Photographic Equipment
Although I've been interested in birds and insects for many years, taking photographs of the former only really began in 2004, when I acquired a Canon 300D digital SLR camera. When matched with a 300mm telephoto lens I found that I was able to take acceptable shots of some birds.
In 2007 I bought a Canon 100 - 400mm image-stabilised lens, and attached a Canon 400D body (10.1 megapixel) to it. With an effective focal length of 640mm a lot more birds came into range. In 2009 I upgraded to a Canon 50D body (15 megapixel), and this did very well for four years.
In January 2009 I purchased a Canon Powershot SX10 IS "bridge" camera. This had a zoom lens which gave 20x optical magnification, but it was very hard to pick up small subjects in the viewfinder so it was quickly relegated to taking landscape shots.
In 2011 I purchased a Sigma 150mm F2.8 macro lens in order to take pictures of insects. As it isn't image-stabilised I usually use it with a monopod, although it can be used quite effectively hand-held.
In February 2013 I bought a Panasonic Lumix FZ200 to replace the Canon SX10. The Lumix has a 24x optical zoom, which is equivalent to a 600mm SLR lens. This camera maintains F2.8 throughout the zoom range, which is pretty impressive.
In November 2013 I acquired a Canon 70D DSLR body (20.2 megapixel), which was a considerable improvement over the 50D.
In December 2016 I acquired a Canon 7D Mk 2 DSLR body. Although it has the same number of megapixels as the 70D, it adds dual DIGIC 6 image processors, which make it good at tracking fast-moving subjects. Pros: weatherproof; CF and SD card slots; 65-point focussing; works with 70D batteries. Cons: no touchscreen; heavier than 70D.
In February 2017 I traded in my 12-year-old Canon 100-400mm IS Mk1 lens for a Mk2 model. The Mk2 is heavier than the Mk1, and even with the trade-in the price was pretty steep. However it produces excellent images and is a high-quality lens; it should last a long time. It will also auto-focus with the Canon 1.4x extender attached when attached to the 7D Mk2 body (although only the centre focussing point is available). It has a minimum focusing distance of 3.2 feet (compared to 6.5 ft for the Mk1).
The other option for more focal length is a lens from a different manufacturer. Canon glass bigger than 400mm is very expensive, so I purchased a Sigma 150-600mm F5-6.3 "Contemporary" lens as a cheaper alternative. Although generally a good lens, it was quite heavy and the image quality it produced at maximum focal length wasn't as good as the Canon 100-400mm IS Mk1 lens with the teleconverter attached!
In December 2018 I traded in the big Sigma for a Sigma 180mm macro lens. This a big, heavy lens which will be hard to use hand-held for any length of time. But it offers 1:1 macro reproduction at a minimum focus distance of 47cm.
I record images in the camera's RAW format. I use Canon's Digital Photo Professional software to convert the images from RAW to TIFF format, and then Photoshop Elements 11 for post-processing. I use the Neat Image noise reduction Photoshop plugin to clean up images destined for this web site.