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10-05-2012, 11:43 AM   #1
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What lenses to use for indoor exhibit of space shuttle, aircraft, etc.

This weekend, I am going on my first trip to the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy Center which is a big facility outside of Washington, DC that has on display over 200 aircraft and spacecraft, including the Space Shuttle Discovery and the Concorde. They are in a big multi-level aviation hangar.

I am looking for advice on what lenses I should bring with me to use on my K-X. I am going with my 2-year old daughter and wife and some friends who have a 2-year old son. I'll want to take pictures of the air/space craft but also there are times when I want to capture candid pictures of the kids running around and enjoying all the planes.

I don't like using flash, and I like to travel as light as possible.

Here are my choices:

(1) Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 constant zoom
(2) DA 15 and FA 35 (or DA 40)
(3) DA 21 and DA 70
(4) DA 15 and FA 43 (I'm leaning in this direction)

I can mix/match other lenses but I think I'll end up taking at least one or more of the above lenses.

Thoughts? I'm worried that DA 15 is not fast enough for inside the hangar, but then again, it might just be, and it is my widest lens. I'm thinking maybe the DA 21 but it might not be wide enough, nor is it that much faster.

I like the idea of the 18-50 f/2.8 zoom for the convenience and speed, but it is the heaviest lens. But at least I never need to swap lenses.

I don't know if I would use the DA 70 much even though I love the IQ. Then again, I can be farther back from the kids and still get nice up-close shots.

10-05-2012, 12:05 PM   #2
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I brought along all my zooms to the USS Intrepid air and space museum in NY. I never took the DA12-24 off. I think DA15 and FA43 is the way to go, and throw in the DA70 for good measure. Crank that ISO and shoot in RAW. Good luck.
10-05-2012, 12:06 PM   #3
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My favorite lens for Udvar-Hazy has been my Tamron 17-50 f/2.8. Because you have a lot of big stuff and not much room to back up, wider is generally better. Anything longer than 50mm is only useful for detail shots or getting the planes on the far side when you are up on the catwalk.

Example (not a great one, I admit) - I had my legs against the railing on the opposite side of the walkway, and people had to wait for me to shoot:
Détente I | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

The ceiling is painted white and there are a lot of floodlights (some down low where they get in shot), so low-light isn't too much of a problem. On my last visit, I used the Sigma 10-20/4-5.6 with no problems.

Have fun!
-Todd
10-05-2012, 12:14 PM   #4
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Super helpful, thanks! So I think DA 15 is a must take on this trip, at the very least.

10-05-2012, 12:32 PM   #5
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Yes to the 15. You can get away with slower shutter speeds at wide angle, so wide apertures aren't as vital. My fastest lens is my 43/1.9 but my slow Tamron 10-24 is my primary museum lens.
10-05-2012, 01:21 PM   #6
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The museum has a lot of light available for an aviation museum, but that's not saying it's that bright. It will vary between a sunny day and cloudy. The windows help but might fool your meter into preserving their highlights. Interior lights are similar. Keep an eye on the exposure of the actual subject, not just the scene.

Aviation museums also can't really display each plane individually. The B29 in particular is in the middle of everything, I think partly to keep protestors at bay. The space shuttle is isolated, though. The space wing ceiling is black, but exhibits have more light.

I used the DA 16-45/4 almost entirely, mostly from 16 to 28mm. A few planes are too big or can't be shot from a place to get them all in at 16mm, such as the Concorde. Almost but not quite. I had a lot of time - 2 trips, several hours each time, by myself. Many of my shots used something to rest the camera on, 2 second delay, and longer exposures up to 3 seconds. For those I tried to stay at low ISO, so I had room later for processing. The floor or the posts supporting the low guardrails in front of exhibits worked for improvised tripods. I don't know what their tripod rule is. I used live view and CDAF a lot for spots where I couldn't look through the viewfinder. That and reviews ate a lot of battery time.

I brought my AF 540 FGZ and that was useful for the handful of darker corners or display cases. I could put the flash on top of some glass cases and trigger it wirelessly. For flash shots, I like to raise ISO to 800 or so, to allow ambient light to creep in.
10-05-2012, 01:21 PM   #7
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The speed of the 43/1.9 might be useful for the kids (or the flexibility of the zoom, but I hear ya on the size/weight). For static stuff, the K-x can handle the light at U-H just fine. I usually restrict the auto-ISO to 1600 or less.
10-05-2012, 01:27 PM   #8
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Many thanks for the additional comments, especially from those who have been there before! Things to think about for sure, and it helps my camera bag packing plans... I have a feeling my shooting will be a mix of trying to capture the big aircraft as well as portraits of the kids, hopefully some with the kids in front of the exhibits but it might be a challenge to do that. (my daughter does not like to stand still for a moment!) I'm looking forward to this trip; I've lived in the area for 7 years but have never made my way out to U-H!

10-05-2012, 01:28 PM   #9
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Re: policies: Air&Space and Udvar-Hazy do allow flash, do not allow tripods or monopods. Bags will be searched as you enter, but the security guys are pretty easy-going. The only thing I've seen them fuss about is carrying kids on shoulders on the catwalks.
10-05-2012, 02:17 PM   #10
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As you have a significant handicap ie 2 children they kind of take priority. Your sigma zoom and 70mm is all I think you have time for. While your 15mm will provide much nicer colours I don't think you really have time but take it anyway. My rule with my kids (they are now all adults) was not to make their experience painful. At times I paid a high price. However our collective outdoor experiences are really positive and is an important part of what bonds us together. So i think it is a balancing act between what you would love to achieve and what will be a great experience for your family. the balance should determine what style of photography and how much gear. the balance with my family was much easier in that there was a limit to how much film I could afford.
10-05-2012, 02:25 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by Bob from Aus Quote
As you have a significant handicap ie 2 children
LOL. It's so true. I can't tell you how many times it's been challenging to take pictures while also carrying a diaper bag, camera bag, and pushing around a stroller. That's why I try to keep my camera setup as small and compact as possible so that I can one-hand a lot of shots. And you're right-- whenever I bring several lenses with me on family outings, it's rare that I get to switch lenses. So ideally, I need to choose just one or two lenses that can do everything -- the right focal length, fast enough, etc. Maybe I'll just take my Sigma 18-50 and be done with this decision-making process!

PS: I also have a compact camera, Canon S95, that I like using in situations where carrying around my DSLR is too much work. But I really enjoy shooting with the K-X and if I can manage to take it with me, I do!
10-05-2012, 02:33 PM   #12
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Your fastest and widest lenses will be your friends there. The planes are large and you are right up close and personal with them.
Lighting is not bright at all, practice your hand held slower shutter techniques.
The wides help with that.
If I ever go back I'll take the DA10-17 fisheye for some 'nose in your face' shots of the jets.
10-05-2012, 02:54 PM   #13
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I've used the 10-17 there, but with all the clutter and everything at angles to each other, it can be hard to get fishy goodness.

My personal favorite (well, lately - can you tell Udvar-Hazy is one of my favorite museums?) is using a 180-degree fisheye adapter on the biplanes. If you can get close enough, it makes them look like toys.

"Toy" Sparrowhawk | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
10-05-2012, 02:59 PM   #14
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Those are great shots Tee!
10-05-2012, 03:03 PM   #15
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oh man, if only I owned a DA 10-17 in time for this visit! Looks like it was made for such a museum!
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