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Tuesday 28 March 2023

Getting To Grips with a New Camera - 9th to 23rd March, 2023

Header image, while this post is current:-

Black-headed Gulls on the island at Hicks Lodge on 23rd March, 2023

In recent blog posts, I have mentioned that I had decided that it was time to find an alternative to the camera set-up that I use for the majority of my photography. This was due to two main factors, the first being that it (like me!) was getting old and unreliable, and the second being that, at my age, I was finding it rather heavy to carry around for any great length of time. I might have solved the 'unreliable' aspect with expensive servicing of both camera and lens, but that would not solve the weight issue.

My old set-up was a 24.2Mp Nikon D7200 with a Sigma 50-500 lens. This was great for distance work and was also useful for semi-macro work when photographing dragonflies. The combined weight was over 2.4kg. To replace this with a Nikon mirrorless system was going to cost me over £4,000 and save me absolutely no weight at all. I looked for alternatives and chatted to other photographers, and found that, after 30+ years of being a Nikon user, if I switched to Canon, I could get a set-up at half the price and half the weight. I have ended up with a Canon EOS R7 with a Canon RF 100-400 lens. The shorter reach of the Canon lens is compensated for by the R7 having a 32.5MP sensor.

The change of manufacturer with the added complexity of facilities on the camera body has put me on a steep learning curve. I would guess that the options for settings on the Canon probably number in excess of twenty times those on the the Nikon D7200! However, the sophistication of, for example, the focussing options is amazing.

As I usually shoot in Raw mode, assimilating the Canon software for manipulation and conversion of images, having used the Nikon equivalent for so many years, is almost as difficult as learning the facilities of the camera itself.

This post will feature images from my first two weeks of usage. I was hampered for much of this period by poor weather and too much going on at home, so didn't have time for intensive experimentation. This post does, however, include a garden first for the year, and a garden 'lifer'.

Thursday, 9th March                    Garden

There was snow on the ground this day, giving some challenging lighting conditions. I thought I'd set up the camera to a good basic mode for first attempts, but found out the next day when I came to process the images that I'd set it up to shoot in .jpg mode. The results, however, were not too bad.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (female) - garden on 9th March. 2023
Friday, 10th March                    Garden

I thought I'd sorted out the .jpg/RAW situation, but no, I'd managed to set it up so that I was taking both .jpg and RAW - .jpg to one card and RAW to the other. This caused some confusion, but at least I had some raw images with which to try the Canon conversion software.

The weather and light were somewhat better and the camera set up was starting to show promise.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) - garden on 10th March, 2023
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - Garden on 10 March, 2023
Saturday, 11th March                    Garden

I'd still not discovered my error with the .jpg/RAW situation but, nevertheless, managed to get some shots of garden visitors. I was quite pleased to see that the camera had managed to do justice to the irridescence on the neck of the Stock Dove and even managed to find irridescence on the neck of a Woodpigeon.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 11th March, 2023
Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) - garden on 11th March, 2023
Tuesday, 14th March                   Sence Valley Forest Park ; Garden

This day, I had my first attempt at using the camera 'out in the field'. I chose to go to Sence Valley as I thought that it would give me opportunities to test the camera in a variety of situations.

This next set of three images of Coots on Goss Water demonstrates how the camera coped with a dark subject against a variety of background light conditions. I'm quite pleased!

Coot (Fulica Atra) - Sence Valley FP
It also coped well with a swan that accosted me at close quarters on the ramp of Horseshoe Lake, although there's a bit of burn-out in the white on its back.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Sence Valley FP

I then moved on to the concrete hide overlooking Stonebridge Lake, and got some more shots of birds on the water that I was quite pleased with.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Sence Valley FP
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Sence Valley FP

I was keen to see how the auto-focus on the new camera set-up would cope with subjects in a partially obscured and confused situation, and was pleasantly surprised.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - Sence Valley FP
The majority of the preceding images have been quite heavily cropped, but the following, taken on my return to Goss Water, will, I hope, give you some impression as to how much detail the set-up is capable of capturing. The first image, below, is about a 90% width crop on a shot taken with the lens at 359mm. The second and third images are crops taken at the same length and settings.

