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6 Days Ago   #1
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Best camera-lens combos for aerial photography

Hello all,

I may get an opportunity to do some aerial photography over a coastal city in near future.

My available kit is (all AF lenses, except where mentioned)

(a) Pentax 645Z - 28-45mm, 35mm, 55mm, 90mm, 150mm (manual focus)

(b) Pentax K1 - 77mm Ltd, 15mm Irix

(c) Pentax K3 body

I might perhaps be able to rent a Fujifilm GFX100 with one of the Fujifilm lenses ( my choice is GF 23mm f/4 for now)

Well, the restriction in the air is that I WILL NOT BE able to or allowed to change any lenses (or carry any loose stuff which might fall off the chopper). But I could have 2/3/4 cameras dangling around my neck (as long as I am comfortable with that prospect); however, I think more than three cameras would create a lot of interference and I might lose good angles in just trying to pick up the right camera. I guess I should be able to handle the technical complexities for shooting from a vibrating platform in the air.

The major goal is to create some fine art aerial pictures too (other than shooting record/ reportage images) like vertical/ horizontal panoramas etc of the city skyline. There will also be a few sorties in the twilight times and the night time.

I would be thankful to get some advice/ views (generic as well as specific to aerial photography). Pls also refer to any excellent resources on the internet on aerial photography and work by any good aerial photographers using the Pentax/ Fujifilm MF systems (or FF systems).

Regards,
Leonine

6 Days Ago   #2
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It's really hard to suggest what is "best" because it depends on what you want to photograph. Personally I'd go for the 645Z with the 28-45mm for a bit of versatility without the need to change lenses. Maybe combine that with the K1 and 77mm limited in case you spot something which requires a longer lens? From your description of the intention, it sounds like a wider/faster lens would be appropriate, rather than a longer lens. Most of the aerial photography I've done has been air to air, so I wanted a longer lens, not a shorter one.
6 Days Ago   #3
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I second the idea of the 645Z with the 28 - 45mm, also gives you plenty of pixels to crop into if you wish, again I'd go along with the K1 plus the 77mm Limited, again it gives you a bit more reach and a decent crop is available if you wish.

I defiantly wouldn't want to have any more than 2 camera's around my neck in that situation
6 Days Ago - 1 Like   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by leonine Quote
Hello all,

I may get an opportunity to do some aerial photography over a coastal city in near future.

My available kit is (all AF lenses, except where mentioned)

(a) Pentax 645Z - 28-45mm, 35mm, 55mm, 90mm, 150mm (manual focus)

(b) Pentax K1 - 77mm Ltd, 15mm Irix

(c) Pentax K3 body

I might perhaps be able to rent a Fujifilm GFX100 with one of the Fujifilm lenses ( my choice is GF 23mm f/4 for now)

Well, the restriction in the air is that I WILL NOT BE able to or allowed to change any lenses (or carry any loose stuff which might fall off the chopper). But I could have 2/3/4 cameras dangling around my neck (as long as I am comfortable with that prospect); however, I think more than three cameras would create a lot of interference and I might lose good angles in just trying to pick up the right camera. I guess I should be able to handle the technical complexities for shooting from a vibrating platform in the air.

The major goal is to create some fine art aerial pictures too (other than shooting record/ reportage images) like vertical/ horizontal panoramas etc of the city skyline. There will also be a few sorties in the twilight times and the night time.

I would be thankful to get some advice/ views (generic as well as specific to aerial photography). Pls also refer to any excellent resources on the internet on aerial photography and work by any good aerial photographers using the Pentax/ Fujifilm MF systems (or FF systems).

Regards,
Leonine
I read an article (sadly its in german) about a photographer specialised in aerial photography, and he said he uses fujifilm gfx camera with longer lenses, between 70 al 200mm. Here is a link to the article:

Luftbildaufnahmen von Tom Hegen | WhiteWall

Hope you find some helpful information.

6 Days Ago   #5
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Thanks Chris and Rob.

What are your views on the Fujifilm GFX100 with the 23mm lens?

I would be shooting the cityscape, specific buildings which are architecturally important, arterial roads, the traffic, night photography of city including its empty streets, complete city view with part of sea visible (perhaps as a stitched panorama while shooting from just a few feet hovering above water) etc.

Regards.

---------- Post added 02-14-20 at 07:57 AM ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by robiles Quote
I read an article (sadly its in german) about a photographer specialised in aerial photography, and he said he uses fujifilm gfx camera with longer lenses, between 70 al 200mm. Here is a link to the article:

Luftbildaufnahmen von Tom Hegen | WhiteWall

Hope you find some helpful information.
Thank you. I will request Mr Google to translate for me 🙂

Looking at his photos, i should get an idea on types of lenses to be used for specific situations.
6 Days Ago   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by leonine Quote
I guess I should be able to handle the technical complexities for shooting from a vibrating platform in the air.
At least the DA 645 28-45 has shake reduction, otherwise what about renting a D FA 15-30 to use on your K-1?
QuoteOriginally posted by leonine Quote
like vertical/ horizontal panoramas etc of the city skyline
Are you thinking of stitching multiple photos into combined panoramas? Edit: I see you are thinking of stitching photos, in that case the K-1 with FA 77 would probably be a good choice for camera #2. If you are hitching a ride on a copter being flown for other purposes around the city, you probably will be relatively close up most of the time, so longer telephotos may not be that useful, but on the other hand, all aircraft have to maintain a safe distance from everything, so I wouldn't want to be restricted to only UWA lenses (like the 23mm on a MF camera).

