5 Best Superzoom Cameras for Birding (Beginner’s Guide)

Taking great pictures of birds means getting close–real close! But using your iPhone to take a selfie with a bird is simply not happening. That’s why superzoom cameras are the perfect way to get close to birds without getting too close.

Superzoom cameras are an excellent choice for birdwatchers hoping to capture images of their favorite birds. But with so many options and so many technical features it can be difficult to make the right choice.

For the hobbyist, a point-and-shoot superzoom camera is a great option due to their ease-of-use and their incredible zoom capabilities. This guide will give you a brief rundown on superzoom camera specs and also provide suggestions that suit your photography preferences.

We recommend

Best for beginners

Nikon Coolpix
P900

Best for travel

Canon PowerShot
G3 X

Best long zoom

Nikon Coolpix
P1000

How is Bird Photography Different from Other Types of Photography?

Unlike macro photography or landscape photography, wildlife photography moves. Yes, you will still have to be savvy with how you use light and with how you frame your photos, but you’ll also have to be sneaky.

  • Wildlife photography, particularly bird photography, can be difficult to capture because your subject is constantly on the move. Birds are, for lack of a better term, flighty and notorious for not staying in one place for very long.
  • Someone interested in bird photography will need a camera that can capture images of birds quickly and in varying light environments. Such a camera will have superzoom capabilities, quick auto-focus with image stabilization, and a range of aperture & ISO options for better pictures in low and high light.

Additionally, passionate birders often times travel to the locations where birds may be found, regardless of weather and climate conditions. If you’re a birder who loves to travel, hike, and explore a variety of ecosystems you may want to invest in a camera that is easy to carry and also dust-and-water resistant. 

There’s nothing worse than taking photos of shorebirds on a beach, then later on hearing the grinding sound of sand particles lodged in your zoom lens.

Superzoom vs DSLR vs Mirrorless vs Smartphones

So what kind of camera should you choose? The most popular camera options include Superzoom, DSLR, Mirrorless, and Smartphone.

Superzoom – Remember the old point-and-shoot digital cameras. Superzoom cameras are essentially that, but with a fixed superzoom lens. These specialty cameras are easy-to-use and offer extreme zoom capabilities. 

A solid superzoom camera can offer up to 125x magnification at a fraction of the cost and at a fraction of the size. These cameras are great for amateurs hoping to capture memorable shots that can be easily shared and enjoyed.

DSLR – DSLR cameras are the dominant cameras on the market today. Buyers can spend anywhere from $500-6,000 depending on the quality of the camera and the images it produces. DSLR cameras are great for wildlife photography for a few reasons:

  1. The viewfinder sees exactly what the lens sees. This is great for bird photographers who are constantly tracking birds in motion.
  2. DSLR cameras are durable, often having great dust-and-water resistant capabilities.
  3. DSLR cameras have interchangeable lenses. So if you want to use your camera for birding and also to take photos of the family at Christmas, you can! You just have to pay more for the extra lenses, which can be pricey in the long run.

Mirrorless – Mirrorless cameras have come a long way in the last few years. The benefit to using a mirrorless camera is that they can be faster and more effective at auto-focusing. This is because the mirror that reflects images into the viewfinder on a common DSLR is not there. Instead, the image is directly relayed from the lens to the sensor. 

Mirrorless cameras use electronic viewfinders (EVF). This projects a digital image from the lens into the viewfinder. In the past, EVF cameras would often lag making action shots difficult to capture. Nowadays, Mirrorless EVF cameras easily rival the image-capturing power of DSLRs.

Smartphones – Smartphone cameras are becoming more and more impressive, making the common point-and-shoot digital cameras obsolete. It’s not unusual to see a birder with a spotting scope and a smartphone mount. Smartphones can capture great pictures (even through a spotting scope) but it’s difficult to make them your primary camera for bird photography. 

It may be easy to get a quick pic through a spotting scope of a Tundra Swan calmly floating on a lake. But as soon as that bird flies, capturing the image with a spotting scope and smartphone is nearly impossible.

