Monday 30 December 2019

Black Redstart Meets Nikon P900

This afternoon I paid brief homage to one of the best-looking birds in Seaton, a spanking male Black Redstart. I would like to have stayed longer but there were already three camera-toting folks present when I arrived, and it felt uncomfortably like a twitch. Actually, not just a twitch. A photo-twitch. Not my cup of tea at all. Anyway, I thought Nikon P900 owners (or prospective owners) might like to see how I got on...

Here's a scenic shot of the location...

Seaton Hole. Black Redstart heaven.

A stepped pathway brings you down to the beach from above, and emerges where those signs are in the middle of the photo. I could see the bird on the rocks beneath the cliff, roughly where that chap now is on the right. So I walked along the lower tier of shingle to where you can see my scope and tripod in this shot; it's level with maybe a third of the way along the rocks. Meanwhile one tog marches straight along the top tier until he reaches the bird, and then lies prone with his legs down the slope. Amazingly the Black Redstart tolerated this liberty for several seconds, before coming my way.

Today I used my scope as a rest. I wound it up to a level where I could support the camera across it (not lengthwise) and use the eye viewfinder. In total I took 12 shots between 14:22:15 and 14:25:22, just over three minutes. The camera set-up was exactly as described in THIS post. In a sec I'll add my favourite four of that dozen. First though, a closer view of the scene...

At its closest, the bird was on those rocks to the right, so maybe 10-15m from me? When I took this photo it had flitted off along the beach to the left, in the direction that couple in blue are looking. Between their heads you might just about be able to see another tog (in camo top) following it down there...sigh!...which illustrates why I didn't want to stay.

Enough moaning. Results...

1600mm zoom, ISO 400, 1/100 sec
1600mm zoom, ISO 400, 1/80 sec
What an absolute stunner!! 1600mm zoom, ISO 400, 1/60 sec
1600mm zoom, ISO 400, 1/100 sec

Just to recap: in the settings I am using the camera automatically adjusts the ISO (up to a max of 400) and the shutter speed. All I do is choose the zoom, and I've already opened up the aperture as far as it will go (at 1600mm zoom that equates to f6.3). I appreciate that the quality of these photos is not quite DSLR standard, but personally I am delighted with them, and my wallet is still intact. The second one isn't as sharp as I'd like, but hey...


  1. I can see the attraction, both the weight and the lack of wallet denting. What you are getting with this tiny nikon is astounding - I saw one last week, a miracle of miniaturization. I can barely believe it can do what it does and these black redstart photos are the best you have yet posted -although ideally the bird isn't facing away ;-). But I can't get away from the fact that a dslr with a nice big lens (or one of these new mirrorless things like the sony A7, sadly also wallet-busting) is gong to take a far far better photo, possibly even without needing to dress from hehead to toe in camo! As you probably know I have a dslr, and having used it for a few years and knowing what it is capable of in the right situation, I could not ever move to something that couldn't produce that quality. I'd always be dissatisfied, and this will sound very snobbish but I'd rather not take a photo at all than take one I knew wasn't what it could have been. But as a tool to enhance birding (especially when that rarity land right in front of you), rather than as a tool to take bird photos, then I agree it seems to tick all the boxes.

    1. If I'd spent years behind the wheel of a top-of-the-range Mercedes, I don't think I'd be too thrilled at the prospect of driving a Ford Fiesta instead. I completely get your position on this, but 'a tool to enhance birding' is exactly what I'm after - lots of other birders too, of course - and it definitely fits the bill there. Right now I feel like someone who's just swapped his Lada for said Ford. It is in a different league to what I'm used to, and I'm pretty amazed at what it can do for the money. Just imagine if they stuck a 1" sensor in it!

      A few years ago I noticed some birders had started toting a DSLR and long(ish) lens rather than a scope. I assumed it wasn't that they were photographers, but they simply wanted record shots. I reckon this Nikon is a cheaper, more portable version of that kind of kit, with a longer reach too, perhaps. Not so good at flight shots though I guess...

      Ideally I would have liked the Black Redstart back-on, peering over its shoulder at me. I'm a sucker for that pose :-) But when you only give it three minutes, you take what you can get!

  2. Rest assured Gav, the Fiesta is more useful, unless showing off and collecting speeding tickets is the purpose. I had them both.

    These days whatever the item or subject, I tend to use the minimum available to get the job done. It's why I now drive a Honda Jazz.

    And if I didn't have a camera at all. The P900 would be of interest. However, the D80 and little Lumix DMC I have cover the bases so far. As did the Canon AE-1 when no one used cameras at all.

    I read the speil on the 900 and it states mentions capturing what the eye can't see. That's a long way from the disappointing results once collected from the local chemist.

    1. Oh, we are spoiled beyond belief with digital Ric! If I had to go back in time 20 years I would never bother with a camera. It would be bins, scope and notebook.

      There's a thought...

  3. Thank you for this. The photos confirm that we currently have a male Black Redstart lodging in our car port in North Dorset. First spotted on our patio Monday afternoon, still around yesterday.