If you've decided to have a go at taking decent bird photos, there's a good chance you've already made some attempts using equipment you already own, such as an old film SLR camera or a compact digital camera. If you're a birdwatcher, you may have tried using your digital camera to take photos through your spotting scope (a technique known as 'digiscoping'). One of the best things you can do early on is to spend a lot of time photographing birds that are easy to get at: bird table visitors, wildfowl at your local park and birds in zoos or private collections.
If you're a birdwatcher, this is going to seem pretty boring compared with trying to photograph the rarer species you're used to seeking out, but it's important to understand that to take great bird photos, you need to be able to see the image, not the bird. Soft targets: Easily accessible birds provide great opportunities to develop your technique.
In your early attempts, the main things to concentrate on are mastering the basics of controlling your gear to get sharp, well-exposed, pictures of these easy subjects.
Framing: The original shot (above) doesn't work as a composition, because the bird is positioned too centrally and there's too much clutter in the frame, but cropping (below) shows the shot needn't be rejected. If there's something else in the image that's sharp, but the bird looks generally fuzzy, it's probably a focusing problem. You can use a tripod, monopod, beanbag or some other improvised support to reduce camera movement.
You can practise your 'long lens technique', with a gentle shutter action, to improve your ability to hand-hold your gear. You can use maximum aperture (and possibly a higher ISO setting) so that you can increase your shutter speed to freeze the movement better (eventually, you will want to use a low ISO setting to minimize noise in your images but, for now, this is less critical). If only the bird, or part of the bird, shows directional blur, this is caused by subject movement. Subject movement: The wire fence is sharp both horizontally and vertically, as are the bird's legs, but the body and head are blurred due to the bird twisting sideways during the exposure.
If your camera can display a histogram view of your images, check that the distribution of pixel brightnesses is as far to the right as possible, without any 'clipping' of the brightest values. Overexposure: The histogram shows the bunching of pixels on the right-hand side, with a large number of pixels having the highest brightness value. If your histogram is shifted too far to the right or left, try using a little bit of exposure compensation to overcome this. Correct exposure: The histogram shows a good distribution of pixels across all brightness values, with no pixels being 'clipped' at the highest and lowest brightness values. Once you've taken some shots that look good on your camera screen, transfer them to your computer and open them up in your image editor. Don't be tempted to spend too long at this stage trying to rescue images in your image editor. Once you've managed to take sharp, well-exposed images, the next step is to concentrate on the design of your images. The chances are, your early attempts had the bird positioned centrally in the frame, or with the bird's eye positioned under the central focusing point.
Subject placement: The original image (top) had a poor composition, but cropping in the image editor enables this to be re-framed. Pose: Try to capture the bird in an appealing or unusual pose, or doing something interesting, such as hunting, preening, displaying, flying or feeding. Background: Either go for an 'environmental shot' that depicts the bird in its typical habitat or try to get a uniform or uncluttered background so that the bird stands out clearly (long telephoto lenses make this much easier).
Simplicity: Where possible, reduce the composition so that it is made up of the minimum number of elements. Size: If you can get close enough to the bird, think about whether a close crop - getting the bird, or even just part of the bird, to fill the frame - would make the image more dynamic, or whether it's better to give the bird some surrounding space.
Aesthetics: Look for factors such as line, shape, pattern, colour and texture to give your image a more artistic feel.
Being a novice to photography I have found the wildlife part 1 tutorial very helpful, but where do I find part 2. Get TrustedReviews' award-winning reviews, opinions and advice delivered to your inbox for free! The main feature of a superzoom bridge camera is that in comparison to an SLR camera, you get a cheap telephoto lens that is very powerful even on their own. Both of the photos below were taken on safari in Zimbabwe with the Panasonic DMC-FZ18, the first is at full zoom with the Olympus 1.7x Tele Conversion Lens (TCON-17), the second is at full zoom without a Tele Conversion Lens.
