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04-13-2009, 10:40 PM   #1
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What lens to bring to Air Show?

Hello all, just thought I'd ask and get some views on what would be a good lens to bring to an upcoming Air Show I will attend?

Lens I have now...
Pentax... FA-50mm F1.4, DA-70mm F2.4 limited, DA-18-55mm kit lens, DA-50-200 and Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di

Looking to maybe pick-up in time for airshow either the Pentax DA-40mm limited or the Pentax DA-16-45 F4.0

Any thoughts are ideas? would love to hear from others that have shot at air shows before. Thanks Foots

04-14-2009, 04:42 AM   #2
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Usually when people ask for air show lens recommendations, it's for longer focal lengths But since you mentioned short and wide lenses that you're looking at picking up before the show, I assume you want close up shots of planes that are displayed? Your 18-55 should suffice for that. The DA40 and 16-45 will probably give better IQ but I wouldn't go out of my way to pick them up for the air show. For aerial shots, 200mm is probably a bit short and 300mm is decent, but it really depends on how close they get.

I usually attend the annual Fleet Week here in the city. They get pretty close when they perform so 300mm was okay for me. Here are some aerial shots at a focal length of 300mm.









04-14-2009, 06:31 AM   #3
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Thanks for the feedback Toshi, yes I should have made that clear in my message that I was mainly talking about taking photos of the displayed planes. And thanks for the shots @ 300mm I will be packing my Tammy 70-300 with me too for the air displays too as I will be very close to the flyovers. Thanks
04-14-2009, 06:35 AM   #4
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I've used my 50-200 the last time I went to the local air show. I just got my Sigma 70-300 so I might take that one next time.

If you want to take pictures of planes flying a long zoom would be good, otherwise use cropping.

04-14-2009, 08:29 AM   #5
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I shot the 2007 Binghamton Airshow with the 50-200 (didn't have the Tammy 70-300 yet)

I shot the 2008 Bing Airshow with the 70-300 - Major improvement in keeper rate.

I'll be shooting the 2009 with my Bigma most likely.

Since airshows are always outdoors and it's easy to pan, you usually don't need a fast lens. In fact when shooting helos or prop planes, you don't want the shutter speed to be too fast because you want to be able to see prop/rotor motion in the picture.

Andy Dodd : photos : 2007 Greater Binghamton Air Show (Part 1)- powered by SmugMug
Andy Dodd : photos : 2007 Greater Binghamton Air Show (Part 2)- powered by SmugMug
Andy Dodd : photos : 2008 Greater Binghamton Air Show- powered by SmugMug

First two were mostly 50-200 shots (2007), last was mostly 70-300 shots (2008)
04-14-2009, 08:58 AM   #6
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On the ground, the wider an angle you can get, the better. You usually can't get far enough away to use something like the FA50, and if you can, it's hard to get a shot without people walking in front of you. The DA 16-45 would be very useful. I used a Zenitar 16mm fisheye the last time I went to an air museum, great for indoor exhibits where the planes are very close.
04-15-2009, 04:08 AM   #7
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Foots -
I work with two prior air show photographers, one was a Blue Angles photog the other was a Thunderbird photog. They both shot most of their "in air" shots with 600mm. On the ground definitly go wide. They said they usually carried a second body with 17-35(nikon shooters). If you have long glass get there early and claim your spot nearest show center and set up camp. Hope it helps, have fun and good luck. Go Navy!
04-15-2009, 05:46 AM   #8
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it's really easy, get the longest lens that you can afford

04-15-2009, 06:33 AM   #9
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long lens and def. bring the 50mm f/1.4 for shallow DoF shots up close!
04-15-2009, 09:18 AM   #10
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Pentax 12-24 has pretty good IQ and lets you get very wide without a lot of distortion, and the closer you are to the planes, the less people there will be between your lens and the plane. Along the same lines are the Tamron 10-24 and the Sigma 10-20, if the Pentax 12-24 is too much $ right now, then I'd check out older used lenses, checking the feedback first on the lens review section here before heading out.
04-15-2009, 12:44 PM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by foots Quote
Hello all, just thought I'd ask and get some views on what would be a good lens to bring to an upcoming Air Show I will attend?

Lens I have now...
Pentax... FA-50mm F1.4, DA-70mm F2.4 limited, DA-18-55mm kit lens, DA-50-200 and Tamron AF70-300mm F/4-5.6 Di

Looking to maybe pick-up in time for airshow either the Pentax DA-40mm limited or the Pentax DA-16-45 F4.0

Any thoughts are ideas? would love to hear from others that have shot at air shows before. Thanks Foots

I have done photography at many (MANY) airshows over the past 25 years (since I was 8 years old), and in my bag is the longest zoom I own (80-320mm but hopefully soon to be 60-250mm), and the widest zoom I own (16-45mm). By no means expensive glass, but it works for me.

With an airshow one does not have the luxury of changing lenses as required hence the zooms. When walking around, I use the wide angle zoom. When done walking around, I settle in for the aerial displays with my long zoom. Of course there will be times when I go walkies during the performances, but changing lenses once or twice is no problem.

If you feel the need to be creative with artistic photography, take your favourite prime lens as well, or whichever gives you your best results.

I really (REALLY) like the 16mm for getting a nice, complete shot without people in it. If you stand too far away you will definitely never have a clear shot, especially if the plane (or whatever your subject is) is really special. Anything wider than 16mm and you risk distortion ruining the shot.

I also recommend setting EV to +0.5 or +1.0 because the sky is bright, and details can be shadowed out.

I'm done rambling now...
04-15-2009, 06:36 PM   #12
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We've had a big one in Ft. Lauderdale for years, and although I'm no expert by any means, I do know this:

Try to learn what's coming up in the program, and where it's coming from. Usually, in the very beginning of the shows, guys drop from parachutes with smoke blowing out of their boots--so you're REALLY shooting straight up into the sky. The Jets fly by with incredible speed, but they fly LOW, so it really helps to know exactly where they're coming from. And you may have attack helicopter formations, the incredible Blue Angels, and biplane acrobatics.

Our show down by the beach is a no brainer--they always follow the coastline. But I don't know what it would be like in a different situation.

Tough stuff to shoot, and my hat is off to the shots above. I myself never seriously tried to do it, because I can't really enjoy the show that way.

And I would be embarrassed to show my shooting results.
04-16-2009, 12:42 AM   #13
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I agree to learn the program of the show and possibly where the planes are coming from. I've been to Fleet Week several times (although I've only shot it twice) so I was familiar with how the show is performed. The show is basically the same every year and I have a good idea of where the planes are coming from and where they'll fly. Knowing where the planes are coming from and getting a good viewpoint by getting there early can definitely help with aerial stunts and low fly-bys.
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