Search Results for: sx30

Superzooms – Shooting the SX30

Hi all,

We’ve had several requests for tips on optimizing results when shooting birds and wildlife with compact superzoom cameras. This post is an excerpt from a thread in one of the birding forums where I offered such tips regarding shooting the Canon SX30, but most of it should be applicable to any similar camera.

We shoot in Manual mode, so our settings tend to vary a lot from each shot to the next. The SX30 is a very good little birding camera though and I would offer some basic guidelines here which should help you to get the best photos from it:

1. Shoot outdoors or thru open windows…shooting thru window glass (especially double panes) can degrade image quality dramatically.

2. Avoid using Auto mode… The Program, Av, Tv, and Manual modes allow much better control over exposures. And these modes all allow setting ISO manually… ISO settings should be kept as low as lighting conditions permit. Use ISO 80 or ISO100 if at all possible. Higher ISOs will produce progressively noiser and less-detailed images with less natural color.

3. The SX30 zoom lens is at its sharpest at full-reach (maximum zoom). It’s difficult for most folks to get close enough to birds or wild animals for 840mm to be too close. So don’t be afraid to use long focal lengths. Try to nearly fill your frame with your subject… the more pixels you get on the bird the more detail you will record.

4. Avoid Digital Zoom – image quality will be degraded.

5. Learn to use the view finder… it’s tiny and cluttered with the needed info it displays, but holding the camera to your eye to frame the shot provides stability that just can’t be achieved by trying to hold the camera steady at arms-length to view your shot in the LCD. The image stabilization in the SX30 is excellent, but you will minimize camera shake with good viewfinder technique. Hold the camera steadier and you’ll get more sharp shots.

6. Lock focus using the shutter half-press and see your sharp shot in the viewfinder before fully depressing the shutter button. Full-press shutter actuation is frustratingly slow (lag) and often results in mis-focused shots.

And maybe most important of all…
7.8.9.&10. Shoot shoot shoot shoot. Not only does practice make perfect, but there will always be shots which are missed for every reason imaginable… the bird moves, you move, clouds roll across the sun changing the light, something or anything blocks your camera’s view just as you release the shutter… etc. So, just set High Continuous Shooting and hold the shutter button down as long as you have the bird focused in the frame. The more shots you take the more keepers you will find amongst the poor ones that you must toss. This, more than any other thing, will increase the number of shots you’ll be proud of.  But be prepared to spend the time to sort thru them all to find the best ones.

Additionally, I do recommend the use of RAW (or “detuned” JPEG settings in any camera that doesn’t offer RAW output files), and the subsequent developing of images using competent post-processing software. We will continue to offer further discussions regarding the optimizing of images via post-processing in other articles here on the blog… You will find these articles under the tag: “tech-talk“.

Hope this is helpful, and good shooting everybody.



Superzoom Robin Series

Hi all,

This time we have something a little different… Still our beloved backyard birds of course, but here we choose a series of American Robin images which include several individual birds at various ages, various distances, and taken with various superzooms (…mostly Canons).

SX30 @35ft

SX40 @16ft

SX40 @16ft

S100fs @12ft

SX30 @12ft

SX50 @12ft

P510 @12ft

SX50 @12ft (100% crop)

You can see our entire collection of American Robin images in high resolution here:!i=2241821774&k=g487k3L

We hope you enjoy them.


Carolina Wrens

Yes the Carolina Wrens are a definite hoot. Very bold and curious. They have come inside the house on several occasions when we’ve left the windows open.

They are the one species which we sometimes feed by hand… kinda… They will sit on my knee or jump up on the worm dish while we’re holding it.

Carolina Wrens are tiny, terrific fun… and they sing like superstars, with a voice ten times their size.

One of the best backyard birds you could hope for…. we love ’em!

Click any of the images above to see the Wren Show.

We hope you enjoy them too.


New Tail Feathers

Some of you have seen “Making the most of The Moult”

So here is Baldy, our patriarch Northern Cardinal for some seasons running. He is emerging from his moult and sports some fine looking new tail feathers now.

He has been so ragged during the transition, but soon he will be only handsome again. 🙂


Superzooms: A few Non-Avian images

Excerpts from: Digital Photography Review – Canon Talk Forum

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We shoot all our Canon superzooms with reduced in-camera jpeg settings, and post-process each selected shot individually. Most of our images are shot with low ISO, long focal lengths, and at modest range. Under these conditions the SX30 is pretty hard to beat for high-resolution detail and freedom from artifacts. But every camera has strengths and weaknesses, and we continue to shoot all of our cameras in various situations.

Links to a lot of my earlier DPR threads containing discussions of our cameras & lenses, shooting methods, settings, and post-processing techniques are listed here:

I have also begun excerpting some of these posts, and some from other forums, to include them in various “tech-talk” articles for the blog :

Hope this is helpful, and good shooting everybody.


Making the most of The Moult

We photograph our birds pretty much every day here, all year-round. You could say we’re kinda like the mailman… except we photograph the birds on Sundays and holidays also. Shooting everyday, there are naturally periods thruout the year when it’s more difficult to get good shots with the variations in seasons, weather, and other factors. One such other factor is the moulting, that time when the birds shed old feathers to replace them with fresh new ones… (the occurance and duration of which varies with the different species as well as amongst individual birds). For many of our birds moulting occurs twice a year roughly during late summer and late winter, but each bird in its time will gradually shed its well-worn plumage to grow a brand new coat. This process temporarily renders their appearance as not very photogenic. But we photograph them anyway, and there are always some captures which are endearing or humorous, despite these ragged metamorphoses.

Click the moulting Cardinal below to see a slideshow which includes many photos of various songbird species in the midst of their summer moult. Some are hatch-year juveniles or fledglings who are transitioning from their baby fluff into their first adult plumage… And many are adults shedding their springtime mating plumage to don new winter coats.

We hope you enjoy them,


Not our Bluebirds

This is Missy, into her summer moult and frazzled with 15 new fledges to chase.
She is the mother of 77 baby Bluebirds, over the course of 6 seasons and 17 consecutive nestings here:

This is Ben, Missy’s handsome and dutiful mate:

Some shots of them together:

These are their 5 fledglings from nest 2011-4:

You can see ALL of “Missy’s Kids” here:

We do call them “our” Bluebirds of course because they’ve been with us every day for nearly 6 years. But they are indeed wild birds and free, and we know how lucky we are that they’ve chosen to raise their family here. In truth, they are not our birds…

…we’re their people.

We hope you enjoy them,


Missy’s Kids

Some of you already know Missy from the forums, but she is our Mother Bluebird here for 6 seasons and has fledged 77 baby Bluebirds into our habitat over 17 consecutive nestings.

Here’s a special Slideshow of Missy’s kids: (click the image below to start the slideshow)

We hope you enjoy these


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The soft blurred background effect is a great benefit of long focal length lenses with short minimum focus distances. The SX30 and SX40 both do this wonderfully well in closeup shots, turning a mundane surburban backyard into a variety of quite lovely backdrops for our birds.

Higher resolution (larger) versions can be seen here:

We hope you enjoy them.


Excerpts from P.O.T.N

Songbird Portraits with our new SX40: (Original post – April 2012)

Hi all,

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…

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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
Flash Off
White Balance Day Light
AF Mode Continuous AF
Parameters Contrast -1
Sharpness -2
Saturation -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.