Best settings for Canon SX740 to photo birds

Please share your preferred settings for photographing birds with your Canon SX740. Trying to decide if I should keep the camera. Many thanks!

You might ask @ececc, apparently they use the same camera.

The DPreview forum board has a discussion about this camera and bird photography.

Just Birding recommends this camera and has some good general bird photography settings advice.

I don’t know this specific camera, but I do a lot of wildlife photography and birds are not an uncommon subject.

Your key issues are light, shutter speed, and depth of field. Unfortunately, with point-and-shoot cameras your ability to manually control those is limited.

For birds you generally need a decently fast shutter speed (unless the bird is sitting still) to avoid a blurry shot, so that’s your first limiting factor, and is a good starting point to work from.

Depth of field (f-stop) is essentially how much of your image will be in focus. The more that’s in focus (larger f-stop number) the less light you have, and vice-versa.

ISO is approximately how sensitive your sensor is to light, a higher ISO means it’s more sensitive to light, but that also results in a more grainy or ‘noisy’ image. A lower ISO results in a more clean image, but the sensor is less sensitive to light, os you have to either lower your shutter speed (more time, more light, more movement of the subject, potentially more blurry of an image) or you have to reduce the f-stop (smaller number, more light comes in, shallower depth of focus, more difficult to get a properly focused image).

Unfortunately, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ setting, and a large part of photography is learning what settings work in different conditions and how to semi-intuitively adjust them on the fly.

While cameras like yours may not have fully adjustable settings, they do have settings that highlight certain priorities (eg. ‘keep the shutter speed at X and let everything else be automatic’, or ‘limit ISO to a maximum of X’). These are the sorts of settings you’ll have to play around with.

Another factor that’s immensely important for final image quality is post-processing. No professional photographer ever uses an image straight out of the camera, it’s always processed as a camera doesn’t see the world the same way as an eye does, and a photo has to be adjusted to represent what you saw (or what you want to show). This is usually done via processing the RAW images (the images before your camera has done its own internal processing), but your camera doesn’t have an option to take RAW photos. That’s ok though, even post-processing the non-RAW images your camera produces will make an enormous difference.

In photography this post-processing portion is where the majority of the time and effort goes.


Which birds?


Under what conditions? Sun, rain, dawn dusk? night?

What is the purpose of your photos, to upload to iNaturalist, for your own blog, social media, wildlife media?

There are well over 10,000 different species of birds on this planet, occurring in an enormous variety of habitats, there are no “right” settings that will permit your camera to capture perfect photos in all environments.
A setup someone would use to capture photos of hummingbirds and tanagers at a feeder station in a forest in Colombia would be completely unacceptable for someone trying to photograph condors in the sierras.

I would highly advise against selling or getting rid of your current camera, having a backup, especially a small bridge camera, to compliment a dslr/mirrorless rig is a game changer, at least if you are capturing important photos.

Camera manufacturers are not insulated from the current chip shortage. Sony, for example has, “temporarily” stopped production of multiple product models including their a7ii and a6400 cameras.

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Another bit of information that may help… what is it about the photos you’ve taken that you’re unhappy about?

I have the Canon SX70HS and sometimes get soft looking photos. Not really out of focus but just not crisp. I found 2 things that help most. Don’t use the most zoomed setting, I back off the telephoto just a bit. And a tripod or some other way to stabilize the camera is usually needed. 40x zoom is a lot to ask the image stabilization system to deal with.

Thanks for the prompt replies. My primary use will be to upload photos to inaturalist/ebird to identify birds seen at my feeder or during hikes/walks. i have a sony p950 as my main camera.

If you are trying to photograph in flight, I would do no less than 1/2500 shutter speed.

If you are really zooming in, it will help to stableise your camera, either hold it against a tree, or even use a hiking pole to help support it kinda like a monopod will help.

That’s my general tips…hope it helps!

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Hi, I can confirm I’m still using that canon camera model.
I use 2 modes:

  • “P”
  • manual (M) with auto ISO

Other settings are center spot focus, “high” multi shot mode (it does something like 3 fps bursts, but the buffer can take many shots before the camera has to stop). Autofocus set to continuous AF and servo too

With the right conditions, you can take amazing shots. Here are a few good pictures I took with that camera.

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Mille grazie Enrico - this is exactly the info I was looking for. My wife and I took a day trip from Venezia to Padova 5+ years ago and visited the basilica. Wish me luck with this new camera - thanks again.

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Good luck! Of course there will always be a better camera you can buy, but as long as you’re happy with the results, there is no need to upgrade

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