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Old Jan 15, 2003, 12:17 PM   #1
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Default Aerial Photography

I'm a professional pilot and spend hundreds of hours per year in the air over forest fires. I'm new to digital photography and am seeking recommendations for a camera to use while on assignment. My 35mm film camera is a Minolta 7000si with a variety of lenses and it works quite well despite most shots from the airplane being taken handheld.

Very few people have an opportunity to see wildfires up close from the air so I would like to be able to take qood quality printable digital images, as well as short videos that will be transmitted via satellite data-link.

On location I am typically 1,000 - 2,000 feet overhead, between 1/8 mile and 1 mile from the action. Wide-angle and ultra-zoom are both important. Suggestions from anyone with experience taking digital photo's from aircraft, tall buildings, or similar high places would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
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Old Jan 15, 2003, 12:29 PM   #2
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Is the turbulence very bad inside the aircraft? How steady would the camera be?
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Old Jan 15, 2003, 12:48 PM   #3
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This might sound strange, but will there be someone else taking the pictures, or is remote control a requirement? What about "Take a picture ever X seconds" and just review them later?

That distance is *very* far from your subject. You'd have to live without real closeups without spending some serious money (if at all... someone else would have to say for sure.)

Engine shake on the camera is probably going to be bad enough that turbulence wouldn't matter. I wonder about heat distoring the light causing a reduction in image quality....

Eric
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Old Jan 15, 2003, 1:23 PM   #4
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I will be taking a few photo's handheld (autopilot), most will be taken by a passenger, and some will be taken from a remotely mounted location inside the aircraft. Distortion due to super-heated air is not really a concern, but haze filtering (smoke) is. Another feature that would be quite useful would be the ability to take several shots in rapid succession.

Turbulence will always be a problem, and a gyro-stabilizer is out of the budget for the time being. I realize that at extreme zoom camera shake is always in the cards without a stabilizer, but perhaps one of the digitally stabilized cameras (Olympus C2100) would be adequate. We're not looking for super close-ups of people on the ground, for example, but shots of tanker drops, helicopters doing bucket work, trees torching, etc.
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Old Jan 15, 2003, 1:31 PM   #5
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If you can find a C2100 you will be lucky. This is the only one I found on Ebay
http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...tem=1951049045

Found a reseller wity moderate ratings at this link

http://www.choiceonedigital.com/olc2ulzoomdi.html

You might consider the Olympus C4000, 4mp, 3X optical zoom. About $400 on the web. Circuit City is selling for $450
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Old Jan 15, 2003, 2:02 PM   #6
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Or the New Panasonic 12x Lumix...but the Olympus C2100 would be the best of all worlds with these features:

ultra zoom (current zoom is 38mm-380mm)
can add an extra wide angle or zoom lens
image stabilization
sequence mode
can shoot using a handheld remote (extra purchase)
can control the camera from a laptop (Pinetree Camera Controller, http://www.pinetreecomputing.com/camctl.asp no pun meant with the Pinetree and forest fires)
timelapse photography can be acomplished via the Pinetree software

If you can't get a C-2100, the new C-730 has the same benefits as above EXCEPT no image stabilization.
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Old Jan 15, 2003, 2:20 PM   #7
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Default Re: Aerial Photography

Quote:
Originally Posted by wildfire
... My 35mm film camera is a Minolta 7000si with a variety of lenses and it works quite well despite most shots from the airplane being taken handheld. ...
What lenses do you use with your Minolta? Are any of those lenses image stabalized? The answer should specify the "zoom" for a digital and if you need image stabalizaion in digital.

How do you use the photos? 4x6"? 8x10"? 16x20"? web? Are the photos inspected closely, i.e., with a loupe? These answers will address the issue of how much resolution/quality you need. If you need large prints and/or close inspection, likely you will want a pro level camera. If you need 8x10" viewed at arms length, likely most of the 3+Mp consumer cameras will do the job in terms of resolution.

What film do you use? Keep in mind that most consumer level digicams have a usefull ISO of 100 to perhaps 400. If you need a higher ISO, you again are looking at pro ($$$) level cameras.
______________
Since it sounds like you are just beginning to explore digital photography, I'd suggest that you scan a bunch of photos and learn how to use a photo editor. One of the dirty secrets of digital photography is that you have to do your own "darkroom" work. If you figure out how to use a photo editor (the digital darkroom), you will have a better idea of what you want in a digicam, you will be ready to use it, and the prices will have come down a bit.
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Old Jan 15, 2003, 4:50 PM   #8
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Sounds like the ideal case for an image stabilised lens. Short videos will probably require microdrive for storage and they will be BIG files to send over a link. Wide and long tele zoom in the same lens might be difficult unless you're prepared to fit addons and adaptors. With multi shot modes, panos might be an interesting option.

For still cams, the traditional movie cam makers are not my favorites, but for what you want, they may offer a suitable compromise for still and movie.
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Old Jan 15, 2003, 7:40 PM   #9
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I like microdrives, but not sure I'd recomend them for work in an airplane - they will break down at high altitude. (10,000ft/3,000m is IBM's limit.) They use air as a lubricant so with little air, they break if used up there.
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Old Jan 16, 2003, 10:30 AM   #10
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Found this c2100 on ebay

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll...category=30003

Buy it now $600. New in box.
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