Good cameras for nature shots

Which camera you got?

I got a Lumix (Panasonic) DC-FZ80. with 60x optical zoom. Mixed results so far. It is physically bigger than I was expecting, but is surprisingly lightweight, which matters when you’re wearing both binos and camera. I am getting the hang of the zoom for birds, and some of my photos meet my (not very high) standard (able to ID for iNat) in good light conditions. I think I will eventually master close subjects and macro, but it’s going to take a while. The controls are insanely complicated, probably reflecting an evolution of layers on layers of “improvements” so that there are multiple ways to do anything through a profusion of buttons, joystick, knobs and touch-screen controls (oh for a manual focus!)
. The 300 page instruction manual, several YouTube videos, and advice from others have mostly just confused me. No spider at half a meter yet. But I will prevail, and the cost wasn’t killer (under $350).

The SX70 does not have a hotshoe. I have a DSLR with external flashes off the hotshoe. Too much to carry though. That’s why I bought a bridge camera.

The SX70 can focus very close, almost touching the lens. The insects fly off before you can get there. Zoom will fill the frame from a çomfortable distance but has limits.

Still happy with my results this season.

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Though I’d mention one tip for bridge cameras I’ve found. When you want to take a photo of something small there are two obvious options:

  • Use the maximum zoom, and go just far enough way that you can still focus
  • Zoom out all the way and use the macro mode

But it took me quite a while to figure out the third option:

  • Find a “sweet spot” in the middle where zoom vs. minimum focus distance are balanced and you can actually get a relatively high-resolution image.

On my Canon SX40 this spot was very obvious and useful, to the point that I set one of the “presets” to automatically zoom to this level. I believe it was around 6x zoom at a 30 cm minimum focus distance, which usually produced better results that the first two options described above (and requires less awkward bending or backing up). The way the minimum focus distance worked, zooming in or out from this point would rapidly produce much worse results.

On my newer Sony DSC-HX400V this is less well-defined and useful, although I still need to some more experimentation.

Anyways, my photo quality on the SX40 (and probably applies to its successors?) jumped quite a bit once I figured this out, so though I would mention it.

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Great data, the top two are indeed bridge cameras but they are (actually were, before last year new models) the top two of the “ultra” zoom line

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That sweet spot you mention improves the image quality but what about the level of detail you get, as in the setae of insects for example, is better than the “Zoom out all the way and use the macro mode”?

thanks everyone for your comments. one of the zoom switch springs in my old camera finally broke (while i was taking photos of this wasp). i can still use the camera, but it’s just awkward at times. i haven’t pulled the trigger just yet, but i think i’ve pretty much settled on getting a Panasonic FZ300, which can be had at Walmart.com right now for $389. it’s not cutting edge tech (4 years into production at this point), but it seems like it’ll be an improvement over what i have now in almost every respect. most other cameras that i’m interested in are significantly more expensive, and i haven’t been able to convince myself that it would be worth the extra cost for those. so FZ300 is probably where i’m headed. thanks again for your suggestions.

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I think you’ll love the FZ300. I’ve been using the FZ200 for about 5 1/2 years and it’s great for iNatting. The FZ300 added some really great extra features. I use the EZ zoom setting a lot which can get you some extra reach (900+mm equivalent) without degrading the picture quality like a traditional digital zoom would. It just does a real time crop so that you can see better for focusing and framing and not have to crop as much on the computer. The camera can also focus 1cm from the lens for closeups at the wide angle. Last year I got the Raynox DCR-150 clip on close-up lens which works really well for these cameras. It took some practice and patience, but I’m getting better. It allows you to get good detail on very tiny things like jumping spiders or gnats.

My FZ200 is just now starting to give me some issues with the zoom and autofocus, so I’ve started looking for something new. I’m trying to decide between going with the FZ300 or FZ1000, or going in a different direction with a DSLR or another brand compact zoom. I keep coming back to the Panasonic FZ ones though since they offer so much bang for the buck. So many choices nowadays! FYI there’s a British guy that is a big fan of these Panasonic cameras and has done many good video tutorials on their use, which can be helpful to acquaint yourself with all the features. https://www.youtube.com/user/ghough12/videos

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I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the Nikon Coolpix S9900 yet. I’ve been very happy with mine. It is small (I carry it in my trousers pocket), has 30x zoom, built-in GPS, flash and decent macro.

Unfortunately it finally bit the dust yesterday, after seeing some heavy use over the years.

I’m now shopping around for a replacement and frankly I can’t seem to find anything that looks appealing to me. The only alternative seems to be the Sony DSC-HX90, but it also comes from 2015 (same as the S9900).

Does anybody have experience with the Nikon Coolpix S9900 vs Sony DSC-HX90?

I used to own a Nikon Coolpix P100, but after switching to the small S9900 I’m not very excited to switch back to something as big as that, so the Nikon Coolpix P900 / P1000 is a reluctant plan B.

