looking for lens for airshows

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by jr stevens, Jun 6, 2009.

  1. Hi all I am loooking for a good quality lens to take aeriel photos at airshows with. I want soenmthinbg that a) isn't too heavy to lug around b) doesn't make me stick out like a pro photographer (guess that discounts all those white L lenses:)..I was thinking of perhaps the canon 200mm f/2.8 prime with a 1.4 or 2x teleconvertre..has anyone had experionce with this type of setup? how do the teleconverters affect focusing speed, etc? what would be better...a zoom or prime ?
  2. From experience, I can tell you a zoom would work better. For a crop body, something in the 70-300 range.
  3. 70-200 either f4 or f2.8 with IS or 100-400 IS. Both are fantastic lenses. The 70-200 is a little easier to zoom on the fly, though. I agree with Luis G and do not think a fixed focal length lens is the way to go for an air show.
  4. zml


    If you are not a pro you are not a pro regardless of what you look like, what's your point? Airshows are wide open to photographers because it is PR for the military: why do you think they invest so many $$$ in air shows..?
    Now, the lenses. Yeah, unless you carry two bodies, zooms are much better/universal than single-focal length lenses. You didn't mention the camera you use, but for a 1.6x crop try 70-200 (+ 1.4TC if necessary) and for a FF (or a 1.3x crop) camera nothing beats 100-400. The speed of autofocus is largely irrelevant because all fly-by action takes place near or at infinity so mostly it is your technique that will influence the % of keepers: how fast and accurately you can acquire focus and how smootly and accurately you can track the plane/planes.
  5. 70-200 f2.8L, and a can of spraypaint :)
    I usually don't promote this lens, but for outdoor shooting, the 75-300 4.5-5.6IS might work well for you-it meets your requirements for light weight and not looking pro, and it's 1/3 the price of the 70-200.
  6. I recently attended an airshow and took my 100-400 mounted on a 50D. Most of the in-flight shots I took were closer to the 400 end, and I wish I had taken my 1.4x teleconverter.
  7. Use a white lens, and use a Lencoat wrapping so it could look like the thing is duct taped together for all the people could know.
  8. zml


    The choice of lenses depends on the venue, that's why zoom lenses are generally more useful for airshows than single focal length lenses unless you know the venue very well. There are some air shows where fly-bys are rather close to the public, and many other shows where one needs 600 mm to actually fill the frame.
  9. I agree with the suggestion of the 100-400 lens. It is a very versatile lens. You'll probably want the extra reach it provides without needing a teleconverter compared to the 70-200. Unfortunately if you want to photograph a more unique subject you are going to need a pro white lens. I'm not a pro and don't mind walking around with one.
  10. John, what's your budget?
    Below $800 there's not much (probably just the 70-300mm IS).
    Around $1000 there are more options (Sigma 50-500mm and 150-500mm OS, Canon 400mm f/5.6 among others)
    Above $1000 (but less than a mortgage) there's just one (IMHO): the 100-400mm IS
    Above that there are a number of options: the 300mm f/2.8 IS (alone and with 1.4X or 2X TCs), the various 400mm IS lenses (f/4 DO is light, the f/2.8 is wicked-sharp but very heavy), the 500mm f/4 IS (nicely handholdable, but a bit attention grabing), and so on up in focal-length...
    Notice I'm not listing anything with a focal-length below 300mm. Even on a crop-sensor it's just not enough magnification (IMHO).
    A good resource for answers to airshow questions are the forums on FenceCheck.com .
    Oh yeah, all of Nikon's lenses are black...
  11. I don't think 200mm is enough for an air show.
    I'd shoot for the 100-400 or better.
  12. What Michael said.
    I'm planning to do Fairford (UK) again this year, having been thwarted last year because weather conditions forced its cancellation. Last time I was there, a few years back when the highlights were a B-2 fly-over, and a stealth fighter flying in formation with the Red Arrows display team, I was still using film, and most of my shots were taken with an EOS-1VHS and the 100~400, which was fine. This time I have not yet decided whether to use the 5DII or the 50D, and I have the choice of the 100~400 and the 70~200/4 IS, with Extender 1.4x if needed. Decisions, decisions. Although these options cover single aircraft in flight very well, display teams in flight need something more in the standard to medium long range, and for static displays where you can get as close to the aircraft as you like, the 17~40 on FF or 10~22 on 1.6-factor makes for some striking shots. If you are allergic to either the colour or price of white lenses, the suggestion of the 70~300IS non-DO sounds very sensible.
  13. Why the aversion to white lenses? Heres a shot taken with my 40D and 400 F/5.6L. The lens is a bit big but easily hand holdable, I do it all the time for auto racing. Very sharp, super fast AF, an excellent lens for air shows.
  14. P.S. Geoff....are you seriously calling the 8.5 pound 500 F/4L "nicely handholdable"?
  15. zml


