View Full Version : Shooting wildlife with an SX10 IS
6th of February 2009 (Fri), 01:22
I bought an SX10 IS last month. I have gotten some decent shots of squirrels and a few birds. I keep the lens at it's 20X optical max. I want to take sharper images. Birds are tough; they are small and constantly turn their heads. Even when they aren't moving it's hard to get a sharp image unless very close. I have tried auto, sports, aperture priority, and shutter priority. I have not yet mastered manual mode. Any suggestions. Do I need an SLR ? What is the difference between a picture shot with a10 megapixel SX10 IS at 8.0 aperture, 400 shutter, and 200 ISO, and a10 megapixel SLR at 8.0 aperture, 400 shutter, 200 ISO?
7th of February 2009 (Sat), 09:35
Not really familiar with your camera but I did look up a few of the spec.'s.
The first significant difference between it and maybe a 40D or even a 30D and a 400mm lens is of course pricing. Depending on the choice of 400mm lens you are looking at least spending ~ $2,000 - $2,200 to have a 100-400mm IS lens.
Then the weight and and physical size is going to be significantly more, like holding 3 to 4 SX10's. This class of lens is about the largest one can reasonably handhold for a significant period of time.
So price, size & weight are the cons for a d-SLR.
For shooting birds or wildlife the SX10 can shoot up to 1.5 frames per second, the 30D 5 fps, the 40D over 6 fps. But with the SX the following frames from the first is at the same focus point, it doesn't continually update focus if your bird happens to move. On the D's and using AI servo it will continually update the focus.
The SX does have a mode to update focus but that is at 0.7 fps and must refocus prior to shooting, the others are constantly refocus and always ready to shoot at frame rates 7 to 9 times as fast.
The SX is an image stabilizied camera with a panning mode but will not stabilize in a vertical format, the other bodies using a stabilized lens will do so regardless of the ameras orientation.
The the smaller sensor than the xxD's with roughly the same number of pixels leads to a couple issues that could pull an images quality done. First is the aperture, at an equivalent f/stop the SX is going to have much more areas in focus or a greater depth of field. Makes isolating a subject more difficult.
The next issue is noise, where the SX may produce decent images at ISO 200 with just a little noise visible, the xxD's don't exhibit this until 400 or later. The 40D produces very clean images at ISO 800, which can be a great benefit in bringing shutter speeds up in a wildlife shot.
Also the larger sensor will have a better tonality through the image, colors will change more gradually and subtle colors will be more distinct. Not to mention the ability to shot in RAW in 40D for example and shoot in 14 bit and easily correct some errors in white balance and exposure and have extremely wide color gamut over the SX.
Bottomline, you original question is difficult to answer without having both cameras at hand to shoot the same subject but there are some clear differences than can be described.
First the d-slr will capture at least 5 times the number of frames with more accurate focus than the SX will. The SX will have a greater depth of field which may or may not be a negitive but in most cases dof is used to isolate the subjectand more is not always better.
The image quality if printed any larger than a 4x6 will be significantly cleaner with the d-slr due to significant difference in noise quality, the cleaner the image but the better the detail retained in a shot.
And the creative control over the images final look is better served by d-SLR with it's ability to shoot in RAW, any slight mis-cues by the photographer with exposure and white balance are easily corrected with little to no degradation of the image.
If your serious about shooting birds or wildlife you can do so with a point and shoot but the success factor can and will be limited in a number of significant areas.
Though to do so with a d-SLR is not an inexpensive proposition, I have taken a huge number of very nice images with a "inexpensive" setup of a non-pro body and a 400mm f/5.6 or 100-400mm at the price I previously mentioned of around 2k.
But I found I was limited in what I wanted to do and since have gone longer in the lens to a 500mm f/4 but to do so most people would prefer to own a car ;)
Here and There
16th of February 2009 (Mon), 17:20
Before getting a DSLR I was birding with an S5 (SX10 is a newer version of the S5) fitted with a sony telephoto converter. I got some decent shots, but the lack of range was frustrating. IMO, there's just no substitute for a DSLR when it comes to wildlife photography.
17th of February 2009 (Tue), 02:44
It's good to hear that you're working your SX10 to it's limit. I did the same thing with my entry-level digital camera, a Sony H5. I thought I was getting good shots, until my standards started to rise. I started noticing things about my images that I wanted to improve on, and would work the heck out of that P&S to try to get better images.
I wrote to a bunch of H5 "experts", asking them how to adjust white balance, set ISO without changing modes, remote shooting, tracking birds in flight, focusing somewhere other than in the center of the frame, shooting RAW instead of JPEGs, etc, etc, etc. Their answer was almost always, "the camera is not capable of that".
I finally bought an SLR, and after a few months of working thru the learning curve, was taking far better images than I had ever taken with the P&S. Once you get an SLR and learn to use it properly, you'll never look back.
By the way, Brad is right - a very effective (and relatively inexpensive) setup would be a 30D or 40D and the 400 f5.6. Anothere affordable, workable lens for wildlife is the 70-300. It has IS and ok reach with a 30D or 40D's crop factor.
If you want to be careful with your money, you may find these items available used here on the "equipment for sale" section of this forum.
If you do buy used, make sure you get an original Canon battery and charger with the body you buy. Then go to B&H and buy another original Canon batterry as a spare. And 16GB cards are cheap as dirt on eBay these days - about $40, shipping included, for a good, reliable card that will hold over 1,500 RAW images.
17th of February 2009 (Tue), 23:44
XTI 400D will do everything you need it to do except live view. And a LOT cheaper than a 40 or 5D system. Just a thought.
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