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Equipment – Cameras and Lenses

As with most types of hobby photography, the best camera for the job is a digital SLR. Almost any model will do, although obviously some are better than others. My weapon of choice is my trusty Pentax K-7, which is a good camera for wildlife photography thanks to its weatherproofed body and extremely quiet shutter action. A good telephoto or long zoom lens is obviously essential, preferably in the range of 300-500mm.

The kind of super-fast zoom and telephoto lenses used by professionals cost many thousands of pounds, making them prohibitively expensive for most amateurs, but you should be able to get a basic 55-300mm zoom lens for your system for not much more than £200. On an APS-C camera the crop factor makes the top end of these lenses equivalent to 450mm, plenty long enough for good wildlife shots. While they can't match the fast maximum aperture of professional equipment they are perfectly adequate in good light. Most of my example shots for this features were shot using my Pentax K-7 with the DA f/4-5.6 55-300mm ED zoom lens, which costs around £270.


If you own a Sony or Minolta DSLR this excellent 500mm f/8 mirror lens (an old Minolta design but still a good one) costs under £600, and is very compact and portable. Some of the shots in this article were taken on a Sony Alpha A100 using this lens. You can spot them by the narrow depth of field and tell-tale ring-shaped bokeh of the foreground and background detail.


While a DSLR is obviously the best choice you can get good wildlife photos with almost any type of digital camera. Many superzoom cameras have focal lengths equivalent to over 400mm, and with image stabilisation and very high resolutions they can be surprisingly good for wildlife photography. They have the additional advantage of being much lighter and more portable than a DSLR kit, an important consideration when you may have to carry your gear several miles over open countryside.

Owners of compact cameras can also get in on the action, thanks to a sub-category of wildlife photography known as “digiscoping”. Spotting scopes are a popular accessory used by many birdwatchers. They are powerful prismatic telescopes that look like one half of a big pair of binoculars, and are usually used on a tripod. There are several mounts available that allow compact cameras to be attached to the spotting scope pointing into the eyepiece, effectively using the scope as a powerful telephoto lens. Many birdwatchers have got excellent photos using equipment like this.


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