Superzoom Price Timeline

When shopping for a superzoom camera you will find that there is a variety of technical options offered at a range of different price points. The best way to start is to consider your budget. 

How much are you willing to spend on a superzoom camera? Prices for these cameras can range from $300-2,000. Fortunately, most superzoom cameras are reasonably priced, as compared to their DSLR and mirrorless counterparts. 

Next, you’ll want to determine what features you are interested in buying. Do you want high magnification? Do you want external audio capabilities? Do you want to pay for a high-quality sensor that takes better photos? Weighing these options will help you determine which camera will be best for you.  

Below is a quick list of what you can expect to get at certain price points:

$200: Can get you a 20x optical zoom camera with an ergonomic handgrip.

$400: Can get you a 60x optical zoom camera that can shoot 4K video and capture 18.1 megapixel photos. 

$600: Can get you a 1-inch sensor and a maximum aperture of f/2, great for taking high-quality photos in low light. 

$800: Can get a camera with a hot shoe mount to fix a flash or microphone to. Plus, you get a camera with a high-frame-rate which helps take clearer action and slow-mo shots. 

$1000: Can get you 125x optical zoom camera that shoots 4K video and also takes RAW photos for better editing. 

$1200 and Up: Can get a blend of high-quality options: excellent aperture/ISO range, 4K video, external microphone or flash compatible, high optical zoom, high-quality sensor for better imaging, etc.

What About Audio?

Most birders love to take pictures of birds, but there are a few who also enjoy capturing bird songs. In order to do this, you need to be able to record the sounds of birds. This can be accomplished using a smartphone or a camera with an internal microphone. 

These sound file may not be reminiscent of the high-quality bird songs you heard out in the field. Choosing a camera that is compatible with an external microphone will help you better capture the sounds of nature. This feature will also make the audio you record for any video sound clearer and static-free. 

Expert birders looking for high-quality audio recordings may prefer to use stand-alone directional microphones to record bird songs. But having the option to mount an external microphone to a camera can be a practical choice for birders interested in capturing bird song recordings, especially if you plan on taking video of the birds.

How to Choose a Superzoom Camera?

When choosing a superzoom camera, it is essential to understand your own preferences and how that translates to a camera’s technical specs.

  • Zoom Magnification– How much zoom do you anticipate using? Normal birding binoculars magnify birds between 8x-10x and zoom binoculars even more. There are many superzoom camera options that range from 10x-125x. The key is to find a camera that has a good balance between zoom capability and image quality. 
  • Sensor Quality– How concerned are you with image quality? Most amateur photographers will be pleased with the images they capture from most cameras on the market today. If you’re hoping for supreme image quality, you may want to invest in a higher-end DSLR or mirrorless camera. Superzoom cameras can offer better quality photos too though. A camera with a 1 inch sensor will provide more space for the image to project onto, making this a better choice for someone hoping to get the best image quality. 
  • Low-light Picture Capabilities– Will you be taking photos in low-light situations, such as a forested area? Finding a camera with a decent aperture range will help you capture better photos in low light. Aperture range is measured by f-numbers. For example, these numbers may appear as f/2.9-5.8. The lower the first number, the better equipped the lens is to capture images in low light. If you plan on taking photos in varying light environments you may want to purchase a camera with a wider aperture range.
  • Weight & Durability– Where will you be taking your camera? If you plan on lugging your camera around on long hikes or while travelling, you may want to prioritize a light-weight model. Also, if you plan to take your camera outdoors frequently check to make sure your camera is dust-and-water resistant.
  • Image Sharing– How do you plan to share your files? Most digital cameras on the market today feature bluetooth, wi-fi, or NFC capabilities. These features allow you to wirelessly connect to your camera to a computer or smartphone. This is great for photographers hoping to quickly share their photos on their favorite social media.
  •  

Best Superzoom Cameras for Birding

The Nikon COOLPIX P900 is a great option for bird photographers just starting out due to its quality build and its price point. 

