On the advice of my buddy Rufus Blooter, in order to get better quality images faster & more easily, I bought a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 off of Amazon. It arrived today, and an hour later I had it out of the box, and was taking pictures of everything I could in my back yard.
It zooms quickly, auto-focuses precisely, and takes - at least I think - photographs with remarkable clarity. The Anna's Hummingbird above is a mature male who thinks he owns my backyard, chasing off all other hummingbird intruders, and watching me from a distance, wary of the flightless & nearly hairless ape who approaches "his feeders". (the original image is 3.8 megabytes, 4000 x 3000 pixels, F/2.8, ISO320). Yes, the Anna's male is sticking his tongue out, if you're looking at this on a high quality large monitor.
This Rufous hummingbird was not yet chased away by the larger Anna's (and yes, I need to clean the feeder... that's on the "to do" list for Sunday morning, before we go to the beach. The Lumix had some difficulties trying to focus on moving objects, but at 200 beats a minute, a hummingbird's wings are pretty hard to see regardless.
The macro feature works well, as long as you stay more than a foot away, and THEN zoom in. If you're closer than a foot (0.98 feet per the manual) then the Lumix software can't compensate for the Leica optics. It took 4 tries to get this hyacinth image "just right". (the hyacinth spontaneously 'popped up' all on its own from previously planted bulbs... a lovely January & February surprise). This image is 4.8 megabytes, ISO400, F/2.8, and it seems to LEAP out of the screen at me, far better than the 3 megapixel Sony Cyber Shot ever could have.
"Far Away" shots are also pretty nice, on the "auto" setting. A little "mountain icon" pops up in the corner of the view finder, to let you know its shooting in "landscape mode".
Thank you my friend, for your advice and perspective.
1 year ago