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Bird Photography & Digiscoping

Zeiss DC4 Camera/Eyepiece for Diascope Spotting Scopes
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 control. 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. US
Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM Telephoto Lens for Canon SLR CamerasCanon 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. US | UK | DE
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.) US | UK | DE
Canon EF 1.4X II Extender Telephoto AccessoryCanon 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. US | UK

Canon EF 2x II Telephoto Extender. US | UK

Popular Insect Photography Equipment

Nikon D300 Camera Body. Introduced in August 2007 to replace the D200. Details.
Nikon D80 Camera Body. 10.2MP successor to the D70. Nikon has a Vibration Reduction macro lens and wireless flash and Canon does not. US | DE
Nikon 105mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor Lens. 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. US
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: US
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. Details.

SB600: US

SB800: US

More Canon Cameras and Lenses

Canon EOS 5D 12.8 MP Digital SLR Camera (Body Only)Canon 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. US | UK
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. US
Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM  Macro LensCanon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM  Macro Lens. An excellent all-around lens for butterfly photography. US | UK | DE
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). US
Canon EF 600mm f/4 USM L IS Telephoto Lens. Perhaps the ultimate long telephoto lens for bird photography. US
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. US

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

Birds-Pix Yahoo! Group

Butterfly-Pix Yahoo! Group

Bird 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. US | UK | DE | FR | CA
Konica Minolta DiMage Scan Elite 5400 II 35mm Film Scanner. Details. Reasonably priced, high-performance film scanner. US
Sony Cybershot DSC-P100. This fast, new 5 MP pocket camera features a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens. US | UK | DE | FR
Kodak DCS Pro SLR/C. Takes Canon lenses. US
Kodak DCS Pro SLR/N. Takes Nikon lenses. US
Canon i9900 Photo Printer. High quality color ink jet. (i9950 in Europe.) US | DE

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