Inexpensive DSLR for Handheld Bird Photos

Discussion in 'Digital Discussion & Q&A' started by samdennis1675, May 21, 2010.

  1. samdennis1675

    samdennis1675 TPF Noob!

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    I am shopping for a DSLR on a budget for handheld bird/nature photos. I enjoy taking my Kodak z915 point & shoot camera with me when I go out in the woods for a hike. It has a 10x zoom with a max of about 300mm (equivalent). But it has no viewfinder and shutter lag, so I tend to get a lot of shots showing the branch the bird just flew off from, or sometimes a random branch somewhere near the bird.

    I want to get a smallish DSLR with a bit longer lens- more magnification but still hand holdable.

    I am thinking of the Olympus 510-520 because its small, used examples are inexpensive, and it has an inexpensive zoom available at about the right focal length.

    But also I understand that if you mount an old 35mm telephoto, it effectively doubles the focal length. So if I put an old 400mm 5.6 lens on it I would have an effective 800mm 5.6. Is that correct?

    Also I understand that the Image Stabiliser in that camera would work even on an ancient telephoto. I realize that f stop and focus would be manual.

    My questions are ; has anyone tried a similar set-up and did it work out well? Is there a better option out there for this application? Is there a cheaper one?

    I have seen these cameras out there for about 250-350 used, and I already have the telephotos from my old Konica film camera that could be modified to fit the Olympus.

    THanks in advance for your thoughts and advice.
     
  2. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    I'd say you've done your homework well.
     
  3. Phranquey

    Phranquey TPF Noob!

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    :thumbup:

    Except for one thing.... when you start getting out to those kind of focal lengths, a sturdy mount (tripod) for your camera is a must. When shooting small, fast moving objects like birds, good shots beyond 300mm are damn near impossible hand-held. The slightest movement, even at 400mm to 500mm, will pretty much render a potentially great shot to the recycle bin. I.S. may help a some, but at 800mm.... I doubt enough to go hand-held.
     
  4. samdennis1675

    samdennis1675 TPF Noob!

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    800 mm handheld would be pushing the envelope! Maybe if the shutter speed was high enough it would work, I don't know how effective the IS system is.

    Another question, would an older fixed telephoto lens tend to be sharper than a modern zoom telephoto? My 400 telephoto is a Soligor, roughly twenty years old.
     
  5. UUilliam

    UUilliam TPF Noob!

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    another thing to add to the shutter problems...

    you want a small camera which makes hand holding EVEN harder
    if you had a bigger and heavier camera, It would be easier to hold it steady for longer
    when you say budget, how much is budget?
    it may also be good to look into a sony DSLR as you can buy minolta lenses fairly cheap that can mount onto sony cameras.


    but from personal experience, you get what you pay for
    I bought a 500-1000mm lens for £120 thinking it was a bargain (which, yes it is.) but image quality is fairly low but still acceptable.

    if you want a cheap setup (hand held is quiteh ard though and it is all manual...)
    I recommend:
    Canon 10D / canon 20D (can buy from ebay for around £110 - about £200 for the 10D and about £200 - £300 for the 20D.)
    Opteka 500mm w/ 2x tele extender from amazon for £140

    they also sell a 650mm-2600mm which may interest you more however with likely a large quality trade off.

    I recommend mainly the 20D as it has better noise handling than most cameras meaning you can set it to about 3200 and still get a decent shot meaning it may be possible to hand hold it, also remember canons 1.6x sensor meaning instead of the 2600 you will get 4160mm
    [ame="http://www.amazon.co.uk/Opteka-650-2600mm-Definition-Telephoto-Cameras/dp/B001GKLLRY/ref=sr_1_18?ie=UTF8&s=electronics&qid=1274533261&sr=8-18"]Opteka 650-2600mm High Definition Telephoto Lens for: Amazon.co.uk: Electronics & Photo[/ame]

    total price (based on dearest setup) = ~£600 which is still cheaper than most cameras
    fyi ~ means "around".

    Note: reason lens is so cheap is that it is a mirror lens thus lower quality instead of using a range of optics to increase the focal length however I still feel it could be ideal for you, the 2600 might be too much, with that you could probably take a close up photograph of the moon and see moon people on it.
     
  6. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Actually you may want to investigate exactly what it is that IS does/does not. To give you some insight read this:

    http://www.thephotoforum.com/forum/...never-turn-vr-unless-its-actually-needed.html

    Generally, more modern lenses will be sharper.
     
  7. UUilliam

    UUilliam TPF Noob!

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  8. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Not really doubling the focal length but your are essentially cropping the final image down to an equivalent field of view to that of a lens 2x of the focal length. The reason why I am pointing this out is that old lenses are not perfect.... and using them on a 2x crop camera will also double those imperfections.

    For example, old lenses that do not correct for chromatic aberrations will sometimes show slight CA in print from a full frame or 35mm negative. It might be totally acceptable and not detract from the final image. Enlarge that print to twice the size and crop the middle portion of the frame and suddenly the CA is much more noticeable. The same will occur in-camera with a 2x crop sensor. A similar effect will also impact perceived sharpness. You might notice that a lens that was once producing sharp results on 35mm or full frame isn't as sharp when "enlarged" in-camera on a 2x crop sensor.

    One of my interests is collecting old Takumar (pentax) lenses and recently started to enjoy these lenses on a 2x crop sensor in a G1 m4/3rds format. I'm enjoying myself and I am pretty familiar with the glass that I've shot with in the past. At least for me, some lenses that I recall stopping down to letsay f/5.6 for sharp results and now I'm finding myself stopping that same lens to f/8. The differences between uncoated takumars, single coated takumars, and super-multi-coated takumars are more apparent on the m4/3rds sensor.


    Regarding focal length and shooting handheld. Of course, my G1 doesn't have in-body IS but I found that handholding a stopped down 200mm lens (FOV of 400mm) is already pretty difficult. I generally use at least a monopod. I have not tried my 300mm glass nor my monster 500mm f/4.5 Takumar yet. I would imagine it is next to impossible handheld.
     
  9. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Oh one more thing...

    If you are looking for an inexpensive supertelephoto solution that is compact, you might want to consider a mirror lens. DO YOU RESEARCH. There are a lot of crappy mirror lenses out there and the design of a mirror lens has some fairly significant short comings. On the other hand, a 500mm mirror lens will be far less than 1/4th the size and weight of a traditional 500mm refracting lens.
     
  10. samdennis1675

    samdennis1675 TPF Noob!

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    Yes, I do ! One of my existing lenses is a 500 mirror.
     

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