The Photo above was taken at full zoom with the Olympus TCON-17 1.7x Tele Conversion lens fitted to my Panasonic DMC FZ19. The Photo above was taken with my Panasonic DMC FZ19 shortly after the first at full zoom (18x) without a Telephoto Conversion lens fitted. They both fit very easily with an adapter to all of the Panasonic FZ superzoom cameras, but can also be used with other superzooms as well.
In my opinion, but both will work equally well and I would just going with which one is cheaper at the time. For even more reach you may consider getting the Raynox DCR-2025Pro 2.2x Super Telephoto Conversion Lens. The Raynox 2025 Pro comes with a a LS-082 lens shade and has a 62mm thread and the kit comes with 43, 52, 55 and 58mm step up rings.
You could also get the DCR-2020PRO which is exactly the same quality as the 2025Pro but only comes with 2-adapter rings for 52mm and 58mm filter sizes and without the lens shade. There is no question that using a telephoto-conversion lens with you camera will bring you closer to the action. Don't disturb their natural behavior as you don't move into their comfort zone, so get more natural photographs. Fitting and using a telephoto lens to most superzoom bridge cameras is usually very simple.
With that knowledge you will be able to get a step-up or even sometimes step-down ring (they are sometimes called adapter rings) that will screw onto your camera lens, and then onto the telephoto conversion lens. Occasionally as is the case with most of the Panasonic FZ cameras including the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ100, FZ45, and FZ40, you may need to get a specific adapter from the manufacturer because the camera uses a non standard thread or uses a different type of system to attach lenses and filters to their lenses, or sometimes rather than just a ring, you need more of a tube, to allow for the cameras lens to extend into it when you zoom.


With most cameras, you don't have to do anything specific to the settings of the camera other than zoom in so that you avoid the tunnel effect. For an example of what you can expect, take a look at my gallery of photographs taken with the Panasonic DMC-FZ18 and the Olympus 1.7x Tele Conversion Lens (TCON-17). As I mentioned above, I have only recently purchased this lens and so I have not as yet had time to get back to Africa and take some real safari photos. Also take a look at these excellent photos below published on flickr using the Dcr-2025 Pro Tele lens.
Indeed I recently went on safari with the excellent Canon Legria HF M406 camcorder that comes with a 43mm threaded lens, making it very simple to attach to a teleconverter lens like the 2.2x Raynox 2025 Pro.
Apart from the extremely powerful zoom, one of the main advantages of buying a teleconverter lens and combining it with your SuperZoom bridge camera is cost.
In the USA, the Panasonic DMW-LT55 55mm 1.7x Telephoto Conversion Lens retails for around $200, the Olympus TCON 17 Converter costs around $95 and the Raynox 2025 PRO Lens costs about $140. Below are a few cameras that I have reviewed that are ideal to use with a teleconverter and take with you on safari. With a super powerful 24x optical zoom (35mm camera equivalent 600mm), much higher 14.1 MP image resolution, rotating LCD screen, movie recording in full HD and a 25mm ultra wide angle lens, this is the best superzoom compact digital camera on the market and an ideal safari holiday companion. If you do decide that a superzoom compact camera, rather than a digital SLR, here is our guide to the best compact super zoom safari cameras.
After your camera, a good pair of binoculars is crucial in getting the most out of your Safari Holiday.
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Aimed at professional studio and landscape photographers, the full-frame 36-Mpix D800E with its modified AA filter effectively increasing resolution over the standard D800 model is the closest 35mm full-frame camera yet to rival larger formats in rendering fine detail.
To shoot wildlife successfully, it’s likely you will need a fast shutter speed to prevent camera shake, which will be magnified when using longer-focal-length lenses, and to freeze the motion of the subject if it’s moving.
A popular focal length is 70-300mm, which is equivalent to 105-450mm on a camera with an APS-C-sized sensor. The downside to these budget lenses that cover such a wide range of focal lengths is that they aren’t particularly good optically and do not have especially fast apertures.
Although entry-level telephoto lenses have limitations in terms of image quality, they do allow users the ability to capture the shot – and that’s what is important. When your wildlife subject is fairly static and close, a fast prime lens is the ultimate tool for the job.
