When I post on my social media accounts, someone will always ask me what camera I use, which lens I use, what were my settings etc. blah, blah, blah. The camera and the lens are just tools. If I picked up Eddie Van Halen’s or Jimmy Page’s guitar, I couldn’t play either one. They have awesome guitars, but if you don’t know how to play, the best guitar won’t matter.
There are so many cameras and lenses on the market now I can’t begin to tell you which camera is better or the best. Obviously, most folks shoot with Canon, Nikons, along with the very popular Sony cameras. The “bridge” cameras will work also.
If the camera can utilize Back Button Focus (otherwise known as BBF) that’s awesome. BBF removes auto focus from the shutter button and gives you the choice to assign AF to a button on the back of your camera. This comes in handy when using manual focus and a cable shutter release.
Once set up, the shutter button will only trip the shutter, it will not focus which sounds strange but once you understand the concept, you’ll realize the benefit so hang in there
Why we use BBF if available? – while you’re sitting there waiting for a bird to appear, you’re kicking back, holding a shutter release cable in your hand, ready to fire. When you fire, the focus does not change, so now you’re ready for the next bird or birds to arrive at the feeder, and you’re still focused on one area of the feeder, (you’ll learn this later in the book).
If you cannot utilize BBF, it’s not the end of the world. You’ll simply have to place the lens or camera in Manual focus, but you’ll still be able to utilize the cable release. The main drawback to this method is you will not be able to quickly auto focus on a bird on the feeder, and grab a few shots as it flies away. Some of my best shots have been those of birds leaving the feeder with a snack in their beak.
The focal length of your lens will depend on the size of your back yard. My yard is fairly large, so I use my 400mm prime lens. A decent zoom lens will work great too, especially if you move your set ups around.
In addition, you’ll need a place to hide, a tripod, and a shutter release cable. Without the shutter release cable, you’ll have to keep your finger on the shutter button for hours, and that’s not very comfortable. Oh, and don’t forget snacks and drinks because you may be waiting for hours.
I’m currently shooting a Canon R6 with the very popular, Sigma 150-600 Contemporary lens. The Sigma lens has produced some amazing images. You can pick one up here. I try to shoot a minimum of 1/2000 sec, and usually an f/stop of 5.6 to 8.