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Bird Photography & Digiscoping
The Zeiss DC4 Camera-Eyepiece for Diascope spotting
scopes is an all-in-one solution for digiscoping. It features a
built-in 4 MP camera that takes standard batteries and has USB
and video ports and an SD card, together with an eyepiece that
magnifies to 30x on the Diascope 65 and to 40x on the Diascope
85. Camera setup and "shutter release" are by wireless remote
Details. [To use Zeiss scopes with the Arca-Swiss quick
release system, get the
Really Right Stuff B76 fore-aft lens plate.]
Digital photography is revolutionizing bird and insect photography, at least
at the non-professional level. I've noticed that the quality of slide shows (now
computer shows) has improved markedly since the changeover from film, mainly due
to the instant feedback photographers receive on their LCD screens and the fact
that incremental digital shots are free. Most of us entered digital nature
photography with point and shoot cameras, but birders are quickly moving to
digital SLRs as prices plummet and specs improve. A popular setup consists of
the Canon 40D body with Canon's 300mm f/4 lens with or without an extender. For
insect photography, Nikon has leapt ahead of Canon with their image-stabilized
105mm macro lens and wireless remote flashes that work with the D300, D80 and
D70 bodies, Nikon lacks lightweight, image stabilized telephoto lens for birds
comparable to Canon lenses.
Popular Bird Photography Equipment
|Canon EOS 40D Camera Body. Canon's new
mid-level digital SLR accepts both EF and EF-S lenses. This is
an update of the EOS 30D, which was the most popular digital
body among advanced amateur bird photographers.
EF 300mm f/4 USM L IS Telephoto Lens. One of the sharpest
lenses made by Canon and an excellent all-around choice for
amateur bird photographers. Weighs only 1,190 g. See
Jacques Weber's Canon lens ratings. It has built-in image
stabilization (IS). With the 1.6x magnification factor of the
20D & 30D, you may not need a longer lens or extender.
|Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.6-5.6 USM L IS
Telephoto Lens. Some birders prefer this zoom lens, which is
not as sharp as the EF 300 f/4. (But others don't care for it.)
EF 1.4x II Telephoto Extender. A downside of carrying a
heavier lens than the Canon 300mm f/4 is that it makes normal
birding virtually impossible without a dedicated camera porter.
Canon's extenders provide additional magnification while
maintaining reasonable quality.
Canon EF 2x II Telephoto Extender.
Popular Insect Photography Equipment
|Nikon D300 Camera Body. Introduced in
August 2007 to replace the D200.
|Nikon D80 Camera Body. 10.2MP successor
to the D70. Nikon has a Vibration Reduction macro lens and
wireless flash and Canon does not.
|Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR
Details. This superb new lens with Vibration Reduction is an
excellent choice for hand-held insect photography. Auto-focus
should not be used in macro photography, as it usually will not
focus on the insect's eyes, causing photos to appear
out-of-focus. Weighs 790 g.
|Sigma 150mm f/2.8 Macro Lens.
Details. Unfortunately, neither Nikon nor Canon offers a
150mm macro lens, approximately the equivalent of a 200mm lens
with most digital bodies. For the time being, this Sigma lens is
a possibility. For Nikon:
US | For Canon:
|Nikon Wireless Flash Units. The SB600
and SB800 can be used as wireless remote flashes on the D70, D80
and D200. At least one remote flash should be used in
combination with the camera's built-in flash. Hopefully this
will be a solution to the loose wires and bad connections that
have plagued insect photographers.
More Canon Cameras and Lenses
EOS 5D. Many advanced features, but slower than the 30D and
doesn't take EF-S lenses. It is claimed to be the smallest and
lightest full-frame digital SLR. An updated version supposedly
will be released in 2008.
|Canon Rebel XTi / EOS 400D. This new
10.1MP replacement for the Rebel XT/350D has an internal
dust-busting technology offers many of the features of the 30D
for a much lower price. An updated version (450D?) supposedly
will be introduced in early 2008.
EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens. An excellent all-around lens
for butterfly photography.
|Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III. Canon's new
flagship digital SLR offers 21.1 MP and other advanced features
at a very high price.
|Canon EOS-1D Mark III. (April 2007).
Canon's new 10.1MP digital SLR has many improvements over the
Mark II. (Article).
|Canon EF 600mm f/4 USM L IS Telephoto Lens.
Perhaps the ultimate long telephoto lens for bird photography.
|Canon EF 500mm f/4 USM L IS Telephoto Lens.
If you want a long, autofocus telephoto lens but find the EF
600mm simply too heavy, try the 500, which is still far too
heavy if photography is secondary to birding.
Most twitchers are not serious bird photographers, and most of the best bird
photographers are not serious birders. It's simply not possible to do what needs
to be done on a birding trip while lugging around a 600mm lens, a tripod with a
Wimberley head, several camera bodies, and additional lenses and film.
Furthermore, many interior forest birds are extremely difficult to see, much
less photograph. Dunning, Project Vireo, and others have photographed tropical
forest birds by catching them in mist nets, then photographing them in a hide
with elaborate flash setup.
Butterfly photography can be done with lighter gear, but leading insect
photographers typically use a dual flash lightbar (e.g.,
Wimberley dual-arm setup) with bellows and/or extension tubes between the
camera body and macro lens.
There are numerous online sources of information about bird photography and
digiscoping, including the following:
Nature Photography Resource
DisgiscopingBirds Yahoo! Group
Butterfly-Pix Yahoo! Group
Forums > Photography, Digiscoping and Equipment
Arthur Morris / Birds as Art
Additional interesting digital cameras and photo equipment:
|Adobe Photoshop CS2. Revised 2005.
Photoshop has long been the leading software for photo editing.
In the absence of serious competition, the price remains high.
|Konica Minolta DiMage Scan Elite 5400 II
35mm Film Scanner.
Details. Reasonably priced, high-performance film scanner.
Cybershot DSC-P100. This fast, new 5 MP pocket camera
features a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens.
|Kodak DCS Pro SLR/C. Takes Canon lenses.
|Kodak DCS Pro SLR/N. Takes Nikon lenses.
|Canon i9900 Photo Printer. High quality
color ink jet. (i9950 in Europe.)
J&R Computer/Music World