Full-frame DSLRs offer the very best in image quality, but which one is best suited to you? If so, you've probably concluded from the dot in the middle of the picture that you need something with more magnification. If so, you will have experienced the difficulties inherent in the technique: 'locking on' to your target, aligning camera and scope, minimizing equipment vibrations and timing the shot. Be aware, though, that it's a big subject and the people who have mastered it can be reluctant to share what they've had to learn the hard way. You need lots of practice taking photos of 'easy' birds, so that you will be able to make the most of the situation when you get close to something a bit more exciting.
Don't be disheartened if the images don't turn out as well as you'd hoped: look at each image critically and see if you can work out exactly why it didn't work out, then try the same shot again with the benefit of what you've learned. In this case, try the shot again, but concentrate on exactly where the autofocus point is located.
In this case, you can still try the third option above, but an alternative is to try to time your picture taking to coincide with the brief moments when the bird stops moving.
Try a few combinations of cropping, brightness levels adjustment and sharpening and see if there's anything you're really happy with. You can try submitting your images to one of the on-line forums that has photo critique facilities (e.g.
Even if it means losing a perfect photo opportunity, the interests of the birds and their environment must come first. This is a different (and less expensive) tele-converter that does not work with the FZ cameras (unless you use a different adapter). One of my main reasons for buying and using a SuperZoom camera, rather than a Digital SLR camera, is size (See why I recommend superzoom bridge cameras as the best cameras for safaris). If you are out in the field and need to swap back to using your camera, removing the telephoto lens, whilst easy, can be a little fiddly, however the same can be said for SLR cameras. The added power of the zoom means that there is much more chance of camera shake which your digital stabiliser may not be able to handle. The fist thing you need to find out is if your camera has a lens thread and what diameter that thread is.
For more on this take a look at my guide to Telephoto Conversion Lenses for the Panasonic FZ cameras. All the photos were taken in on a recent Houseboat Safari in Kariba (Zimbabwe), that I went on.
All photos are uncropped and were taken with the Panasonic DMC-FZ18 and the Raynox DMC-2025Pro Telephoto Lens. When you compare the total cost with that of buying an SLR with a large telephoto lens the saving is huge and whilst there is no doubting an SLR with a top of the range telephoto lens will take higher resolution photos, a bridge camera with a good teleconversion lens will be more than enough to satisfy the needs of most keen amateur photographers who don't have bottomless pockets.
Includes features to look out for and review of the top two cameras with a side by side comparison. If you’re undecided over which of the two models to choose, we’ve analyzed the image quality of the Nikon D800E with over 100 different lenses to discover how well this groundbreaking camera performs.
If you’re undecided over which of the two models to choose, we’ve analyzed the image quality of the Nikon D800E with 100 different lenses to discover how well this groundbreaking camera performs.


Subjects can range from the small, such as a ladybird, to those that are big and have to be photographed from a distance, such as an elephant – with all manner of other sizes in between. This focal-length range should cover a diverse range of subjects, from shooting small birds right through to capturing larger animals at a distance, such as deer. The ability to change focal lengths quickly allows the photographer to zoom and track the subject as it moves, which is very important for many types of wildlife shooting.
You will also have realized that the technique is more suited to capturing record shots than high-quality images.
The beauty of digital is that you can do all of this in the same session: find somewhere shaded where you can review your first shots on your camera's LCD screen. See if you can see why it caused the image to be under-exposed or over-exposed on this occasion. That said, even the best captures need some post-processing, so don't feel you're cheating by doing this. You can make a huge difference to the impact of your images simply by making sure the bird is positioned well in relation to the overall frame. My weapon of choice is my trusty Pentax K-7, which is a good camera for wildlife photography thanks to its weatherproofed body and extremely quiet shutter action.
Even without the Telephoto Lens, cameras like the Panasonic DMC-FZ100 and the Fujifilm FinePix HS20EXR DMC-FZ45 (FZ40) have very powerful telephoto lenses and are very compact especially when compared to an SLR camera. All the photos in the examples on this page were taken without a tripod, however for the very best results I would recommend using a tripod. In this case set the camera to any mode other Intelligent-Auto (iA), press the menu button on the back of your camera and scroll down to the 'Conversion' option, change it from off to 'T' for telephoto.