Later that day, I managed to record a Bullfinch that visited our garden. I'm pleased to be able to report that we are now getting occasional visits from male and female Bullfinch once more.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 14th March, 2023
Thursday, 16th March                    Garden

We rarely get visits to our garden from Brambling but, when we do, it is usually at around this time of year. Although the weather and light was not good, this was our lucky day!

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - garden on16th March, 2023
Friday, 17th March                    Garden

The treat of the day was a garden visit by a Blackcap.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 17th March, 2023
Saturday, 18th March                    Garden

This day gave us what was possibly the most exciting garden sighting of the year, with a garden 'lifer' in the form of a Linnet. Although described as 'a common resident breeder and passage migrant' in the vice-county, I do not often see one on my local travels, so having one in the garden was rather special. Sadly, I only managed shots of it on a feeder.

Linnet (Linaria cannabina) - garden on 18th March, 20023
Sunday, 19th March                    Garden

I was now tending to photograph anything that moved, with the objective of getting a little more used to the camera, and this seems to be paying off, although I have not yet mastered finding distant subjects in the electronic viewfinder. 

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) - garden on 19th March, 2023
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 19th March, 2023
Wednesday 22nd March                    Kelham Bridge Nature Reserve

In the hope of finding interesting subject matter for the camera, I made a return visit to Kelham Bridge. Although virtually nothing was seen, the camera worked well, and I had an enjoyable time there - particularly as I got some good advice from a fellow Canon mirrorless user.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Kelham Bridge NR
Gadwall (Anas strepera) (male) - Kelham Bridge NR
Thursday, 23rd March                    Hicks Lodge

I went here, primarily as I had yet to attempt much in the way of flight shots with the new camera, although it was said to have an excellent facility for focus-tracking moving objects. In this respect, I failed miserably as I was in the hide, with just gulls in flight, zooming around at some distance on an unpredictable trajectory or flashing past the window at great speed. I was still having difficulty in finding them in the viewfinder and losing them again before I could achieve focus.

I did manage to get some shots of birds that were moving more sedately, however! 

Coot (Fulica atra) - Hicks Lodge
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Hicks Lodge
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Hicks Lodge
Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Hicks Lodge
Greylag Goose (Anser anser)  - Hicks Lodge

I will bring this post to a close now. I feel that I am starting to get there with the new camera, but I still have a lot to learn. The Canon instruction manual for the camera is a mere 963 pages long! The on-line manual for the Canon DPP processing software is a little less daunting at 192 pages. They say that you can't teach an old dog new tricks - I have to prove them wrong!

I suspect that my next post will be in a about a week's time. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


  1. Very jealous of the new set up and already someone lovely crisp images. Look forward to what you can achieve with this. Take care.


    1. It's getting quite exciting, checking through the facilities Marc. I'm looking forward to see how I get on in the dragonfly season, particularly as the focus tracking facilities look as if they good be rather special. I tried the semi-macro capabilities on a moth in poor light a couple of days ago and got far better results than I did with the Nikon D7200 with the Sigma 150 macro which I also took some shots with so I could compare them.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  2. You seem to have mastered it Richard. Some lovely shots-particularly love the various finch photos.

    1. Thank you, Conehead54. I really have still got a lot to learn. Spent another couple of hours today reading the manual and other advice and, hopefully, have pcked up some more useful tips to give me better results. Best wishes - - - Richard

  3. As with previous comments, looking forward to seeing your progression with the new camera Richard, and have enjoyed what I have already seen so far. Good to see you have had a Linnet in the garden, another bird I'm not expecting to see in ours any time soon.


    1. Thank you for the encouragement, Pete. I've a way to go yet, and a bit concerned that I'll alter a setting or two that will mess it all up and have to start back at square 1 !

      Take good care - - - Richard

  4. Only 963 pages long, Richard? I expect you will have that read, absorbed and put into action in no time! Bedtime reading! The results above seem to indicate that you are getting the hang of many functions in short order, and I have no doubt that you will wrestle the difficult ones to the ground very soon. I am sure it is quite a challenge though. Congratulations on the Linnet in the backyard. That's exciting. I just scrolled back up to look again at the iridescence on the pigeons. Amazing. And that's in the early days with the camera. Imagine what is still to come! Best wishes and continued success - David

    1. The problem with the manual, David, is that it is only available on-line, which doesn't make for good bedtime reading. The advantage of on-line manuals, however, is that they can facilitate jumping to an appropriate page as in "see page xxx" which one clicks on and gets there immediately.

