Saturday, September 15, 2018

early September: Fall warblers and a new camera

Ah, those tricky fall warblers! Some of them look so different in their current plumage that it's almost like learning whole new species. But with all the juveniles that have just been added to the population, there's also lots of birds around, which is fun. I've been out a few times recently, picking through flocks in small patches of habitat. Unfortunately one of my favorite birding areas (Myrick Marsh) has been badly flooded and inaccessible following torrential rain upstream a couple of weeks ago (but fortunately, our area was spared the catastrophic damage experienced elsewhere).

I haven't gotten any great photos, but here are some doc shots - often very useful when trying to identify these guys!

Cape May Warbler. As in the spring, there have been many many more around this year than last year.

Tennessee Warbler - these were abundant once migration got underway.

Blackpoll Warbler - juvenile, I think

Not A Warbler! Juvenile Cedar Waxwing
Finally, a Black-billed Cuckoo for my county year list! (Not a FOGY only because I had several on my big trip to Horicon Marsh.)

The above photos were taken with my Nikon D7100 with 70-300mm zoom lens. I'm pretty happy with that setup, except the lens is slow in dim forests, but it's very limiting. I have to take other lenses (or a pocket camera) for anything other than bird photography, and I also have a digiscoping attachment to get the camera on my scope for very long shots, and switching back and forth is annoying... plus that becomes a lot of weight and bulk to carry around.

Several (many...) years ago, I tried a few superzoom cameras and was really unhappy with the soft image quality, which is why I went with a DSLR setup originally. Well, I recently learned about the camera that might just be what I've been waiting for! It's the Sony RX10 IV, with a zoom range from 24-600mm equivalent (hard to argue with that!) and SLR-type operations (full manual mode, RAW format, etc) plus some nice features like the ability to (attempt to) track a moving object. I've barely had a chance to start testing it, but I like it so far. The images are a little bit noisier than with my D7100, but otherwise they are crisp - no trouble with softness like those other superzooms. With 600mm zoom, I will probably rarely need to crop to the point that the noise will become problematic. (I should perhaps mention that I'm not getting paid or free gear or anything for reviewing this camera! I'm just excited about it!)

The sharpest photo I got during my test the other day was this lowly House Finch (which was at least out in a natural area, not in my back yard!):

I also got a new laptop recently, and I'm still working on getting the color balance right on this screen. The above photo looks a bit too yellow-hued to me - how does it look on your screen?

This Black-capped Chickadee was in the shade, and the image is a bit noisy if you zoom in; processing helped, and maybe it's okay for a web page, but still annoying that the flower looks sharper than the bird:

The subject tracking did well for birds in flight, which was a nice alternative to the autofocus repeatedly hunting and losing the bird while trying to focus on infinity:

I'm hoping to test the camera much more extensively in the next couple of weeks, so we'll see how it goes. So far it seems like a pretty good option for one camera that can do everything! Most of the time, I'm not trying to get a professional-quality photo - there are actual professionals with professional gear (which costs far more than I will ever spend on a hobby) who will always get much nicer photos than I will. Mostly I want to be able to document rare birds, remember the scenery, and identify cool bugs, and sometimes get photos that are good enough to display the beauty of the bird/bug/flower (as opposed to the beauty of the photo).

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