Upgrade from RX10 IV for bird photography

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MattD47 New Member • Posts: 12
Upgrade from RX10 IV for bird photography

My wife and I are birders and travel internationally for birdwatching and hiking etc. I've been pretty darn happy with my RX10. It's really opened up the world of wildlife photography to me. I've had the camera for a few years now, and while I've gotten some really amazing shots, I still feel like it can be a bit soft at times, especially when the subject doesn't sufficiently fill the frame. Frankly it's hard to fill the frame with the smaller birds even at 600mm. It does seem like some of the softness is missed focus. It also struggles in low light, which we're often subject to in the rain forest, or the local woods. The IS is pretty decent and certainly helps when I get lucky enough that a bird is still so I can bring down the shutter speed to help drop the ISO.

There's a small chance we may get to Borneo next year, in which case I'd really like to upgrade my camera to increase the keepers and bring up the caliber of those shots. I'm looking to use these photos for personal use, calendars for the family, prints for the walls, desktop backgrounds, trip books, etc.

I've got my eye on the R5 with the RF100-500. It seems to check a lot of boxes, relatively lightweight and compact, highly touted AF, decent high ISO performance, great IQ, and high resolution. The animal eye focus is really exciting, technically the RX10 has it, but it's kind of a joke in my experience. It would be amazing to have to worry less about where my small focus spot is so I could work on better framing.

I realize it's a pretty slow lens on the long side with a F7.1 @ 500mm, it's 1.67 stops slower than my RX10 at 600mm, and in my use case I'm really at maximum focal length 90% of the time, but going from a 1" sensor to a FF is a huge upgrade in ISO performance that should more than compensate no? From my reading, in theory you're supposed to get ~3 stops better noise performance going from 1" to FF, so in theory I'd still be gaining ~1.4 stops. So I could speed up my shutter about 2.6x for the same noise, which can be significant when trying to capture a flitty warbler etc. I assume I'd be getting a significant improvement in IQ as well, but I guess that's what I wanted to ask. Does anyone have experience with both cameras (setups)? The sample photos I've seen are amazing, but rarely in a low light setting. I realize I can't expect the same level of photo in the woods as with more light, but I'm hoping there a significant step up from what I'm getting now. Is it the significant upgrade I'd be hoping for at this cost?

I do have some sticker shock for what this setup would be, but I think I would be using this for a long time to come. I realize there are probably better values like a D500 and 200-500mm, but that setup is almost three pounds more (7.5 lbs vs 4.5 lbs for the R5 vs 2.5 lbs for the RX10). I've only been a point and shoot/bridge camera user to this point so I'm already used to the mirrorless experience (EVF) and really prefer to stay away from loud mirrors. In the reviews most people seem to love the EVF on the R5 which would be huge for me as I'm not crazy about the quality of the image in the EVF. I don't know how much stock to put in it, but a lot of reviews say it's almost like looking through an OVF, and I do enjoy watching the birds, not just getting their photos.

Sorry for the novel, and thank you for any input!

Canon EOS R5 Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1L IS USM Nikon D500 Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 Sony RX10 IV
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