      Best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  5. Beautiful birds! Here the migration of birds has stopped.

    1. Thank you, Anne. With all the snow that you are still getting, I would be surprised if anything was moving!

  6. Hello Richard,
    As a Canon fan, I looked at the pictures several times and am very surprised at how quickly you deliver top results. The cormorants in the enlargement are of very good quality. I need a lot longer for good pictures... until today ;-)
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank, for your encouraging words, although I am not sure what your last sentence is saying.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  7. From one old dog to another, new tricks are the same as old tricks. It's the practice where the learning takes place. And your practice so far is outstanding!

    Remember, a new (or old) camera is simply a tool for the artist (that would be YOU) to wield in creating a vision. Of course, having a quality tool such as you now possess doesn't hurt!

    Two cups of coffee have helped me enjoy your images three times now. As usual, they are each "favorites"! The rich details of your close-ups speak to the quality of that new processor, lens and camera technology. The proficiency of the photographer is still the key ingredient for success. Very nice work!

    All is well around here. I could complain about too much wind, but then I'd get a thunderstorm in answer, so I shall remain silent. We're both having fun so that's a good thing!

    Our best to you and Lindsay.

    1. Your comments are very flattering, Wally, and much appreciated, but my handling of the camera is still somewhat dependent on the 'scattergun' approach. Thankfully, I think I am a little more adept at the post-processing than I am at the shooting!

      You mention the wind there - we're hearing worrying tales of hurricanes over in your neck of the woods and hope, with fingers crossed, that you weather the storms without problems.

      With my very best wishes to you both - - - Richard

  8. Unas fotos espectaculares, me han gustado mucho todas y en especial el retrato del Acanthis cabaret, un reto para mi. Enhorabuena Richard y gracias por compartir. Un fuerte abrazo desde el norte de España. Todo lo mejor!!!!

    1. Gracias, Germán. Acanthis cabaret también es un desafío para mí, pero tengo la suerte de que visiten nuestro jardín a veces, ¡dos hoy!

      Mis mejores deseos para ti - - - - Richard

  9. Hello Richard!!! Very beautiful and varied images... Well-done...

    1. Thank you, Ana, for the encouragement - I still have a lot to learn!

  10. Hello Richard :=) Staggering results! I'm amazed at the quality of your images. They are sharply in focus and so beautiful. Well done Richard, you have accomplished a great deal of knowledge in a relatively short time. The Stock Dove and the Wood-pigeon have never looked as beautiful. You captured their iridescence, and also the iridescence of the Mallard's green head perfectly.

    The Lesser Redpoll,.Brambling,, and Linnet are gorgeous garden visitors, I enjoyed seeing every one of your garden birds, and going back to the water birds, the Coot's reflection is remarkably sharp.All in all a delightful series of shots taken with your new camera, and I look forward to your next post.
    My best wishes.

    1. Those images might be sharply in focus, Sonjia, but there were plenty that were out of focus and discarded! However, I do seem to be already getting better results than I did with my old set-up. Unfortunately, a firmware update that I applied to the new camera a couple of days ago seems to have upset its focussing behaviour and I am now waiting for a response from Canon to try and rectify the situation. Fingers are crossed!

      Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  11. Hi Richard, excellent photos with your new camera. A beautiful serie of birds. I have the same problems, my camera is too heavy for me. Have a nice sunday !

    1. I am very pleased with the new camera, Caroline, although I keep making silly mistakes with it.

      Best wishes from England where we are, at last, having some fine sunny weather, although still a bit cool, however. Stay safe - - - Richard

  12. Richard,:=)
    Thank you for your comment, I also thought the Robin was from the Turdidae family.. I guess my books are
    a little outdated..

    I hope that you get a good response from Canon and they have helped you rectify the problem.
    My best wishes.

    1. Thank you, Sonjia, I guess we'll have to get more up-to-date books! - I haven't heard from Canon yet. Take good care - - - Richard


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