Camera Advice Needed Please

Hi all,

I'm looking for some advice on what camera I should buy on a pretty low budget circa £600.  

I'm a complete novice and very much a point and click person at present.  The reason I want the camera isn't to create artistic shots (though you never know if that's down the line in the future) but to take photographs of birds that I have no idea what they are so that I can study them when I get home to try to work it out.  I'm new to bird watching so really struggle with differentiating types of birds, like pipits and warblers for example.  The trouble is, when looking at them through binoculars they don't usually hang around long enough for me to leaf through my bird guide to work out what they are.  

I know nothing about cameras but want something with a decent zoom so I can see things as easily (if not easier) than through my binoculars. Appreciate £600 isn't very much in camera terms but any help is much appreciated. 

Thanks, 

TM

  • Your best bet will be to go to a decent camera shop and actually feel how they are in your hand. The salesman will be able to give you advice re the promotions and deals they can do. Also, they may have a 2nd hand range available too. When I started a few years ago I went with a Panasonic bridge camera to get the hang of it, before starting to fiddle about with DSLR and interchangeable lenses. A bridge camera is also lighter so more portable for any long walks you may do. There have been a few threads that will be worth searching on the site, with lots of good info in
  • I'll second the advice regarding visiting a reputable camera outlet.

    The big names, like Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Panasonic to name just a few, do have starter cameras within that budget, both as DSLR where you need lenses, and as bridge cameras.

    First, have a look at new and used. There can be some good deals to be had with used and often used cameras come with some sort of short term guarantee.

    You will have two main types of viewing, that is optical or digital.

    • Optical (the most ideal); the camera zoom sees what you see and any zooming in or out, is real. 
    • Digital (ideal for compactness); the camera will sample the whole area and as you zoom in or out, it homes in or out of the full field, and when you crop or zoom in, the image can become very grainy.
      • A typical examples of digital zoom cameras is the smart phone and many low budget compact cameras.

    • DSLR, digital single lens reflex; basically is a camera body, which is optical (like viewing through your binoculars) and requires lenses to facilitate taking photos.
      • The Single Lens Reflex part of the name signifies how it sees and takes photos, by using a mirror to send the image to the viewfinder where you can see the live image, and when you depress the shutter button, the mirror lifts and the camera sensors see the image which is then recorded in the memory card
    • Bridge camera; are a bridge between the compact cameras and the DSLR cameras.
      • They have the lens integral with the body and often have quite a generous zoom range.
      • They usually are optical zooms, though some will include a digital zoom in addition to the optical zoom.

    Very often a good camera retailer will offer a package deal, this could be a starter pack (I started with a starter pack, which was a lot cheaper than buying all items individually) camera and lenses, or camera and bag, or other items, another good plus for visiting a good camera shop.

    I've probably gone a little too complex, but hopefully it will help when you visit a reputable camera shop, and give you some questions to ask, where they will be able to explain face to face with you.

    Good luck with your purchasing, and let us know how you get on.

    Mike

    Flickr Peak Rambler

  • That's all fantastic advice, thanks guys. Camera shop sound ideal, however quite difficult to find one in South West Scotland

    Despite my other half trying to talk me into a DSLR, I'm tempted more by the bridge, mostly, as PimperneBloke mentions, due to the weight as I do go out for very long walks when bird watching.

    I just like to watch birds and can't see myself ever getting really into the photography side of things but just want images to scrutinise when I get home. I'm finding it really difficult separating certain species, especially females. I remember Bill Oddie talking about WBJs and that's what I classify half the birds I see as (is that a common birding term or just a Bill Oddie one?).

    Thanks again,

    TM
  • LBJs - Little Brown Jobs is certainly a well used term :-)
    A Bridge camera is certainly the simplest way to solve your problem, with cost and weight benefits over a DSLR and, as the others have said, it's always best to handle one if at all possible. If that's going to prove difficult, you're relying on reviews and they can be unhelpful sometimes. Manufacturers like to play top-trumps with specifications and that doesn't always tell you whether it will suit your needs. For example, a huge zoom sounds great, but will be more difficult to use (especially handheld) and it is impossible to make a large multiple zoom that is good throughout its range (and they tend to be iffy at the long end, which is what you're after with birds normally). Bridge cameras are not always easy to use with in-flight pictures either, they're better suited to stationary (or slow moving) subjects. Make sure to get one with a viewfinder (and use it) - trying to use the screen on the back is hopeless at a distance and in bright light!
    A DSLR (or mirrorless EVIL) is a higher performance bit of kit and will generally give higher quality results, but it's very easy (though not necessary) to spend 10x your budget on hardware. As you're buying into a system (ie different bodies, lenses and the like), additional thought should go into the purchasing decision (ie buy a Bridge and wish to replace it in a few years? No problem, it's a one-piece item. Buy a DSLR and want to replace it? You're probably going to want to stick to the same manufacturer so you don't need to replace all the lenses you've accumulated in the meantime). I've written a number of threads in recent years under the Getting off Auto banner all about using cameras (aimed at DSLRs, but the principles are sound for any camera). There's a link to the index in my footer just below, some of the info in them might be helpful.
    Finally, a cautionary tale. A life-long birder friend, never used or wanted a camera before, finally decided to get one. He chose a Panasonic Lumix bridge, nice little bit of kit and he's really pleased with the results. Then he had a trip to Bempton Cliffs and couldn't get a pic of a Gannet flying past. Now he wants to discuss DSLRs with me....
    Photographing wildlife does tend to suck you in :-)

    ___

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

  • Thanks very much Whistling Joe, all very helpful advice and I'll check out your link.
  • Brother in law has a Nikon P900 that is good enough to ID birds if you want to go down the bridge camera route..there are upgrades now.
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