What camera should I buy?

I am a big fan of INaturalist. As a former photographer with less and less time I found myself using more and more my smaprtphone Samsung Galaxy S9, sometimes my Canon EOS80D with either 100/2,8 macro or 400/5,6L lens, sometimes Canon SX40HS but I am thinking about something else. I will try to summarize pros and cons of each of my considerations:

SMARTPHONE (e.g. Samsung Galaxy S9)

  • ligthweight
  • always with me
  • good for flower and insects and some reptiles
  • location data
  • easy upload
  • not good for birds, mammals and some reptiles
  • not so good quality, especially in low light


HYPERZOOM COMPACT (e.g. Nikon P900 or canon SX40HS)

  • lightweight and compact
  • good coverage, from wide angle to extreme telephoto (e.g. 2000 mm for P900)
  • location data (P900, pitty P1000 doesn't have GPS)
  • easy video shooting
  • not so good quality, especially in low light
  • not good autofocus for birds
  • shutter lag
  • not so good macro capabilities, problems with focusing


SLR with hyperzoom (e.g. EOS 80D + TAMRON 18-400)

  • still relatively light
  • quite good coverage, not 2000 mm, but 640 not so bad for birds
  • no need to change lenses
  • picture quality much better than mobile or hyperzoom
  • good autofocus
  • no shutter lag
  • not so good macro capabilities (but you can carry macro lens)
  • not state of the art picture quality
  • no GPS (on my EOS 80D)

SLR with telephoto zoom (e.g. EOS 80D + Canon EF 100-400 L lens)

  • heavy
  • outstanding picture quality
  • outstanding autofocus, no shutter lag
  • good coverage for flowers, birds, butterflies, and bigger insects, though not really macro (0.31x)
  • excellent quality to make crops
  • no GPS (on my EOS 80D)


I am not looking at money, of course, the latest option is the most expensive, I am really looking here at the best and most effective option. Sometimes I think about Nikon P900, than about Tamron 18-400, now my prefered choice is Canon 100-400, especially now when I am linking examples. What would you choose?

Posted on November 28, 2018 06:09 PM by fero fero


I know VERY little about photography, but I’ve really enjoyed my Nikon P900 (@nanofishology also uses this model). The zoom’s quite nice, and the macro’s not too too bad (although, I do wish it was a bit better).

My two cents are worth less than that though — I have no experience with SLR’s... But I do enjoy the ease of the Nikon P900! :)

Posted by sambiology over 5 years ago

This hugely depends on what organisms you want to observe.

The other two common choices are an Olympus TG 5 and a DSLR/Mirrorless camera with a 90-200mm prime.

The TG 5 has gps, great macro, is waterproof and small.

If insects, fungi and plants are high on your priority than a macro prime lens and macro flash are a great choice.

Posted by glmory over 5 years ago

I think you can spend an eternity and a fortune trying to find the "perfect" camera and fail. I like the P900 because it's "good enough" for what I need it for. Sometimes, I get PHENOMENAL images out of it! and sometimes... I'll put the lens cap back on and use my phone. Like Sam, I have no experience with SLR's. I'm not a fancy pants photographer, and I take photos of things to document them, post them on iNat, and create educational materials for outreach purposes.

One "downside" to the P900 is that it shoots in JPG. No RAW. This may be an upside for you, if you're going on a long trip and you take a ton of photos, you don't need to worry as much about running out of memory! But, if you're going to buy a nicer camera anyway, why not get one that can shoot in RAW if you might also want to submit your photos to magazines or whatever real photographers do with real photos these days.

@glmory is right about it really depending on what you focus on. Both Sam and I are weirdos who basically go after everything, which is why the P900 is such a good camera. It's not the best at distance, and it's not the best at macro, but for a camera where you don't have to deal with changing lenses, it's the best at being able to do both. If they could make a camera exactly like the P900, except it ALSO did low light, oh boy. I'd be all over it. That's my biggest complaint about my camera. (if you do get the P900: get a headlamp... and invest in rechargeable batteries...)

Posted by nanofishology over 5 years ago

Hi All, thanks a lot for your opinions
I own 80D, I own 100/2.8 macro, I own EF400/5.6L, I own Canon SX40HS, which is 24-840 equivalent, I have access to TG5 (great camera, especially for macro and I use it for underwater). As for what I focus on, I am getting into a real Inaturalist - everything - depends on occassions and season - birds, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, plants, fungi, insects, lichens, really everything. I used to focus more on birds, amphibians and flowers in past but now I equally enjoy other genera. For the former, I used to have 400/5.6 alway attached, ehen I saw something interesting I reached for 100 mm macro but with all the later you need to pohotograph constantly and changing lenses is impractical. I think Tamron 18-400 (equivalent of 29-640mm) on my EOS80D could be an ultimate lens, I believe much better than any hyperzoom, but still not as good as the latest 100-400 from Canon ..... but than convenience of small size and GPS and reach makes P900 also a great choice - tough decissions. I think i will have to go out with what I have and try to take pictures of the same stuff and see ...

Posted by fero over 5 years ago

Just ordered Nikon P900. I know there is also Nikon P1000 but it lacks GPS, otherwise specs nearly the same, except, of course higher reach of P1000. Will post some observations as soon as it arrives.

Posted by fero over 5 years ago

Keep all of us updated on what you like/don’t like about it! :)

Posted by sambiology over 5 years ago

Received my Nikon P900. Aslo ordered Canon EF 100-400 which I should receive in about a week/two. Could not resist great deals at eglobalcentral.eu. I will definitelly make some comparisons of all mentioned setups, pitty it is now -5 and cloudy .... but I will try to do some test tomorrow.

Posted by fero over 5 years ago

Just a quick update - some year ago I bought Sony RX10IV and I think this is almost an ultimate inaturalist camera, zoom 24-600, macro I think nearly 0,5:1, excellent picture quality, 1" 20MP sensor, amazing image stabilisation, at IS0 100 nearly as good as my Canon EOS 80D, RAW capability, so unless you need real 1:1 macro and crops from macro like details of mosses and lichens this camera is all you need. I use it with pleasure for dragonflies, damselflies, bigger bugs, butterflies, plants, mosses, lichens, birds, neraly everything and I enjoy this lightweight combo with 24-600 coverage. Sure DSLR is better but with this coverage I need 3 lenses EF 24-70, EF 100, EF 100-400, with first two I have no IS, I need bigger tripod, with Sony I use small Manfrotto tripod for mosses, mushrooms, lichens, plants. I am really having a lot of fun with this camera. I think I made surelly 10.000s or more images with this new toy. The only disadvantage is cost - nearly 1500 EUR. I need to explore macro close up lens yet. Highly recommended.

some pics:


Posted by fero about 3 years ago

Update - after some time and nearly 100,000 pictures I still enjoy Sony RX10MIV and it is my preferred camera over DSLR. I use EOS80D in my home studio but in the field I nearly always use Sony.

Posted by fero over 1 year ago

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