All three of these models are suitable for full-frame use, though they’re unlikely to be used with teleconverters. Long-focal-length lenses are most suited to wildlife photography, and typically focal lengths of 70mm (35mm equivalent) upwards are the most useful.
It’s best not to shoot at really high ISO sensitivities, as this will affect image quality, although this does depend on what camera you use.
Although a telephoto is less sharp than an equivalent-focal-length prime lens, the versatility of a very long telephoto significantly outweighs the disadvantages in a lot of situations.
Long telephoto lenses cost considerably more than entry-level zooms, but they produce far sharper images and boast faster autofocusing.
Prime lenses feature larger maximum apertures than their equivalent telephoto lenses, although they do cost significantly more. Also, a 300mm lens can be coupled with a 1.4x or 2x converter to give a magnified focal length, although this will reduce sharpness and lead to a drop in maximum aperture. A few bird photographers have mastered this technique to the extent that they can produce excellent images.
If you filled the frame with a white swan, your meter will have under-exposed this to make it a grey swan unless you added in some positive exposure compensation. You can achieve this either in-camera, by using alternative focus points (or manual focus) to place the bird in an interesting position, or at the post-processing stage by using your image editor to crop your pictures differently. A good telephoto or long zoom lens is obviously essential, preferably in the range of 300-500mm.The kind of super-fast zoom and telephoto lenses used by professionals cost many thousands of pounds, making them prohibitively expensive for most amateurs, but you should be able to get a basic 55-300mm zoom lens for your system for not much more than ?200. The addition of the Teleconverter lens does increase the size of the camera, but it must be said this is still much smaller and lighter than if you had the equivalent SLR camera with a Telephoto Lens. T his step is not vital, I think it only ensures that you don't take photos that will show the inside of the camera barrel – If you don't change the setting, just zoom in on your chosen subject. The best lenses for wildlife photogaphy have a long focal length, but also boasts the ability to shoot with a wide aperture.
If not, try zooming in a little bit and see if you can see a 'cropped' composition that would work.
The first of these can be very difficult to do in the heat of the moment in the field; the second can lead to reduced image quality if the cropped area is much smaller than full-frame. On an APS-C camera the crop factor makes the top end of these lenses equivalent to 450mm, plenty long enough for good wildlife shots. Prices for some top-end lenses can be staggering, but we’re going to show you a few that are reasonably priced. I'd recommend using both of these techniques in combination to get the composition you want. While they can't match the fast maximum aperture of professional equipment they are perfectly adequate in good light. Even so these lenses perform well, especially the two more exotic models where their performance at the longer focal lengths matters most. A long time favorite that recently underwent a revamp adding the latest VR (VRII) spec and Nano coating to improve contrast with digital sensors the $6,999 the AF-S 200-400mm f4 VR could never be described as cheap exactly, but it is good value compared with the firm’s super-telephoto primes and it has excellent sharpness and uniformity at the long-end. You can spot them by the narrow depth of field and tell-tale ring-shaped bokeh of the foreground and background detail.While a DSLR is obviously the best choice you can get good wildlife photos with almost any type of digital camera. This model adopts Super ED glass (found only on one other model in the firm’s range – the 200mm f2) and now includes a sonic type AF motor over its predecessor.
Many superzoom cameras have focal lengths equivalent to over 400mm, and with image stabilisation and very high resolutions they can be surprisingly good for wildlife photography. Optical performance is better at shorter focal lengths but it’s still very good at 400mm though some corner softness is evident on the D800E at full-aperture. They have the additional advantage of being much lighter and more portable than a DSLR kit, an important consideration when you may have to carry your gear several miles over open countryside.Owners of compact cameras can also get in on the action, thanks to a sub-category of wildlife photography known as “digiscoping”. They are powerful prismatic telescopes that look like one half of a big pair of binoculars, and are usually used on a tripod. There are several mounts available that allow compact cameras to be attached to the spotting scope pointing into the eyepiece, effectively using the scope as a powerful telephoto lens.



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