Sunday 2 June 2019

Nikon P1000 Field Test

A number of birders have been asking me how well the Nikon P1000 Coolpix works for birding. 

Rather than go through the Nikon P1000 online manual, I have been experimenting with the camera out in the field under real life conditions. Prior to the P1000's release I had traveled to the UK with the Nikon P900. I really enjoyed the P900 but it didn't offer me 4k video and a microphone jack for better sound recording. Those posts were the most popular I ever posted.  

This year I have shifted my focus away from bird photography to videography, scoping and listing. I am beginning to see birds in a completely different way especially those offshore which the scope brings into full view.
Sometimes I arrive home after severals hours of birding having never taking the camera out of the bag. 

Normally I don't  photograph at high noon as the contrast can be tricky to deal with but with the emphasis on ticking as many birds as is possible in the calendar year lighting and time of day becomes a secondary consideration. Besides I already have numerous pictures of most BC birds so I can afford the luxury of using the P1000 purely for ID purposes and for blogging.
Here a some examples
Chipping Sparrow
I literally stepped on this Chipping Sparrow while on my way out of the Iona Inner ponds. It was feeding with a mixed flock of White and Golden-crowned Sparrows. Shot from about fifteen metres.

Greater Yellowlegs at 50 metres
Blackie Spit

Same bird shot in the P1000 Birdwatching mode.

Horned Lark
Another middle of the day shot that the P1000 handles very well considering the contrast.
This image captured from about 20 metres.

Hutton's Vireo nestlings
Semiahmoo Fish and Game Club
The articulated screen on the P1000 allowed me to hold the camera over my head and shoot the nest which was about three metres off the ground.

Is it a Lesser or Greater Yellowlegs way off in the corner of the settling ponds? I took this ID shot to check later. My initial instincts were correct that it was indeed a Lesser Yellowlegs and another year bird.

Lesser Yellowlegs
Iona Inner Ponds

         (Below) This long distance shot of a House Wren was needed to verify the species. There are a number of reasons  that make this a very poor picture that I would normally publish but in this case it didn't matter. Because it was possibly a very early house Wren (April 23/19) I needed to verify the species before posting it on eBird and possibly sending other birders on a wild goose chase. I've not encountered enough HOWR to be sure except that it was on a nest box which gave me a clue.

House Wren
Campbell Valley Park Vernal Ponds

A few seconds after finding this Yellow-headed Blackbird (Below) at Brydon Lagoon two Green Herons flew past me chased by a crow, not the kind of situation the P1000 handles very well. If you want to capture birds in flight you really need a DSLR.

Yellow-headed Blackbird and Brown-headed Cowbird
Brydon Lagoon
Langley City

A few days later I was on the Iona Jetty photographing a Horned Lark when on my way back to the car I found this brilliant coloured Yellow-headed Blackbird. I adjusted my height to include as much sky a possible to complement the black and yellow of the bird, the trees in the bottom of the picture add complimentary colours and depth to the scene.
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Iona South Jetty

I often visit my son in Squamish and always stop off at Porteau Cove to break my journey.  Mostly I find sea ducks, oystercatchers and cormorants but this time a number warblers were moving through the trees. Just because the camera has a 24mm-3000mm doesn't mean one can't back off a little and include some habitat to give context.

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubons)
Porteau Cove
Sea to Sky Hwy
Finally I went to Reifel to search for migrating shorebirds and was fortunate enough to find this Great Egret, a bird not often seen in the Lower Mainland although one spent almost a month in the Aldergrove area and one was seen in mid-May in Langley City. It is likely that this is the same bird but there is no way of really knowing. 

Great Egret

   After photographing the bird feeding in a side channel it eventually flew into a nearby tree where a number of us were able to capture it preening. I took more than a few pictures but this is the only one I really like, a gust of wind splayed out the birds feathers. All but four of the other sixty files I took were deleted later, no need to keep them. Culling is like de-cluttering, hard to do at first but as you learn how to edit your own work the process becomes easier. I was taught to edit by a very good newspaper editor when I first began photographing for a living. These days I try to edit in the camera as much as possible so I can spend more time either out in the field, reading or watching Footy.

To conclude I have to say that after a year of use I still really enjoy using the P1000 to ID birds especially from a great distance. The wide angle end of the zoom is great for scenics, the macro is easy to use, and the scenery modes including the Birdwatching Mode are fool proof and easily overridden. The rapid bursts are useful, the many scene modes are easy to use.
The camera is not a substitute for a full blown DSLR like my D500 and 200mm-500mm but for the birder who wants to photograph birds and wants to go light either the P900 or the P1000 are good choices. Canon, Sony and Lumix all have options worth looking into but being a Nikon user I tend to stick with same operating systems.
Finally for those who like to shoot video and record bird sounds the P1000 has 4k and a mic output. The video can be handheld but a solid tripod is needed for the longer lengths. The video quality is more than the most discerning photographer will ever need. 

"It's never to late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada