I am often asked what kind of camera I use to take bird pictures and I have found a mirrorless camera is the best solution for me.
So here is my camera and a current list of the equipment I use in the field. I will supply a link after each item if you wish to look at it or read the reviews on Amazon.
Olympus OM-D E-M1
A Micro Four Thirds camera or Mirrorless camera (silver version)
I’m not writing a review of my camera, but rather giving you an idea of why of love it so much and how it works for me taking pictures.
- Ease of use
- Totally portable
- Customizable function buttons
- Fast shutter speed
- Built in grip
- Easy battery access
- Can easily reach all controls even with small hands
- 5-way stabilisation which eliminated the shake from the M5 that I previously used
- Great video and audio
- Takes fabulous pictures
I have used this camera for two years now and find it lightweight to pack around and hike with, as I take it everywhere I go. I get lots of comments on it as it’s small and looks like a 1950 SLR camera. Easy to travel with and it fits easily in a carry-on or large purse. Click here to view
Olympus OM-D E-M5
A Micro Four Thirds camera or Mirrorless camera (silver version)
This isn’t my current camera, but I thought it deserved a mention. It was my first mirrorless camera and is less expensive than the M1. Wonderful entry level camera into the world of micro four thirds camera and easy to use. Click here to view on Amazon.
Pentax Digital SR 7x Optical Zoom
This is a point and shoot camera that I have from a few years ago. They don’t seem to make it anymore, but it’s what I take pictures with when out in the garden and around the yard. I don’t care if it gets a little dirt on it and it fits easily in my pocket.
Olympus Digital 12-50mm lens
Panasonic Lumix 100-300mm Lens
This is the lens that I have continually on my camera and that I use for bird photography. It is great in low light and there are very few days of the years that I don’t take a picture with it. Click here to view on Amazon
Why I Use A Mirrorless Camera
If you look at the picture below and the size of the lenses you will get a sense of why I love my mirrorless camera so much. The lenses pictured here are a Panasonic 100-300mm f4/5.6 vs Canon 600mm f4. They both have the same reach as the mirrorless doubles the mm (so 300mm is 600mm) but I don’t need a sherpa to pack around my equipment with the Olympus M1 and the Panasonci 100-300mm lens.
A comparison shot that shows the size difference between a normal sized Canon 600mm F/4 telephoto and the similarly powerful Panasonic GH3 with a 100-300mm lens that converts to a 200-600mm F/4-5.6 equivalent zoom. Just in case you can’t see the GH3, it’s on the right and the Canon is on the left.
Olympus 7.6-Volt 1220 mAh Battery
I have 2 batteries so that when I have one in the camera the other one is charging or in my pocket, in case I run low. Click here to view on Amazon
This is the battery charger that I use with the above battery. Click here to view on Amazon
Olympus Battery Holder and Grip
When I had the Olympus M5 this was something that I couldn’t live without. It allowed me to have a great grip on the camera when I was using it over a long period of time. It also comes with a second battery holder and a vertical grip that a lot of people find useful. Click here to view on Amazon
I usually carry this item with me when I go walking and find it extremely useful. I have a quick release plate that I use on the bottom of my camera to allow it to attach a strap as well as the monopod so I can switch back and forth quickly. I also use it as a walking stick when walking over rough ground. Click here to view on Amazon
Quick Release Plate for Manfrotto
This works really great with the monopod and the strap. I can just leave one part on my camera to use with the strap with the D-ring in the bottom and I leave the other half on the monopod. Very quick to take the strap off and attach the camera to the monopod. Click here to view on Amazon
Black Rapid Strap
This is a strong strap and very comfortable with a swivel click at the bottom so it never gets tangled. The strap that I have was made for a woman and allows you to carry the camera on your hip and quickly lift it up to take a picture. Click here to view on Amazon
There are always rainy days when one needs a waterproof cover for their camera. There are lots of fancy and expensive equipment options to cover your camera, but I found the best solution for me is just a dry bag. I have two. One that I use when we are travelling or in the boat, and the other when I am walking or hiking.
I use the one in the boat in case the camera get sprayed or falls overboard. I haven’t tested it, but the bag is watertight and is suppose to float. Here is hoping I never have to test it. Click here to view on Amazon
The other dry bag has a bit of a modification. I took a pair of scissors and cut an X in the bottom of the bag, just big enough for my camera lens and hood to fit through. It’s a tight fit, so it seals around the hood and leaves the lens free. Easy to carry and I can just pull back where you clip it together to see the controls and viewfinder on the camera.
