Sunday, 31 August 2008

Help! I need advice on an beginner’s SLR for Bird photography.

I`ve been thinking for a while now about getting an SLR camera. My first! After reading loads of reviews, I`ve narrowed down my choices to two models:

The Sony dSLR A200 and the Olympus E-510.

Given an unlimited budget, I`d go for a Nikon with VR lens, but I`m on a limited (student) budget and its these two cameras which offer me maximum value for my money.(inbuilt IS for one enabling me to buy cheap long lenses).

Sony a200 

Photo credits: Flickr Creative Commons

I can get the Sony cheapest: Body only for £218 or with the twin lens kit 18-70mm & 75-300mm for £377. I`ve heard only good things about the camera itself, a super-fast autofocus, inbuilt image stabilisation and Sony's D-Range (Dynamic Range) Optimiser. I also love its smart looks. However, I`ve been told the kit lens is disappointing, but that’s what I get for the money. With a 1.5x crop factor I get an effective focal length of 450mm on the 300mm lens. I`m hoping I can add a used 400mm sigma lens too later for another £200 to get an EFL of 600mm.  That should do for a beginner’s budget bird photography set up should`nt it?

Oly e510

Photo credits: Flickr Creative Commons

For the same price however, I can get the The Olympus E-510. Another highly rated camera! but with this, in addition to the inbuilt IS I also get live view (I`m thinking this will help on those rare occasions when I need to precision focus manually) and also a depth of focus preview button which the Sony lacks. Now, I can get the E-510 for for £340 with the 14-42 and 40-150mm twin lens. However, these lens are the superb Zuiko lens. Also, with the 4/3rds system that Olympus follows, it has a crop  factor of 2x. That means I will get an EFL of 300mm on the 150mm lens. If I buy the Olympus, I`m hoping also to add a new Zuiko lens of 70-300mm for another £200 which will give me an EFL of 600mm! My concerns with the Olympus however are these: Olympus Lenses upward of 300mm are super pricey.What of the 4/3rds system? with hardly any other company following it, will it eventually die out leaving me with relic!The E-510 has also been reported to struggle in low light with its auto focus(?).

I`m also considering buying the Sony body only and adding used lenses as a cheaper alternative.

Now, I`m really scratching my head. I will be using the camera primarily for bird photography, so I thought I`d pose the question to the experienced birders out there (who, hopefully will read this post). I`m sure there are many bird photographers out there who use either of the two systems. which one should I buy?

Also Should I also be considering other factors? Something I`ve missed out/ have the facts wrong on? I’d really appreciate any advice/comments anyone can give. Thanks.

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