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Is 300mm Enough For Airshows?

Mon Jul 18, 2011 4:43 pm

Hi all..

I had a 300 mm lens at RIAT this weekend and couldnt seem to get very close to the aircraft???

Is this normal or not and was just wondering if 300 is enough?
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RE: Is 300mm Enough For Airshows?

Mon Jul 18, 2011 7:46 pm

300 mm is certainly not enough at German airshows, where separation of aircraft from spectators is large.

It may be enough in other places, but 400 mm would be better. I have had good results at Duxford with 400 mm.
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RE: Is 300mm Enough For Airshows?

Tue Jul 19, 2011 12:35 am

I don't know about UK airshows, but here in the states I've found a better time to get close shots is after the show and the planes are flying out for their next destination. During those times it is easier to get close to the departure end of the runway and catch planes above the fence. You also get better light control since it tends to be late afternoon or early evening when it happens. They also tend to fly slower if you are going for a good clear shot of the plane. I have noticed also that some private and a minority of commercial pilots tend to goose the engines a bit on takeoff when following a series of military aircraft departures. Higher angles of attack and less noise dampening for example. Has anyone else noted this behavior?
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RE: Is 300mm Enough For Airshows?

Tue Jul 19, 2011 2:04 am

I've had good luck with 300mm at a couple airshows here in Florida. They don't fly over the spectators but they're close enough to get decent shots. However 400mm might be the safer bet.
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RE: Is 300mm Enough For Airshows?

Wed Jul 20, 2011 11:43 pm

I think it all depends on where you are at. I've only been to 1 and a half airshows. (I only count one as a half since it was technically a flyin).

At the flyin, 300mm was plenty but there were less people and I was pretty close to the runway.

But when I was at The Great Tennessee Airshow, I could have used 400mm. There were more people, and a little further away from the runway. 300mm was fine, but 400mm would have been better. Luckily I was able to crop the picture without losing too much quality. I think not being able to get close to the aircraft is normal for 300mm.

[Edited 2011-07-20 16:44:33]
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RE: Is 300mm Enough For Airshows?

Thu Jul 21, 2011 12:17 am

I've usually found that 300mm isn't enough for flying displays, sometimes 500mm, even 600mm or more is useful (on 36x24mm cameras). I dislike cropping images though.

It can also give you the chance to stand back from the crowd line and get aerial shots. But the static shots of parked planes generally need one of those walkaround lenses, like an 18-55mm or a 24-70mm.

[Edited 2011-07-20 17:18:31]
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RE: Is 300mm Enough For Airshows?

Fri Jul 22, 2011 12:07 pm

Quoting HarryImp (Thread starter):
Hi all..

I had a 300 mm lens at RIAT this weekend and couldnt seem to get very close to the aircraft???

Is this normal or not and was just wondering if 300 is enough?

It depends on what you want photographs of, and where you are standing at the airshow.

If you are at the fenceline at an airshow, like RIAT, a 300mm used on a fighter type will produce filled and 3/4 filled frames on most cameras during the take-off and landing phase type flying. Obviously, as the aircraft is likely to fly away from the runway line towards the display line it will get further away and also will climb to the display heights.

The 300mm will then begin to struggle during the higher flying sections to achieve a 1/2 filled frame.

Now, if at RIAT you are not at the fenceline you maybe 15 rows of people behind the fenceline and can only clearly see the aircraft as it reaches the higher display height and be further away from you and your camera.

Consider the fact that Fairford has a long runway and if you are at the western end the eastern end of the runway is best part of 10,000 feet or 2 miles away. No sane lens will do much with a fighter at that sort of distance.

Again the bigger the aircaft the more the frame will be filled.

I would suggest a shooting plan, an idea of what shoots you want to achieve. Then get to RIAT as early as possible and glue yourself to the fence!
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RE: Is 300mm Enough For Airshows?

Sat Jul 23, 2011 11:49 am

I've used a 300 mm at airshows, I've never used bigger.

A lot of the Florida airshows the planes are pretty close like Sun N Fun, Jacksonville NAS. Titusville usually is pretty good, sometimes the warbirds during the warbird flyovers fly high and you get belly shots like the T-28s and the T-6 formations. The F-15 or whatever jet performs there usually gets close. MacDill is a little bit further.

I'm going to Dayton Ohio tomorrow, the planes seem a little further there but I have still gotten good shots there too. Today I will be at Willow Run - the warbirds usually are close, but the jet demo is kind of far.

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