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Best Aviation Photography Lens?  
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 93 posts, RR: 0
Posted (7 months 3 weeks 4 days ago) and read 5828 times:

Hello All!

I am using a Nikon D3100, paired with a Nikon 70-300mm lens. I am starting a new post because I would appreciate some opinions on what is the best aviation photography lens.

Also, here are some recent photos taken with my 70-300mm. I am struggling with getting the entire aircraft in focus. Any suggestions?









Thanks for your time and help, it is appreciated!

Calvin


Calvin | image120
30 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlineoly720man From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 6604 posts, RR: 11
Reply 1, posted (7 months 3 weeks 4 days ago) and read 5824 times:

What exposure settings are you using and what focal lengths?

Don't forget the inverse rule that shutter speed is 1/focal length, and with the 3100 there's a 1.6x crop factor so shutter speed is 1/(focal length x 1.6), so at 300mm you're looking at 1/500s. If the lens has image stabilisation (or Nikon's equivalent) this won't necessarily hold true.

For aircraft you need an aperture of around f8 so there's enough depth of field to get the whole aircraft in focus.

Check the focus point. On the Westjet it looks like the winglet is in focus rather than the fuselage, unless it's my eyes.

Beware motion blur when panning, especially if the shutter speed isn't fast enough. If you're not following the aircraft exactly you will get some blurring during the exposure.

That lens should be more than capable of producing sharp images.



wheat and dairy can screw up your brain
User currently onlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9399 posts, RR: 27
Reply 2, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 5794 times:
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Quoting oly720man (Reply 1):
For aircraft you need an aperture of around f8 so there's enough depth of field to get the whole aircraft in focus.

That's dependent on focal length and distance from subject (and sensor size). If you're shooting between 70 and 300mm, and shooting a whole aircraft (so your subject is probably 500-1500 feet away), you won't have much problem with DOF, even at F4. I shoot aircraft that are as close as 200 feet at F4 between 70 and 300mm all the time (on a 1.6 crop sensor).

Quoting oly720man (Reply 1):
If you're not following the aircraft exactly you will get some blurring during the exposure.

Important to note that even if you are following the aircraft exactly, as shutter speed slows down you may get some blur at the extremes of the aircraft, as the nose and tail won't be moving at the same rate in your field of view.



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineafterburner From Indonesia, joined Jun 2005, 1201 posts, RR: 1
Reply 3, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 5766 times:

Quoting oly720man (Reply 1):
with the 3100 there's a 1.6x crop factor

In Nikon, Sony, and Pentax the crop factor is 1.5x.  


User currently offlinelen90 From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 370 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 5 hours ago) and read 5668 times:

If you were a Canon user I would say the 70-200 L series. I have used the 70-200 f4L and now a 70-200 f4L IS. Fantastic lens for color and sharpness.

For your pictures, can you post the focal lengths and apertures used along with ISOs.



Len90
User currently offlineoly720man From United Kingdom, joined May 2004, 6604 posts, RR: 11
Reply 5, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 4 hours ago) and read 5664 times:

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 2):
That's dependent on focal length and distance from subject

Yes, true. Half my brain is still on holiday.

Quoting afterburner (Reply 3):
In Nikon, Sony, and Pentax the crop factor is 1.5x.

You live and learn.



wheat and dairy can screw up your brain
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 93 posts, RR: 0
Reply 6, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 5641 times:

Quoting oly720man (Reply 1):
What exposure settings are you using and what focal lengths?
Quoting len90 (Reply 4):
For your pictures, can you post the focal lengths and apertures used along with ISOs.

For the UPS 757 I was using f 5.6 at a 1/200. Focal length was at 190mm, and ISO was at 160



For the Air Canada 767 I was using f 8 at a 1/2000, ISO 400, and focal length was set to 145mm.



For the WestJet 737: I was using f 8 at 1/800 at ISO 100. Focal length was 195mm



Finally, for the United 737: I was using f8, ISO 400, 1/2000, and focal length was set to 145mm.



What was I doing wrong considering my photos, and the above specs? Does anyone have suggestions?

Thanks!

Calvin  



Calvin | image120
User currently offlinelen90 From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 370 posts, RR: 0
Reply 7, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 5636 times:

What focus mode were you using. Aviation photography is best done using AF Servo. Think it is the same name on Nikon as Canon for that. Basically you want the camera to be constantly focusing and not just point focusing.


Len90
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 93 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 5635 times:

Quoting len90 (Reply 7):
What focus mode were you using. Aviation photography is best done using AF Servo. Think it is the same name on Nikon as Canon for that. Basically you want the camera to be constantly focusing and not just point focusing.

