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Bird Photography with the Canon PowerShot SX70, SX60 and SX50

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS for birds

What is the SX series of cameras?

The SX series of Canon Powershot cameras are a small but powerful superzoom camera that is marketed at people wanting an all in one solution to most types of photography: from landscapes to portraits to wildlife.

It’s important not to mix up the SX double digit models with the triple digit models like the SX730 which are much smaller compact cameras.

This article will focus only on the larger two digit SX PowerShot line of cameras which includes the current SX70, and previous models being the SX60, SX50 and even the older SX40 which you can still pick up used today.

Are they suitable for bird photography?

A compact camera or superzoom is never gong to give you the high-standard of images that you can create with a DSLR or high end mirrorless. That’s just a simple fact. but that does not mean a camera like an SX70 isn’t capable of good to great bird photos in the right situation. And this generally means: being fairly close to a bird in good light.

Overview of the SX Series of Canon PowerShot Cameras

SX60 zoom range: 21-1365mm
SX50 zoom range: 24-1200mm

(all ranges equiv to 35mm)

Pros and Cons of using the SX70 or SX60 for bird photography

Pros

Can shoot in RAW format
Good image stabilization (IS)

Cons

Slow autofocus compared with DSLR cameras
Slow aperture makes it not a great performer in lowlight situations
Not weatherproof: using it in humid or damp conditions is likely to affect performance and may damage the camera
Poor build quality compared with dslr and mirrorless cameras

Good For:

Garden birding / Backyard bird feeders
Places you can get closer than usual to the birds. e.g. duck ponds, zoos and other scenarios where birds might be more accustomed to humans

Not So Good For:

Small, flighty, fast moving birds
Low light situations

Falcon image taken with the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS. Despite being taken at ISO100, the image still has quite a lot of noise and is lacking some detail.

Falcon image taken with the Canon PowerShot SX60 HS. Despite being taken at ISO100, the image still has quite a lot of noise and is lacking some detail. This can occur due to a large crop or poor exposure.
Photo credit Hazel Watson

Raptor with Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

A captive bird of prey taken with the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. This photo shows excellent detail as a result of the photographer being able to fill much of the frame with the bird.
Photo credit Phil Fiddyment.

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS for birds

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS

8 thoughts on “Bird Photography with the Canon PowerShot SX70, SX60 and SX50”

  1. OK. I am a birder. I want to use bridge superzoom for ID purposes only-not for “bird photography”. I need lightweight, “quick draw” big zoom to put up to my eye and push button and get enough markings to make an id. I would like reports from people actually using SX series for this purpose. I don’t want to hear “better options”. I want to know if my intended use is practical with SX series.

    1. Hi Laurence, there is no reason why the SX series wouldn’t meet your requirements for using it mainly to ID birds. As with this type of camera, they will struggle with tracking fast moving small subjects, but in terms of larger birds or photographing a bird in a tree for identification purposes? A superzoom like the PowerShot SX60 can meet your needs and while it’s a little heavier than an entry level DSLR, once you add a suitable long lens to a DSLR the weight will surpass the SX60. Let us know how you go if you end up going with an SX for your birding!

  2. Hi, if you want to make Money of pictures you NEED a DSLR with a Heavy lens. But if you need a tool for ID and/or take god Pictures of birds to show friends and hang on the wall. Then the SX50,60 and 70 will serve you very well! (check out Flickr an you will see) Bird photography dosn´t haft to mean you are a Pro. We are MANY birders out here who just love taking good Pictures of birds for diffrent reasons. Pointing out the SX weaknesses compared to a DLSR is unfair and won´t boost anyone to go out. It is 2 totaly diffrent types of Tools wich can´t be compared. I have been using the SX40, 50 and now 60 for birding. I have great Pictures on my wall and lots of Pictures of birds for ID. Easy to cary around, easy to shoot!!If you are a birder you won´t regret getting an SX!

    1. So delighted to read your response. I have just bought a Canon SX70 as a replacement for my Nikon Coolpix B700 (which only had a 3yr shelf life before being discontinued).
      Personal birding, ID and great pics were my requirement and your post is the first that’s got my hopes up. Now I just need to work out how to use it and the best settings.
      Thank you for your review

  3. I love my SX60 for birding identification and the occasional nice portrait. Another thing you can do with an SX60 that you can’t do with a big DSLR and long lens is wear the camera on your belt using a Peak Design Capture Clip. If you wear a good quality belt, then you can carry your camera on your belt while wearing your binocs on your chest. It’s a quick, functional combination that leaves your hands free, and your camera is never bumping against your binoculars.

  4. Hi
    I am new to the SX70 and would like to know what’s the best settings to use on the camera for wildlife photos?

    All the way from focus points through servo etc just lost at the moment, I don’t want to go out and try to find all the settings are wrong.

    Any help would be appreciated

  5. Hi, just want to add, the sx60 does well on birds at all distances, as long as you remember significant cropping will all but destroy your bird photo. Use an ai noise reduction program like topaz to use 2020 technology to sort those noisy areas.
    I run a canon 7d2 and long Sigma zoom, and sometimes the Sx60 gets the best shot.

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