As I mentioned in my last post, this weekend heralded the arrival of a new camera into my life. For the last three years I have been using a Panasonic Lumix FZ28 which revolutionised the photographs I was able to take. Its combination of small size and big zoom meant that it was always at my side and it has performed faultlessly despite almost daily use in every weather imaginable. However for the last few months I have found myself becoming increasingly limited by its ageing specs. Far too often I was missing great photos due to low light levels or the subject being that little bit too far away. Regular readers will recall numerous comments on here throughout that time which seemed to indicate that I would be heading down the SLR route. After much thought and option weighing though I have decided to stick with Panasonic’s bridge cameras and purchase the top of the range FZ150. This brings with it a new CMOS sensor, 24x optical zoom and an increase in resolution to 12 mega-pixels. What this all means when out in the field is that I will have far better low light performance (no longer will I be limited to ISO 200) as well as that extra reach that could make all the difference. On top of those headline figures the autofocus is now lightening fast and video capture has been upgraded to full HD with a new stereo mic. An SLR would obviously have been even better but for my needs the FZ150 represents the perfect compromise between image quality and practicality.
To test out the new set-up I headed down to the WWT’s Llanelli reserve on Saturday to see what was what. As the Pochard shots above show I am more than happy with the results. Straight out of the box the camera was a joy to handle with a more solid feel and better fit in the hand than its predecessor. The quick auto focus exceeded all expectations though I did get caught out with what appears to be a shallower depth of field on a couple of occasions (must focus on the birds head not the body!). Turning my attention to the FZ150’s lens and its leap from 18x to 24x is very noticeable. For the first time birds from the Peter Scott hide were within range resulting in my first ever Shoveller photos. This pair would swim the length of the reeds in front of us, do a short bonding display and then swim back in the opposite direction before repeating.
Other more violent signs of spring were evident over on the observation pool. There several male Shelducks were continually posturing and calling using their strange whistling voice that seems completely at odds with their appearance. Every now and then though direct action was deemed necessary and two Shelducks would lock horns (beaks) until one backed down. Apologies for the branch in the photo but they just wouldn’t move their fight into a more open area.
Several Moorhens are already well advanced with their nest building programs as are a pair of Mute Swans over in the Millennium Wetlands. Elsewhere Tufted Ducks, Gadwall and Mallard are all paired up while the Black Headed Gulls are gathering noisily in preparation to breed. The superb light and relatively tame nature of these wild birds gave me a perfect opportunity to try out various settings and compositions, my favourite of which are below.
Despite all the spring activity the reserve itself was relatively quiet, most likely due to this being the transition phase where overwintering birds are leaving and spring migrants have yet to arrive. For example the Wigeon flock is down to about thirty birds with Lapwings almost none existent, but there are still a few Pintail hanging around. On the wader front a solitary Greenshank and three Black Tailed Godwits were as good as it got, though with Easter on the way it was nice that the Easter bunny put in an appearance.
For some reason I never consider a new camera properly christened until I’ve got a nice photo of a Robin. Inevitably this means that all Robins immediately go into hiding as soon as said new camera arrives. As a result I am yet to cross off that particular hurdle. Despite this I am very happy with the results the FZ150 has turned out and have identified a couple of areas that I need to work on. This is all great preparation for our annual Mull trip which is fast approaching. I can’t wait.