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Low Level Aviation Photographs

By Alan Chadwick

A few words on camera equipment for anyone contemplating a visit to the Loop.

The equipment of choice for virtually every regular Loop photographer is Either Canon or Nikon. My personal choice is Canon, but that is just because Canon was the first camera I bought when I became interested in photography and I’ve remained faithful to them ever since.  Subjectively, I doubt if there is any real difference between the two makes.

As well as a camera, a suitable lens is required. The various photographic vantage points vary in their closeness to the aircraft as they pass, but all of them need a telephoto or zoom lens to take reasonable photographs of the aircraft, and, as a very rough guide, a 300mm focal length is required  (but see comments on camera crop factors below)

In selecting a camera/lens combination, the other factor to be born in mind is what will be he effective focal length of the combination, which is influenced by the “crop” factor of the camera. Crop factors vary from camera model to camera model, but it needs to be born in mind when choosing your equipment.The crop factor changes the effective focal length of the lens, for instance a camera with a crop factor of 1.3, coupled with a 300mm lens will have an effective focal length of 420mm.  One of the most popular Canon combinations is the Canon 7D coupled with the Canon 300mm F4 lens, the 7D has a crop factor of 1.6 and the effective focal length of this combination is 480mm making it ideal for most locations in the Loop. Lenses with focal lengths of 400, 500 and 600mm are also used.

As far as costs are concerned, entry level DSLR’s probably start at around £400 and the high end ones are over £3000; for lenses, a 300mm F4 lens is in the order of £1000, and the larger prime lenses are several orders of magnitude higher. Obviously used cameras and lenses can be bought for less.

When I started out taking photographs in the Loop, I very quickly opted for the 7D coupled to a 300 F4, which as I have said, is an excellent combination and relatively (given the price of cameras and lenses), good value for money. As I began to get more involved and tried to improve the quality of my images, I upgraded both camera and lens. My current combination is a Canon 5D mk4 coupled with a Canon 400 F2.8 lens.