Camera advice please - pretty please?

I have a Nikon D5100 and use a 55-300 lens for bird photos.  I know this is not really good enough as all the little darlings are usually too far away.  I am new to photography as well as birding (couple of years with this my first SLR).  I am going to put on here some photos - some I'm pleased with others disappointed.  It could well be that I am not any good, or that I am trying to achieve the impossible with my equipment.  I know I don't know my camera well and am trying to get to grips with the manual and also just to experiment with different settings.  I never use auto; usually aperture priority but recently tried manual to get faster shutter speed and then adjust the focal length for exposure.  I saw seymouraves post about his lumix.  I rang Wex photography in Norwich who said don't bother with anything like a bridge camera (sorry if the camera you were referring to is NOT a bridge … ) as I will lose quality.  What does anyone else here think?  I’ve also read whistling Joe’s posts on photography, really helpful.  I realise I don’t understand depth of field properly, only a vague idea really.  I can neither afford nor carry large lenses as when I go out there’s only me to carry it all and I have to carry my flask and sarnies as well – can’t sacrifice lunch!  I am happy to spend £500 on another camera if I will get good quality bird/wildlife images and then use my DSLR more for landscapes.  I was looking at the Canon Coolpix P900; SX60; Nikon P610.  My camera really doesn't like ISO over 640 and that's pushing it.  The 3 avocet were moving and so was I (in a boat), the stone curlews were a long way away ...  the shorteared owl was some distance away - the flight one took me by surprise; I think I just messed up on the blacktailed godwit.Thanks so much if anyone has any comments to help me improve or to adjust my expectations …. 

Oh, and I won't post the other 5000 shots ...

Jill

  • In reply to birdiebeginner:

    Hi-

    nice photos in general anyway :)

    You have to decide what you want to do with the finished photos- do you want 'publishable calendar quality' or just good photos as a record of your birding?

    As regards photo quality of the Lumix 200 see my flickr page and decide for yourself- I won't comment on the shop owner I'll let my stuff do the talking.

    www.flickr.com/.../24915371@N02

    Bridge cameras are lighter to carry which is a BIG advantage- there have been discussions on here on the merits of both types before from excellent photographers - try the search facility :)

    S

    For advice about Birding, Identification,field guides,  binoculars, scopes, tripods,  etc - put 'Birding Tips'   into the search box

  • In reply to seymouraves:

    You have to decide what you feel is wrong with the pics you're getting.  Not sharp?  Colours not right?  Camera too heavy?  Then we can look at ways to address the issues.  There are some facts in amongst the opinions about cameras, but they don't normally mean a lot.  For example, the sensor in a DSLR (assuming comparable age & pixel count) WILL be better than that in a bridge camera because the sensor & pixels are bigger, gather more light and suffer less noise.  However, the lens in front of the sensor can have a very big effect on the quality of the image - as can the processing, so the "fact" doesn't necessarily help you a lot.  A DSLR will also be faster to use than a bridge - which means birds in flight are normally easier, but that doesn't mean BiF isn't possible with a bridge, far from it.  Indeed, sometimes the smaller sensor (which tends to give you a greater depth of field) can be handy as focus isn't so critical.  So a DSLR can give you a better quality image, but it's often harder to get it right, a bridge is more forgiving.

    Do you post-process images on the PC?  DSLR makers assume users will be more willing to fiddle, so images are often less processed from the camera, so you may need to tinker more on the PC (or alter some of the jpg settings in camera to achieve the look you're after).  For example, I tinkered with the Godwit - is this improved or worse?

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    Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    Bit more thought on this....

    With pictures like the Stone Curlew, you're pretty much stuffed - they're just too far away, whatever camera/lens you're using.  You'll also find, even if you DO have stonking amounts of mm available to you, that atmospheric conditions start to give you real problems with heat haze ripples spoiling the sharpness.  There often appears to be a bit of a conspiracy going on with weather and photographers, as bright sunshine is great for sharp shots at a distance (you get good contrast and bright colours) but often comes with the haze and glare that can ruin shots.  So the best shots are all too commonly dependent on the best of conditions - this shot of the Cranes (Minsmere) for example was on a lousy day, but even with a full-frame 5D3 & 840mm of top grade lens is hardly brilliant

    A couple of other things come to mind as well though.  The owl sitting looking at you looks like a heavy crop, so detail will be limited, but the exif suggests a shutter speed of 1/1250 sec.  That's quite high for a 300mm lens and stable subject, so I'm guessing you've fixed the ISO at 400.  In that case, leaving the camera on Auto-ISO would probably have let the camera choose a lower shutter speed and ISO, which may have helped reduce noise a bit.  Finally, do you have a filter on the lens?  If so, take it off - a filter won't help sharpness and can degrade the image, so try using the camera for a while without it to see if you can see a difference

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    Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • In reply to seymouraves:

    Hi and thanks.  I tried to put on some that I was pleased with (they are of birds that were close as in BHG) and some not so chuffed with as some distance away (as in owl).  I will search as you suggest and have a look at others comments.  I want my photos to be printable perhaps for framing and I do also do a calendar each year.  I realise that some will be just fairly good record of a special day or sighting.  I think I get carried away and suffer from a tad of camera shake (never a problem until I had zoom lens). And often they are moving about pretty quickly, or swimming, or flying high up and away. Your photos look pretty sharp to me - sharp is what I want to achieve.  Thank you so much for bothering to help.  Jill

    Jill

  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    Just noticed a further post from you that I'll look at in a mo.  Thanks so much for replying. What did you do to the godwit?  I have elements 12 and do a bit of light level adjustment, colour, cropping and unsharp mask.  That's usually about it - oh a bit of removing with spot healer and clone tool.  The godwit is much improved and is a photo I am now proud of instead of being a shade disappointed.  He was close and I still didn't seem to get a good shot.  

    My camera is not too heavy, I have a great strap that really helps.  I find the colours ok (he really was this colour) but they need to be sharper.  With anything much over 400ISO I do get some noise. I think I can do something about that on elements. If you don't mind please tell me what you did to the godwit.  Thanks so much once again.

    Jill

  • In reply to birdiebeginner:

    All I did with the Godwit (using Elements as well) was Auto-levels, Auto-contrast, Noise Ninja (noise reducing plugin, don't need to use that if you're using Unsharp mask), Auto-sharpen.  That was it, I deliberately didn't fiddle with anything complex :-)

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    Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    Hi again

    The owl is a heavy crop.  The flying owl took my by surprise as it was sitting on the post then off it went, I'll have to look back at the details.  It was some way off, though recognisable without bins.  I will have to look at how to put camera onto auto ISO, I know it can be done but not, I think, on aperture priority.  I would have chosen those settings to try for high shutter speed as I just don's seem to get sharp photos at lower shutter speeds.  I have been told that at least 1000 is good (I know it has to be more than the focal length if that's the correct terminology.  I have a UV filter on to protect the lens, one I had previously was out and anything over 200 mm was definitely not sharp, this new filter has improved things no end.  So it's not just me being rubbish. I was on the point of selling the camera and giving up.  I think I might need to a) practise b) accept the limitations of my equipment c) keep going to places where and when I can get closer d) concentrate on seeing the birds and lovely places where they are and less on getting a winning Countryfile calendar shot! Thank you so much for trying to help, perhaps we'll bump into each other one day at Minsmere, when I see someone with a huge camera lens I'll have to start asking them who they are hehehe.

    Jill

  • In reply to birdiebeginner:

    The high shutter sped is definitely required with the in-flight shots, but for stationary birds the rule of thumb would be 1/300*1.5 (ie 300mm x crop factor of 1.5), so 1/450 or more likely 1/500th sec.  If you're not getting good shots at that speed due to hand holding difficulties, you might want to think about trying a monopod.  That will take the weight of the camera off your arms and makes it easier to be stable.  If changing to a better UV filter made a visible difference, I'd definitely try running without one for a while....

    I'm at Minsmere at some point most weekends, so bound to bump into you at some stage :-)  Whilst I can't help you with a 400mm lens to try on a Nikon, I can let you try one on a Canon camera so you can see if the extra focal length would make a difference to you

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    Find me on Flickr / All about your camera - The Getting off Auto Index

  • In reply to Whistling Joe:

    Hi-

    I shall be at Minsmere on May 28th with a small group- and carrying my Lumix as usual.

    :)

    S

    For advice about Birding, Identification,field guides,  binoculars, scopes, tripods,  etc - put 'Birding Tips'   into the search box