On a recent birding, digiscoping, and photography expedition to Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach California I captured a series of images of a Forster’s Tern that dramatically demonstrate the range possible with two Point and Shoot cameras and a spotting scope. Equipment: 1) Nikon Coolpix P500, with a 36x zoom, 23mm to 810mm equivalent fields of view, 2) Canon PowerShot SD4000IS  behind the 20-75x Vario eyepiece on a ZEISS DiaScope 85FL spotting scope, for equivalent fields of view in the 1000-5000mm range. I have also included an HD video shot with the Canon SD4000IS and ZEISS DiaScope, and a few flight shots of the Terns, taken with the Coolpix…just to demonstrate further possibilities.

23mm equivalent field of view, Nikon Coolpix P500, notice the Forster’s Tern on the post.

Same Tern, 810mm equivalent, Nikon Coolpix P500, pretty amazing range in a compact P&S

Preening action, 1300mm equivalent, Canon SD4000IS at 65mm equivalent and ZEISS DiaScope at 20x

3650mm equivalent, Canon SD4000IS at 91mm equivalent, ZEISS DiaScope at 40x

As you can see, these four shots, taken from exactly the same position within moments of each other show off the advantages of a two camera Point and Shoot / Spotting Scope rig for wildlife.

To add spice to the mix, the video below was as easy as flicking the capture switch on the Canon SD4000IS from still to video. All these shots, by the way, were taken in pretty poor light, from a boardwalk with lots of traffic. I had to run the video through the image stabilization in Sony Vegas HD to remove the boardwalk bounces…and I am sure the process degrades resolution somewhat.

Forster’s Tern Preening, Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, CA: Canon SD4000IS and ZEISS DiaScope 85FL

Finally, I set up on the boardwalk with the Nikon Coolpix at about 160mm equivalent to attempt to capture some Terns in flight. I used my self programmed Flight and Action scene mode (saved to the User mode on the Coolpix), but the birds were moving so fast I had to back well off on the 810mm reach. These are cropped from full frame.

All the still shots were processed in Lightroom for Clarity and Sharpness.

I am not attempting to convert conventional long lens photographers with posts like this. I am well aware that with an investment of $20,000 or more in an outfit weighing something close to 20 pounds, I could get, perhaps, better image quality over this same range. What this series does for me is to confirm that the equipment I can afford (total, including tripod, around $4500) and am willing to carry (total weight, again including tripod, in the 9 pound range) will produce satisfying results with most any wildlife challenge I am faced with.

If you are like me, you might also be inspired to consider the Point and Shoot for Wildlife solution.