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Nikon Lens for Aircraft ?

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strokebloke 9 493 17 England
10 Jun 2011 3:47PM
Can anyone suggest a good Nikon lens to purchase for shots of (acrobatic) aircraft please?
To fit D100/300/D2x/F5

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snapbandit 14 2.3k 3 Northern Ireland
10 Jun 2011 6:48PM

for zooms (& therefore a bit more flexibility)
70-300 VR is a good range at a reasonable(ish) price (& relatively hand holdable, weight wise)
next up the price scale is the 80-400 (although not renowned for it's AF speed, if you use AF)
bit more quality (& a lot more money & weight!!) is the 200-400
There is also the option of the 70-200 f2.8 with the 1.7x or 2x converters.

if you look outside Nikon lenses the long sigma zooms (150-500 etc.) are comparitively good value for money, but quite heavy & unwieldy.

Another good option if you don't mind working with fixed length lenses is the Nikon AF-S 300mm f4 (& it can be paired with the 1.7x ot 2x converter)

the length you need will depend on how big you want to get the aircraft in the frame & where you will be shooting from.


Joe B
strokebloke 9 493 17 England
10 Jun 2011 7:36PM
Thank you Joe - that's very helpful.

I've got a 70-300 for the Nikons. And a 75-300 for the Sony.

..... for it's AF speed, if you use AF
Would you recommend using manual?

I don't want to spend money unnecessarily, and if you're saying that a 70-300 AF-D is an acceptable lens to work with, just requiring lots of practice, I'll keep my money in my pocket and practice a lot. GrinGrin
I do have a 2x tele-converter that I can use with manual focus. I works well with AF but only with stationary subjects.

The reason I ask is because I'm learning to get sharp aircraft and blurred prop and with aircraft an appreciable distance up if I get the prop blur I'm struggling with minute f stops. My thoufght was a bigger lens, better mag. ~ reduce blur slightly, increase aperture aget a sharp plane. GrinGrinGrin
Maybe my logic is rubbish Smile

My aim is to get the aircraft as large in the frame as possible. Removes the need to crop & lose sharpness.
With group formation shots I obviously will want to get all planes in shot so it's not so much of an issue. Still want to avoid cropping if possible though.

oldblokeh 7 1.2k United Kingdom
10 Jun 2011 8:32PM
I have a Tamron 70-300 VR on my D90 that I'm very pleased with. I have not shot any full sized aircraft yet, but here's one I took on Monday of a lovely 1/4-scale Tiger Moth at my model flying club.


strokebloke 9 493 17 England
10 Jun 2011 9:00PM
That's a spot-on model Steve. Thank you for that; and the info, of course.
I think I've got at least similar full-sized Moth photo which I took yesterdaystanding-biplane-116.jpg

oldblokeh 7 1.2k United Kingdom
10 Jun 2011 9:14PM
Snap! Nice Tiggy Smile

As far as prop blur is concerned... if you take a Spitfire, for example, typical prop RPM would be about 1200. You only need 180 degrees rotation to get a full disc and that would require an exposure of no shorter than 1/40. This will require excellent panning technique, I think.
strokebloke 9 493 17 England
10 Jun 2011 9:41PM
Thanks for the Spitfire example Steve. Got the equation: nice and simple. I'll store that one away
The 'experience' trick then, is having some idea of what each type of plane produces, in terms of prop speed ??
Is that sort of info available anywhere?

I'll stick with the 300 lenses for the moment and improve my technique. GrinGrinGrinGrin
oldblokeh 7 1.2k United Kingdom
10 Jun 2011 9:55PM
Not sure I could really give a guide to aircraft prop speed except to point out that there is a limit. You don't want the tip speed to exceed the speed of sound. For the aforementioned Spit with a 10'9" diameter prop , 1200 RPM will give a tip speed of 460 mph.
strokebloke 9 493 17 England
10 Jun 2011 10:26PM
Thanks Steve. Again a simple equation, meaning RPM could, at the absolute limit be 1800 max. (almost 700MPH)
Of course knowing the prop speed for each type of aircraft would mean learning not only the prop speeds, but also the all of the different types of aircraft. GrinGrinGrin

I think that I, probably in keeping with the rest of the plane photographing community, will have to learn to realistically assess, rather than calculate.
oldblokeh 7 1.2k United Kingdom
10 Jun 2011 10:43PM
Well, I reckon 1/30 should always give you a complete disc, but it's not always the best effect -- depending on lighting -- as the prop disc can sometimes almost disappear. A partial disc can sometimes look a lot better, especially with a three bladed prop, and the faster shutter to achieve this will help with overall sharpness.
strokebloke 9 493 17 England
10 Jun 2011 10:52PM
Yes, I've got one shot of four in formation shot at 1/30th, resulting on a complete disc - almost on the point of disappearing - but the planes are not sharp, due to the aperture being f36.
It's a record shot, showing what's happening, but not sharp enough, to my mind.
I'd have been better at 1/80th & f16.
I've a lot of learning to do. Smile

Thanks for your help/wisdom Steve. Much appreciated.

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