SLR all the way

I spent this weekend dog/house-sitting at my parents' place in Orange. My mother got a Nikon D5000 with VR 55-200mm zoom lens for Christmas, which I decided to test out briefly on Saturday morning. Having never shot with an SLR, I was curious to see what the "experience" was like - i.e. how cumbersome it was to carry, if/how it affected my actual birding, and what is a 200mm zoom capable of?

Long story short, even after spending just an hour with it, I'm convinced that I need something more than my current digiscoping setup. I was in denial for a while there, but now I know.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Dark-eyed Junco in flight

Turkey Vulture from a considerable distance

I could do without one more thing to carry on me while birding, but the ability to photograph fast-moving passerines or birds in flight was a lot of fun. I am become more and more disenchanted with 'digibinning,' which is really starting to frustrate me.

I'm not ready to buy anything of my own yet, but at least now I know what I'm missing. If I was having fun with a 200mm lens, I'd have a blast with a 400mm.

One other option I'll have to rule-out before such a big purchase is the capability of those 'superzoom' cameras, although I have a feeling that I'd be disappointed for two reasons: they probably do not digiscope as well as my small P&S, and they probably produce lower-quality bird images than a DSLR. The superzooms sound like more of a happy medium between the two options, rather than doing one thing particularly well. But I shouldn't knock 'em until I try 'em.

- Nick


  1. That's so funny -- My mom got an SLR for Christmas too, and I spent a good portion of winter break experimenting with it. (I'd never used one before either). They are incredible cameras, but I think there's also something to be said for the portability and adaptability of P&S's too. Not that I wouldn't get a DSLR if I could afford it, but P&S is the next best thing I guess. :-)

  2. Superzoom is very much second rate, maybe good for sports photography etc, but the sensor is too small for the lens to be able to pick up birds on a busy leafy background for example. If you can, borrow one first before spending your money on it. If you get a BlackRapid Strap (which leaves your hands free) for the DSLR you'll have no trouble carrying it all day.

  3. Thank you both for the comments, very useful.


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