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Old Apr 12, 2007, 10:28 AM   #1
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Hello,

So I'm looking into purchasing a DSLR for airshow/aircraft photography. The biggest thing for me is going to be the lens I think, since I'll need 300mm miniumum from what I've read and know. So...with so many out there, which to chose? I want to stay reasonable, so that means for me hovering around $1000. If I go a little over that, that would be fine, but I'm not looking to blow the bank on this. It's just for me, I'm not a professional, I just want some nice pictures I can use on my computer and maybe print out.

It seems the Nikon D40's, Canon Rebels, Pentax, and Sony are all about my price range, and I'm seeing lenses that I could use with each of them. Some 'kits' on ebay seem pretty decent too, although I know you have to be a little wary with those sellers.

Any help from anyone? I did a search on here for airshows, much didn't come up. And I know that the lens issue is probably #1 for what I should chose, and it just seems like there is so much out there it can really make your head spin. Thanks!

Brian
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 10:51 AM   #2
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As you've said, any DSLR on the market will fit your stated needs of airshow photography. The camera based needs are fairly simple for that type of work and any DSLR can do the job. My advice would be to spend the money on the lens and not the body.

Now - I'm going to stick within your $1000 total range here - so certain lenses that would do a great job are out of the running (namely 400mm lenses). If you go with Canon or Nikon I would choose either the 70-300 IS USM from Canon or the 70-300 af-sVR from Nikon. I'm sure Pentax or Sony have similar lenses to look at and users of those lenses can chime in. What I would recommend, however, is staying away from the budget $200 3rd party telephotos as you'll sacrifice quality at the long end which is where you'll be taking most of your photos at.

Depending on the distances involved, you will get some benefit from using lenses with their own focus motors (Canon USM, Nikon AF-S, Sigma EX) because they are faster to focus. You also could benefit greatly from more focus points - which means cameras like the Nikon D40 with a reduced number of focus points/areas compared to the other models might be a poor choice. For this same reason I would not recommend the Oly entry level cameras because of the limited number of focus points. Not that they aren't good cameras - but for your purpose, the more focus points you have for tracking the better - even if you track with just a single focus point you have more options for selecting an appropriate focus point for proper framing. Just my .02

The servo tracking of the Canon and Nikon are going to be better than Pentax/Sony but that is only relevant for objects where the focal plane is changing. When an object is moving perpendicular to you at near infinite focus on the lens this isn't really an issue. So, the closer you are to the planes the more you benefit from the servo tracking. So, given the subject matter I'm not sure if you'll realize the benefit or not.

Cameras to look at will be entry level cameras:

Pentax K100D

Sony alpha

Nikon D50

Canon Xti (400D)

For your needs I don't see spending more on the tier-2 cameras as being beneficial. Spend the money on the lens.

So what I would suggest is going to a camera store and handling the above cameras and seeing which one feels the best to you or at least try to narrow the field down based upon ergonomics.
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 1:36 PM   #3
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I've never used the other brands, but the k100d has significantly faster autofocus than previous pentax DSLRs, so that makes life easier.

Viewfinder is also generally ncier than all the others, if that's an issue for you, and at the price you can get it for, it's a STEAL.
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 5:40 PM   #4
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whoops...little computer problem here, my bad!!
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 5:40 PM   #5
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It's really confusing with all the brands of cameras out there, and also, there is sooo much info out there, that you can almost do research for years and still not cover it all!!! I appreciate the help so far. I've found that forums like this can really be a huge help. so thanks!

At first I thought Nikon or Cannon, going with one of the lower ends (D40, D50, Rebels), just seems that the most used and trusted if you will,but then the Sony Alpha came into the price range, for some reason it seems pretty attractive,and also I've heard good things about the Pentax, and then it seems all compaines have some sort of DSLR out now. I'm still sure though that the main thing for me is the lens. Here's probably a stupid question, but is there any where that has a list of what lenses go with what cameras, like i know from such research obviously the compainies make their own (although i have to be careful as apparently some Nikon's won't work with the D40 and D40x), but what about other companies such as Sigma and Tamron?
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 5:40 PM   #6
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I would also consider the Pentax K10D. The 10mp allows for more cropping, and the built-in stabilization means you don't need to spend as much on stabilized lenses. You can get the camera for about $900 including an 18-55 kit lens, or $850 without. I don't own a good telephoto zoom lens yet, but I've heard the Sigma 70-300mm APO is quite good, and can be had for $220, perhaps a bit less if you shop around.

The Pentax K100D and the Sony Alpha both have built-in stablization as well. The K100D has very good high ISO performance as well allowing for faster shutter speeds, and is probably the cheapest camera of all the ones mentioned.

The Alpha is 10mp, but has a reputation of being mediocre at higher ISO settings. I think it also has the most limited lens selection of new lenses.

