There are many different situations with bird photography and different equipment will be required depending on the circumstances. The best type of camera for bird photography is the Digital Single Lens Reflex camera.
Where birds come to a particular area frequently and this can be because of food, water or because the birds are nesting, a relatively short lens can be used and the camera placed on a tripod with the camera remotely controlled. In these circumstances lenses of a focal length up to 100mm can be used successfully. Be careful when photographing near nesting birds as the birds should not be disturbed at any time. I have taken images of many birds with this type of setup.
Photographing birds in aviaries is one of the easiest ways to photograph birds, however it is not the best way as the birds are not in their natural environment. Walk through aviaries will enable you to photograph birds with lenses of around 200mm. I find a long close up lens is good for this type of photography. I use a Nikon 200mm Micro lens for this type of application.
Photographing wild birds in their natual environment is the main aim of the bird photographer. Photographing wild birds requires very long lenses. Generally lenses of 300mm up to 600mm are required. There are zoom lenses ranging from 100mm to 500mm, however many of the zoom lenses do not have large enough apertures, many having apertures up to f/5.6. Generally apertures of at least f/4 are required.
The following are some examples of good wild bird lenses:
- 600mm f/4,
- 500mm f/4,
- 400mm f/4,
- 400mm f/2.8,
- 300mm f/4,
- 300mm f/2.8.
Some of these lenses are huge in size and weight and also cost a small fortune, generally a lens with vibration reduction or image stabilisation is required, to help stabilise the lens from any camera movement. Teleconverters can be used with these lenses to0 give an effective focal length multiplier of 1.4 times, 1.7 times and 2.0 times. However these teleconverters will also increase the minimum aperture of the lens. When using teleconverters, lenses with a low aperture of f/2.8 will perform better than lenses with a higher aperture. A 2.0 times teleconverter can increase the focal length of a 600mm lens to 1,200mm or increase a 300mm lens to 600mm. Teleconverters will always work better with fast fixed focal length lenses rather than zoom lenses.
Long lenses greater than 300mm will require a monopod or tripod to help stabilise the lens and help to obtain sharper images.
Other accessories helpful to obtain better bird photographs are as follows:
- Camera remote control.
There is some more information on selecting a bird watching camera here.