The impressive 83x Optical Zoom NIKKOR Super ED VR Lens allows users to capture great close-ups of the birds they love. 

As with most cameras, photos taken at the highest zoom levels won’t be as crisp as photos taken at lower magnification.  

The Nikon COOLPIX P900 gives you the option of getting those close shots, but also plenty of magnification to back off and capture cleaner looking photos.

The electronic viewfinder will make tracking birds in flight easy and the image stabilizer will ensure that your photos will come out crisp. The image quality on this camera may not be professional grade, but the amateur photographer will still have a great time capturing incredible shots of birds.

Check the price of Nikon COOLPIX P900 here

What we liked

  • Great for beginners
  • Good price/quality value
  • Zoom Capabilities
  • Image Sharing Features
  • Includes ED Glass for Better Clarity

What we didn’t like

  • Does Not Shoot RAW Files
  • Battery Life
  • Not Compatible with External Microphone

Optical Zoom: 83x
Megapixels: 16
Video Resolution: FHD 1080p/60fps
Image Stabilizer: Yes
LCD Screen: 3 inch Vari Angle TFT LCD
Sensor Size: 1/2.3 inch
Sensor Resolution: 16 megapixels (Optical Sensor)/1080p (Video Capture)
Lens: 83x Optical Zoom NIKKOR Super ED VR Lens
Equivalent Focal Range: 24-2000mm
Aperture: f/2.9-6.5
Weight: 1.98 lbs
Connections: Wi-Fi, NFC, GPS, Hi-speed USB, and HDMI Output

The Canon PowerShot G3 X is an excellent choice for the avid traveller looking for a light camera that produces high-quality images. 

With the 1-inch, 20.2 megapixel sensor, photographers can expect excellent photo quality.

Admittedly this camera may not be the best choice for the committed birder. 

It can still take quality photos of birds, but the lack of a viewfinder and the lower zoom will make it difficult to track birds in flight.

The Canon PowerShot G3 X does provide an impressive range that rivals 600mm telephoto lenses. This camera is a great option for travelers who enjoy taking a variety of picture styles such as landscapes, portraits, and wildlife (not exclusively birds).

Travellers can also be reassured that the Canon PowerShot G3 X is dust-and-water resistant. It features dust-and-drip proof rubber sealing which is typical of Canon’s DSLR EOS line of cameras.

Check the price of Canon PowerShot G3X here

What we liked

  • Great for travel
  • Light Weight
  • High-Quality 1 inch Sensor
  • Shoots RAW Files
  • Dust-and-Water Resistant
  • Includes External Microphone Jack

What we didn’t like

  • No Viewfinder
  • Slow Auto-Focus

Optical Zoom: 25x
Megapixels: 20.2
Video Resolution: 1080p/60fps
Image Stabilizer: Yes
LCD Screen: 3.2 inch Multi-Angle Touch LCD
Sensor Size: 1 inch
Sensor Resolution: 20.2 megapixels (Optical Sensor)/1080p FHD (Video Capture)
Lens: 25 x Optical Zoom Lens (24-600mm)
Equivalent Focal Range: 24-600mm
Aperture: f/2.8-5.6
Weight: 1.5 lbs
Connections: Wi-Fi, NFC, Camera Connect App, Mobile Device Connect Button, and Image Sync Function

Bird photographers know a good zoom lens goes a long way when it comes to bird photography. 

Well, imagine a camera lens that can capture the rings of Saturn! The Nikon Coolpix P1000 can do just that and more. 

With a 125x zoom capability (3,000mm equivalent), this camera can capture incredibly close photos of any distant subject. 

The fact that it can do all that and only weighs 3.12 lbs is quite amazing. 

Lenses that capture merely 600mm are comparable in size. The Nikon Coolpix P1000 is a great option for birders hoping to get up close and personal. 

With higher zoom capabilities, images tend to get a bit shaky in the hands of the photographer. With a zoom this extreme its best to pair the Nikon Coolpix P1000 with a solid tripod or camera stand to ensure your photos come out crisp and clear.

