Songbird Portraits with our new SX40: (Original post – April 2012)
We picked up another new superzoom this past week… an SX40-HS. It has a lot in common with our SX30, (same lens and body), but uses a smaller 12mp CMOS sensor which improves it’s continuous shot speed, and allows better high ISO performance and some additional shooting features. We’ve just begun processing our first captures with it and I wanted to share a few of them here…
We do shoot pretty close up most of the time, and 840mm sure helps. But even though all these were taken from 25ft or less, they are all also cropped… and a few are fairly deep crops. They were all taken hand-held at base ISO(100) in Manual mode, as jpegs with reduced in-camera settings, and processed in Photoshop.
The exif below is from the full view shot of Ben (#6 above), and is fairly typical of the set with variations primarily in shutter speed and focal length.
Camera Model Name Canon PowerShot SX40 HS
Shooting Date/Time 4/5/2012 8:31:56 PM
Shooting Mode Manual
My Colors Mode Custom Color
Tv (Shutter Speed) 1/400
Av (Aperture Value) 5.8
Light Metering Spot
ISO Speed 100
Lens 4.3 – 150.5 mm
Focal Length 150.5 mm (840mm equivalent)
Digital Zoom None
Image Size 4000×3000
Image Quality Fine
White Balance Day Light
AF Mode Continuous AF
Parameters Contrast -1
Color Space sRGB
File Size 2097 KB
Drive Mode Continuous shooting
While we are certainly advocates for low-cost backyard birding with superzooms, (and they definitely do offer amazing features for very little money), those with experience shooting wild birds with higher-end gear should know the other “price” that superzoom users must pay. These cams are generally quite slow to focus, slow shot to shot, unable to track birds in flight, and must be used at close range in good light (base ISO) for best results. Their sensors are tiny and the per/pixel IQ and dynamic range is simply no match for larger cameras. In other words, be prepared for low hit rates in the wild. Every camera has strengths and weaknesses, but those who normally shoot with DSLRs will soon become painfully aware of the superzoom’s weaknesses when they first try shooting with one.
But… they do also have their $trengths… light weight, extraordinary reach with very effective IS, and surprisingly good IQ under ideal conditions. They cost less and take up less space in the camera bag than most decent DSLR lenses, and serious birders may indeed find them to be useful additions to their kits.
Thanks again, and good shooting everybody.