    Everything is handholdable (but don't do it at home...) EF 400/2.8L IS + 1Ds3. (ISO 100, f/8, 1/400s, +1/3EV)
    Total weight of the rig - over 17 lbs. I was sore the next day...
  16. For that non-professional look, you could rent a older Nikon DSLR body (i.e., like a D200.) The AF 80-400mm VR Nikkor lens might do most of the work for flying aircraft.
    A few 'other' airshow images may be seen at

  17. Zoom definitely an advantage - unless you plan on carrying two bodies. 200 too short, depending on your other photographic interests, a 300/4 with 1.4x or the 400/5.6 will do the trick if you are set for primes. Or get the 100-400.
  18. The only time I shot an air show, I carried a 500 mm mirror Nikkor. While the other photographers were struggling with long lenses (200 mm was too short) I got every shot. Pilots fly their formations across the same place so once I was focused in with my D70, once I focused in and had by trial and error set the exposure it was merely a process of framing.
    The weight and balance were ideal, and I heard complaints from those carrying the giant lenses - the 400 mm jobs and up who had to use Wemberly tripods, but my outfit was light and could be aimed fast as anything, hand held -- a huge advantage. I got almost every shot I tried to frame with split second timing. I would thoroughly endorse this setup for air shows.
    I also carried a second camera/lens combo for the crowd/ it was film then. The crop factor for the mirror lens, APS-C sensor was taken into account, so I was shooting with the catadioptric lens the film equivalent of 750mm easily handheld.
    I wouldn't do it again any other way. I could easily make out a pilot counting the crowd from the lead in his formation of Blue Angels. There hardly was anything less than great in the whole bunch of captures.
    Hope this helps/ it certainly runs counter to the above posts, and it also is much cheaper as the 500 Nikon mirror lens is not expensive at all. (t is not auto focus, but again all pilots follow the same paths generally in front of the crowd, and manually focusing this lens is easy - very easy, once you've done it once or twice.).
    John (Crosley)
    A nikon lens is easily adapted to a Canon camera by a $16 adapter.
  19. The longer the better in my opinion. I use a Canon 100-400MM L when I make air show photos .
    If your budget is limited and you're planning to buy a lens, look into the Canon 100-300 USM .
    Why bother with teleconverers? They cut back the light and decrease sharpness.
  20. 1. Canon 100-300 IS USM (the IS DOES cut the blurr)
    2. Canon 100-400 IS USM L (my favourite)
  21. 1. Canon 100-300 IS USM (the IS DOES cut the blurr)
    2. Canon 100-400 IS USM L (my favourite)
  22. 1. Canon 100-300 IS USM (the IS DOES cut the blurr)
    2. Canon 100-400 IS USM L (my favourite)
  23. Question for responder Robin:
    Was curious as to why you suggested to John (as one option) the Canon 70-300 IS non-DO as a sutiable lens for airshows. Personally, I have never shot at an air show, but plan on doing so this summer. I have the Canon 70-300 IS-DO lens, and was planning on using it at the show. I'm still in the learning and education stage with my photography, so would appreciate your specific feedback as to why the "non-DO" 70-300. I did a pretty fair amount of research and reading on the Canon 70-300 IS DO and non-DO lenses, and came away convinced that the DO version was a terrific lens. I was able to pick one up used at about 2/3 rds cost of new, and so far, so good. Having said all that, I'm all ears for feedback from you or anyone else. Thanks!
  24. I have used a 100-400 L and a 17-40 L on 2 bodies.
    The 17-40 for the static displays and the 100-400 for the in flight shots (and the occasional detail shot from the other side of the ropes).
    I know I'm going to miss the 100-400 as I just traded it towards a 70-200 F2.8 IS L which I will use a lot more for the bulk of my shooting. But at the next airshow, I'm going to wish I still had it.
  25. I did Sun N Fun this year and took a 70-200 2.8 L No Is. I also shot with a 2X for some of the farther shots. In the heat of the Day the 5.6 it created was no problem. Later I took it off and shot straight 70-200. I used my 5D Mark II FF and got great shots that included details of the pilots. The key is shoot fast and study. Shoot 1000+ shutter speed at 400 ISO This gave me the detail to crop. Most of the planes did close fly over and the 200 was plenty.
  26. If you are interested, I have 100-400 lIS mint condition for sale+clean guaranty card
