I have been using Nikon COOLPIX P610 super zoom camera for a while. The P610 was replaced by it’s newer model, which is the Nikon COOLPIX B700. There is another sibling camera which is the Nikon COOLPIX P900. There are some differences in these three models, but most of below should apply to all these super zoom camera.
These cameras have a great zoom like the P610/B700 have a 60X zoom. The P900 has a huge 83X zoom. A large zoom factor is especially great for bird photos. To give you an idea of 60X zoom below is an image with no zoom and another with 60X magnification. Thanks to one of our friends for capturing these photos on their trip. These photos nicely show the power of 60X magnification.
As you can seen having a 60X optical zoom can be useful to capture far away birds. First time I was using my super zoom camera, I saw a Blue jay on a distant tree. I have experienced that Blue jay birds will fly away if they notice a human near by. So this time when I saw the Blue jay, I aimed my camera, zoomed on the Blue jay and got a great photo. If I had used my phone or my older point and shoot camera I would not have been able to capture that Blue Jay’s photo.
These cameras have a bird mode. As seen in the photos above, first turn the dial to “SCENE” setting. Then use the dial around the “OK” button to scroll through the option till the “Bird-watching” is selected. After that click the “OK” button to activate the bird watching mode.
When camera is in the bird mode one can see a small square in the center, that is the place where the camera will focus. In bird mode, first I zoom out the lens. After that I aim at the bird area and half press the shutter to let the camera focus on the bird area. After that I zoom into the bird and then again half press the zoom. This method usually allows me to zoom in and capture a good photo. I use this bird mode quite often and find it useful.
Shooting at Max zoom
At maximum zoom some times it can get hard to keep the picture steady. Sometimes I carry my tripod. Some of my friends carry a mono pod and use it steady the camera. When I do not have my tripod, I simply lean against something, like a tree or a pole. This gives some additional support to my hands and helps steady the camera.
Wide angle lens
The camera has a wide angle lens, means it has a wider field of vision than a human eye, when no zoom is applied. This is great when wanting to capture a wider area, but can make it bit tricky to spot the bird from the camera. But there is a simple solution to this. I usually have my camera zoomed in little bit to match the field of vision of my eyes. When I see a bird far away my eyes, I use the camera and see a very similar image. After that I easily spot bird in the camera and then I am able to zoom in on the bird.
Alternative to Binoculars
Since the magnification of the camera is big, instead of using binoculars sometimes I simply use the camera itself. This does help, because when I see a bird I can immediately start capturing photos. This does mean that the camera stays on and uses up the battery. For long birding trips best to take along your binoculars.
My camera’s LCD display can be used to view saved pictures or can be used to shoot pictures. Initially it may be tempting to use the LCD display while snapping photos, but I recommend staying away from it.
One reason is that using LCD display longer will mean you will use up the battery more, although I have not timed exactly how much the battery is used by LCD display.
Another reason to avoid shooting with LCD display is when it is bright and sunny. At that time shooting with a LCD display can get tricky because it becomes harder to see the image.
Electronic View Finder Auto Toggle
My P610 includes an electronic view finder (EVF), which I use. But I use the mode where camera automatically switches from display mode to electronic view finder mode.
The “EVF Auto Toggle” option can be set by pressing Menu button -> Toolset icon -> EVF auto toggle. There is a sensor next to the electronic view finder. If it senses something near the EVF then the LCD display is turned off and EVF is turned on.
This helps because, when I am walking around with the camera on, I have camera in a strap and it rests on my body. In that case the sensor turns off the display, thus saving the battery. While taking a photo the sensor switches to the EVF mode.
After taking the photo, when I want to review the photo I simply move the camera away from my eyes. After this the sensor senses it and the LCD display turns on. I think this is a good way to use EVF and display both at the same time and also save some battery along the way.
Choosing between Nikon COOLPIX P900 and Nikon COOLPIX B700
Both these cameras can be used to take good bird photos. Having said that there are some differences. The Nikon COOLPIX P900 has a bigger optical zoom of 83X as compared to the 60X on a B700. This does mean than the P900 is bit larger and heavier as well. With battery and memory card, the B700 weighs about 20 oz (570 g), while the P900 weighs about 31.8 oz. (899 g). The P900 stores pictures in JPEG format while the B700 can store pictures in JPEG format and RAW (NRW) (Nikon’s own format). The RAW format is a plus, if you plan to do post processing on photos. If I were to choose between the two I would choose the Nikon COOLPIX B700 because of it’s lesser weight/size and because it supports RAW format. Click here to find out more about Nikon COOLPIX B700.
Do you use any of the above cameras for bird watching and photography? How has your experience with the same?