Thursday, 28 August 2014

Camera field tests and Mitu preview

This summer in Colombia four of those I was birding with at various times were using the Canon Powershot SX50HS.  Their results when viewed on the screen on the camera's back looked amazing and looked to put my much heavier (and at the time twice as expensive) Olympus E-520 DSLR with 70-300 zoom to shame, particularly on more distant subjects.  At the end of the trip my autofocus stopped working and as it was nearly six years old I started thinking seriously about a replacement.  An upgrade to a Canon DSLR plus zoom lens would not only be outside my price range but also a commitment to carry a heavier piece of kit than I was prepared to.

One of those with a Canon Powershot was Peter Van Scheepen, one of four keen Dutch birders we were with at Mitu.  Peter has very kindly sent me all the images he took at Mitu and I've chosen two rather nice species to compare results with.  The first, Spotted Puffbird, was for me one of the best birds we saw - just one on our first afternoon.  It was a bit distant and my record shots with the DSLR were just that.  I also digiscoped it through Nick's small Nikon (trying such was generally not that successful) and later (when it had unfortunately moved position a bit) through Peter's latest model Swarovski.  Most images have been cropped and all have been sharpened to varying degrees using Olympus software.

Spotted Puffbird record shot (Olympus E-520, 1/200th, ISO 100).  Enlarging further loses any sharpness.
digiscoped through a small Nikon (Olympus M1040, 1/30th, ISO 100). Just as well it was sitting still! 
as above but 1/60th at ISO 200
as above but 1/250th at ISO 500
as above but 1/200th at ISO 200. A darker image that has brightened quite well and perhaps the best I managed through the Nikon
digiscoped through the latest Swarovski (Olympus M1040, 1/400th, ISO 400). The greater magnification made cropping unnecessary.
as above but 1/250th at ISO 200
as above but 1/100th at ISO 200.  Now slightly obscured which was annoying!
Canon Powershot SX50HS taken by Peter Van Scheepen (1/640th, ISO 800). A brighter image perhaps partly due to my tending to shoot one stop under to allow a fast shutter speed or lower ISO.  Note high ISO is not at all obvious from this image. The Canon with 12.1 megapix produced image resolution of 4000x3000 .  My Olympuses are 10.1 megapix with image resolution of 3648x2736.  Most images here have been cropped to cropped 600x450 with the few better ones to 800x600.
as above
as above but 1/160th at ISO 200.  Absolutely superb!
as above but 1/320th at ISO 400
I had expected the digiscoped images through the new Swarovski to the be best but I feel those from the Canon Powershot has the edge, although Peter is probably a better photographer than I am.

I know my Olympus isn't that good on distant images (a poor last on the above), but how does it compare on a very confiding Bronzy Jacamar?

Olympus E-520 and 70-300 zoom (1/160th at ISO 400).  I was very pleased with my results of this superb bird 
as above
as above but 1/320th at ISO 400
Canon Powershot SX50HS taken by Peter Van Scheepen (1/125th, ISO 800). Again the high ISO is not at all obvious from this image.
as above but 1/125th at ISO 640. 
as above but 1/160th at ISO 640. A much closer contest but again the Canon Powershot has the edge

Thanks to Peter for the use of his superb images.  Perhaps the only downside of the Canon Powershot is it is a little slower to zoom and focus on a subject which makes taking moving images harder.  My not being able to hold my camera steady enough to track flying birds with any degree of success makes that less of an issue for me.  Dear Father Christmas ...


  1. Hi Richard
    Local Poole Harbour birder Ian Ballam (@Ianballam on twitter) has been coming up with excellent photos with a Canon SX50. Even more galling for the price of my Canon 7D and 400mm lens he could buy a different SX50 for each day of the week.

  2. Thanks Steve. I gather a Canon SX60 with 60x optical zoom is due out later this year so I'll hold fire a bit. Your results are brilliant but I'd not fancy lugging your kit around even if I could afford it!

  3. Hi Richard
    The camera gear has made my hand luggage a lot heavier. The SX series look like a good investment


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