need some input on a lens for aviation

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by les_au, Mar 27, 2011.

  1. hi forum

    i am currently looking to add to my kit, i am a member of the local gliding club and therefor would like to photograph the aircraft we have based at the field in action.

    my current superzoom today demonstrated very well it's failings in the AF department when trying to track fast moving aircraft. in this case models. so it's time to agrument my long suffering and miss used 18-270. just need some thoughts from you guys. ideal budget is $2000 - 2500 aussie. few ideas i have come with are as follows

    Nikon 80-400 VR, will my d90 be able to drive it fast enough for aircraft ?
    nikon 300mm f/4 + kenko 1.4 tc
    sigma 100-300 f/4 + kenko 1.4 tc
    sigma 50-500 OS

    i don't need a lens the is "fast" in terms of f/stop as it's main use will be daytime and the skys down this part of the world are normally nice and sunny. even at f/8 the tamron was great when it locked on focus, exposure was quite good, shutter speeds were constantly over 1/600 ranging to 1/1000 and higher. i did consider the 70-200 f/2.8 vr II, but i figured that once i started sticking a 2x tc on it i would loose too much image quality, could be completly wrong here, and that combo is really starting to streatch the budget

    any input would be fantastic
  2. Ronald M

    Ronald M

    Nov 10, 2008
    Now you know why there are pro lenses and consumer lenses.

    Buying another consumer will not get you what you want.

    I would suggest for now you simply stand in one place and prefocus. Say you want to do landing shots, stand where you can frame the glider with flaps down, spoilers deployed, and shoot when he gets there.

    Rent a lens you think might be good. I would also think about air to air images.
  3. c6530


    Aug 15, 2008
    Depends how close you can get. You could consider a 1.4 or 1.7 TC. These are taken with the 70-200mm on a D300. Nothing particalarly special - my first, and so far only attempt.



  4. Hi,

    I shoot with a D90 pared with an 80-200 2.8 AF-D and the 80-400 VR. I used to shoot with a sharp 50-500 Sigma, and although the image quality was pretty good, the 80-400 is better. I am okay with the focussing speed of the 80-400: it's not lightening fast, and adequate for the aviation photography I do (well, it has to be until I can afford the 200-400 :tongue:). Most often my ahoots would pan with the aircraft, therefore little changes in terms of focus distance. And using the focus limit switch helps a lot.

    The 80-200 (or newer 70-200) is fantastic. Pin sharp and easy to handle; and has enough reach on DX for most flying clubs and air shows. One thing I have to battle with frequently is heat, so a long lens doesn't always help (and I see you're from Ozzie - depending where, and when you shoot, you may have the same problem).

    The wide wingspan of a glider won't do you any favours with a long lens either... so you you may find something closer to the 70/80-200 range is better.

    And for on-board shoots: as wide as you can go :smile:

    Good luck!
  5. chris197


    Oct 27, 2008
    London UK
    I think you'll find the 80-400 AF too slow. I have the Nikon 300 f4 and find it focuses as quick as the 70-200. If you can live without the zoom the 300 f4 is the route to take. Don't discount the 70-200 based on price. Here in the UK a used 70-200 VR1 is the same price as a new 300 f4. I know you'll lose some focal length but it's a lens that everyone should own. I've used it for airshows on a D300 and it was perfect. Image quality & speed of these two lenses is out of this world, I couldn't justify a Sigma even with a cash saving.

    70-200mm VR1 on a D300
    Spitfire Agfa 2 by chris rs197, on Flickr

    300mm f4 on a D700
    Yellow Moth landing by chris rs197, on Flickr
  6. cheers for the input folks i have a fair bit of thinking do here, renting a lens is not an easy thing to do here as i am not in a capital city but i'll look into some options
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 28, 2011
  7. sambo.


    Mar 20, 2011
    of your list, i'd look at the 300 f4 and a 1.4 nikon converter.

    or a 70-200 f2.8 and a 2x converter.
  8. gaidin


    Dec 28, 2009
    Which city are you in les? Depending on where you are some of us Aussies may ba able to loan you some glass to test out :smile:
  9. jonh68


    Sep 21, 2008
    I would go with the 300 f4 or Sigma 100-300 f4. Since you have much more room to play with in regards to aperture in daylight, both of these will be sharp since you will not be wide open even with TC's, unless lighting just goes down hill. Go with the Nikon of you need to shoot wide open with a TC.

    I will also go against the grain and tell you to consider the Bigma since you will also have room to play with the aperture. I have never used a Bigma, but critical sharpness is around f11 from what I have read which is plenty for daylight shooting. If possible, you may want to rent the Bigma to see if it serves your purpose. I have also seen some very sharp samples from the Sigma 120-400. With that said, I would not get either the Sigma 50-500 or 120-400 if you need to shoot wide open.
  10. I have been shooting air shows for several years now and these are my thoughts based on experience using the various lens.

