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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 a Canon 500 f 4 MK2 lens ( I part-exchanged my 400 f4 DO ) - this new lens is much lighter in weight than the Canon 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 a Canon 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, IDMK1V & 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.
Update: January 2021
After much deliberation, I decided to buy a Canon R5 mirrorless camera - my good friend, Richard Pittam, changed over to Sony last year
( Sony mirrorless cameras and lenses produce excellent quality ). I own mainly Canon gear, and I've always liked Canon bodies and lenses. I also ordered a Canon 600 f4 MK3 lens ( a big investment ). The new Canon 600 f4 MK3 lens is lighter in weight than my Canon 500 f4 MK2 lens and gives 20% more reach ( I will be selling my Canon 500 f4 MK2 lens ).
The Canon 600 f4 lens has always been high on my wish list, but the weight of the MK1 and MK2 put me off - the new MK3 lens is much lighter in weight - just over 3kgs.