Last edited by RGlasel; 6 Days Ago at 08:23 AM.
6 Days Ago   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by RGlasel Quote
At least the DA 645 28-45 has shake reduction, otherwise what about renting a D FA 15-30 to use on your K-1?Are you thinking of stitching multiple photos into combined panoramas?
I guess one lens needs to be a medium telephoto like 77mm on K1 (helped by IBIS) or 90mm on 645 (helped by SR in lens). That would allow close ups of parts of city that may form a good composition.

Then i guess i would need to decide on one wide angle. 28-45 on 645Z has SR but is heavy, 35mm on 645Z is tempting because it is lighter and also has one stop advantage in aperture but doesn't have SR.

The Fujifilm GFX100 has IBIS but i have never shot mirrorless cameras and I wonder how the EVF of Fujifilm will hold against the OVF of 645Z. Reaction time is critical in the air much like wildlife action Photography. Of course, if you miss the shot in the air, you could turn the chopper back, but the pilots are never happy about it.

---------- Post added 02-14-20 at 08:33 AM ----------

And yes, i am thinking of not going far from the shore..... just at a reasonable distance and then maybe swivel the chopper in one spot to get maybe 5 odd shots to stitch the panoramas. I haven't done it before. It is an experiment. If it doesn't work, i will go further away from the shore to capture the city but then i will lose resolution in heavy cropping.

---------- Post added 02-14-20 at 08:41 AM ----------

90mm on Pentax 645Z gives me 70mm effective focal length with respect to 35mm format. But it is a f/2.8 lens against the f/1.8 of 77mm Ltd on K1.

Or maybe i could just hire one more 645Z and go with both SR lenses - 28-45 & 90mm,or else 35mm & 90mm.

I guess two similar bodies could also help in faster reaction times. I found in Africa a few months ago that having different bodies is actually a problem. But again, it is difficult to be able to afford two 645Z bodies.

Last edited by leonine; 5 Days Ago at 08:35 AM.
5 Days Ago   #8
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My only experience with aerial photos was using a K-5 and the 18-135WR. I was a passenger, so limited to what I could see along the way. The length of that lens was adequate I might have preferred a little more zoom, but at that height, it was definitely wide enough, especially since the helicopter doors were closed. I agree that a high pixel count is preferable, you surely will be cropping .
You will be spoiled for choice with a birds eye view, so plan ahead on specific things you want to capture, and your preference of view point
If possible find out what the flight plan is, and use Google maps or something similar to plan for sights you might see. Also consider time of day for lighting, shadows etc.
look as well for any scheduled events that are occurring in the streets below, those are often great subjects.
I own a K-1 and 77mm so I lean towards it, but the 645z and lens will allow you to take in a larger view, with the high pixel count you can crop .
Also, I hope the doors will be off or open, the Perspex window is usually scratched or dirty, a hindrance. Consider a CPL to minimize inconvenient reflection.
I look for to seeing the results

5 Days Ago   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
My only experience with aerial photos was using a K-5 and the 18-135WR. I was a passenger, so limited to what I could see along the way. The length of that lens was adequate I might have preferred a little more zoom, but at that height, it was definitely wide enough, especially since the helicopter doors were closed. I agree that a high pixel count is preferable, you surely will be cropping .
You will be spoiled for choice with a birds eye view, so plan ahead on specific things you want to capture, and your preference of view point
If possible find out what the flight plan is, and use Google maps or something similar to plan for sights you might see. Also consider time of day for lighting, shadows etc.
look as well for any scheduled events that are occurring in the streets below, those are often great subjects.
I own a K-1 and 77mm so I lean towards it, but the 645z and lens will allow you to take in a larger view, with the high pixel count you can crop .
Also, I hope the doors will be off or open, the Perspex window is usually scratched or dirty, a hindrance. Consider a CPL to minimize inconvenient reflection.
I look for to seeing the results
Thank you for your comments.

I will choose the flight paths and number of passes. That is not a problem. Also, except in areas closer to the airport, i can come down reasonably low, particularly flying over the sea.

I guess every flight would need to be planned in detail. Google map satellite views would certainly help.

The chopper doors would be off.

The reach upto 135 or even 150/200mm would help in specific situations. But carrying a heavy 70-200 f/2.8 (on rent) would be tiresome.

With chopper doors off, i won't be allowed to change lenses under any circumstances.

I would be flying in the golden hours, the blue hours and maybe twice in the night. I would avoid mid day shooting.
5 Days Ago   #10
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This is the camera you want. Real resolution is classified and still better than anything digital out there. It is why the U2 is continues to be flown today. Film comes in rolls up to 10,000 feet long so no chance of missing your shot. Works pretty good for a 60 year old design. images are 9" x 9" and when using color film, each square inch contains the digital equivalent of 1TB of information. So each image contains 81 TB of data. I used to work on the film processors for this system.


