FF DSLRs still dominate in bird photography

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Chris R-UK Forum Pro • Posts: 19,694
FF DSLRs still dominate in bird photography

I am posting this in the M4/3 forum because it might start a DSLR v Mirrorless war on the Open Forum. I hope that we can have a more rational discussion here.

I recently got a copy of the book "Bird Photographer of the Year 2019". This is one of the premier bird photography competitions with quite a large emphasis on the art side of wildlife photographer. The other main competition is that of the Audubon Society which is a little more traditional. These images would mostly have been taken in 2018.

The book contains about 240 images and I have done a rough analysis on the cameras and focal lengths used.

74% of the images were taken on FF DSLRs, 22% on APS-C DSLRs and 4% on M4/3 and drones. There isn't a single Fujifilm or Sony mirrorless image, and just one from a Sony A mount DSLT.

The manufacturer split is Canon 65%, Nikon 30% and the rest 5% (including a single shot from a Pentax).

There were four M4/3 images, all on Olympus E-M1.2, three with the 300mm f/4 and one with an adapted Canon 800mm lens (not Danny!). I think that that is a very creditable number, especially since these are the only images taken on mirrorless cameras.

The most common camera used is the Canon 1DX, Mk1 and Mk2, and the most common lens by far is the 500mm f/4, both Canon and Nikon. So the photographers whose work is represented are probably mostly professionals or very serious amateurs. So it isn't really a surprise that DSLRs predominate since many entrants will have a very high investment in both DSLR bodies and DSLR lenses. There are relatively few images taken with Nikon D500 bodies, which, considering its reputation, is a surprise and is perhaps another indication that there is probably a high proportion of professionals in the competition. There is also a high proportion of Canon 5D (Mk iv and others) and Nikon D8xx bodies, so high shooting rates and outstanding CAF are clearly not essential.

My real surprise is the total absence of any Sony or Fujifilm mirrorless images. Both companies had very capable bodies (Sony A9, A6500, Fujifilm XT-2) and 100-400mm lenses by the beginning of 2018, and I would have expected some images, especially from the A9. There are also a lot of Sony owners using adapted Canon lenses.

Sony has now a 400mm f/2.8 and a 200-600mm, so maybe things will change substantially in the next couple of years. The Nikon Z and Canon EOS-R mirrorless are also likely to represented to some extent next year.

Does anybody have any other comments?

For the record, the focal length breakdown was as follows (FF equivalent focal lengths and TCs taken into account):

  • Up to 200mm: 20% (quite a lot of macro and wide angle shots)
  • 201-400mm: 21%
  • 401-600mm: 32%
  • Over 600mm: 27%
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Chris R

 Chris R-UK's gear list:Chris R-UK's gear list
Olympus E-M1 Olympus E-M1 II Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 Panasonic Lumix G 20mm F1.7 ASPH Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm F1.8 +4 more
Nikon D500 Olympus E-M1 Sony a6500 Sony a9
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