Saturday, 30 January 2016

Camera Equipment

I am often been asked what camera equipment I use so thought I would mention it here hopefully as an inspiration to others. It seems all the rage to invest in new and expensive equipment and I read on Facebook the excitement that people have when Canon or Nikon launches a new camera or lens. Me though, I have a camera I bought in February 2011 and a lens bought in August 2012. The camera is a Cannon 550D and the lens a Sigma 150-500mm which in total cost less than 10,000kr (£800) new and both would definitely not be classified as anything other than mid-range equipment even when I bought them.

I do notice the shortcomings of my set up when it is bad light or with birds in flight when more expensive equipment would undoubtedly have resulted in noticeably better pictures. Otherwise though I often have to smile when I compare my pictures with those of someone who was standing close to me and had equipment maybe 10x as expensive as mine. Camera and lenses are a very good proof of the law of diminishing returns where after a certain point every extra £1000 spent probably results in just 1-2% better results.

My value for money equipment should also handle less abuse than the more expensive kit but after 4 years of near daily use, countless knocks and being frequently soaked in rainwater they are still going strong.

I also do NOT take photos in RAW format. I had always understood that is what one “had to do” but after advice from two of my guiding customers, one of whom was a professional photographer and the other a prize-winning amateur I understood that was not the case at all. Neither of these took in RAW due to the size of the files and extra work involved afterwards and their experience was that the benefits were not great enough. RAW allows you to fiddle more with a picture on the computer than is possible with a JPEG but for my purposes I find that I can still do an awful lot of improvement work with my JPEG files using Photoshop Elements. Basically for 90% of my shots I press Auto Smart Fix and then Adjust Lighting/Shadows/Highlights and voila….

So, my advice is that good results can be achieved with relatively cheap equipment. Just make sure you get to know your equipment’s sweet spots (with my lens for example picture quality is best at f9.) but most importantly get to know the birds you are hoping to photograph so you can be in the right place to take the photo in the first place.

the kit responsible for all the pictures on this blog

and here an example of what can be achieved from a JPEG file in Photoshop Elements V.8 (so an old verson to boot)

Tengmalm's Owl. Original JPEG picture left and after being lightened up in PEv.8


  1. Thanks for this, Simon. After much dithering, I'm ready to buy some decent equipment, and this is quite helpful.

  2. I confirm that it was 'proper' dark to the naked eye when we 'saw' (sensed?) that Tengmalm's Owl. Photoshop is a fantastic aid.