The Wind Beneath My Wings

Click to enlarge

Project Osprey has followed the progress of two Osprey hatchlings this Spring. The older began flapping its wings about three weeks ago — the younger, about a week later.

They have very different personalities. The older is very quiet, and likes to perch on the nest doing a sort of hip hop neck slide. The younger spends most of the time nestled down calling out for food.

Both are nearing their maiden flight which typically occurs within 7-8 weeks of hatching.

Osprey are a type of hawk. With a 70-inch wingspan they are smaller than a bald eagle (80-inch). Look for their stick nests near any body of water as they typically feed on fish. Osprey will nest atop trees, cranes, buoy markers and poles.

There is an abandoned nest across the creek that I believe has been used by this pair in year’s past, but it is not as big or defensible as the one you see here.

Project Osprey has been a very difficult task due to the fact that I don’t have the proper gear to capture awesome photos and video. Not even 5% of the images were usable, and the many hours of video were condensed into the 10-minute film posted below.

Very disappointing.

A bridge camera  — in this case, the Panasonic DMC-FZ200 — will certainly give you the distance, but not the quality. My APS-C crop camera — Canon Rebel T7i — captures great images, but my longest lens is only 250mm.

A premium lens costs thousands of dollars, and because this isn’t my style of photography, I couldn’t justify the expense. Now, if I worked for National Geographic then, yeah, I’d gladly pay the price.

However, out of impulse, I ordered — then canceled — the Sigma 150-600mm  f/5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM Lens (US$900 at Amazon). The effective crop factor (240-960mm) would certainly get the job done, right?

The Sony RX10 IV is touted by many to be the very best bridge camera, but at US$1600 it would be a more expensive option than purchasing an interchangeable lens for the Canon.

On the other hand, the Sony captures images that are of DSLR quality without having to tote a bag full of lenses and camera body. Built with a ZEISS Vario-Sonnar T 24-600mm f/2.4-4 ultra-zoom Lens, and 25x optical zoom, the RX10 could very well replace all of my gear.

Should you buy the RX10 IV? Maybe not right now as Sony plans to announce later this year the release date of the RX10 V. Wait and see what the improvements are, or score the IV at a discounted price.

Does a bridge camera at 600mm produce as clear an image as a DSLR at the same length? Well, if it’s a $10,000 prime lens then, obviously, no. If you have to crop the image there will be distracting noise and artifacts, but for this project the FZ200 was decent enough … and I only paid US$250 though, in 2016, I should have bought the Sony RX III.

Project grade: C+

Mom with two fledglings
Dad flyover
Dad returns from creek

Copyright © In Pics and Words

13 thoughts on “The Wind Beneath My Wings

  1. Thank you, John. It was a fun though frustrating project. One day, I took a position by the creek to capture some images of the Osprey fishing. Several people told me they had often seen the birds diving into the creek to catch fish. Of course, I wanted to snap those shots, but not one of them was usable. So, it took a lot of hours over many days and weeks just to produce the few posts I’ve published here. An upgrade in gear would be necessary, but expensive.

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  2. I enjoyed seeing all of the action at the osprey nest and appreciate all of your work to capture the video footage. I was intrigued by your discussion of gear. You noted that you were dissatisfied with the performance of the FZ200, commenting that only 5% of the images were usable. Were the others blurry from motion, out of focus, not contrasty enough, or what? It might be possible to make adjustments to the camera settings to improve image quality or to use a tripod or monopod if you are not using one, which is really important if shooting at max range. Birds in flight tend to be a problem for almost all bridge cameras, so if that is one of your goals, you might be better off investing in a long lens. I use a Tamron 150-600mm. It may sound like this is the same as the 600mm listed for the FZ200 and the Sony RX-10 IV, but consider the crop factor for your Rebel T7i, my lens has an equivalent focal length of 960mm. The more that you can fill the frame with your subject, the more likely you are to be able to focus accurately. Another plus of investing in a long lens is that you can continue to use it when you upgrade your camera body, which means you could use it for a much longer than your camera. Which is best? Only you can weigh the relative benefits of flexibility, portability, quality of images, and cost, but I wanted to give you a few things to think about.

