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Bird Photography - Superzoom camera

There 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 have is a Fujifilm Finepix HS10 (24-720mm). Digiscoping, digibinning and DSLR photography are covered elsewhere on this website (see the links below).



Superzoom camera
Fujifilm Finepix HS10

Superzoom 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.

Advantages
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.

Superzoom landscape
Above and below:
Two pictures illustrating the range of zoom available - the sign is only just visible in the landscape image above
No sharpening or any other adjustments of any kind have been done - ONLY a resize for web viewing.
Superzoom zoom

Emperor Moth caterpillar
Much easier to take pictures such as this Emperor moth caterpillar with a Compact super zoom - no backing off to more than 3m with this camera! Again nothing other than a resize has been done here (no cropping or sharpening)




Disadvantages
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 as good as a DSLR - but for the size and price the images are quite acceptable and fit for purpose.




Other photography links

Digiscoping v DSLR
Bird photography - why bother?


Second camera
The main use I have had 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.
Geobay

I would have to have been a lot further away to take the above picture with my standard DSLR and telephoto lens!



Backup camera
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.

Lapland longspur
Lapland longspur resting onboard a ship on the Shtokman field in the Barent's Sea


As the above picture indicates - the superzoom can take good documentation pictures.






Practicalities
Although I in no way consider myself an expert with the superzoom I have (I haven't even read the manual properly yet!) there are a number of things worth pointing out.

1) This camera  seems to be really heavy on battery usage - so take PLENTY of batteries.
2) I have yet to find out how to have the flash switched on without having the annoying electronic noise on. Switching the camera into "silent" also disables the flash. This may just be "finger trouble" but is worth finding out about

Due to the lower resolution of these cameras compared with many DSLR cameras (at least to my "main" one) the zoom does not seem to be as fantastic as it sounds. Yes, the magnification is there, but when one looks at how many pixels there are in an image you can achieve the same amount of detail using a less powerful lens on a DSLR.


Comparison
The following comparsion was undertaken on a cloudy day in September (same day as the signpost pictures above were taken). The supeezoom is zoomed up to maximum and compared to the fixed 400mm and DSLR (not a full format camera)
At first glance both pictures are quite similar - a reasonable picture of a Ruff.

Picture of a Ruff taken witj DSLR and a 400mm lens
DSLR and 400mm telephoto lens

Suoperzoom Ruff
Superzoom Ruff at the same distance

The cropped images with no sharpening or any other adjustments are also quite similar although the image from the superzoom seems a little softer and has less contrast:


DSLR + 400mm cropped and reduced
DSLR + 400mm cropped and reduced

Superzoom cropped and reduced
Superzoom cropped and reduced




Cropping a 440x440 area out of the original images really starts to show the differences. Some of this will be due to the different depth of field and some of it directly due to the quality of the lens etc. No adjustments have been done to either image, just a crop of 440x440 pixels...These images are just a guideline - in good light and with more experience with the superzoom the results may have been different.

DLSR Ruff
DLSR & 400mm - obviously a sharper and cleaner image
Superzoom Ruff

Superzoom. At this level there is obvious noise and rather less detail











Conclusion
Definitely worth some serious consideration as an only camera for birders wanting to take documentation pictures of their sightings. Well worth having as a second camera even if you already have a digiscoping setup or a DSLR and a telephoto lens.







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