Affordable setup for beginning bird photography?

Started 2 months ago | Questions thread
Stephan K
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Re: Affordable setup for beginning bird photography?
In reply to orange dog, 2 months ago

orange dog wrote:

Stephan K wrote:

I believe the best dedicated system for birding is the Nikon 1 with a 300mm and TC1.4. For a given bird image size of say 5mm on the sensor (whether Nikon 1 or D800, the principle remains the same, with the same lens and same subject, the image size of the bird on the sensor will be the same size), the Nikon 1 will get more decent pixels onto that 5mm than virtually any other camera. Google moon shots taken with the Nikon 1 (or Pentax Q), and you will see far better pics than with the heavyweights.

Hi Stephan,

Thank you for your reply! Yours is the second recommendation for the Nikon 1 + 300mm combination (Andy Munro also suggested it here: http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/53988318 ) so I'll have to add it to the list of major contenders. I think it would be a relatively light system to carry around! Do you mean the V2 or V3 or another version? Do you know if the V2 would be good enough? It's less expensive at this point ($500 vs. $900).

I don't know enough about the different models to comment. All I would say is a V is essential for the viewfinder. The 18.4mp V3 should be better for this application than the 14.2mp V2.

I'm wondering if the smaller sensor size might reduce the image quality (e.g. larger pixel elements being able to gather more light), but if I'm understanding correctly, you're implying that it absolutely doesn't. It has 18.1 MP on a 13.2x8.8mm sensor, which would be equivalent in density to about 57 MP on a 24.5x15.5 sensor! I assume there are different sensor qualities independent of the number of pixels, since better cameras seem to pack more pixels into a given sensor size. I seem to have picked up a prejudice that larger sensor area is better somewhere in my research, though.

For the say 5mm high bird image on the sensor of different cameras I used in my example, the Nikon 1 pixel density will give you the detail that is crucial for birds, with what I think is an acceptable trade-off in noise. As you point out, it has the equivalent density of a 57Mp (60Mp by my calcs using 18.4Mp) crop sensor.

I've read reviews that said a lower focal length can out-perform a longer one if the optics are right. Would the f/4 300mm be ok? It's way less pricey than the f/2.8 but with a 1.4x converter, if I'm doing the calculation correctly, the f ratio goes to the autofocus limit of 5.6. Do you know if it would still work with a 1.7x converter? That would make it f/6.8 which is above the limit.

Thanks again!

The 300mm ED-IF AF-S with the 1.4x converter seems by consensus to be the sweet spot for excellent performance vs price. However, in my research I found that (leaving aside focus issues for the moment), the 1.7x and 2x produce progressively better images when all cropped to the same subject. I saw this clearly illustrated by tests on a website I now forget. Each step up loses about 5%, 12% and 9% respectively, and gains 40%, 21% and 18% respectively due to magnification, for a net gain in resolution from baseline (no TC) of about 35%, 53% and 74% respectively. You should use the latest (II/III) versions for best performance. However, focus issues if you need AF will limit you to the TC1.4 and f5.6, and most people seem to use this combination. If you google Mansurov photographylife (one word) Nikon teleconverters, the first result is an excellent article by Nasim Mansurov on Nikon TC's. On your last comment re f5.6 focussing limit, I wonder if there is some flexibility in the Nikon 1 system to cope with the f6.3/f7.1 of the TC1.7.

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