It’s often said that the person operating the equipment has a much more critical role in capturing a good image rather than the equipment itself. All rules have exceptions and capturing birds in flight might well be the exception to this rule. Photographing birds
in flight pose a few unique challenges:
1. Speed: Birds fly fast and hence you need an equally fast camera to capture their motion. By speed I mean not only a high shutter speed, but also an equally quick and precise focusing mechanism and the fastest burst speed possible. If you’re using a digital camera, you may also want to use a fast memory card which can keep up with the deluge of data the camera would throw at it. A slow memory card may choke your camera and you’ll be left waiting while the bird flies past!
2. Distance: Birds in flight will not always be close to you, they may be anything from a few feet to multiple metres away. A good telephoto lens is very critical if you also want to identify the bird you’ve just caught on camera!
3. Quality of the lens: The lens must be of good optical quality, with preferably a large aperture, so that you can get clear and bright photos even at very high shutter speeds, and not-so-ideal lighting.
It becomes quite clear from the above points that a simple point-and-shoot camera is not going to produce very good bird-in-flight photos. Even the prosumer cameras, which may yield slightly better results, would soon leave one wanting more. A good place to start would be with an entry level SLR coupled with a fast zoom lens. The better focusing ability and superior burst mode coupled with a faster and longer lens makes a real difference in the results, well worth the effort as well as the extra money involved.