Playing with a new camera…

At the weekend I had a trip to Budby Common to see the Parrot Crossbills. After a while they gave really great views, the showiest crossbills I’ve ever seen!

I was rather disappointed by the photos I’d managed to get. Although I never consider myself a photographer by any stretch, my old FZ18 just didn’t give a good sense of just how great watching these birds close up was. As well as this it’s showing its age, and the battery’s stopped holding its charge.

I decided a while ago that unless I had a windfall I’d never bother with a DSLR. I can’t afford a set up that would allow decent bird photos, and as I usually bird on foot I would rarely take a cumbersome set up out with me. So another bridge camera it was… And my how they’ve come on since I bought the FZ18! After a bit of deliberation I took the plunge, and went to John Lewis and bought a Canon SX50.

Yesterday I had my first go with it outside the house, and I’m impressed. The 50 x optical zoom in twice the reach the FZ18 could get to on “extra optical” zoom. On top of this is up to 200 x (!) on digital zoom. Incredibly the stabilisation in the camera means it’s not hard to use handheld, even on ridiculous zooms.

I had an hour round Weston and Crookes Valley Parks on my lunch hour and stuck primarily to two modes – Auto and Continuos HQ. The day was relatively overcast, with the odd sunshine poking through. Below are some of the results.

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The detail you can get on fairly close birds is brilliant…

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And even in poor light quite decent record shots can be had…

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I can see the ‘Continuous HQ’ mode, in which a rapid fire of 10 shots is taken, being useful in a few instances, as it even means you manage to get a shot of a Long-tailed Tit pointing in the right direction…

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But it’s the zoom that impresses most – this Redwing was right at the top of a tall tree, a mere dot to the naked ID, only identifiable by call…

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…and this Magpie was at a comparable distance. Not great shots, but it shows that perfectly ID-able record shots can be taken at quite phenomenal distances. I’ve no excuse for not photographing a potential rarity now, should one ever show up!

All in all I’m very happy. It obviously has its limitations… It’ll clearly lead to the best photos in strong light. It’s not too comfortable to hold compared to the Lumix, and I was getting slight hand cramps after an hour. From what I’ve played with, the manual focus is fiddly (but not as much so as the FZ18). But for a birders’ pocket it’s amazing – to get perfectly IDable shots at such distance is brilliant. I can even see many instances where the zoom will be useful to get a shot to confirm IDs when a scope isn’t to hand.

I’ve much to learn, and many more settings to play with, and look forward to finding out what else this camera can do. Hopefully there’ll be enough breaks in this murk and rain to do that soon…

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