[Tweeters] Summary of optics recommendations for bird photography

Tucker, Trileigh TRI at seattleu.edu
Thu Dec 21 20:53:44 PST 2017

Hi Tweets,

A number of generous Tweeters wrote to make suggestions in response to my earlier post asking about potential camera/lens upgrades. I am very grateful to everyone who took the time to write the consistently thoughtful, informative, helpful posts I received.


* Over and over folks recommended the Nikon D500 with high enthusiasm. People noted its good ability in low light and its fast and large buffer, good for in-flight shots. So that’s at the top of my list.
* There were also a number of fans of the full-frame D850 (which got the most praise), D5, and D810.
* More than one person also wrote that it really wouldn’t make sense to switch from Nikon to Canon – the glass is pretty good both ways, and a couple of people thought Nikon glass is better.


* I was surprised to learn that f/2.8’s are heavier than f/4’s, which of course becomes more of a factor in the field. And since the D500 apparently works well with high ISO’s, it’s OK to stick with f/4-5.6.
* Several people noted, as I’ve seen in my own experience, that a fixed lens is going to yield sharper images than a zoom. I hadn’t realized that Nikon's 500mm fixed is heavier than their 400mm. One friend led me through the calculations that show that using my current 300mm lens with a crop-factor camera like the D500, plus a 1.4 extender, gets me up to around a 630mm equivalent – pretty good for most of the shooting I do without needing to haul around another big lens.
* Still, lots of folks sang the praises of Nikon’s 200-500 zoom lens, including for subjects like distant whales, with its focal flexibility; not great in low light, but pretty good otherwise.

The most popular combination in people’s Nikon experience seems to be the D500 with a 200-500 zoom plus a 300mm fixed and 1.4 extender on hand.

Several people wrote with smaller/more economical camera options, including:
Nikon P510 with 42X zoom
Sony or Olympus m4/3 mirrorless
Olympus M10
Olympus OM
Panasonic GH5 micro 4/3 with
Olympus Pro 300mm (600 equivalent)4.0
Olympus Pro 40-150mm (80-300)2.8

OK, I think that’s a pretty fair summary. Once again, I’m really touched by how helpful this community is to each other.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night (followed by a good day of birding, as if there were such a thing as a bad day of birding…),

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Trileigh Tucker, PhD
Professor Emerita of Environmental Studies
Seattle University

Pelly Valley, West Seattle
Natural Presence Arts website<https://naturalpresencearts.com/>

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