Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   



Long-Distance Shooter

For hunting trips, consider “bridge” cameras to zoom in on wildlife and landscapes.

Many hunters will agree that a camera is an essential part of the outdoor experience. From the snapshots of fellow hunters relaxing around the firepit to the photos of two bucks sparring in the morning fog to, ultimately, the image of the lucky hunter with his or her trophy, the photograph is the permanent record to preserve and share those experiences. However, we often miss some of the hunt’s best photo opportunities because of one factor — the lack of a telephoto lens makes us unable to take pictures of distant scenes or animals.

How often have you photographed wildlife with a smartphone or small point-and-shoot camera, only to be disappointed that the animal looked like a speck in the distance in the resulting photo? Unlike the human eye, which is keen to see detail in animals at relatively long distances, a camera or smartphone with a normal or even slightly zoomed lens cannot bring long-distance subjects close enough. This is where a camera with a long telephoto or super-zoom lens shines.

If you’ve ever watched hunting shows or animal documentaries on television, you’ve seen the results of these type of lenses by how close the animals appear. You might think that the cameras and lenses used for photos and videos on these shows are expensive — and you’d be right. They’re very expensive! However, the good news is that there are relatively inexpensive cameras from various manufacturers referred to as “bridge” cameras that pack a big zoom lens into a small package and are what I consider to be the perfect hunting cameras.

ALL  Earl Nottingham | TPWD

The bridge camera is simply a design that “bridges the gap” between a small point-and-shoot camera and a full-size digital SLR (DSLR). Depending on the model, the camera’s built-in, non-interchangeable optical zoom lens can range from wide angle up to 60X. That’s the rough equivalent of a 20mm to 1200mm lens on a 35mm camera but in a small, lightweight and easy-to-carry package. Most of these cameras come with extra features such as wireless connectivity, high-definition or 4K video and optical stabilization to help eliminate camera shake.

In essence, bridge cameras are an affordable alternative to expensive DSLRs or pro video cameras. They feature many of the same manual and automatic controls but with a large built-in zoom lens that will cover everything from wide-angle to super-telephoto photography. It’s like having a whole camera bag for shooting everything from landscapes to wildlife in one compact package.

So, you might be wondering, why don’t all photographers use bridge cameras all of the time? Well, there are a few drawbacks to be considered. As previously mentioned, the lens is fixed and non-interchangeable, so there is no way to swap out lenses for creative effects. The other drawback (which, in practice, is not that much of a drawback) is the smaller size of the sensor compared to full-size DSLRs. However, these smaller sensors can produce great quality 12-20 megapixel images as well as 4K video. They also don’t gather light quite as effectively as more expensive lenses — a result of their more compact design. Despite these drawbacks, the photo and video quality from these little powerhouses is excellent and can result in images that were previously unattainable.

Every camera maker offers several models of bridge cameras with a variety of specs. Here are just a few to consider.

Panasonic Lumix DC-FZ80

Pairs a 60x zoom lens with high-resolution stills and 4K video shooting functionality. Features an 18.1-megapixel high-sensitivity MOS sensor and a Lumix DC Vario lens, which provides a 20-1200mm equivalent focal length range, along with optical stabilization to minimize the appearance of camera shake for sharper handheld shooting. Built-in Wi-Fi allows you to pair the FZ80 with smartphones or tablets running the Panasonic Image App for wireless image transferring and remote camera control. $298

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX400V

Features a 20.4-megapixel 1/2.3-inch Exmor R CMOS sensor as well as a 50x optical zoom Carl Zeiss Vario Sonnar T lens with a 100x Clear Image Zoom. A 4.3-215mm focal length with a 35mm equivalent of 24-1200mm allows significant wide-angle and super-telephoto shooting abilities. Notably, it also features a constant 2.8 aperture, which is especially useful in low-light shooting situations. $449

Canon PowerShot SX740 HS

Although this camera is more of a compact point-and-shoot design, its 20.3-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor and 40x optical zoom are on a performance par with other bridge models. Helping the far end of its 24-960mm zoom range (35mm equivalent) is optical image stabilization, which keeps photos sharp and in focus. Built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth pairs the camera to your mobile device for quick editing and sharing. $399

Please send questions and comments to Earl at earl.nottingham@tpwd.texas.gov.

For more tips on outdoor photography, visit the magazine’s photography page at tpwmagazine.com/photography.

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