Check the price of Nikon Coolpix P1000 here

What we liked

  • Incredible Zoom Capabilities
  • Compact Considering the Zoom
  • Shoots 4K Video
  • Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction
  • Includes External Microphone Jack

What we didn’t like

  • Small Sensor
  • Low-Light Photo Quality
  • Not Designed to be Dust-and-Water Resistant

Optical Zoom: 125x
Megapixels: 16
Video Resolution: 4K UHD/30fps
Image Stabilizer: Yes (Dual Detect Optical Vibration Reduction) 
LCD Screen: 3.2 inch Vari Angle TFT LCD
Sensor Size: 1/2.3 inch
Sensor Resolution: 16 megapixels (Optical Sensor)/4K (Video Capture)
Lens: 125x Optical Zoom-NIKKOR ED Glass Equivalent Focal Range: 24-3000mm
Aperture: f/2.8-8
Weight: 3.12 lbs
Connections: Wi-Fi, SnapBridge, Bluetooth, Hi-speed USB, and HDMI Output

Experienced birders will certainly recognize the lens on the Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV. This camera features a Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T Ultra Zoom lens. 

Owners of any renowned Zeiss binoculars can attest to the build-quality of this brand and the clarity of its glass. 

With a 25x optical zoom (600mm equivalent) and an astonishingly fast auto-focus. 

The Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV is a fantastic option for birders hoping to get high-quality action shots of birds in flight.

This is an excellent all-around camera but it does come at a more expensive price point. Serious photographers will not be disappointed with this camera though. 

The lens paired with the 1 inch sensor and RAW shooting capability ensures superior image quality for the photos you capture.

Check the price of Sony Cyber-Shot RX10 IV here

What we liked

  • High-Quality Zeiss Zoom Lens
  • Shoots 4K Video
  • Includes 1 inch Sensor
  • Dust-and-Moisture Resistant
  • Includes External Microphone Jack

What we didn’t like

  • Higher pricepoint
  • Can be heavy for some

Optical Zoom: 25x
Megapixels: 20
Video Resolution: 4K UHD/30fps, 1080 megapixels/960fps
Image Stabilizer: Yes
LCD Screen: 3 inch Adjustable Angle TFT LCD with Touch Pad Functionality
Sensor Size: 1 inch
Sensor Resolution: 20 megapixels (Optical Sensor)/4K (Video Capture)
Lens: Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T Ultra Zoom 
Equivalent Focal Range: 24-600mm
Aperture: f/2.4-4
Weight: 2.32 lbs
Connections: Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth, HDMI (Output), and USB

The Panasonic Lumix FZ80 is an affordable option for any bird enthusiast interested in getting started with bird photography. 

The long 60x digital zoom allows users to magnify images with ease. The zoom capabilities alone are worth the price, but this camera also shoots video in 4K!

The Panasonic Lumix FZ80 is very light and can easily be taken with you on a hike or a long trip. 

Just be careful with it in dusty or rainy environments as it is not dust-and-water resistant. 

At this price point this camera is an excellent option for beginner bird photographers or for someone hoping to capture pictures of birds at their feeder.

Check the price of Panasonic Lumix FZ80 here

What we liked

  • Lightweight
  • Affordable
  • Exceptional Zoom
  • Shoots 4K Video
  • Touch Enabled LCD Screen

What we didn’t like

  • Not Compatible with External Microphone
  • Not Dust-or-Water Resistant

Optical Zoom: 60x
Megapixels: 18.1
Video Resolution: 4K/30fps
Image Stabilizer: Yes
LCD Screen: 3 inch Touch Enabled LCD
Sensor Size: 1/2.3 inch
Sensor Resolution: 18.1 megapixels (Optical Sensor)/4K (Video Capture)
Lens: Lumix DC Vario
Equivalent Focal Range: 20-1200mm
Aperture: f/2.8-5.9
Weight: 1.36 lbs
Connections: Wi-Fi, HDMI (output), and USB

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