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A Compact Superzoom Makes a Great Bird Watching Camera

Updated on August 20, 2013
Photo of Common Merganser by Lisa Howard.
Photo of Common Merganser by Lisa Howard.

For a long time, I believed the only type of camera I'd ever own was a DSLR. I love the speed, the quality and, yes, even the size of these cameras. The only thing I don't love about them is the price, especially when it comes to a high quality zoom lens appropriate for bird watching.

So recently I did something I never thought I'd do - I bought a compact superzoom camera. Yep. And I absolutely love it! For half the price I paid for my last DSLR body without a lens, I got a camera with a lens that can get me up close to birds and other wildlife, and I've been quite pleased with the quality. A compact superzoom is a great camera for bird watching, and it's definitely a more affordable option for anyone who can't spend a couple thousand dollars on a DSLR and telephoto lens.

Photo of barn swallow by Lisa Howard
Photo of barn swallow by Lisa Howard

Top Superzoom Compact Cameras for Bird Watching

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom - Black
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 12.1 MP Digital Camera with CMOS Sensor and 24x Optical Zoom - Black

Offers f/2.8 constant aperture across the entire 24x zoom range for fast low light performance.


Why Choose a Superzoom?

The best reason to buy a superzoom camera for bird watching is obviously the focal length. With a 50x optical zoom lens, you can get the 35mm equivalent of 1200mm. That's like buying a 600mm telephoto lens and adding a 2x teleconverter for amazing close images.

A lens like that on a DSLR could easily set you back $10k or more and could weigh as much as a small child. With a superzoom digital camera, you get the same focal reach in a compact camera that is small and light enough that you can easily hold it in one hand.

Of course, compact cameras typically have smaller sensors than DSLRs, so you won't get the same quality as you would if you spent thousands of dollars, but if you're already accustomed to using a compact camera or smartphone, the quality will be as good as what you're used to. For most people, a digital superzoom will produce results that will make you happy.

What kind of photos can you get? Take a look at the samples in this articles. All of the photos here were taken with a Panasonic DMC-FZ200, a compact camera with 24x zoom and a constant f/2.8 aperture across the entire zoom range. Other cameras, such as the Canon Powershot SX50, can get you even closer to your subject, with the trade-off being a smaller aperture as you zoom. For instance, the SX50 has a 50x f/3.4 - f/5.6 optical zoom lens.

So if you're looking for affordable bird watching cameras, a superzoom compact may be the answer to what you're seeking.

Do You Enjoy Bird Watching?

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Photo of Canada goose by Lisa Howard
Photo of Canada goose by Lisa Howard

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