such as the Leica V-Lux 4—have a 12-frame burst that can be very helpful for scoring crisp shots of warblers whizzing by the Higbee dike in Cape May. ÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐÐ • Size: Larger than a pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera. in fact, most super-zooms are the size of the body of a typical sLR. Digiscoping This technique couples a point-and-shoot digital camera with a standard birding spotting scope. You can simply hold the camera up to the ocular of your scope (careful, don't scratch the glass! I recommend adding just a little duct tape to the plastic or metal surrounding the objective lens of the camera to help reduce this issue) with or without an adapter. Although adapters mean you have something else to carry, you will appreciate the photo quality from stabilizing your photography platform. Stay away from universal adapters that work on any scope and/or with any

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