If you’ve been trying to take pictures of birds for a while, you know the disappointment of finding blurred and badly lit images after you come home. You don’t need to enroll in an online class as a novice bird photographer. Getting the right gear might just be the answer to these problems. And that’s what we will help you with today.
Best Camera for Beginner Birdwatchers
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The best camera for beginner birdwatchers is the Canon M50! I’ve been personally using this camera for about 1 month and I absolutely love it. If you are on a budget and want a camera to start documenting your bird adventures then this is the one. My top reasons for selecting this camera is its versatility and ease of use.
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Photos Captured with the Canon M50
The main reason the Canon M50 is my top choice is the versatility. This small camera packs a huge punch with a 24.1 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, that delivers brilliant detail in photography but also incredible cinematic moments in video. Video capabilities are great for vlogging, you’ll be able to shoot not only in 1080p but also in 4k resolution.
Size is also key, when bird watching you have to often times travel to where the birds live to capture them. Some DSLR camera can be quite bulky and get annoying during longer trips. However, the M50 is small enough to carry around your neck or carried in a small camera bag.
Ease of Use
Canon is known for their easy “Apple” like operating systems. The M50 has that same system but also includes a super beginner mode that explains and walks you through every camera option.
2. Nikon Coolpix L340 20.2 MP Digital Camera
There is no way you can escape a Nikon camera, no matter what the purpose of your photography. The same is true for birdwatching. This 20.2 megapixel digital camera is known for its ability to take high-resolution pictures from a distance thanks to its 28x optical zoom feature. Its telephoto lens is capable of reducing vibration impressively which means you get high-quality pictures and videos even if you are at a distance from the action.
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This Coolpix camera also has a high-end grip which makes it easy to use the camera in general. And in case you are not sure about the individual settings for a frame, there are 16 “scenes” for you to choose from.
- Product Dimensions: 4.37 x 3.28 x 3 inches
- Item Weight: 15 ounces
- Screen Size: 3 inches
- Viewfinder: Fixed LCD
- Optical Zoom: 28x
- Fine Zoom: 56x (dynamic)
- Video Resolution: 720p with sound
- Picture Resolution: 20.2 megapixel with a CCD sensor
- Frame Coverage: About 99 percent horizontal and vertical (when compared with the actual photo)
- In the Box: 4 AA size LR6/L40 alkaline batteries, lens cap LC-CP25 (along with a cord), USB cable UC-E16 and a camera strap
- Offers sharp and bright pictures
- Makes it possible to take HD videos
- Comes with image stabilization
- Affordable and compact
- Cannot customize the shutter speed
- Does not offer external memory
3. Panasonic Lumix FZ300 Long Zoom Digital Camera
The second one on our list is a digital camera from Panasonic. The brand is well known for offering high-quality multimedia devices for professional use. This particular device lets you shoot pictures and videos in 4K at 30 frames per second. You can also extract high-quality pictures from the video because of its clarity.
This camera has a 24x long zoom option while the aperture is kept a constant at f2.8. This means you can shoot in low lighting conditions with ease. And even though the shutter speed will be low in these conditions, you won’t get blurry pictures.
This camera is also known for its high-speed capture which keeps the images and videos sharp. It also has a 5-axis correction feature which will reduce the blur during your motion photography endeavors.
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And if you are shooting in rough weather, you have a camera that is dust and splash-proof.
- Product Dimensions: 4.61 x 5.18 x 3.6 inches
- Item Weight: 1.52 pounds
- Screen Size: 3 inches
- Viewfinder: Electronic
- Optical Zoom: 24x with f2.8 for low lighting photoshoots
- Lens: Leica DC Vario Elmarit 25-600mm
- Video Capture Resolution: 2160p
- Picture Resolution: 12.1 megapixel with MOS sensor
- Shoots photos and videos in 4K at 30 frames per second
- 5-axis image stabilizer plus
- Compensates for blur when shooting in motion
- Offers diffraction compensation which keeps the image quality crisp
- Splash and dustproof camera body
- Rear monitor can tilt and swivel and is also touch controlled
- Has a level shot function that takes care of tilted frames by recognizing and aligning with the horizontal line
- Uses Depth From Defocus (DFD) technology which registers the foreground and the background and focuses on the subject right away
- Can be operated remotely by enabling Wi-Fi and installing the Panasonic app on your smartphone
- Remote access makes it possible to share pictures on social media instantly
- Shoots pictures and videos in 4K
- Has multiple 4K modes to make photography easy
- Good in low lighting conditions
- Offers image stabilization
- Has high-speed autofocus ability
- Flexible, touch-enabled electronic monitor
- Thumbwheel focus is not placed well
- Not very compact in size
4. Canon PowerShot SX540 HS Digital Camera
If there’s a Nikon in the mix, rest assured that there is a Canon too. The rivalry exists for a reason and in this context, the SX540 HS will make the case for this giant.
This camera has a high-power zoom which is only one reason for the camera’s top-tier performance. It is easy to use and is versatile enough for beginners and those with mid-level experience to use for activities like birdwatching, which needs technical finesse.
To begin with, the 50x zoom will make sure no matter where the subject of your photograph is, it gets captured flawlessly. The 24-200 mm lens also has a little something to do with that. The camera also comes with an Improved Zoom Framing Assist which will lock the faraway subjects to give you a clear picture.
You can shoot pictures and videos in 1080p full HD mode. At 20.3 megapixel capacity, you get decent pictures in low lighting conditions too. That’s because this camera comes with a highly sensitive CMOS sensor and a DIGIC 6 image processor.
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You can connect this computer wirelessly, which means sharing your pictures and videos to other devices is really easy. It also has a face ID feature which improves the frame when you are capturing multiple subjects at a distance.
The body of the camera is ergonomic and has a grip which makes it easy to take steady images and videos. It also has an intelligent IS which applies image stabilization. This comes in handy in many difficult shooting conditions when you don’t have a tripod with you.
- Product Dimensions: 1.85 x 4.7 x 3.2 inches
- Item Weight: 15.6 ounces
- Screen Size: 5 inches
- Viewfinder: Fixed LCD
- Optical Zoom: 50x
- Picture Resolution: 20.3 megapixels with CMOS sensor
- Video Capture Resolution: Full HD 1080p at 60p stereo sound
- Optical Sensor Resolution: 12 megapixel
- Comes with a DIGIC 6 image processor for better quality images
- Has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC
- Fitted with the HF-DC2 high power flash
- Has a zoom framing assist with a lock feature to recognize the subject
- Allows you to record up to 4 seconds of video before capturing the image for a video recap of the day
- Makes it possible to compile the visuals of the day for a highlight reel
- Powerful zoom and image stabilization features
- Ergonomic body and grip
- Impressive resolution even in low-lighting conditions
- Built-in Wi-Fi and NFC technology
- Allows remote shooting once you download and connect with the app
- Large LCD screen for previews
- A bit on the heavier side
- Might need a spare battery for professional shooting assignments
5. Sony HX400V Compact Digital Camera
And finally, when we are talking about digital cameras, we can hardly ever leave Sony off the list. The HX400V is a compact point-and-shoot camera that is known to deliver on the promise of steady shots. It has an Optical SteadyShot feature which reduces the blur to its minimum. There is also an Easy Mode feature which makes it easy to use the functions in the Menu.
This camera also has several picture effects built into it which makes it easier to capture bright and colorful pictures.
It has up to 50x optical zooming ability, which means you get sharp images and it also enables video in full HD. The 20.4-megapixel shots make it a perfect fit whether you are shooting birds or sports. In low lighting conditions, the CMOS sensor will make sure the picture quality is intact.
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The battery life for still images is about 190 minutes, which is about 300 pictures. For movies in actual shooting mode, it is about 50 minutes and in continuous shooting, it is about 85 minutes.
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 4.06 x 3.67 inches
- Item Weight: 1.46 pounds
- Screen Size: 3 inches
- Viewfinder: Electronic
- Optical Zoom: 50x
- Lens: ZEISS clear image zoom
- Video Capture Resolution: 1080p
- Picture Resolution: 20.4 megapixel with R CMOS sensor
- Focus Range: 0.39 inches to infinity; 7.87 feet to infinity (T)
- Can shoot still photos in 4K quality
- Enables panoramic recording with Intelligent Sweep (IS) that supports the 360-degree format
- Has a lock feature for moving subjects and can track subjects for video with Motion Shot feature
- Can connect to smartphones via Wi-Fi and NFC3 technology
- Pictures can be GPS tagged
- Shoots very smooth pictures and videos
- Great sensor for low light shooting
- Can be connected to smartphones with the app
- Locks subjects for autofocus while shooting still images
- Tracks moving subjects for high-quality video output
- A bit more expensive than some others in this category
Cameras for Birdwatching: A Buyer’s Guide
Here are a few factors that determine whether your camera is good enough or not for birdwatching. Take a look.
This is an important number for a lot of people because it is associated with the quality of the picture. Now, that has improved a great deal over time as you can see in the specs of some of the cameras above. And this is not limited to cameras alone because we now have smartphones with the same abilities. But some cameras with the same MP rating have different outputs. This is because of their sensors.
Two cameras with the same MP rating but different sensors can make all the difference. For instance, a full-frame sensor gives you an output that is 2.4 times larger than say the APS-C sensor. This means the full-frame sensor takes in more light than the latter. This will give you dynamic and better images, especially when the lighting is not ideal. In bird photography, you want a larger sensor because it captures the vibrance of the colors you encounter.
Aperture is all about the window through which light enters the camera and is measured in f-stops. So, f/2.8 is on the lower side of things which means the lens opens more. This allows more light in and that makes low-lighting photography easier.
Ease of Use
Digital cameras win this battle often because when you are out birdwatching, you don’t want to be lugging a DSLR with you unless you’re a pro. Novices also want decent images without having to learn about lenses and how to change them for the best shot. So, bulky DSLR cameras might not work for everyone.
Now, point-and-shoot cameras don’t let you change lenses, which does not work for expert photographers. But they do have good zoom capabilities and also a decent f-stop, which allows you to take pictures when there isn’t enough lighting.
This means you need to decide your level of expertise, flexibility with settings and of course the budget.
You need to get the subject of the photo as clearly as possible. This can be tricky with objects like birds that are often in motion. In these situations, autofocus helps a great deal, especially if you are new to bird photography.
Every camera has a specific number of autofocus points which help it capture the subject in its entirety. This works both horizontally and vertically at the same spot for accuracy. Some camera models can even track a moving subject.
Beginners need these features in bird photography to make sure the pictures are crisp and in focus.
When you are using the incredibly powerful zoom feature on your camera, you will notice that your hands need to be steadier than usual. It gets worse as you keep zooming in.
And it’s very difficult to get a stable image without a tripod, which is not always an option in the wild. That’s where this feature comes in handy. This IS feature makes sure that a non-stable image is still as clear as possible through a little bit of cropping and sometimes an adjustment in colors.
The Bottom Line
Once you understand the features you want and the specs of your camera, adjusting its settings and using what the manufacturer has provided is actually quite simple. Turns out it only takes a little bit of research and a decent budget to get there. Good luck, shutterbugs.