    1. The 80-400 will prove to be way to slow in tracking a fast moving object such as a plane. I borrowed one because I thought "how slow could it be"? Well, it was and still is until Nikon makes an AF-S version.

    2. Nikon 300mm f/4.0. Not too bad if you do not use a teleconverter. As a general lens it is very sharp and easy to use - read light weight. But, throw on even a TC 1.4 and it slows way down.

    3. 70-200mm f2.8 VR I and II. Great lens for air shows and one of my two primary lens. If you are using a DX body, you get essentially a 105-300mm f/2.8 lens. Add either a TC 14 or TC 17 and you stretch that out all the way to 510mm on the long end. I use this lens to shoot larger airplanes and formation flying that my 300mm is too large for.

    4. 300mm f/2.8 non-VR. Used the older version, non-VR for one season and as they say "I saw the light"!!! Bought the VR 1 Version the next season. This is not a light weight lens by any stretch of the imagination but can be hand held. I am 69 years old and have learned to put the lens down between shots and that way I can be at a show all day and throw it up when the plane is approaching. Lens is tack sharp and can use either the TC 14 or TC17 without losing a lot of quality.

    5. 300mm f/2.8 VR I - my current #1 lens for air shows for the same reasons at #4 above with the addition of VR. Wish I had the money to buy the VR II version because it is even better.

    You can go to my FaceBook page (norman paratore) and see a lot of my air show photos. Almost exclusively taken with the 70-200mm and the 300mm.
  11. based in mildura mate, gotta look into the rental situation in melbourne

    @john68, i am seriously considering the 50-500 OS at this point, the 100-300 and tc were in the back of my mined mainly for the constant apature

    as for a 70-200 with tc's how much IQ is lost with the 2x tc ? that may yet bet the answer to my problem
  12. PedroS


    May 4, 2008
    Take a look at Moose Peterson site, he is much devoted now to aviation photography.
  13. Tom Larsen

    Tom Larsen

    Jan 18, 2008
    If you shoot with only one body a 300 mm prime will be very limiting. You may find the Nikon 70-300 VR will work. It is unquestionably inferior to a 300 f4 and 70-200 VR f2.8, but it covers a great range for planes passing through. Some examples from it below.

    300 mm f18 1/250 sec -0.3 EV ISO 200 - D700

    155 mm f6.3 1/320 sec ISO 200 - D300

    260 mm f5.6 1/320 sec +2 EV ISO 560 - D300

    And one from the 80-400 VR on D700

    400 mm f5.6 1/640 sec ISO 200
  14. wingspar


    Mar 16, 2008
    No experience with non Nikkor lenses. A 2.0 TC isn’t really recommended. Stick with 1.7 or 1.4.
  15. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    Post removed because I can't read anymore! Recommended the 200-400VR by mistake (didn't see the price in his post)
  16. Tom Larsen

    Tom Larsen

    Jan 18, 2008
    Wade, there is parity between the US and Australian $, the 200-400 VR will be 2-3 times the stated budget?
  17. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    I even checked for a price before I posted, and I missed this, I must be getting blind. My apologies. 300f4 AFS, and it does not slow down to much with the 1.4 TC that I have noticed shooting aircraft. Well within the budget. Another consideration would be the 70-300VR, and it is a very fast focuser, but I have not tried my copy on Aircraft, but it does well on Birds in flight.

  18. sambo.


    Mar 20, 2011
    says who?

    i regularly use a TC20EII (the now outdated 'crappy' TC) on my 400 f2.8 AF-SII.

    it's awesome. i find it best to close down a stop for better lens performance with the TC, but i'll shoot wide open if i must.

    the only serious downside of using a 2x TC on an f4.0 lens is the resulting f8 aperture may (or may not) cause issues with AF as the light starts to dim.
  19. Commodorefirst no problem mate, as much as i'd love a 200-400 it's a bit out of my range at the moment. but all options are on the table, thinking that a 70-200 with a 1.7 tc may be a real good option at the moment. if i need longer i'll cross that bridge when i come to it. i am still crunching the numbers at the moment. the 70-200 vrII with a 1.7 tc is by far the most expensive option within my budget but that lens also will lend it self to other things

    choices choices choices lol
  20. FWIW I wanted a long tele lens and was on a tight budget (as usual) so I got a Sigma 150-500 (BigmOS) one with a recent SN... I was using it for the very first time an my D90 to shoot some planes so my technique might be off.
    The lens has a fast AF and has OS which is a bonus. It's not that sharp on the long end but very sharp in it's mid-range. So some sharpening in pp will do the trick.
    PS: That lens is huge! But it has a nice foot though.
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