Camera and Equipment
For aircraft photography you really need a 35mm SLR (Single lens reflex) camera. This type of camera is
very versatile and can give some good results. What you see through the viewfinder is actually what appears on the film.
You can buy various lenses from wide-angled up to telephoto. Some lenses are better then others and this
is reflected in the price.
Other accessories include filters such as a polorising filter which is useful for illiminating reflections from
an aircraft canopy for example or just a UV filter to protect your lens.
Different film speeds can be used, so a slow film (ISO 50) is useful if you want to enlarge a print because
it is less grainy then a fast film.A faster film (ISO 400) is useful for taking pictures of aircraft in the air with a long
telephoto lens. This is because a faster film is more light-sensitive and so needs less exposure.
Most SLR's give you full control over the exposure by letting you manually set the shutter speed and/or
Canon EOS 1000F Camera body & lenses
Lockheed P-38 Lightning
North American P-51 Mustang
35mm SLR Camera & Lenses
You can buy a 35mm SLR camera for £200-£300+ or considerably less if you buy second-hand. Modern cameras usually come with a range of features including autofocus. Some people use auto-focus all the time but others, like myself, rarely use it and prefer to manually focus the lens.
More important than the camera body is the lens. A good lens can cost more than the camera and its a good idea to have a few lenses from wide-angle up to telephoto. I prefer to use zoom lenses as it means carrying less lenses. When you purchase a camera it will usually come with a standard zoom lens (usually 35-80mm). A wide-angle lens with a focal length of about 24-50mm is useful for taking pictures of static aircraft by cutting out the crowd and also for museum pictures. For taking pictures of aircraft in the air a lens with a focal length of 300mm or 400mm is required. A 50mm lens gives about the same picture as the human eye, so you can divide the focal length of the lens by 50 to find out the magnification, so a 400mm lens would give you 8X magnification. You can also buy a lens converter, i use a 2X lens converter on a 75-300mm zoom lens which converts the lens to a 150-600mm lens. This helps you to get closer to the action and fill the frame with the aircraft but unfortunately the converter can result in some loss of image quality.
You will often find that there are several versions of a particular focal length lens. The difference is their 'speed', that is the size of their maximum apertures. A fast lens will allow more light into the lens through the wider aperture but will cost much more than an equivilent slower lens.
Below are the lenses that i use:
|24-50mm||Wide-angled zoom lens|
|35-80mm ||Standard zoom lens|
|75-300mm ||Telephoto zoom lens|
|2x Converter ||Doubles magnification by 2
I use the 2x converter on my 75-300mm telephoto zoom lens to convert it into a 150-600mm telephoto lens. It gives me more magnification but the exposure and focusing become fairly critical.
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Tips on using an SLR camera at Airshows
ISO 200 is generally a good Film Speed to use at airshows because its not grainy and is usually fast enough for arial shots, alternatively you could take 2 camera bodies loaded with 2 different film speeds, ISO 100 for static aircraft and ISO 400 for arial shots and low-light conditions.
Wide-angled lenses are very useful for taking pictures of large aircraft or in a museum but they can distort the natural perspective of the subject.
Using a long telephoto lens can cause camera shake, to eliminate this it is a good idea to set the shutter speed to the focal length of the lens. So if you use a 300mm telephoto lens then you would need a shutter speed of a least 1/300 second.
If you need a fast shutter speed then you will need to open the aperture wider but you should be aware that a wider aperture means less depth-of-field and so focusing becomes much more critical.
When taking pictures of aircraft in the air against a bright sky the cameras metering system can be fooled into underexposing the actual aircraft so it is best to set the camera to overexpose by 1-2 stops.
A lens hood is very useful on a sunny day because it prevents sun flare and protects the lens if it rains.
|Aperture||Iris in lens which restricts amount of light reaching film|
|Depth of field ||Distance between nearest and furthest point which are in focus|
|Exposure ||The amount of light reaching film controlled by the Aperture/Shutter speed|
|Film Speed ||Sensitivity of film to light (fast film is more sensitive)|
|f numbers ||The aperture setting is measured in f numbers (eg. f5.6 is wider then f11)|
|ISO ||International Standards Organization / Film speed|
|metering system ||The cameras in-built meter which sets the exposure automatically|
|Overexposure ||Too much light has reached the film resulting in a burnt out image|
|Shutter speed ||The amount of time the shutter remains open and the film receives light|
|Underexposure ||Not enough light reaches the film resulting in a dim image