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If you haven’t paid attention to new photo products in a while, now is the time. Over the past 12 to 18 months, digital mirrorless photography has come into its own. There’s no denying that for the first time ever, DSLR cameras have finally passed the pro-gear baton to a new fleet of mirrorless flagships.
The arrival of the revolutionary Sony a1 about a year ago raised the bar of standards to new heights. At the end of 2021, Canon and Nikon joined the fray with their own top-tier full-frame mirrorless entries. In the more compact Micro Four-Thirds market, Panasonic and Olympus (recently renamed OM System) have developed their own impressive offerings.
All of this is good news for bird photographers of all skill levels. Flagship models, by clearly defining the industry’s evolving state-of-the-art equipment, display imaging benchmarks that are invaluable in deciding which feature or set of camera capabilities ranks highest during a buying decision. One way to avoid an expensive cash ride is to simply buy the most advanced gear your budget allows and expand on it as your photography skills improve.
Nikon’s bold statements are attracting the attention of bird photo enthusiasts. Like a Formula 1 driver climbing from the back of the pack to a place on the podium, Nikon’s flagship full-frame Z 9, with its peerless AF system and stacked image sensor, is just the thing. for those looking for that perfect bird. flight keeper – almost every time.
Nikon’s announcement in December of a lightweight 800mm 6.3 VR S super-telephoto lens to match the Z 9 is considered by many to be the crown jewel of Nikon’s lineup.
Imaging Resource’s respected online photo reviewers, rating the lens’ prowess, said it was “the longest Nikkor Z lens to date and is approximately 48% longer lightweight and 16% shorter than the Nikon 800mm F5.6E FL ED AFS VR Nikkor lens. . It’s not for nothing that at $6,500, Nikon’s new Z lens is also nearly $10,000 cheaper.
Check Nikon Z9 price and availability at Adorama and B&H.
A common loon holds its next meal in its beak. Shot with Sony Alpha 1 and Sony FE 200-600mm F5.6-6.3 G OSS lens. Photo by Jeremy Gray
The Canon EOS R3, announced in September 2021, is a one-body AF acquisition beast. Just about a year ago, Canon was widely recognized as the closest R&D competitor to Sony’s revolutionary Alpha 1 mirrorless digital camera. The commercial track record of the R3, in just a few months in the hands of photographers around the world, has cemented this position with confidence and authority. Professional photographer Keith Ladzinski, commenting on the R3 in our sister post, Outdoor photographersays: “The camera’s 24.1-megapixel resolution was one of my first concerns — it’s about half the resolution of the EOS R5 — but I was blown away by the sharpness, rich detail and sharp images of the EOS R3.
Check price and availability of the Canon EOS R3 at Adorama, Amazon and B&H.
Those who love the benefits of a smaller, lighter photo rig have enthusiastically welcomed the arrival of the new OM-1 Micro Four Thirds body, OM System’s first offering since acquiring the Olympus brand last year. . The OM-1, based on initial reviews and user reports across the media spectrum, appears to have allayed many concerns about the small sensor format’s challenges with low-light image noise and performance. flying birds autofocus. Additionally, recent advances in image processing noise reduction programs and plug-ins from brands such as DXO and Topaz Labs have all but ended noise as a negative factor in MFT images.
Check OM-1 price and availability at Adorama, Amazon, and B&H.
As the marriage between video technology and digital still photography platforms evolves, the recently announced Panasonic Lumix GH6 sets it apart from most of the competition with its focus on video production. Its still image acquisition and in-camera developing power enabled by Panasonic’s new Venus processor, with a built-in 100 MP high-resolution mode, make the GH6 a particularly attractive option for the bird photographer who gives equal importance to professional quality photos and videos. .
Check price and availability of the Panasonic Lumix GH6 at Adorama, Amazon and B&H.
Not to be forgotten in this visual blizzard of next-generation imaging hardware is Sony’s Alpha 1, which has set the photography world in suspense with its exponential leaps forward. It could be argued persuasively that the a1 sparked the fierce competition that led to the latest high-end bodies and lenses from Canon, Panasonic, Nikon and OM System.
Check price and availability of the Sony Alpha 1 at Adorama, Amazon and B&H.
Few would deny that this is a unique and defining moment, a moment when anyone with a passion for avian photography can seize their chance and marvel at the imaging equipment now at their disposal. If you’re on the hunt for new gear, you won’t go wrong with today’s great picks.
Find other great mirrorless cameras for bird photography here.
This article first appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of BirdWatching Magazine.
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