Need some input on choosing a birding camera and lens

Started May 7, 2021 | Discussions thread
saaber1 Senior Member • Posts: 2,164
I would go with a used d500 plus sigma 150-600s or similar lens

Sythas wrote:

First a bit of back story, for over a 10 years I've been shooting with Pentax. Mostly with positive experiences. I've thought about switching to Nikon before but decided to stick with Pentax. The reason then was to go full-frame which Pentax didn't had back then. In that time my focus was mostly on fashion/portrait photography.

Nowadays I hardly do any fashion/portrait but am shooting a lot of birds. For this I'm still using my Pentax gear and that's working fine(ish).

So why a change? First of all I've had a lot of SDM failures on the 50-135 and 60-250 (multiple times on both lenses). So i sold the 50-135 and now have a crippled 60-250. For birding I now have an old Sigma 50-500, screwdrive lens which is also starting to fail. The lensmount is becoming wobbly and loses connection with camera from time to time. So a new lens is needed and Pentax offers a 150-450 and the 560. Those are quite expensive and to be honest I have my doubts about the reliability. Another issue is autofocus, I miss a lot of (bird) shots due to the slow Pentax autofocus.

So a (partial) switch to Nikon is now something i want. My first idea was to go for the D500+grip with the 200-500 5.6. But the quality control issues are bugging me. That is exactly the reason why I'm not choosing for Pentax. So I'm considering other lenses like:

  • The 500 5.6 PF, but this exceeds my budget (Same goes for a used 500 4.0)
  • An used 200-400 4.0, is roughly within budget but less reach and much bigger
  • Other brands Tamron/Sigma 600mm zooms; quality control issues and focus issues. Again the same reason why I'm not choosing for Pentax.
  • The 80-400, less reach. As expensive as an used 200-400.
  • 300pf + 1.4 tc, I don't want to rely on a teleconverter as primary use because of autofocus and image quality degradation

Other option I've considered are: Micro four thirds with a 100-400 lens. But I really want an optical view finder. And Sony/Canon, both of them don't have crop camera's available that suit my needs.

For now my Pentax + Sigma 50-500 combo is still working so I'm not in a hurry on making a choice but I'm curious: Am I missing some options, am I to cautious when it comes to quality control? Maybe you guys can think along with me and give some tips or settle my mind

What is your budget and what's your tolerance for heavy lenses?

I would go with a used d500 for $900-$1000ish. Then for lens a used sigma 150-600S is $1000-$1200 (if u can tolerate the weight). Tamron 150-600 gen 2 and Nikon 200-500 would be worth looking at also. Note that the 200-500 has slower focus and a strong tendency to hunt compared to the sigma 150-600s (sigma 150-600s AF is about as fast as my Nikon 400 f/2.8 afsII FWIW). Expect copy-to-copy variation in ANY brand superzoom so buy where you can return it or try out in person. A few sitting bird pics on my phone with 150-600S on a d750 or d810:

edit: site seems to be having issues uploading pics

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