The Best Lens and Camera for Bird Photography

The Best Lens and Camera for Bird Photography - barred anshrike, snail kite, white-necked jacobin, gartered trogon
Top left Clockwise: Barred Antshrike, Snail Kite
Bottom Left: White-necked Jacobin, Gartered Trogon
all from Belize.

With a lot of wildlife photography and nature photography equipment available on the market, it can be very difficult to decide what camera and lens work best. Nature photography can be especially frustrating to shoot since most birds are small and impossible to get close to. Over the years, I have used many cameras, but one has positively changed my ability to shoot all types of birds: from endangered birds to singing birds to all types of owls, cardinals, mockingbirds, penguins, and every bird in between. That camera is the Nikon D850.

My Experience with Nature Photography using the Nikon D850

I have always used Nikon equipment, even though I know that Canon makes an equally good product. However, about a year ago Nikon came out with the D850, a full frame camera. At almost the same time they released the 500 mm VR lens. For me, that is a killer combination. Since I started using this lens/camera combination in my nature photography, my life has changed forever. Because of the minimal size and weight of this equipment, I have been able to toss the tripod aside. I can now easily maneuver around and make rapid adjustments in my position in order to accomplish an ideal background and composition. This combination makes for the best wildlife photography.

Megapixels Matter in Bird Photography

The Nikon D850 has a very high resolution of 45 megapixels. This allows me to stay back farther and still get a good size image. The downside to this high resolution is noise if the light is not bright enough. To minimize the noise problem, I set my camera to auto ISO and do not go above 2500 ISO. If the light level is too low, I shoot at a lower shutter speed. I can do this if the bird is not flying or moving around too much, or I will pull out my Nikon D5, which can handle a much higher ISO.

No Tripod, No Problem

Overall, using this combination of high-quality equipment has given me extraordinary flexibility that previously had only been a dream in nature photography. Following birds on their journey, to places as near as Magic Hedge to as far as Nairobi National Park, not being tethered to a tripod has made it much easier to move around. This ease has allowed me to get into the best position to quickly achieve a beautiful bird photo.

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