are plenty of options when it comes to taking those all important bird
photographs - and superzoom compact cameras are one of them. The
superzoom I used to have before it gave up the ghost during a trip to
Thailand was a Fujifilm Finepix HS10
(24-720mm). In January 2015 I
purchased a Nikon Coolpix superzoom - I am still trying out this camera
but initial impressions have been very impressive indeed - it has
produced good record shots of birds in poor light and has
also proved very useful for landscapes, nocturnal photography
and more. It seems that camera technology has improved in leaps and
bounds in recent years. One of the most notable improvements has been
the quality of pictures taken using high ISO values.
digibinning and DSLR photography are covered
elsewhere on this website (see the links below).
cameras are quite a contender for bird photography
and a number of serious birders use only such cameras for securing high
quality documentation. The results they achieve are impressive and more
than good enough for the purpose of identifying and documenting birds
they find - the main motive for many, if not most, birders.
The main advantages of these cameras are:
1) They are relatively small and light compared to the equipment
required for digiscoping and for DSLR + telephoto lens.
2) They are relatively cheap
3) As the name suggests, they have a wide range
of zoom meaning that one can take landscapes and all kinds of other
photographs. They can in other words also be used by normal people with
normal photographic requirements - not just by birders needing that
all-important record shot.
image of Whooper swans at more than 150m range - image has just been
resized for web publication.
This picture was taken with a Nikon Coolpix at Heggeriset in Engerdal,
Hedmark, eastern Norway in January 2015
moderately cropped version of the same image as above
showing two of the swans A
further crop of the same image to iluustrate just one of the swans -
this camera obviously does the job of documentation very well indeed.
Here is a landscape shot taken on a
cloudy February day at Herdlevær
in Øygarden - if one
looks very hard indeed two white dots are visible - thess dots are the
swans in the image below.
Zooming in (but not all the
way) from the same position two Whoopers are clearly visible and
The only real disadvantage I have found is that these cameras suffer
from the same problem as other compact cameras - shutter lag. Obviously
this makes things like flight photography something of a challenge.
Otherwise the quality of the pictures is not quite as good as a DSLR -
for the size and price the images are quite acceptable and more than
purpose unless one is trying for very high resolution images suitable
for publication at any level.
camera / "normal" photography The main use I
for my superzoom is as a second camera - enabling me to take
photographs of things other than close-ups of birds without having to
change lenses on my main camera. Changing lenses in the field is not
always something that is easy to do and each lens change is just
another chance to let dust and water into the camera so I try to avoid
this as much as possible.
settings to give the longest possible exposure time I managed to take
this picture of the Northern Lights from my balcony at Nautnes, near
View of the "seafront" in
downtown Oslo - on a bright January day
Needless to say there were also some birds in this shot. Zooming in to
the edge of ice gave the following result:
On my very first trip out with the Nikon Coolpix I took a walk near the
opera house in downtown Oslo and
with the same camera could take both
normal "tourist" pictures and shots of resting gulls.....
Another good reason for
taking a superzoom along on a
holiday or other trip is that you then have a back-up camera in case
something goes wrong with your main camera - the timing
behind me buying my superzoom was for just this reason.
Male Snow Bunting, near Rong, Øygarden, February 2015.
I had forgotten my "proper" camera back in the car. The superzoom
very well indeed as a backup camera on this occasion.
As the above picture indicates - the superzoom can take good
Although I in no way
consider myself an expert with this particular
superzoom yet there
are is one considerable advantage of the Nikon Coolpix over the
Fujifilm I had previously and that is that this camera is easy to
charge with a charger that also works for my telephone and will charge
via my laptop. Moreover, it also seems to have a longer battery life.
I have only done some limited side-by-side
comparisons between the Coolpix and my DSLR and 400m telephoto lens. In
the meantime my initial impression is that the
results are a fair improvement to my previous
image using DSLR and 400mm telephoto lens
Gull cropped from DSLR image to the left
view taken with Coolpix - the gull flock is not even visible in this
Gull cropped from fully zoomed-in image from the Coolpix - taken from
exactly the same place as image on the left. Some lack of contrast
compared to DSLR but results are excellent.
The next photographs were taken on
a very dull and wet day with the owl sitting inside a pine tree - in
other words a rather dark and challenging subject.
and below: Long-eared Owl photographed with Nikon Coolpix. No tripod
used and automatic settingss gave a shutter speed of 1/30 at an ISO of
I suspect the "lightness" of this image may be due to rain on the lens.
Top picture is just resized, bottom picture cropped
Near Oslo, March 2015
and below: Long-eared Owl photographed with a DSLR and a 400mm lens.
Again, no tripod used. In order to get shutter speeds that can work
with a hand held camera under such conditions the ISO was turned up to
2000 and the resultant shutter speed was 1/200.
Top picture is just resized, bottom picture cropped out of the image
camera has produced results over and above expectations and is a clear
improvement on my last superzoom. It delivers impressive results is
worth some serious consideration as an only camera for birders wanting
to take documentation pictures of their sightings. It is also well
worth having as
a second camera even if you already have a digiscoping setup or a DSLR
and a telephoto lens.