In this video, we discuss the cameras and lenses we use for bird photography.
We both shoot with a Canon 7D cameras (Mk I and Mk II) and Canon telephoto lenses.
Ashley – Canon EF 400mm F/5.6L:
Trevor – Canon EF 300mm F/4L:
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hi everybody we are the bird nerds I'm Trevor and this is Ashley we thought we'd make this video to talk about the equipment we use because we get a lot of questions about it the cameras we use and the lenses and we've been at this for quite a few years now and we kind of we learned a few lessons the hard way we started out with some pretty modest gear and kind of worked our way up to where we're at now so we'll go through all of that we'll say where we started our advice it's really I'd say it would be useful to beginner bird photographers on a budget because that's kind of what we were and still are we're not we don't have the best gear by any means but it's working well for us so it should be useful to anyone that's looking to you know take their images further and that's really into bird photography that's a bird nerd like us do you remember how we started what we started with as far as lenses as far as lenses go we had the poor man's prime lens which tell us the poor man's telephoto which was did you scopes that we used T rings and certain different adapters to hook up to our DSLRs it was a fixed focal length apricot Apple chromatic yeah glass uh telescopes so yeah the process is called digits coping and it's basically you're looking through a telescope to get that focal length like a telephoto lens but a telescope of course does not have auto focus or image stabilization any of those things so it was quite awkward like what was it like walking around Point Pelee with a telescope on a monopod our first year at peely we brought these it garnered a lot of attention from other photographers wondering what kind of lenses we had hook up to our cameras just really heavy bulky awkward awkward not mobile at all we had them on a monopod so forget shooting anything that's kind of above eye-level because you end up tilting or getting down on your knees to shoot anything higher it was just it worked in the sense that it produced sharp images when you were really on point but we had to roll through the focuser and take like 80 pictures to hope that just one was that crisp sharp photo that you were looking for in hindsight we we definitely missed so many great shots because of it but we did get some really incredible photos with it we both had our own telescopes and the focal length was around 400 millimeters so if you know how much camera lenses at that focal length cost it was pretty affordable and I already had two telescopes because I do a lot of astronomy stuff so because we already had them and we got the focal length and we actually could get a usable image out of it we did that for a couple of years and it was we still had fun doing it but we knew we had to make a change and get some actual camera lenses but before I get into that we should just talk about the actual camera bodies that we use we both shoot with canon 7d s-mines the Mark one and actually with the mark two and there were some big improvements in the Mark 2 over the mark 1 including I think the the frame rate actually was is comparable it's about 10 frames per second so that burst shooting is so useful for bird photography like spray-and-pray as they would call it so and kind of explain that process ash like when when you get when you have a great bird in your lens and the difference that shutter speed makes it makes a world of a difference as Trevor said before with our previous method we in hindsight probably missed a lot of opportunities as you know birds don't stick around very long so it's a matter of bird lab lands on a brand get them in get them in the frame and and just get them in focus and hold that down and and that way you're at least able to get different movements different poses that the birds doing you know if ya suppose the birds move so quickly so obviously even if you do find focus that the bird is moving in and out of focus like very suddenly so by holding down the shutter and getting that first shot of ten frames in a second you'll get one sharp shot and nine very close to the sharp shot so when we're following a good bird like a Warbler in the spring we when we do finally get them out in the open and he's on the branch and that's we have the catch light in the Sun setting them we will literally hold down the shutter button and take a hundred shots within you know ten to fifteen seconds and then we'll be able to pull two or three really great sharp shots out of there so that shutter speed and the frame rate is really important and that's one of the big reasons why the 70 is one of the best cameras for bird photography it's a crop sensor DSLR it's not a full-frame the field of view is tighter with the crop sensor DSLR so it feels like you get a little more reach with your camera lenses because it does have a crop factor of 1.6 so it actually extends the reach of your lenses although with a full-frame camera you could just simply crop in and get that same field of view so one of the biggest differences between the mark 2 and the mark 1 was the way it handles noise the 70 mark one got a lot of criticism for being noisy at high ISO and even around approaching that over a thousand of 1600 range but the images are quite noisy so we're able to remove that in processing in Photoshop but today the mark 2 handles itself so much better in low light situations so what are some of the situations where it's we're in low light for very photography for birding you know you could be under the tree canopy so not a lot of light is getting through so that's one instance and as if you're shooting into the summertime and there's more leaves on the branches it could be covering a bird it could be reducing the amount of light that's hitting him or her so just kind of finding that sweet spot usually him because they're more color yeah and early morning or later in the day I mean that is the best time to just shoot that golden hours because you get that some low on the horizon lighting up the the birds and you get that full color and that golden cache light and but that's a little bit darker so you need those faster shutter speeds and the higher ISO is really really handy so that's that those are the cameras the 7d mark 1 and mark 2 and we'll go into detail more and talk about those cameras at a later time but let's get on to the lenses actually has here the Canon 400 millimeter F 5.6 this is one of the few camera items that we actually bought new other than that the bodies themselves so tell me what you like about this lens I love this lens since the day I've got it since the day I got it it's been so much fun to shoot with in combination with my new 70 mark – it's just the mobility that it offers while still offering that long focal reach is what really does it for me especially for birding being out in the field you know shooting a bird that's very mobile and quick like a Warbler it still offers great range of motion it's not overly heavy rocks are important which is really really important for my shooting