Three Legged Stool
This stool is easy to pack around as it has a carrying strap. I carry this over my shoulder, the camera on a strap over the other shoulder and the monopod under my arm if I’m not using it as a walking stick. All my equipment is very light and portable. Click here to view on Amazon
This is a good light tripod made from carbon fiber and the more I use it… the clearer my pictures. I don’t usually take it on walks but use it if I’m going to be in one place for a while. Click here to view on Amazon
Pistol Grip Tripod Head
I use this on my tripod as I found the regular ball head too cumbersome for fast-moving birds. Once I got the hang of the pistol grip I found it really easy to use and holds my camera steady even with the larger lens. Click here to view on Amazon
This little Lowepro camera bag fits my camera and both lens in it for when I’m travelling. Small and compact and carries everything I need. Click here to view on Amazon
I use the larger bag if I’m wanting to carry more equipment than my camera. Comfortable and compartmentalize inside to keep your lenses and camera safe. Click here to view on Amazon
I have a couple of blinds that I use as well as just camouflage netting to put over myself in the field. I am always amazed at how the birds just ignore them and allow me to take pictures. They really do work.
NW400M Backpack Pop-Up Hunting Blind
This is a great option for the backyard. I will set it up on my deck so I am level with the bird feeders and can just pop in and out of it when I see something interesting. It also keeps out the bugs. Click here to view on Amazon.
This one is a little different and I haven’t used it a lot yet, but it’s actually for changing clothes in. I got it because it was smaller and a little lighter than the hunting blind and easier to pack when hiking.
I throw a camouflage net over the top and pop inside and sit down leaving the opening slightly open for my camera. I might just make a slit in the side for the camera lens, but as I said, I haven’t used it a lot yet so I’m not sure exactly what will be easiest. Click here to view on Amazon.
Photo Editing Programs
I do very little editing on my photo’s and try and get it right in the field. The most I do is to crop and possibly sharpen an image.
There are all sorts of cool things you can do with photo editors, but I like to see the photo as I shot it and don’t always have time to play around with it to get the “perfect” shot. What you see is what you get!
The first program I use is called BreezeBrowser Pro. I open the pictures that I’ve taken for the day in the program and it’s easy and quick to sort through them keeping the ones in focus and deleting the rest. When I take over 1000 pictures a day, this is a real time-saver.
The two main programs that I have for photo editing are:
- Adobe Photoshop
- Adobe Lightroom
I have found the following courses and books very helpful.
Book: David Busch’s Olympus OM-D E-M5 Guide to Digital Photography
I found the manual that goes along with the camera lacking in clarity so purchased this book which filled in all the blanks and was much easier to read. Click here to view on Amazon
Book: David Busch’s Olympus OM-D E-M1 Guide to Digital Photography
If found David’s book so helpful on the M5 so I got the one for the M1 as well and wasn’t disappointed. Click here to view on Amazon
Glenn Bartley Photography Workshop
I took Glenn’s Vancouver Island workshop in the spring of 2013. After years of taking pictures on my own, Glenn really helped me in taking my camera off auto focus and showed me I could even take pictures in the rain. He’s very knowledgeable and a great teacher. Click here to view his workshops and work.
I have taken some of their online video courses on photography. The instructors are excellent and well versed in their topics. They allow you to watch a course free online and then give you the opportunity to purchase it. I have purchased 2 of their course and found them both extremely helpful. Click here to view their current courses…
Courses I have purchased:
Olympus OM-D EM-5 – Fast Start
Olympus OM-D EM-1 – Fast Start
Fundamentals of Digital Photography 2014 with John Greengo
Every year I watch the updated Fundamentals of Digital Photography when they offer it free as well as any outdoor and landscape program that I can. If you are using Photoshop or Lightroom they have some great courses for those as well. I found it a wonderful way to learn
Simple And Lightweight:
As you can see from my list, I like everything to be easy and lightweight. It suits how I take photo’s as well as the terrain where I bird. I very rarely pack a tripod with me and normally take the monopod but most of my pictures are handheld.
When I travel I pack my mirrorless camera, extra batteries, charger and monopod along with my laptop in a backpack with extra clothes and jacket to protect them. Easy to carry on a plane and take your gear out when going through security.