I know what I want my first real camera system to do.... suggestions please


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Jan 27, 2012
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Currently I own what I would call a Bridge camera.. Im learning how to take proper photos and im enjoying it. I have a Fujifilm Finepix S3300. I am an avid outdoors-man, birder and hunter. When I make the jump to my first DSLR system I know what I want it to do. I want to be able to take pictures of wildlife at distance. Particularly ducks and other birds sitting still and flying. With my current equipment I find my self in the woods or a marsh under gunned and unable to take the photos im could be.

So when I buy my first DSRL I will be also buying a long range telephoto lens. I am interested in suggestions in the most economical way to put this camera together. The camera itself does not have to be any fancier than it has to be. In Other words what Camera brand or model lends itself to the least expensive long range telephoto lens set up.. Im not worried about weight or using third party equipment. Im also not going pro any time soon.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
Long range is relative and depends on subject size. Even with a relatively long lens on a crop-sensor camera you are going to have to get pretty close to ducks to get good shots.

This Coot was shot with a 500mm lens at 33', and is relatively uncropped.

AS to what gear you choose, most newer bodies by Nikon or Canon would be a good choice.

Crop sensor over full-frame = You'll get 30% more range from a crop sensor using the same lens

Good high-iso performance = If you're shooting birds in flight you'll need a fast shutter speed, telephoto lenses are typically not very fast (unless you spend a small fortune). Good high-iso performance will allow you to make up for the slower telephoto lens.

High FPS = at least 5fps, preferably faster

I'd suggest the nikon D7000, it has all the above. The D5100 would be a cheaper option, but it's sort of slow (4fps).

Whatever you get the lens I'd suggest is the Sigma 50-500mm DG OS HSM. Not as good as the ideal birding lens: the 600mm f4 AF-S VR, but that lens cost $10,000
... Whatever you get the lens I'd suggest is the Sigma 50-500mm DG OS HSM. Not as good as the ideal birding lens: the 600mm f4 AF-S VR, but that lens cost $10,000
The Coot in my post was shot with the Sigma 150-500 at 500mm (not the 50-500). I only wanted the long end and the 150-500 is about $1,000 (MSRP) less than the 50-500.
Well, your current camera has a 24-620 mm lens.

To have an improvement on that is mostly going to be a issue of speed, not length.

You'll get partly there simply by going to an SLR. The larger sensor gives better images when the sensitivity is cranked up, because the image doesn't have to be enlarged as much.

If you can afford an SLR with a full frame sensor, that is the way to go. If not, get one with an APS-C sensor and then get the Sigma 100-500 (?) lens.

Another option that is often forgotten is the mirror lens. I had one for my old Pentax K1000, and I LOVED it. It was a fixed f/8, so I alway shot it with fast film.

If you had that on a digital SLR body with the APS-C sensor and sensitivity set to about 800, I think you could do quite well on a budget. It would come out to about 750 mm. With digital, you have the option to change the ISO on the fly, so these are even more attractive than before.

A tripod should be considered required.
I'd say, buy a Canon APS-C body, and look for good, used glass to put on it, via adapters. Canon will accept like seven different lens system lenses. Older, manual focus Nikkors will work well on a Canon 40D or 50D body. You will want a LONG lens, like a 500mm f/4 Nikkor-P, or Sigma 500mm f/4.5, or maybe an older Canon EF 500mm f/4.5-L. All of those lenses tend to be in the $2k range or so,depending. "Wildlife at a distance" is sort of like "Crystal champagne", or "Rolex watches"...it doesn't come cheaply...and what I am suggesting is the "budget" route.
Canon has the added advantage of their £1K line of longer lenses - a 300mm f4 IS (bit short but works well with a 1.4TC for a 420mm) - a 400mm f5.6 L (sharpest of this set) and 100-400mm. Something where Nikon (in new) has only their 300mm f4 as an option.

If you opt for Sigma 3rd party options you can go Canon or Nikon equally (since Sigma make options for both).

Derrel has also listed out options for going into older glass which might yet be cheaper still, though will often have you working only with manual focusing.
You've gotten a lot of suggestions here but you really need to put up a budget if you want more concise suggestions. From what I've read you've gotten set-ups ranging from around $1500 to closer to $15000 suggested so far. I can tell you that I like to shoot wildlife and I wanted to stick with Nikon lenses at first so I have a 300mm f/4 with a 1.4X teleconverter. Essentially that gives me a 420mm f/5.6 lens on a crop body so equivalent to 630mm full frame and I still wish I had more reach. Once you learn how to use the 300mm f/4, it's a good "budget" option for what you're looking at though I've heard a lot of good things about the Sigmas as well and almost went that route myself.
I suggest the 7D. It has the best AF system that you will find on a non-1D line camera. Plus, it's a crop body so you get that extra reach from your teles.

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Thanks for all the good information. I have started looking into all of the suggestions. The Budget well will be low 1000 to 1500 for the body and lenses. Im into used or other options. I realise that's incredibly low but I need to start the learning proses before i spend the rest of a fortune on the new hobby. thanks

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