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choosing camera for animal photography

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  • choosing camera for animal photography

    A bit of back round: I do a good deal of backpacking and enjoy taking pics of animals and landscapes. Looking to upgrade to a DSLR for better close ups of animals at a distance, macro shots, and better quality landscape shots.

    The question is what specs should i look for in a camera? I want to keep my initial purchase under $800. and add lenses in the near future. maybe a kit lense to start out with? if yes any reccomendations for specs on lense? any help would be greatly appreciated.

    p.s i will add any info needed if requested. sorry about the structure and writing style. speech and writing have always been a challenge for me.

  • #2
    For what you're looking for, the camera BODY you choose wont be of much consequence unless you're planning on getting really involved and invested into one particular thing: even then, all three of your subject matters will benefit from the same improvements, should you make them.

    The bigger issue is lenses: you're looking at 3 very different subjects for lenses. You'll need telephoto (or super-telephoto) for wildlife, especially if we're talking about actually wild animals. You'll need a macro lens for macro work (or at least something with very close-focus). You'll likely want a wide-angle lens for landscapes

    As you can see, those lenses dont really intersect. Furthermore, you're looking for backpacking gear, which means size and weight are a concern.

    What I'd recommend is a lower-tier body (Canon rebel or Nikon D####) with a kit lens (the standard 18-55 is a good starting point). That should at least cover the wide-angle and general use. From there look at a telephoto lens: that'll cover wildlife and will be a basic close-up lens.

    With a budget of $800, you'll likely have to go to the used market and look at previous-generation bodies at least. As I said, the body is less important than lenses, so make sure youre spending your money wisely.
    I am responsible for what I say; not what you understand.
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    • #3
      Thanks for the feedback! I'm looking at either a nikon d40 with a tamron 18-270 lense that i can get used for a total of $775 or a new canon rebel T3 or T2i with a 55-250mm is lens.


      • #4
        I'm a Canon guy and there are some nice options in your price range. I'm sure there are plenty of Nikon guys out there that will say the same about that brand. Once you commit to a particular maker, you will probably stick with that as you add to your gear.

        A while back my youngest son expressed an interest in photography, so I got him a refurbished XT body for under $300 and gave him my 18-55mm kit lens to go along with it. He didn't pursue the hobby, but it gave him a chance to explore the possibilities and I wasn't out a whole lot of money.
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        • #5
          Originally posted by backpacker77 View Post
          The question is what specs should i look for in a camera?
          The ones that will make you happy? Generally speaking, all the dSLR bodies are good. None of them are bad. The specs, if you're paying roughly the same price, and you're looking at cameras that were released within a year of each other, are going to be relatively close enough that it'll be mostly hairsplitting to find differences.

          Features may vary. And that's where you're going to be at a disadvantage without enough experience to know if those features matter to you or not, but like cellphones and computers, digital camera bodies are mostly disposables these days--something that often gets broken or upgraded within three to five years. The camera body is probably the least of your worries. As OS stated, it's the lenses you're going to have to worry about. And I will state up front, that to me, wildlife shooting lenses, depending on the type of wildlife/image quality you're talking about, can cost anywhere from $600 to $1500 in the "affordable" range. Them's just the breaks.

          I want to keep my initial purchase under $800. and add lenses in the near future. maybe a kit lense to start out with? if yes any reccomendations for specs on lense? any help would be greatly appreciated.
          I think going for an entry-level dSLR body and an 18-55 kit lens would be a great way to start out for landscape shooting. Learn to stop it down to f/8 and nice things can happen. Keep your P&S camera for macro shooting for a while, and then concentrate on a telephoto zoom lens for wildlife.

          My first word of advice is that if you're planning on getting a Nikon D3100 or D5100, make sure that when you go for a telephoto zoom, that you only get one that has AF-S. Otherwise, you won't have autofocus, and critters tend to move quickly enough that autofocus is a very nice thing. With the Canon T3 or T3i, this won't be an issue, but lenses with USM will probably autofocus more quickly than lenses without it.