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    1. Mike, I wanted to add that the FZ200, like the RX10 III, has a wobbly barrel when the zoom is extended. In perfect conditions it’s not an issue, but the slightest breeze will knock it out of focus. Model IV of the RX10 fixed that problem, but I don’t know if it was resolved with the FZ300. All of my shots had focus lock, but when I clicked the shutter a breeze would invariably shake the barrel. With regards to the Tamron lens, I still lean towards the Sigma if only to save a few hundred dollars.

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      1. I have a number of friends that have the Sigma lens and are really happy with it. The main reason I have the Tamron is that when it came out in November 2013, the Sigma did not exist–if I remember right, it came out in early 2015. In many reviews the Sigma beats out the Tamron, though the improved Tamron G2 model pretty much matches the Sigma. Good luck as you think about what you want to do gear-wise.

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  3. Thank you, Mike. Yes, it was all of those things … focus, contrast, motion blur … all of which, I suppose, are better performed by a DSLR. At distance, a bridge camera has difficulty locking focus. Especially if there is an object in the foreground, and I have read that the RX10 IV cannot auto-focus while zooming. So bridge cameras have their limitations when it comes to more specialized photography. The Tamron, or Sigma would be a more affordable option than a prime lens for the Canon, but I might wait for the release of the RX10 V to see what improvements may have been made.

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  4. The Sony RX 10 IV is a good camera but if there is anyway you can afford it I would stick with the Rebel and get the Sigma zoom. The Sony is still only a small sensor camera (1″) compared to your APS-C Rebel. With the Rebel’s sensor size and 24MP you can still do quite a bit of cropping in post processing that you would have as much luck with using the Sony. The exact difference in sensors is Sony RX 10: 13.2 mm x 8.8 mm and the Rebel is 22.3 mm x 14.0 mm. Good luck in sorting it out.

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    1. Mike recommended the Tamron, but I ordered — then canceled — the Sigma to save $300. The specs seem to be comparable, but the bottom line, as you noted, is that the larger sensor in the Canon will produce greater detail which is important in preserving the quality of a cropped image.

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    2. David, the other, more expensive option, is the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens with the EF 1.4X III teleconverter. Effective length on the T7i … 224-896mm. But then I read a pro-photographer who wrote that he would never pair a teleconverter with a zoom lens. However, the sample images I saw were very good. I think it’s important to pair compatible gear otherwise the wrong converter may disable the auto-focus in some cases. I was just looking at images captured by the Sigma Sports lens. Oh my … that is good glass, but it’s twice the cost of the Sigma Contemporary model. The Canon pair runs about $2500 while the Sigma Sports goes for $1800. A common complaint with Third Party lenses is that they do have focusing issues, and don’t always communicate well with the camera body. For that reason, I would be inclined to purchase a Canon lens.

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  5. Hi David, I bought Sigma 150-600 c lens used two years ago and yes it has its faults at times but its an excellent lens for the money. Mine was a year old with the Sigma 1.4 teleconver. In bright light you will get sharp images but in low light the 600 end can be soft. I have shot small wildlife at 300 metres plus and chopped them in post. The images are still good enough for blogging but wouldn’t want to be printing enlargements. Would i buy another one, yes because they are great value for money given the range it covers. I use mine with a Nikon D7200 and love it.
    Check out my blog.

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    1. I did order that lens a few days ago, but had buyer’s remorse and canceled. Last night, I was looking at images from the Sports version and was very impressed. What I’m unsure about is pairing a Third Party lens and converter on a Canon body. It can limit or disable auto-focus as well as having other compatibility issues.

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      1. They make lens to suit each camera and I’ve never heard of any issues with them. I use mine on the Nikon D7200 and the D750 full sensor bodys and have experienced no issues.
        I use other Sigma and Tamron lens all problem free.
        See if you can hire one and try it first.

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