I was using single shot focus.



Calvin | image120
User currently offlinedazbo5 From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2005, 2822 posts, RR: 2
Reply 9, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 5631 times:

Quoting len90 (Reply 7):
Basically you want the camera to be constantly focusing and not just point focusing.

It depends on how you are using your camera and what technique you are employing. I don't use AF servo personally and use one shot as I prefer to take single shots then recompose / focus rather than track / take a burst or shots.

Darren



Equipment: 2x Canon EOS 50D; Sigma 10-20 EX DC HSM, 50-500 EX APO DG, Canon 24-105 f/4 L, Speedlite 430EX
User currently onlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9399 posts, RR: 27
Reply 10, posted (7 months 3 weeks 3 days 1 hour ago) and read 5629 times:
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Quoting dazbo5 (Reply 9):
I don't use AF servo personally and use one shot as I prefer to take single shots then recompose / focus rather than track / take a burst or shots.

Same here.

Occasionally I'll switch to AF Servo, just to try it out. Haven't found any noticeable difference. But like Darren, I don't fire off bursts anyway. If it means I occasionally miss a shot/airplane, then oh well, there's always the next spotting session.  



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 93 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (7 months 3 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 5586 times:

How can I improve with my photos above? What am I doing wrong?

Thanks,

Calvin



Calvin | image120
User currently onlinevikkyvik From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 9399 posts, RR: 27
Reply 12, posted (7 months 3 weeks 2 days 21 hours ago) and read 5582 times:
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Quoting BriceJohnson (Reply 11):
How can I improve with my photos above? What am I doing wrong?

Might help if you post a couple full-size, unedited photos.



"Two and a Half Men" was filmed in front of a live ostrich.
User currently offlinelen90 From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 370 posts, RR: 0
Reply 13, posted (7 months 3 weeks 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 5567 times:

For the UPS I personally think it has to do with you being at 190mm (like 285mm on a 35mm) and only shooting at 1/200 or possibly a really bad focus.

As Vik said, full size unedited pictures will help a lot.

Quoting vikkyvik (Reply 10):
Occasionally I'll switch to AF Servo, just to try it out. Haven't found any noticeable difference. But like Darren, I don't fire off bursts anyway. If it means I occasionally miss a shot/airplane, then oh well, there's always the next spotting session.

Pretty much my findings. I just like Servo and burst shooting so I can get multiple pictures and have a variety to choose from.



Len90
User currently offlineluxornv From United States of America, joined Aug 2013, 1 posts, RR: 0
Reply 14, posted (7 months 3 weeks 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 5551 times:

Hello, I've been using a Canon T3i with a 70-200mm f/2.8L II USM for my last few outings. I work about 3 miles from ORD and I take pictures during my lunch break. Below are a few of the shots I've taken. I haven't taken the time to upload them to a proper photo host, and these are linked from my Facebook. As a result, the compression is horrible on these. I've been shooting at ISO100, 1/800 shutter, and typically f/8-11. It was a little cloudy today, so I had the aperture up to 3.5 on a few shots.



User currently offlineJeffinMass From United States of America, joined Dec 2011, 27 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (7 months 3 weeks 2 days 6 hours ago) and read 5509 times:
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My opinion is this. The Nikon 70-300 is a good lens. If you want a GREAT lens then get the 80-400 ES. The glass is a far better quality, hence the cost which is about $1400USD. Sometimes a 18mm lens works too or a 28-105mm. It all depends upon what and how you are shooting. The images here are very nice. Remember it's the photographer who takes the pictures not the camera. The camera helps you take them.  

User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 93 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (7 months 3 weeks 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 5480 times:

Who thinks that the Nikon 18-300mm or 28-300mm is better than the 70-300mm? Maybe I should go with that?


Calvin | image120
User currently offlinealevik From Canada, joined Mar 2009, 915 posts, RR: 8
Reply 17, posted (7 months 3 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 5458 times:
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Calvin;

The gear you have now should be more than adequate to get good images in the conditions you have been shooting in (based on your examples).

I have the 28-300 and use it for aviation photography as well as general travel photography. It is a great lens and easy to carry around. I also use both the new and old versions of the 80-400 - a much larger and heavier lens but useful when you need that extra reach. I have never used the 70-300 but I know others who have and upload successfully here.

From your examples, it is hard to tell how much you have had to crop from the original to get full frame. The Westjet for example, with f 8 at 1/800 at ISO 100 and 195mm that should produce a very acceptable result. The shutter speed is high enough, the ISO is low, and 195mm is well in the sweet spot of the the lens. Did you have to crop the image a lot?

