Camera for wildlife videos?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by ChrisA, May 6, 2014.

  1. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I hate to ask this question: "What video cameras should I look at?"

    For controlled situations I think SLRs work well but today I just came home after shooting some footage while on a few hours long hike. I do this now and then to help illustrate some presentations I make about the local ecosystem.

    I took a Canon VIXIA camcorder. It will shoot up to 34KBPS MP4 video files at 1080/60P. This bit and frame rate is good enough. This camera has decent optical IS a strong telephoto zoom and a jack for an external microphone. The VIXIA is easy to cary and at about $270 not to expensive. These are all "must have" features.

    I shot close ups of some birds foraging for food to show how each species is specialized to a different type of food and a rattle snake. To get shots like this I need (1) quick start-up time. I can't be waiting while the camera flashes messages to me. and (2) a monitor screen I can SEE outdoor in sunlight. The VIXIA lacks both of these features. For these kinds of shots I have to sit still and wait and then react and I have to then depend on the automation for focus and exposure and even follow focus. I'm using the long end of a 20x zoom much of the time when shooting wildlife outdoors. If I used an SLR I could not afford the 400mm f/4 lens I'd need nor would I want to carry it and I'd likely want a 600mm. So large sensors, nice as they are are kind of impractical for this kind of work.

    For indoor planned shooting I can use a tape measure and tape on the floor, lights and so on. I'm fine with owning two or three cameras. I'm looking for an outdoor wildlife camera now for hikes. Of course I have no budget and may have to buy used gear.

    Maybe someone here can suggest something I've not thought of. I'm just starting to look. The subjects are frogs, birds, snakes, rabbits and so on which are all much smaller than a human and at the same time require more distance last I scare them away.

    Sorry for the long post but I hate it when people ask "what camera?" then don't say how they will use it.
  2. ColdCase macrumors 68030

    Feb 10, 2008
    Perhaps not in your budget, the Canon 70D takes excellent wildlife video (and photos). Just lacking a power zoom. It has a optical viewfinder that never washes out and a bright LCD screen that swivels/articulates. A really nice camera for wildlife, especially with a EFS 55-250 STM lens. The 70D is so new there may not be a decent used market yet.

    Most recently I've owned the Canon VIXIA HD30 video cam with the 0.66x wide angle conversion lens, Power shot SX260 (20x zoom), EOSM with two or three STM lenses.. and now a 70D with a couple different lenses.

    For video you want something that focus quickly and tracks well. A video cam will do that. A DSLR will provide better photos and the 70D is responsive enough to take great video. The EOSM is a nice compact camera that takes good photos, but the focus and cycle time is frustrating slow. The SX260 is an excellent snapshot with 20X zoom and is small enough to slip in a pocket. When I'm out hiking I carry all three in a backpack... if I want to take a great picture or video I pull out the 70D.... :)

    So, unfortunately, technically there may be something that will make your day... but not in your price range. Continue to work the VIXIA until you can afford something better, its actually a nice camcorder. You may be able to hook up an external monitor to solve your viewing problem. If you want quick focus and startup... $$$$$... or you just need to be ready/standby all the time... I think.
  3. ChrisA, May 7, 2014
    Last edited: May 7, 2014

    ChrisA thread starter macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    The problem with the SLR is not so much cost. They are affordable used. It's the LENS.

    Assume a small bird and you want to shoot the areas it is standing on that is about 12 inches wide. The bird is 5 to 6 inches tall. But lets assume a 16:9 frame covers a 12 inch wide section of ground or tree limb.

    If are 25 feet away you are very lucky. It might be 50 feet. A 1 foot wide subject at 25 feet distant with an APS-C sized sensor. You need a 500mm lens for that. Your 250mm lens would show a typical bird as only a tiny fraction of the frame unless you could get 12 feet away. With a full frame body you ned an even larger lens or to get even closer.

    That is the problem with the SLR. The body is cheap. I can buy a $350 body but the required lens is just to expensive and will not fit in a backpack. And you'd need a whopping big tripod too.

    I did a few months ago borrow a 500mm f/4 Nikon lens to used with a DX SLR body. That lens was ideal. But it is not possible to cary it in a normal backpack. It is close to 2 feet long and about 7 pounds and costs over $7,000.

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