Probably your best option for getting a lot of reach on your budget would be to use a 1.4x teleconverter with a 300mm lens. This would work best with one of the cameras that have good high ISO performance, like the Pentax and the Nikon and perhaps the Canon XT. I couldn't say which would be the best as you'd have to factor in the available lenses, their quality, their cost, and whether or not you're willing to use a tripod.
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 8:03 PM   #7
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JohnG wrote:
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Depending on the distances involved, you will get some benefit from using lenses with their own focus motors (Canon USM, Nikon AF-S, Sigma EX) because they are faster to focus. You also could benefit greatly from more focus points - which means cameras like the Nikon D40 with a reduced number of focus points/areas compared to the other models might be a poor choice. For this same reason I would not recommend the Oly entry level cameras because of the limited number of focus points. Not that they aren't good cameras - but for your purpose, the more focus points you have for tracking the better - even if you track with just a single focus point you have more options for selecting an appropriate focus point for proper framing. Just my .02

I'm going to disagree with John on this one. Olympus has a big edge with the big telephoto reach you are needing. Because the somewhat smaller sensor, telephoto lenses reach farther than with the other DSLR manufacturers. You will have less weight to carry and hold. Big advantage!

The E500 with the 40-150 f3.5-4.5 has the 35mm equivalent reach of 300mm (2x multiplier) and is the optional second lens of the kit. Its a decent lens. I doubt that that lens will be enough, but the 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 has the reach of 400mm and the 1.4 teleconverter will give the reach of 560mm f4.5 in 35mm terms. Its alot brighter than some that John mentioned, is very sharp throughout its zoom and aperture ranges, and I bought the lens and converter for slightly more than $1100.

The smaller sensor is about 1 stop worse in high ISO noise which may be a factor if you are going to be doing alot of low light photography, but doubt you'll have much trouble with the 3 autofocus points. The 50-200 will take time to focus from near to infinity, but tracking is really very responsive.
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 9:03 PM   #8
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fldspringer wrote:
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and I bought the lens and converter for slightly more than $1100.
Considering the budget for camera and lens is $1000, I figured suggesting $800 lenses was a little out of the question. Also, while I agree you get more reach from Oly, as an action shooter I would say extra reach doesn't help if the subject is out of focus. I just think for moving subjects the 3 point focus of the Oly more than offsets the gain you get from the larger magnification. Having shot with a 7 point AF camera and now a 9 point and shooting a lot of action I'd hate to have to drop back and jus thave 3 points to use. But, different strokes for different folks.
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 9:18 PM   #9
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fldspringer wrote:
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The E500 with the 40-150 f3.5-4.5 has the 35mm equivalent reach of 300mm (2x multiplier) and is the optional second lens of the kit. Its a decent lens. I doubt that that lens will be enough, but the 50-200mm f2.8-3.5 has the reach of 400mm and the 1.4 teleconverter will give the reach of 560mm f4.5 in 35mm terms. Its alot brighter than some that John mentioned, is very sharp throughout its zoom and aperture ranges, and I bought the lens and converter for slightly more than $1100.
That does sound like it would perform very well, but when you consider that the E500 in your own words is 1 stop worse at high ISO, that means you have to use ISO 800 instead of 1600 on one of the other cameras. That makes the 560mm f4.5 effectively a 560mm f6.3. Considering that a typical 70-300 is f/5.6 at 450mm equivalent, your lens combination offers only about 30% more reach at 1/4 stop less brightness, but at about 5x the cost when compared to the Sigma 70-300 APO for the Pentax. Also, I didn't notice, does your lens combo have stabilization?
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Old Apr 12, 2007, 9:33 PM   #10
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JohnG wrote:
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fldspringer wrote:
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and I bought the lens and converter for slightly more than $1100.
Considering the budget for camera and lens is $1000, I figured suggesting $800 lenses was a little out of the question. Also, while I agree you get more reach from Oly, as an action shooter I would say extra reach doesn't help if the subject is out of focus. I just think for moving subjects the 3 point focus of the Oly more than offsets the gain you get from the larger magnification. Having shot with a 7 point AF camera and now a 9 point and shooting a lot of action I'd hate to have to drop back and jus thave 3 points to use. But, different strokes for different folks.
Then use the Sigma AF 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DC for less than $200.The reach is about the same as the 300mm in Canon and Nikon, and much lighter. The Canon lens you mentioned is a decent performer, and this Sigma lens falls into a similar performance class, but the Nikon lens you mentioned does fall off at 300mm too much for my taste. Aircraft travel in three dimensions and tripods are pretty much out of the question. Maybe a monopod, but even then its likely to turn out to be 100% hand held. The less mass the better for hand holding for an event as long in duration as the typical airshow.

I agree with the different strokes part; disagree with your dismissal of Oly as a viable choice in this usage as you did in the original post.
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