When considering camera gear for nature photography many people primarily focus on sensor size and lens focal length/aperture. These are important factors, especially when shooting in lower light conditions. Camera frame rate and buffer size are also important factors to consider if you plan on regularly photographing birds-in-flight and other action subjects. This article features 40 consecutive images of a goose running on the surface of a pond, captured during a recent visit to the Hendrie Valley Sanctuary. I would have missed many of the photographs in this image series if I had been using a camera with a slower frame rate and a smaller buffer.
For folks interested in camera settings here are some details. I shot in RAW plus jpeg fine with a Nikon 1 V3 using Manual mode and the 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm f/4.5-5.6 fully extended to 300 mm. This provides an equivalent field-of-view of 810 mm when compared to a full frame camera. I had my camera set for continuous auto focus (AF-C) with subject tracking, with a frame rate of 10 fps. I used Auto ISO 160-6400 with matrix metering. My shutter speed was set at 1/1600 and aperture at f/5.6. ISO varied between individual frames from ISO-450 to ISO-800. Vibration reduction was turned off.
In the first 7 frames of the AF-C run the goose appears to be making a typical water landing as you’ll be able to see in the series of images below.
NOTE: Click on images to enlarge.
As the goose touched down (as seen in frames 6 and 7 above) I was expecting the goose to drop its tail to slow down further, allowing it to lower itself into the water and create a wake with its lower abdomen.
Instead the goose pumped its wings hard to raise itself back up and began to run across the surface as seen in frame 8.
In frames 9 through 14 the goose continues to run over the surface of the water while pumping its wings to avoid dropping down. You’ll notice the goose’s beak just begins to open in frame 14.
As shown in frames 15 through 40 (when my V3’s buffer filled) the goose went into a threat display, honking loudly as it continued to run across the surface of the water. In some of the frames you’ll see its tongue extended and clearly visible.
The 40 images you have just viewed took a total of 4 seconds to capture. If I would have shot my Nikon 1 V3 at 20 frames per second in AF-C my buffer would have filled in 2 seconds but I would have captured a larger variety of body positions during the AF-C run.
The choice of camera gear is a very personal decision based on the individual needs of a photographer. Personally I don’t think it matters what brand or format someone uses, or if they choose a DSLR, an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera, or a bridge camera. The key is to use whatever gear best meets your needs and fits within your available budget. Making an informed choice will help ensure that you are happy with your camera gear for many years to come.
If you plan on photographing birds-in-flight and other action subjects be sure to check out the frame rate and buffer size of any camera you are considering.
All photographs were captured hand-held using a Nikon 1 V3 and a 1 Nikon CX 70-300 mm zoom lens as per the EXIF data noted in the article. All images were produced from RAW files using my standard process of DxO PhotoLab, CS6 and the Nik Collection.
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