experience if we're burning for eight hours right you know heavy lens you're gonna call it quits early if it's too heavy and I think going back to where we started we really now appreciate the mobility because we lacked it for so many years so the the really long six hundred millimetres are great and the pictures that you get are fantastic but for the type of birding that we really like to do mobility is a huge factor for me and I and for you so I love the lens just the shooting experience that it allows for mobility crisp shots it's a good 400 millimeters a good focal length I just I really love this one's for bird photography it's hard to beat the 400 millimeter at 5.6 like I've said those those bigger longer lenses I mean you're gonna get real amazing photos don't get me wrong idea of walking around the tripod all day on our shoulder and like I just really can't picture us enjoying it as much as we do now doing that and I don't I don't feel like we're holding ourselves back as far as our images right maybe we won't get as many amazing shots as those the big lenses will get but we sure have a lot of fun these this type of lens so with that 5.6 that's the aperture of the lens that's considered that's on the slower side it's not 2.8 or f/4 or anything so all that means is that in those dimmer light situations actually does have to bump up that ISO to get a brighter image because the aperture affects the light that's coming through the lens onto mine it's this I bought use and I got a great deal on it and I put the kind of tacky camo stickers on it I still think it's kind of cool it's a 300 millimeter f4 so it's a little bit faster than that lens but it's a little bit shorter so 300 millimeters again prime lenses is the way to go that's how you get the crisp shots for for a spur for bird photography a zoom lens is they're great and they're versatile and you can do you have more options but you're not going to get a crisp shot the way a prime lens will so to get a little more reach I've got the 1.4 Canon extender so that brings me up to 420 20 millimeters so again now we're very comparable as far as reach goes both of us shooting and that's evident in our photos when we we both are going after a bird and we're looking at our photos they're usually quite similar and it's kind of hard to tell who took what because we're both in the same conditions cheating right next to each other and get kind of competitive that way considering we also pretty much press that on our shutters of the exact same time which is kind of funny if we're standing side by side and we're both dudududud it and stop if the bird turn no sir it's not the prime because we're both looking for those same moments when it's like okay he's hopped from behind the leaves and now he's open on the branch okay we both go nuts yeah and it's the funny part is when he hops out into an open spot but the background is too busy or the Lighting's not right and you don't hear either of us shooting because we know that's that's not going to work the both of our lenses actually don't do not have is image stabilization so that would be useful when shooting birds because they're a quick moving target but because of the fast shutter speed and shooting in the right conditions we're able to get away with that I'm sure we miss a few shots because of that are a little shaky where we could really use the is but those lenses are a little more expensive and speaking of price like I said in the beginning a lot of our gear was was purchased used and the used camera market is is actually quite good people tend to take care of their equipment when it comes to DSLRs and lenses like this if you want a rough estimate for what we've spent on this stuff the cameras we bought new the 7d mark to was around $2,000 brand new but I would look for used ones if you're trying to save some money there pay attention to the shutter count though because that's kind of the mileage on the camera anything over say thirty thirty thousands considered quite high and then the lens was was also purchased new it was actually a Christmas gift from Ashley a few years ago and it was about yeah about that and that's this is Canadian we're talking yeah so a little lower in US dollars all in for 4004 for this guy which is to consider the amount of camera performance that you're getting for that price is quite good yeah we're with that you're pretty much able to take professional for bird photos I mean the quality of the images is you're not held back by any means I was able to get an amazing deal on my 300 millimeter lens because it was a bit older and I found it on a classified site that's around here called kojiki and actually made I drove for an hour and a half to go meet the guy and it was can't remember it was six or seven hundred dollars for for the 300 millimeter prime lens and that's a really really great price the the extender I also got used from a camera store here called Henry's and it was it was a bit pricey I think it was about $200 but either way under $1000 around there for the lens and then the camera but you can really get some great deals on the 70 mark one I would say that's probably the best value if you're just getting into bird photography look for a 7d a Canon 7d mark one I've seen them used for under a thousand like $700 that it's just an incredible camera for that price a little bit of extra noise that you get with this camera you can easily clean that up in Photoshop after the fact so yeah that's that's where we're at for a camera gear and I don't think we're looking to upgrade anytime soon we're having so much fun with this stuff yeah like I don't know about you but I don't have any no I don't even consider any sort of upgrade in the near future for us because like I said we're just getting great results with this yeah and well for my 70 mark – is fairly new anyone who reads the blog may have seen that my original Canon 70d was stolen so I ended up having to make a quick upgrade and I mean before that we were using Canon Rebel out-of-the-box entry-level cameras so to go from there to where we're at now it has only made us appreciate I think our gear that much more and we're so happy with what we have now you know we didn't jump right into intermediate to pro gear right away it was it was a long process so we really appreciate the improvements along the way that's a point yeah so thank you everybody for subscribing to the channel and if you new please subscribe we do we usually do more vlogs style where we're actually out taking pictures and we share all the bird photos and show that we're truly our nerds but it's something we do together so hopefully that answers some questions about the gear that we use and that you found it useful especially if you're just looking to get started just to summarize look for prime lenses a Canon 7d in the used market you really can't go wrong and just remember things like mobility and the actual fun and how long you can actually spend a day of shooting your overall shooting experience really makes that much of a difference that's a big part of it yeah you want to sustain your enjoyment of the hobby so that's important but again thanks everybody for watching and we'll see you next time