My first digital camera was a prosumer or bridge camera, an HP945, with which I got some pretty good photographs, but whilst the image quality was OK, it was way too slow for wildlife photography, so I sold it & put the money towards my first DSLR, a Konica Minolta 5D. Funds were tight & I couldnít afford IS lenses, so I was attracted to the KM5D because of itís in built anti shake. I bought it as part of a package that included a kit lens plus a 75-300mm zoom lens, & it was with that lens & camera that I first started to cut my teeth in the world of wildlife photography. First impressions, it was brilliant, so much quicker than my old HP945 & with much better image quality. I finally started to get some half decent photographs, but was soon to realise that 300mm wasnít sufficient to get the shots I really wanted, and also that I needed a macro lens for photographing butterflies etc. I bit the bullet & ordered a Sigma 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro Lens, (it was a toss up between that & the Tamron 90mm, but I went for the slight extra reach of the Sigma), I was massively impressed by the image quality a dedicated macro lens can produce, itís great for portrait shots of the grandkids, plus I was then able to dip my toe in the extremely inviting & addictive waters of macro photography, it opened up a whole new world to me.
My next craving was for some extra reach, but the cost of the big zoom lenses was so prohibitive I was making do with my 75/300mm zoom. By chance I spotted a link on a Sony camera message board to a UK supplier selling off some new, but discontinued, Tokina AT-X 400 prime lenses for £150 quid, it was too good an opportunity to miss, so I ordered one. As I ordered it the stock status change to Out of Stock, so it would seem I got the last one - and boy was I glad I did, at that price it was an absolute steal. First impressions were, what a fantastic lens, itís light enough to handhold, plus with the extra range & itís great IQ, the quality of my images improved overnight. But, we photographers are never satisfied and it transpired that the lens has one major fault, in contrasty conditions there is a massive amount of chromatic aberration. After one batch of photographs taken in sunny conditions were pretty much ruined by the CA problem I pushed the boat out & ordered a Tamron 200-500mm zoom lens, which came highly recommended and for good reason. Whilst itís not the fastest lens, the IQ is very sharp and itís served me well so far and given me that extra reach Iíve been craving, with little or no CA. Using the Tamron meant a decent tripod & tripod head became vital, so I bought a Manfrotto 055Pro B tripod, coupled with a Manfrotto 393 Gimbal head when using the Tamron lens, and for macro photography I switch tripod heads to the Slik AF2100 Trigger Head.
So, back to cameras. My beloved KM5D was a trusty servant for about 20 months & 30,000 images, then, in June 2007 & when just two days into a holiday in France, it broke. It wouldíve ruined my holiday to not have a camera, so I found a camera shop in Vannes, Brittany and bought the KM5Dís replacement, a Sony alpha a100, which I still have. Whilst itís image quality is marginally better at lower ISO than the KM5D, itís poor above ISO400. Before the KM5D broke it had always been my intention to have replaced it eventually with Sonyís new flagship camera, the at that time recently announced but not yet released Sony a700. Six months down the line, when Sony did release the a700, I was constantly craving one, I resisted when Sony did a £100 cashback promo, then my twin brother went & bought one, so with the cashback offer still on that was it, I had to take the plunge too & in February 2008 I bought an a700.
So, to recap, the equipment Iím currently using for wildlife photography is: -
Cameras - Sony alpha a700, Sony alpha a100
Lenses - Tamron 200-500mm, Tokina 400mm, Sigma 105mm
Accessories - 1.4 & 2.0 Kenko teleconverters, a set of extension tubes I never get around to using, A Manfrotto 055 Pro B tripod, a Manfrotto 393 Gimbal head, a Slik AF2100 trigger head & a Lowerpro rucksack to stick it all in, Oh, and various Sandisk CF memory cards.