Hummingbirds: New Nikon CoolPix P600 (or P610)

I got my new camera!

I ended up purchasing my Nikon P600 at Costco (on sale!) instead of Best Buy or Amazon because 1. Costco’s came in a bundle with 16G SD card and camera case, 2. Costco always has a great return policy, and 3. Costco treats their employees best out of all big box stores so I always try to support them whenever I can. I didn’t even think about checking Costco since I’ve never bought a camera there before, but my husband (Costco’s #1 fan) brought it up so I checked it out online and then picked it up in a store. Awesome.

It takes 3 hours to charge the battery (via mini usb cord), so I left it charging overnight. When I woke up in the morning I was so excited to try it out only to discover that there were no birds at my feeder… which was the case for the next 1.5 hours. I ended up shooting pictures of my dog (who was not pleased) so I could try out the different settings. The Nikon P600 has a “Bird Watching Mode” which you have to access by turning the knob to “Scenes” and then press the “Menu” button, scroll down to the bottom and select it. This information is no provided in the useless Quick Start guide included. Takes a little while, but you can set up that knob setting to always be Bird Watching Mode so you can quickly turn from Auto to Scenes to change the mode. You can set the bird mode to also being continuous which means that if the bird moves while you are taking a picture of it, it will capture 2-3 shots instead of just one when the bird isn’t moving. Nice feature, but it does take a while to process afterwards which means you have to be more selective and not just shoot constantly like with a DSLR.

I played around shooting in different modes: Bird Watching, Sports, Auto Shutter Speed, etc and found that indeed, Bird Watching Mode does seem to be the best when shooting moving birds. I shot all of these photos in my parents’ backyard because they had lots of exciting bird activity yesterday unlike my yard. If your subject is a slower bird, I doubt the Bird Watching Mode would really get you anything, but it’s helpful for fast birds like these hummers.

Just to give you an idea, I took about 90 pictures to get these few that are awesome. I would think that you would need to take significantly fewer once you got used to the camera since I played around with the different modes to see what worked the best. Also, hummingbirds are super fast and by the time you take a picture, the bird is already gone.

You can’t focus the camera as fast as a SLR, that’s for sure. With a SLR, you can manually pull the focus and then shoot. With this camera, you can’t manually turn the focus, you have to toggle the T / W wheel to zoom in just like any other point and shoot. Since that takes a little longer and you can’t manually focus the camera either, it does take significantly longer to get a shot once you see something than with a SLR. The camera is amazingly light though and I’m pretty impressed by the technology even if it is slower. You will miss out on shots vs a SLR because of the speed, but I’m more likely to carry this with me than a DSLR, so I will get more photos total. Like everything else in life, it’s all about tradeoffs.

I’ll keep taking pictures with it and report back what settings I think work the best. I’m going birding this Saturday, so I’ll see how it performs out in the field versus a backyard setting.

UPDATE: Now that I’ve had my camera for a little while, I’ve gotten a chance to learn some helpful tips to share. Check them out here. You can also check out the supplies that I use here.

7 thoughts on “Hummingbirds: New Nikon CoolPix P600 (or P610)

  1. Pingback: Nikon CoolPix P600 Tips for Bird Photography | Birding Ninja

  2. These look like the Anna’s hummingbirds we have here in northern California, though from what I’ve heard it’s very hard to exactly identify hummingbirds. I’ve seen a few of their nests and they’re super tiny.

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    1. I know more about hummingbirds than I did when I originally posted this. These are all Annas. The females can be a little more difficult to determine, but you know that they aren’t Costas by the ratio of the length of the wings to the tail. Other than that, the only other hummingbirds we get here are Allens and they look completely different.

      I’m jealous that you get to see hummingbird nests! I haven’t had the pleasure yet, but it’s the right time of year for it so I’ve been on the lookout for them. Do you have any tips on how to find them?

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      1. My uncle had a couple of hummingbird nests on his property that he showed me. He found them by watching and following where the females went back and forth from during the season for chicks. The nests were about the size of a walnut shell and blended in, so if you don’t follow a bird then you might as well call it impossible to find.

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