Saturday, 9 March 2013

Cameras for Birding: The Zoom War Hots Up — Sony HX300

For bird and other wildlife watchers needing a light camera to record sightings, there was no choice a year ago. There was only the trend-setting Nikon P510 with its 24-1000 mm (35 mm equivalent) lens.

'Bridge' cameras have been selling very well (much to the tut-tutting of the mainstream photographic magazines who do not realise that carrying heavy binoculars and, often, a tripod and telescope as well means that an SLR with a long lens (often of inadequate length at that) is out of the question).

Canon soon followed Nikon, then Fuji and now Sony have followed with basically similar products; Nikon have followed up the P510 with the P520 (see my posts of 19 February 2013, 18 October 2012, 31 August 2012, 15 July 2012).

The Sony HX300 will be available in UK in early April. It is very difficult to say which model has the edge at the moment. The new Sony has more pixels but to see whether that compromises noise reduction we shall have to wait for the reviews. Disappointingly, it does not offer RAW, although with a 1200 mm equivalent lens and an output of 5184x3888 pixels, it could give that extra push that birders are always striving for. It is heavier than the Nikon but not so heavy as the Fuji

Here is my extraction of data from the technical details that are important to birders:

Nikon P520Canon SX50Fuji HS50Sony HX300
Optical Zoom (equiv)24-100024-120024-100024-1200
Max Aperture3-5.93.4-6.52.8-5.62.8-6.3
Sensor Size1/2.31/2.31/21/2.3
Resolution (Mpixels)18.112.11620.4
Output Size (pixels)4896x36124000x30004609x34565184x3888
VideoFull HDFull HDFull HDFull HD
Weight g550595758623

On Amazon UK prices of these models today are: Nikon P520 £355 (the P510 is still available at £239); Canon SX50 £362; Fuji HS50 £470; Sony HX300 £419 (pre-order).