Photography

Choosing the Perfect Camera Gear for a New Bird Photographer

By May 8, 2019 July 6th, 2019 No Comments

Ideal Waterproof Camera Gear Bagpack

If you are the one who goes bonkers over the stunning images of birds and wildlife on social media and is planning a maiden voyage to the jungles of South America to discover them first hand, here is a detailed guide for you to choose an effective camera gear. This will be that camera you will develop an inseparable bond while learning the ABC’s of bird photography and that will surely be a memorable journey. You must choose your first camera gear wisely and this expert guidance will help you to make the right choice. The whole idea of this blog is that you get to know about what beginner wildlife gear you can buy that will cost you something under $3000USD.

Many beginners who are opting for this intimidating hobby of bird photography often ask for recommendations for good camera gear to start with. Though you can use any gear as a novice there are some better-quality camera gear kits you can opt for to get superior results. It is tough to give a definite answer to this question as different people will be comfortable with different brands and technology. Canon might be suitable for someone while another person might prefer Nikon more. Well, both give great results, but what you should focus on whether they are user-friendly and serves your purpose of picking p the basic techniques of bird and nature photography with it. Let’s go ahead with the recommendations that will enable you to make a great choice which will be affordable too.

Your first concern must be which camera body should I choose? Experts point out that when you are just starting out with photographing birds in the wild don’t opt for a very high end or mid-range camera body instead pick something that is simple and affordable to train your hands on. Remember that you can even learn a lot on your beginners or entry-level camera. The best idea is to test the camera body yourself before purchasing it. You can even buy a beginner’s camera which is on sale or maybe rent it. The Canon 7Dii which comes with 1.6 crop factor which is perfect for bird photographers. For those who don’t want to use the crop factor can choose the Canon 6D II. If you are opting for Nikon, then the D500 is a versatile option when it comes to crop sensor models and touchscreen features that are not there in Canon. You can also shoot images in 4K with the Nikon camera body.

Camera Body

NIKON D500

CANON 7Dii

While the camera body is an essential part of your kit, you should place your bet and savings on the Camera Lens. Though there are several options when it comes to the zoom lens in the market to choose from, the best idea is to select a fixed focal length lens. The Zoom lens makes bird photography very convenient and thereby you comprise on the quality, also you are not learning the right technique of bird photography. The fixed focal length lens will ensure that you choose quality over quantity and learn the correct skill. You will get good lenses in both Canon and Nikon and in other brands. Here are the recommendations-

There are two superlenses in Canon itself that you can choose from as a novice- Canon 300mm F4 IS L and Canon 400mm F5.6L lenses. These sharp and light lenses come with a teleconverter that gives you a reach of over 500mm on a crop body. If you are looking out for a lens with Zoom option, then Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 is a good choice. Canon 300mm f/4 IS a very versatile lens especially when you are clicking a large subject or shooting from behind a raptor blind or any covered shelter. This lens is not only light and handy it is also perfect for freezing the birds in flight, something birders love to do. Since this lens has a close focusing distance of 1.5m it can be used for macro photography as well.

Canon Lens

CANON ZOOM LENS

CANON ZOOM LENS OPTION 2

If Nikon is your go-to brand then you can choose between NIKKOR 300MM F4D IF-ED and the NIKON 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR AF-S as the zoom alternative. The VR feature in the lenses reduces the vibration thus cutting out the visual ‘noise’, this ensures your images are clear and sharp.

Pure Black Colour Camera Lens

If you are choosing any other brands, then those two lenses would be the best deal-
SIGMA 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM
Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD

TAMRON LENS

Teleconverters are nothing but focal length multipliers. It is attached between the camera and the lens which helps one to get an additional reach. The teleconverters help the bird photographer score brownie points while shooting in the tropical jungles. The two great options are Canon Extender EF 1.4X III and AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III. The Canon 1.4x converter is a great option for shooting wildlife and birds as it has an anti-glare coating and helps to maintain an optimum color balance.
For a wide angle lens you can use the one that comes with your camera kit, to begin with, once you pick up the skills you can always invest in a high end one.

Canon Teleconverter

Nikon Teleconverter

Though natural light is always desirable like the warm tones’ sunlight imparts to the subject, but in a tropical forest with cloud cover, it is next to impossible to get natural light. This is when artificial light or an external flash unit comes in aid to get very natural images of birds. The flash unit serves as fill-light to capture the light in the eye of the subject here bird. The high-end flash units help to control the other flash units through a wireless transmitter, that is not what you need at this moment. A basic flash unit is the need of the hour to learn its correct operation. Canon 430EX II is a versatile flash unit as you can use it during the multi-flash Hummingbird photography session and when there is poor light. You can also use a Canon 580EXII as a backup. You should keep a backup Flash unit in your gear bag. A Nikon SB-700 is also a good choice if one is looking out to use it for multi-flash Hummingbird photography or otherwise.

Canon Flash

Canon Flash

Nikon Flash

A tripod is a must for all nature, wildlife and bird photographer alike as getting stable and sharp images without it is next to impossible. Since the tripods are heavy and cumbersome many bird photographers hesitate to carry them but believe it or not a tripod helps to achieve that razor-sharp image. You can compare any image you have taken with and without the tripod and you can tell the difference. While choosing tripods make sure that it can support the weight of your camera body, the longest lens, and the flash. Choose one that is sturdy so that when you upgrade your lenses it can come of great use in the future. While choosing the tripod also make sure it is at your eye level without the use of any extension. The tripod should have a decent ball head and a firm base. Don’t opt for a cheap one instead invests in a quality product to get the best results. Lens plates are of great use if you want to attach the lens to the quick release tripod heads as this ensures flexibility.

Camera Tripod

Camera Tripod

You must invest in a good waterproof and roomy camera gear bag to fit in the camera body and the longest lens along with other essential parts. Throw in some extra silica sachets in it to keep your camera dry. The other important accessories you might need on the field are- the Powerex Imedion Batteries, Powerex 8 Cell charger, Tiffen Circular Polarizer, Sandisk extreme compact flash cards (carry tons of them) and a field guide by the National Geographic. These accessories will help you while shooting birds and wildlife almost anywhere.

Hope this step by step guide will clear all your doubts and misconceptions about what camera gear to carry on the field. So go ahead and get ready for the next trip, happy packing!

Supreet Sahoo

Supreet Sahoo

Supreet Sahoo is the founder of Tropical Photo Tours: professional photography guided tours, designed to help you get the best out of your camera whilst exploring wonderful cities with a local. A professional photographer for over a decade Supreet enjoys shooting the surreal by mixing dreamlike qualities into his conceptual images.