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I have been birding since 1974 and bought my first camera in 1981 - an Olympus OM1N with a Vivitar 400mm f5.6 lens. A few years later I changed my camera body and lens to a Minolta 7000i with a Tamron 500mm f8 mirror lens.
In 2004 I decided to buy a digital camera body with a 100mm x 400mm zoom lens. After speaking with several well known bird photographers, I bought a Canon 10D body with a Canon 100mm x 400mm f5.6 lens. I upgraded to a Canon 20D body later the same year.
Having seen images on Surfbirds and other websites taken with Canon prime lenses, in 2005 I decided to purchase a Canon 400mm f4 DO lens. I did consider the 500mm f4 lens but I wanted something more portable whilst birding.
In 2006 I purchased a Canon 1DMK2N pro body, the pro bodies are superb, very fast autofocusing, excellent build quality & very good image quality. After using a pro body there's no going back and I bought another Canon 1DMK2N body as a backup. More recently I bought Canon's 1DMK1V & 5DMK3 bodies - the main reason for this was because they produce better quality images at higher ISOS - quite an improvement on the 1DMK2N - if you push the 1DMK2N above 400 ISO it becomes quite noisy, whereas the 1DMK1V & 5DMK3 are excellent at 800 ISO and very good at 1600 ISO.
Over the past few years I have bought several more lenses, my most recent lens is Canon's 400mm f5.6 - and most of my recent images are taken with this cracking little lens with a 1.4 converter- although not image stabilised it is so light in weight that it can easily be handheld, ideal for taking on trips abroad.
Processing images is a big part of digital photography - what is the point of spending £1000s on an expensive camera body and lens if you do not process your images correctly - make sure you have a good pc/mac and the right software. I started shooting jpegs, which are ok, but raw files are much better - everything can be done on the pc/mac later with more control and raw files can be processed again without loss of quality – I convert my raw files to tiff files and then to jpegs which I keep on my pc - I backup all my raw files, tiff files and jpeg files.
I do most of my local birding in Derbyshire, but most weekends I travel to the coast to see rare and scarce British birds and, sometimes, just regular summer and winter visitors. Most years I travel abroad to watch and photograph birds and other wildlife.
As Arthur Morris says,' it ain't just birds'.
Update: January 2015
In January 2015 I decided to purchase Canon's 500 f 4 MK2 lens ( I part-exchanged my 400 f4 DO ) - this new lens is much lighter in weight than Canon's 500 f4 MK1 lens - that's why I didn't buy this lens several years ago, but the new 500 f4 MK2 is a superb lens, with very fast autofocusing & 4 image stabilisers.
I also part-exchanged my old Canon 100 x 400 f 4.5 - f 5.6 MK1 lens for the new 100 x 400 f 4.5 - f 5.6 MK2 lens - again, this new lens has excellent autofocusing & 4 image stabilisers.
Finally, after trying Richard Pittam's Canon 1DX body - I bought one from LCE in Derby - I part-exchanged an old 1DMK2N body & there was also £ 400 cashback from Canon, so I retrieved £ 650 for my old 1DMK2N ( I paid £ 900 for it several years ago - second-hand ).
Update: December 2016
In December 2016 I part-exchanged my Canon 5DM3 for Canon's 7DMK2 - I just wasn't using my Canon 5DMK3 since I bought my 1DX. Although the 7DMK2 is not as good in low light, it still produces very good quality images in decent light & I will use it more often because it has a 1.6 crop sensor - this means I can use it with smaller lenses & still get reasonable reach - it takes very good images with my Canon 500 f4 MK2 lens too.
Update: September 2019
At the Birdfair at Rutland Water this year I was chatting with James Eaton from Birdtour Asia ( from Derbyshire ) about cameras & lenses - he said, 'I'm selling my Canon 400 f4 DO MK 2 lens, if you're interested, it's in mint condition'.
I did own the Canon 400 f4 DO MK1 for several years until I part-exchanged it when I purchased my Canon 500 f4 MK2 lens.
After trying this lens, I decided to make James an offer - which he accepted. It's a cracking lens & it is 50% lighter in weight than my Canon 500 f4 MK2 lens. The beauty about a f4 lens is that it will still autofocus with a 2X converter & after trying it with my Canon 7DMK2, IDMK4 & IDX, I was very impressed, & I can handhold it ( I usually carry my 500 f4 MK2 on a monopod, which is quite heavy on long walks ).
So, I hope to take some decent images with this well-made Canon prime lens in the future.