Saturday, 8 February 2014

Cameras for Birding: The ‘Bridge’ Camera Zoom War: Now There Are Six (Canon SX50, Fuji S1, Nikon P530, Olympus SP-100EE, Panasonic Lumix FZ72, Sony HX300)

I last looked at the superzoom ‘bridge’ cameras last August. Since then others have come in to join the competition. Eighteen months ago there was only one—the Nikon P510. Taking the cut-off point as the 35 mm equivalent of a 1000 mm lens, I can now find six in the category from Canon, Fuji, Nikon, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony.

In some respects, comparison is now easier. All have stabilisation; all have 1/2.3 sensors; all have very similar maximum apertures (approximately f/3 to f/6). In the following table I have only shown those features that are of key importance to birders and that I have found information on: zoom range, resolution, output, weight and price.

Optical Zoom (equiv)Resolution (Mpixels)Output Still)Weight (g)Price (GBP)
Canon SX5024-120012RAW/JPG595319
Fuji S124-120016RAW/JPG680399
Nikon P53024-100016JPG494329
Olympus SP-100EE24-120016JPG589349
Panasonic FZ7220-120016RAW/JPG660289
Sony HX30024-120020JPG623319

The prices in the table are those quoted by WEX today. The Canon, Panasonic and Sony appeared in my last post on this subject. The Olympus and Fuji models are new, with the Fuji S1 yet to appear in UK.

In this comparison, there is very little to choose, in terms of theoretical performance, between them. The Canon has a smaller sensor but should suffer less from noise in low light.

The biggest disadvantage in using my Nikon P510 at full zoom is the speed of focusing. I do not know if there is any real difference between the cameras I have listed in this, to me, important respect. The times stated for autofocus may not have much meaning when aiming at a small bird at full zoom. Some have focus limiters, presumably to save the ‘hunting’ for focus throughout the entire range.

There are other fatures, not key ones for birding, that are worth considering. Fuji say that their new S1, is ‘weather resistant’ and has an intervalometer for time-lapse sequences. And yes, I am tempted even though it is much heavier than the Nikon.