          And, because I just bought myself a µ4/3 camera, I would also recommend looking into the possibility of a mirrorless compact, particularly µ4/3, as long as the wildlife you're going after isn't of the super-fleet/shy variety, and your image quality needs aren't super-critical.

          The micro four-thirds cameras have a smaller sensor than a dSLR. This is bad in the sense that high-iso noise performance is lower, and DoF is deeper with similar lenses than with APS-C cameras, but if you like landscape, wildlife, and macro shooting, then a deeper DoF can be an advantage, and the smaller sensor and lack of a mirrorbox makes not only the camera bodies a lot smaller, but the lenses as well. And the smaller sensor crop means that lenses feel longer than they are. The crop factor on an APS-C camera, like a Nikon or Canon is 1.5x or 1.6x. That is, a 100mm lens on a D3100 will yield the same scene coverage as a 150mm lens on a film or full-frame camera. With the four-thirds sensor, the crop factor is 2x; a 100mm will give the same field of view as a 200mm lens on film.

          When it comes to getting reach for wildlife, this can be a large factor, given that once you go past 300mm, optically, the glass can become exceedingly expensive.

          A 70-300 USM IS lens on a Canon crop-body dSLR yields the FoV of a 112-480mm lens for film.
          A 100-300 OIS lens on a Panasonic µ4/3 camera yields the FoV of a 200-600 lens for film. And will be smaller/lighter.

          But. The lenses will cost about the same: $500.

          I use a photo/laptop backpack as my work briefcase. If I'm packing Canon, it normally sees:
          • Canon 5D Mark II + 24-105mm f/4L IS USM
          • EF 135mm f/2L USM
          • adapted Oly OM-mount Zuiko 50mm f/1.2
          And is stuffed absolutely full. Packing micro four-thirds, it's currently seeing:
          • Panasonic DMC-G3 + 14-45 f/3.5-5.6 OIS (kit lens)
          • Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 (pancake)
          • Lumix Vario G 45-200 f/4-5.6 (telephoto zoom)
          • Rokinon 7.5mm fisheye
          • adapted Oly OM-mount Zuiko 50mm f/1.2
          AND the bag, overall, is lighter, and still has room left over for more stuff. dSLR gear can get big and bulky. If space and weight are at a premium, micro four-thirds is worth looking into. It may not be for you (it's not for everyone--the platform is not as good as dSLRs for fast-action photography), but it's a viable alternative, and the image quality that can be achieved is much closer to dSLRs than some folks would imagine from the form factor and specs. For someone who's into backpacking or biking, and willing to compromise a little image quality, fast-action features, and high-iso capability for a lot less weight/bulk, this may be the way to go.
          Last edited by inkista; 02-22-2012, 09:17 PM.
          I shoot with a Canon 5DmkII, 50D, and S90, and Pansonic GX-7. flickr stream and equipment list


          • #6
            It might also be worth mentioning that you can't beat getting close to your subject and since you are already into backpacking, hiking, etc., you might want to look at some camo gear for your body. You can then stake out some interesting locations and use a sharper, faster lens with a shorter focal length. I've seen some excellent results in the 100mm range, but in the fine print you will see that the shooter was practically sitting on top of his subject.
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            • #7
              If you are already carrying a lot of gear while you are backpacking adding more gear may be too much. A DSLR, tripod, and lenses could add quiet a lot. Have you considered a bridge camera or something like the Canon G series type. Not as good as a DSLR but not a P&S ether and a lot less to carry.
              I shoot for me - I shoot for fun.


              • #8
                Thanks again for all the help! I bought the canon t2i with 55-250is lens. now its on to learning the art of photography. Excited to learn and get more insight from the people on here. off to check out the camera


                • #9
                  I think you made a pretty good choice with that setup. The 55-250mm focal length will give you a nice range for experimentation before you settle into any particular style or type of photography. BEWARE: Lens Lust soon follows after the purchase of a new dSLR. lol
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