If you can't afford a U2 and the $1,000,000 or so it costs to fly each mission, I would go medium format with the best resolution sensor and lens you can get. For medium format I would use a lens in the 75 to 150mm focal length range. Wide angle is not that great for aerial photography. Longer lens and stitch the images if you have to.


K1/K1-II with the D FA 50 f1.4 of D FA 100mm macro would be pretty good too. People are not going to want to look a 3 x 5 aerial images so enlargement is a definite part of the equation.
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5 Days Ago   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by gaweidert Quote
This is the camera you want. Real resolution is classified and still better than anything digital out there. It is why the U2 is continues to be flown today. Film comes in rolls up to 10,000 feet long so no chance of missing your shot. Works pretty good for a 60 year old design. images are 9" x 9" and when using color film, each square inch contains the digital equivalent of 1TB of information. So each image contains 81 TB of data. I used to work on the film processors for this system.


If you can't afford a U2 and the $1,000,000 or so it costs to fly each mission, I would go medium format with the best resolution sensor and lens you can get. For medium format I would use a lens in the 75 to 150mm focal length range. Wide angle is not that great for aerial photography. Longer lens and stitch the images if you have to.


K1/K1-II with the D FA 50 f1.4 of D FA 100mm macro would be pretty good too. People are not going to want to look a 3 x 5 aerial images so enlargement is a definite part of the equation.
Goodness gracious.... This is exactly what i was looking for. Now, if only you could share where i could buy this machine and the U2, i would just go over next week and pick them up ��

50mm f/1.4 would help on K1. I could rent it.

And maybe 90mm on 645Z and forget everything else including the wide angle lenses?

Perhaps i could try out combinations in one or two short duration trial flights and then decide the optimum combinations.

Else, go with three cameras and see if it works....
5 Days Ago - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by gaweidert Quote
Wide angle is not that great for aerial photography
Another advantage of the U2 is that its flight path is much more flexible than a satellite. But the OP is planning to take photos that aren't straight down, so a U2 won't do any good.

I don't have any digital aerial photos of cityscapes, but I chartered a Cessna 206 for a two hour flight over the Kluane Icefields. The cabin was pressurized (to get to 17,000 feet) so I had to shoot through glass. I used a K-30 and DA 18-135, at 18mm, wing and wing strut were intruding into my photos, even with the camera up close to the glass, but it still wasn't wide enough to get even half of Mt. Logan in the picture.



At the other end of the scale, at 135mm I was able to get some details of meltwater lakes about 3000 feet below us.

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QuoteOriginally posted by RGlasel Quote
Another advantage of the U2 is that its flight path is much more flexible than a satellite. But the OP is planning to take photos that aren't straight down, so a U2 won't do any good.

I don't have any digital aerial photos of cityscapes, but I chartered a Cessna 206 for a two hour flight over the Kluane Icefields. The cabin was pressurized (to get to 17,000 feet) so I had to shoot through glass. I used a K-30 and DA 18-135, at 18mm, wing and wing strut were intruding into my photos, even with the camera up close to the glass, but it still wasn't wide enough to get even half of Mt. Logan in the picture.



At the other end of the scale, at 135mm I was able to get some details of meltwater lakes about 3000 feet below us.
That must have been a great experience, flying in the Cessna.

I am coming around to believe that i should shoot through the best available glass on the best available sensor, and then crop if necessary, than sacrifice lens quality for the sake of a longer focal length.

That means

(1) 50mm f/1.4 on K1 & 90mm on 645Z

Or

(2) 77mm on K1 & 28-45 on 645Z

for daytime.

For flights in blue / night hours, maybe 50mm f/1.4 on K1 and 77mm f/1.8 on K3.

Does this sound ok?

Anyway, i am surprised none is taking the Fujifilm GFX100 into account.
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QuoteOriginally posted by leonine Quote
i am surprised none is taking the Fujifilm GFX100 into account.
I think that is because the glass matters more than resolution, and a camera with better colour, less noise and an optical viewfinder trumps the GFX100, but I don't have experience with either the 645Z or the GFX100. I can't find the link, but there was a comparison posted here a while ago and to my eyes, it wasn't close, the 645Z was much better than the GFX100. Plus, a helicopter trip is too valuable to use for trying out something new, I would want to stick with what I know so I could make the best use of my limited time in the air.
QuoteOriginally posted by leonine Quote
That must have been a great experience, flying in the Cessna.
It was well worth the thousand dollars it cost me. I brought my camera bag with me on the plane and could have changed lenses, but even on a two hour flight, time was at a premium and it wasn't possible to back the plane up and experiment with different lenses.
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QuoteOriginally posted by leonine Quote
Goodness gracious.... This is exactly what i was looking for. Now, if only you could share where i could buy this machine and the U2, i would just go over next week and pick them up ��
Hereís one just waiting for you, at the Lockheed-Martin facility at the Palmdale Regional Airport (California). (Google maps screen shot)

Iím not sure what the list price, is though, and whether the camera is included!
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