While driving to a New Year family visit, Donnette and I stopped for lunch in Vidor,TX. As we walked out of the restaurant, Donnette spotted a Red-headed Woodpecker on a tree next to the restaurant parking lot. I had anticipated taking only family photos on this trip, so I left my DSLR home and instead was traveling with my gift from Santa—a Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. Upon seeing the woodpecker, I quickly walked to the car for the SX50, walked back to a spot near the tree, and took as many photos of the bird as I could from a distance of 50-60 ft from it.
The woodpecker was busy cleaning out a cavity on the south side of the tree. Its modus operandi, which it repeated several times as we watched, was to look down into the cavity,
crawl into the cavity,
disappear into the bottom of the cavity,
and emerge a few moments later. At that point, while facing the cavity, the woodpecker would swing its head sideways and disperse wood chips from its bill into the air.
After several minutes of this, the woodpecker either got tired or became concerned about me. It crawled around to the opposite side of the tree and perched there, mostly hidden from sight. I slowly moved to a different position in the parking lot and got a few more shots before it flew off. From this new vantage point, it could be seen that the bird’s home(?) had both an entrance with southern exposure and a window with northern exposure.
Some thoughts about the SX50 vs. the 7D
The SX50 is the latest in a series of “superzoom” point-and-shoot cameras from Canon. It weighs under 1.5 lb and has a 4.3-215mm zoom lens, which is a 35-mm equivalent zoom range of 24-1200 mm. For comparison, my Canon EOS 7D DLSR and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM lens together weigh over 5 lb and have a maximum equivalent focal length of only 640 mm.
In my opinion, the two main drawbacks of the SX50, compared to the 7D, are (1) its weak performance in low light and (2) its small electronic viewfinder. The former results in slow autofocus in poor lighting and noisy photos from necessarily high ISO settings. The latter makes it visually tiring to use in long photo sessions and extremely difficult to follow moving subjects.
On the positive side, the SX50 performs rather well in good light as in the above photos. These were all taken handheld and at maximum focal length. Image stabilization in this camera seems even better than that in my 100-400mm lens. I should also add that the SX50 performs better in all aspects than its predecessor, the SX40, which I also own.
The location from which these photos were taken is shown on the map below. Zoom in for more detail.