I’m tempted to just buy a S9900 from Amazon, probabily used because I’m not sure where to find a new one in 2019 (which means I’ll have to import since I doubt I’ll find it in my country anymore). Heck maybe I should buy two, because I’m not sure what the future holds for compact cameras with decent zoom and built-in GPS… Nothing seems to have happened since 2015.

Update:
Looks like the S9900 is being replaced by the Nikon Coolpix A1000, but sadly it doesn’t have a built-in GPS.

Update:
I found a secondhand S9900 in excellent condition at a good price, so the choice is simple: I bought it! It has everything I want from a general purpose nature camera (small, zoom, GPS, macro, flash, decent photo quality, adjustable viewfinder). The ease of use / convenience of having it all in one camera is just too good to give up. Sure the photos can’t compare with a bigger / newer camera, but it is still good enough for my needs.

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Thanks all for your responses. i was having similar questions and your answers were helpful to me.

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Welcome to the forum, @rajesh_balakrishnan!

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Yo desde hace 3 años utilizo la Panasonic FZ300 que sin ser lo mejor de lo mejor , se ajusta a lo que yo buscaba para visitar lugares muy húmedos como las selvas de Costa Rica o de Sao Tomé e Principe: està sellada para protegerla de una cantidad juiciosa de lluvia o polvo y “solo” pesa 690 gramos poseyendo un zoom portentoso a un precio que ahora, en mi país, no llega a los 400$. Seria casi perfecta si tuviera incorporado GPS para evitarme el engorro de tener que geolocalizar manualmente las fotos via wifi ayudado por el telefono…

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Bienvenido a foro, @carlesguinart!

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Gracias ! Un saludo.

For digital I use a Fujifilm X-t10. It’s showing its age at this point, but bottom line, I strongly endorse Fujifilm. When I’m shooting, it’s:
(1) with vintage Pentax glass
(2) manually focusing
Fujifilm has the analog photographer in mind when they design their camera bodies. The buttom placement, the switches, it all just feels “right”.
And to turn a few heads here, for macro, I either use bellows, or more often I just turn my lens around and shoot through it backwards. Best macro purchase I made was a $3 adapter from ebay, 58mm filter thread to fujji X-mount.
(I could prattle on about macro on the cheap for a while, but a simple lens reversal is great. it’s simple and I’ve been preferring it to using bellows a lot recently).
And lastly, for Analog I use a Pentax MX, with Across 100 usually, though I’m really enjoying Pan F 50. For glass, its all the SMC Takumar I can afford, lol.

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If you are a beginner and have the dough you might want to get a Nikon or Canon DSLR starter pack. I have a Canon Rebel T6 and it works wonders. I started out with a Nikon Coolpix L830 which I used for the longest time but it is on its last legs. I highly recommend the DSLRS though. My aunt has a Nikon; I am not sure the model she has. I really like the Rebel T6 I got it on Black Friday back in 2018 and love it. I don’t have but the one Macro Lens and the 75-300MM Lens that came with the package but they are good for getting up close shots of insects and birds. I am still playing with it since I am still new to the DSLR experience but I am hoping to upgrade to more powerful lenses and things to better my experience. However they are great to start out with if you are looking for a good camera. I really think that the Rebel series is a good buy and has great quality. I hope this helps.

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Now I have Nikon D750 with 70-300vr tele lens ans 105 2.8f macro lens, though I’m gonna change first one this spring for anything better. As already was stated any camera is good enough, depends onwhat you take photos of, I’m okay with doing most of shots with phone camera, just because those photos are for observation, not a gallery. But for distant objects or too small objects phone camera is not enough.
From my previous cameras I really like Nikon D7000, but it has expressed image noise all the time, day or night (also had D5100, but definitely it’s not as comfortable to use and quality was worse)
Before all DSLRs I had Canon PowerShot SX30 IS and it was great for my level and I still thik it’s a really cool amator camera for any purpose.
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/20034612
https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/34821120

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For observations of small stuff, it depends how much weight you want to carry around and whether you want to document or get artistic shots. I have moved from reflex (Nikon D90) to phones, I was pondering to buy some good macro lens but since I have seen that phones with 108Mp cameras are already out, considering how handy is the small size, ability to browse the internet and having integrated GPS I’ll try to have the price tag drop a little bit and have my current mobile wear out and then I’ll give it a try. The thing I am not using my current phone for are calls :grinning:.
Moreover, with a cheap clip on lens and lots of patience you can get further. See my examples here

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I can support recommendations previously made for the Olympus Tough cameras. They do take very good macro shots, they have an LED lighting option so you don’t wash out your subject w a flash, and are indeed tough.

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The Nikon Coolpix B500 is pretty good for nature photos.
40x zoom, 16MP, no built-in GPS but you can send photos to your smart device via bluetooth or wi-fi. It also has a micro HDMI port and comes with an HDMI/USB adapter to download photos onto a computer.
It’s a larger model, but it feels great in the hand. If you want something in the cheaper range, it’s only $250-300 USD.
Also comes in a pretty red.
Here’s a pic I’ve taken with it.

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