  27. If you are just a casual ground-to-air shooter, try a Zeiss Tele-Tessar 300mm f4 for Contax-Yashica mount. You can get one in like-new condition for about $400, it won't make you look like a pro, and it will give you equal or better image quality to any lens named here so far. You will, of course, have to get along without IS and even focus by yourself.
  28. all photos taken w/1d3 and 300/2.8
    i also brought my 600/4 and barely used it. the 300 was very usefull. you might also want like a 50mm on a backup camera for it there is a sudden fly by really low, designed to scare the living bejesus out of you and see what their raw power is really like, put it on auto, iso 800 and motor drive and just point and blast away.
    airshows usually have weird rules...no large purses or camera bags but photo backpacks ok- at the last one it was that way. i carried all that equipment and a HD tripod, you will most likely be in for a long walk, you can be certain of that.
  29. Michael N, fantastic shots given that you used a 300mm lens. Did you crop them though?
  30. I don't think that 200mm maximum is going to do the job.The 70-300mm IS is a fine lens, if a little softer than some at the long end. There are at least two reasons not to get the DO version : 1. Cost ($,£,€) and 2. flare is more of a problem in shooting into the sky than it is on the non-DO lens. Reasons to get include its weight and size compared to its larger cousins.
    FWIW, the Reflex-Nikkor 500mm f/8 mirror lens works just fine on a Canon body with an inexpensive adapter. I got a fine copy of it for under $200.
    Just set it on aperture priority (it's JUST f/8), focus, and shoot. Like John Crosley and like generations of sports and event shooters, you need to preset focus to make it faster to use. Non-AI lenses of this kind are cheaper than their AI successors, and work fine on Canons as manual lenses.
  31. Terry, JDMvW has given some reasons for not getting the DO version, but if you've got it and are happy with it, that's fine. Incidentally, although more compact than the non-DO version when closed up, it is actually heavier, although of course nowhere near as heavy as the 100~400.
  32. Robin,
    Thanks for the feedback. The cost of the DO is indeed pretty high, but as I mentioned, I picked one up used for $810, which included shipping, the Canon lends hood, and six different filters (IR - ND - UV - PL, etc.) that he didn't want. Not the highest quality filters, but acceptable, or I can sell them off. Anyway, your right; the lens is not that light, but not over the top either in terms of weight. I did read about the tendency for flare on the DO, but between the lens hood (2 1/2 inches deep) and trying to avoid shooting into the sun, maybe I'll be OK. I do have another question though, for you or anyone else. What are your thoughts about using the circular PL at an air show? I'm thinking that once I rotate the filter glass to the ideal position, most of the shots should show some nice blue sky and aircraft colors. I do realize that as I "pan" the camera, I could get some variance in the polarizing aspect, and would also have to deal will some f/stop issues perhaps. Just curious, and thanks again.
  33. I'm guessing that you're not going to be doing aerial photography but will be photographing from the ground. Most air shows won't allow a photo plane to be up in the air (that's what aerial photography means, a photo taken from in the air) at the same time, although I saw a nice shot of one of the airshows at AirVenture that was from above. I agree with everyone's recommendation for a zoom. The 70-200 IS 2.8L is a great lens, and with a 2x teleconverter, you have all the focal length you need. Max aperture with the 2x tele wil be f 5.6, but that's fine on a sunny day. Without the teleconverter, 70 mm gives you a good focal length for some shots of static displays, although you'll probably want a much wider focal length as well. I have not noticed a problem with focusing using the teleconverters.
  34. I'd have thought that there would be so many white lenses at an airshow that you'd stand out if you DIDN'T have one!
  35. If a white L lens is what you want, get it. As long as you are not annoying someone with your photography, why care what someone else thinks about your equipment? Having a lens that draws attention is not being disrespectful to anyone. I have a 70-200 2.8 L and it does attract attention and I am one to keep a low profile. Concentrate on your photography and ignore others!

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