For the AC 767, f 8 at a 1/2000, ISO 400, and 145mm, I'm unsure why you needed ISO 400? ISO 100 would still give you a decently high shutter speed and introduce less grain.

Rather than think about changing lenses, I would focus on getting good results from the gear you have, which should be very possible, and then decide what lens will suit your needs.

Peter



Improvise, adapt, overcome.
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 93 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (7 months 3 weeks 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 5443 times:

Thanks for the response, and encouragement Peter. It is much appreciated!

I did have to crop each of the photos from original res of 4608px down to about 3000px.



Calvin | image120
User currently offlineviv From Ireland, joined May 2005, 3142 posts, RR: 29
Reply 19, posted (7 months 3 weeks 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 5395 times:

Generally speaking (there are exceptions) prime lenses will give better results than zoom lenses.


Nikon D700, Nikkor 80-400, Fuji X Pro 1, Fujinon 35 f/1.4, Fujinon 18 f/2
User currently onlineangad84 From India, joined Nov 2012, 638 posts, RR: 0
Reply 20, posted (7 months 3 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 5349 times:

Quoting BriceJohnson (Reply 18):
I did have to crop each of the photos from original res of 4608px down to about 3000px.

I used to frame wide and crop later, because it was easier than framing tight and risking cutting off parts of the plane. Then I realised I was just being lazy and worked on getting better at following the aircraft more accurately.

Perhaps you're being similarly conservative?

Cheers
Angad


User currently offlinegocaps16 From Japan, joined Jan 2000, 4334 posts, RR: 21
Reply 21, posted (7 months 2 weeks 5 days 20 hours ago) and read 5245 times:

Try shooting RAW instead of JPEG. That would alleviate the JPEG compression on your photos and tends to loose some quality while you edit. Editing plays a major factor on this website. Once you master the settings of your camera for sharpness, then it'll be editing. I'm a Nikon guy myself and I and many photographers will recommend you a higher budget, excellent quality glass as the 70-200 F2.8 VR. Price is $2600 USD new. For me, I tend to stay away from shooting on overcast days and practice shooting ILS approaches at my local airfield instead.

[Edited 2013-09-01 17:23:55]

User currently offlinemegatop412 From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 308 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (7 months 2 weeks 5 days ago) and read 5174 times:

My two main lenses for this type of work is the Nikkor 70-300mmVR and the Sigma 150-500mmOS. They complement each other nicely and yield excellent IQ.

While it is true the more expensive lenses are sharper, if you don't have the need for that kind of uber-sharpness, there's no need to invest in them. I also can't justify spending $2400 on a lens that only zooms to 200mm, to then have to spend even more money on teleconverters.


User currently offlinescbriml From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2003, 12040 posts, RR: 47
Reply 23, posted (7 months 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 5159 times:
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Quoting BriceJohnson (Reply 8):
I was using single shot focus.

I would suggest trying AF-C rather than AF-S, especially if you're tracking moving planes across the sky. I typically only use AF-C when shooting static planes.

For moving planes I usually depress the shutter half way so the camera focuses, then follow the plane keeping the shutter half depressed so the camera maintains focus while I take my shots.



Hey AA, the 1960s called. They want their planes back!
User currently offlineBriceJohnson From Canada, joined Mar 2012, 93 posts, RR: 0
Reply 24, posted (7 months 1 week 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 4601 times:

Should I get a Sigma 150-500mm lens?

Is it possible that there is something wrong with my lens or camera, all things considered? (Fast enough exposure, aperture, etc.) The issue of the entire aircraft not being in complete focus is happening with every trip I make... please help!
Big version: Width: 1024 Height: 684 File size: 355kb


[Edited 2013-09-12 15:19:41]


Calvin | image120
25 yousaf465 : please post exif. Focus seems to have been locked at the tail.
26 Asuspine : Hi, Seeing the UPS I think its a back focus problem. I use Nikon D7000 with AF-S VR Zoom-Nikkor 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G IF-ED. I initially faced focusing
27 gunone : You are exactly where I was two years ago. Do not be discouraged, you will be facing a great challenge. Follow my advice implicitly and you will never
28 BriceJohnson : Would getting a Sigma 150-500mm resolve my issue?
29 gunone : Hi, this is Alan again... I tried a Sigma 150 - 500mm lens on a D7000, it was not pretty. The camera seldom autofocused accurately and the camera coul
30 Post contains images BriceJohnson : Thanks for the comments I think that there is something wrong with my camera or lens. I am getting it checked out. Cheers, Calvin
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