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What lens for air show?

Discussion in 'Lens Lust' started by hjimzaf, Jul 18, 2008.

  1. hjimzaf


    Apr 3, 2008
    Spanaway, WA
    The base I'm stationed at (McChord AFB) is having an air show this weekend. My longest lens is my 70-200 VR. What longer lens should I rent? I'd like to get some of the Thunderbirds in flight.

    All you Western Washington residents, come on out this weekend! It's free!
  2. 70-200mm is enough. An airshow is all about handholding, so any longer you would be tired, and quick. Buy/rent a 1.4TC if you really want to (make it 280 f/4, similar to a 300mm f/4 but with zoom), but for all intents and purposes, my 70-200 has served me perfectly through all the air shows I've been to. I wouldn't get a prime to shoot airshows, so that leaves you with either 70-300 or a 200-400. and since you can do almost 300 with a teleconverter on the 70-200, i wouldn't bother. good luck.
  3. hjimzaf


    Apr 3, 2008
    Spanaway, WA
    Thanks for the info, Shane!
  4. The last airshow I shot (Andrews AFB) was a couple of years ago but I took a 70-200, 300 prime, and 400 prime. Overkill! Depending on how you position yourself for the flybys of various aircraft, your 70-200 should work. I ended up using a 12-24 and my 70-200 with a 1.4 TC. The two big primes got used but really weren't needed.
  5. I shoot air shows and my two lens are the 300mm f2.8 and the 70-200mm. I hand hold the 70-200 and the 300 sits on my tripod with a Wimberley Sidekick gimbal head. Very easy to follow the action. The 300mm allows you to reach out further and get the planes before they get to the flight lines. If it is cloudless, you can get the planes at the top of a loop or on their way up/down. I really like those shots as the smoke forms loops behind them and sometimes frames the planes or leads your eye to them.

    I also keep a TC - usually the 1.4 on the 70-200 and the 1.7 on the 300mm. Or, visa versa. I find that I like the way the 300mm fills the frame, much more than the 70-200mm. But, when there are multiple plane formations, the 70-200mm is the goto lens. If I am really near the flight line, the TCs are not necessary.

    If there are any prop plans, remember to slow you shutter speed down to blur the props.
  6. Mart61


    Dec 23, 2006
    Camberley, UK
    This is a tricky one. I just shot the Farnborough Air Show on Wednesday. I had my 80-200 with a 1.4TC attached. Even at max zoom I was still finding that the aircraft in my pics were too small. I had to crop into the results hard to make the aircraft a decent size in the final image.


    Hence, at almost 300mm, I found I could have used more.

    A colleague I was with, shooting Canon, had a 100-400 and his shots were much better and clearer than mine.

    Hence, if I had not of used the 1.4TC and limited myself to the 200mm max on the 80-200, my shots would have been disappointing. Even with the TC, they were not that good.

    I'm looking to go to a zoom that goes to 400mm, probably Sigma.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  7. gvk


    Jun 17, 2005
    Mystic, CT
  8. I would also recommend the 70-200 VR with a TC. I used it to shoot the Blue Angels over Seattle last year, and it worked very well. I would not want to use a tripod at an airshow because of the crowds and the fast movement of the planes.

    In good weather, consider using the TC-17E for more reach. 340mm is a decent focal length if you are reasonably close to the action. The TC-14E may be a bit short depending on where you are. The TC-17 is a bit soft on the 70-200 wide open, but stopped down to f/8 it's a very sharp combo!


  9. In all honesty a 70-200 is no where NOT enough lens for a airshow.. minimum is a 70-200 +TC17 if possible and then shooting with a D2x in HSC mode would be enough.

    otherwise a longer lens is much preferred.. A 200-400 handheld is by far the best all around airshow lens Commodorefirst (Wade and I) have used...
  10. Mart61


    Dec 23, 2006
    Camberley, UK
    Having just shot a show, this is the kind of range I'm going to look at.
  11. I used a 70-200 w/ 2X, and got decent photos. I took the 400 2.8 but could not use it on moving subjects, this is a hand held shoot. On my 70-200, the 2X makes better images then the 17-

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  12. I shot all of these on a D40, and a 70-200mm without any TC:


    I guess different airshows require different focal lengths. For me, the 200-400 is WAY too heavy to handhold for any period of time. Guess I have to hit up the gym even more..
  13. I shot these with a D3, 400mm & 1.7 TC

    I like having the length to fill the frame. I feel with a short lens your going to have to pan MUCH quicker once they are on top of you.


















  14. Zee71


    Apr 1, 2007
    Queens, NY
    I used my 70-200mm VR f/2.8 lens. I positioned myself where all the action was. If possible I would recommend going the day before the airshow starts, they usually do a dry run of the show (that's what I did). Here is a link to some shot's I captured, some images were cropped, etc. I would recommend a TC14E teleconverter. I shot using Shutter Priority. Enjoy the show!!!

    Here is the link: http://www.pbase.com/zee71/air_shows
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 18, 2008
  15. Commodorefirst

    Commodorefirst Admin/Moderator Administrator

    May 1, 2005
    Well, As Eric and others have stated there are lots of options, for rental purposes, I would suggest the 200-400 and shoot it without TC, it is just about ideal,

    You can do pretty good with a 70-200 with a 1.7 if you have a good sharp copy of the 1.7 (they do vary as Charles stated) and if you have a 2x you might be able to use that too on you 70-200 since you might be stopped up a bit for the prop plane shots to have some shutter blur.

    some links to threads talking about this:




    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 15, 2017
  16. Nuteshack

    Nuteshack Guest

    wow, crazy shots!!!

  17. NaOH

    NaOH Guest

    I can't imagine going to an airshow with anything under 300mm.

    I do agree that it has to be a zoom. Things move to fast to reposition yourself over and over.
  18. I use 80-400 , but the majority of my shots are at 400mm. The 200-400 would be the better option. Like others had said , the 70-200 with 1.7 TC would be another option ..
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