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What to use for aerial photography?

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I've been shooting some with my camera the last week and I have some pictures on facebook, this one for instance: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid ... =1&theater (best seen in full screen) This is shot from 250 meters height with zoom using a Canon 7D and Canon EF-S 15-85/3,5-5,6 IS USM lens. I use shift tilt in photoshop.

The light haven't been that great and I'm not an experienced photographer but the Canon 7D makes it easier with it fast auto focus and fact that it can take several pictures per second. I get a few sharp ones here and there.

I'm using auto ISO and AV mode. The lens is okay but I'm sure there are better ones more suitable for the job. But which one?

Maybe this: Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM or something similar with fixed focal length.

I don't need the zoom.

Those of you that takes some photos, what do you use and recommend?

what settings on the camera do you use?

I need a better mount as well for the camera, bit clumsy to get it out of the current flight deck I have. Suggestions are welcome.

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Don't mount the camera to anything.. Don't even try to use zoom or the viewfinder- 'shoot from the hip', take many photos perhaps 1 in 10 will be good, and 1 in 50 will be a 'money shot'!

You'll find that a compact SLR will be best- easy stowed and single handed operation.


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The autofocus is very fast on the camera so I prefer to use it to make sure that and don't take a whole bunch of pictures that is slightly out of focus in case I happen to touch the focus ring.

Been testing some with 1/1000 - 1/2000 s shutter speed and a prime lens of 50 mm, seems okay but we'll see. I think it'll be a bit too wide.

I expressed myself a little badly, i didn't mean mount the camera on the paramotor, I meant I need something more convenient to store the camera in to be able to get it out faster when I want to take a photo. Not sure what yet though.

What lenses do you use and have tested and what is your conclusion?

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Considering you will be flying at a safe altitude, i really cant see the need for autofocus... I'd agree with Simon on this one... set it to 'infinity'.

Perhaps worth a test- try both, but if you're more than 10m away from the subject.. then the focus shouldn't really be necessary. Keep it simple.

Usually the best pictures i have taken have been totally spontaneous... the ones that i've taken time to think about, and set up were disapointing....


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Autofocus will produce lower quality results than setting up to the ∞ mark which will ensure that everything is in perfect focus.

Autofocus is not a great tool, when used from a moving object.


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Alright, I give it another go with manual focus. I'll use tape to lock it at infinity to see if it works better.

The objects I photograph is usually things I planned to shoot. Friends houses or events and such and some random photos of fellow pilots and whatever happens to pop up.

I both like and dislike my zoom lens (canon EF-S 15-85/3.5-5.6 Is) The flexibility is nice. But it is a bit clumsy and not the brightest lens. I don't have much of a problem using it in the air (or using the viewfinder) but the flight deck isn't brilliant for storing the camera, takes time to get it up, would be nice with something better for storing the camera.

Anyway I want some kind of prime lens, not sure what though, the 85 mm might be okay but haven't made up my mind yet.

Have anyone else tested prime lenses and what in that case did you or did you not prefer?

Never used a polarization filter either, what about that? Seems to be excellent for getting through some haze.

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  • 1 month later...

I'm not sure about Canon (Nikon guy).

How is sharpening set on both camera? If you change it from default to hard it will make a big difference

also check your Active D-Lighting's

level of adjustment can be set to operate automatically or manually at four different levels (Low, Normal, High, Extra high);

High works really well for overcast days (maintained and mid-tones adjusted for a totally natural look to the image)

But D-lighting really depends on the camera (some are good in auto others not so good) you will need to try out the manual mode to determine how yours is.

The primes will always produce a better picture. I don't know how much you know about lens but they are more important then the camera (in most cases). If you want perfect pictures most lenses out there are flawed. Both with Canon and Nikon (if they make 50 lenses 40 are all with flaws of varies types). Always read a ton of reviews before you buy.

Buy great lanes and then just replace the cameras (if your going to take up photography)

lol my .02

hope it helps

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Simon, yes I'm very fond of tilt shift and the viewers of my pictures seems to like it a lot too. I think there is a market for it. I'm going to make a facebook page any day now with pictures of the city I live in and post pictures with tilt shift. Going to be interesting to see the response I get from it.

I don't want to convert my flying hobby to a job completely but selling a few pictures here and there would be fine with me. I got the license to do it.


Sharpening.. have no idea, I take photo in raw so I suppose it leaves that alone? I prefer using photoshop to tweak the pictures.

Thanks for the advice on D-Lighting, I see that I have it enabled but don't have a clue what it does. I look into it.

Yes I realize that the lens play the biggest role here. That's why I got the 85 mm prime lens. Seems to be a good choice. The objects I photo are about as close as I want them from 300 meters height. There are some settings I use in photoshop when I import the raw that eliminates some of the flaws with the lens.

There is quite a change between the zoom lens I used to use ( http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Revi ... eview.aspx) compared to the prime 85. (http://www.the-digital-picture.com/Revi ... eview.aspx)

The prime is better but I haven't yet figured out what works best in shutter speed aperture and so on. Still testing. Sometimes all of the pictures becomes blurry or over exposed, sometimes they get good and sharp.

I suspect I sometimes have the arm against the raiser and get vibration into the camera.

I have a prime 50 mm as well, haven't tested that one yet.

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The 85 mm lens was a good buy, getting some nice pictures with it. This was taken today

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid ... =1&theater

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid ... =1&theater

(use the full screen mode to see them properly)

Wow! that's a Powerscreen Trommel screener and stockpiler at work in the foreground of the second image!!!!!

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The 85mm and 50mm are hugely popular among portrait photographers. But they never factored in paramotoring and the use of the lens for a med landscape lens lol.

I have the Nikon 50mm f/1.4D and the 180mm F/2.8 both great lenses

I never thought of taking the 50mm flying. As I’ve been really lazy these days I have not done any movies or photography in a long time.

My guess for the picture loss is partly the motion In your arms and paramotor the other half is the sensor while in “auto” mode.

I hardly ever use Auto. I will use “p” before going to auto. To get a really good crisp pictures under harsh conditions you really need a D200 FX class camera. The cameras we have just done have the sensors for this if you ask me. But you can still get some quality shots.

If you really want to play with all this use the “p” option. It’s the recommendation Aperture/Shutter setting (when flying you just don’t have the time to go full manual). Your camera should have “manual M”, “Aperture A”, “Sutter S” then “recommended P”

When you set it to “p” play with your active lighting, ISO’s, WB etc.

Or here’s another idea set your camera to “Aperture A” priority this will set your aperture to auto but leave your shutter open for adjustment (check your manual make sure I’m right I could have this reversed). In this manual setting you can set the shutter to get the right light vs speed (take a few test shots before you take off). Easy to adjust in flight too.

If you’re not sure what shutter speed to use just put the camera back in “p” mode or auto and push the button to focus the camera (you will see the shutter speed the camera auto mode intends to use). Set the shutter to this setting or a little less if you think your going to get in a “less light” situation.

Give this a go

1. Set the camera to aperture priority “Aperture A”

2. Set the focus to infinite

3. Set the camera to take multi pic’s

4. You have some fast memory?

Take two or three or ten of everything (just for quick and dirty photos).

I like to use manual the difference in pictures is really night and day.

BTW I’ve never tried these settings while flying so this is all just a guess./recommendation

Hope this helps


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I've been testing manual setting some, setting the shutter speed to 1/2000-1/8000 iso to 200, aperture to 1.8-2.2 or something like that. Works okay. Bit unconvenient. Have to change the settings if I fly in another direction that can give me different light condition.

The memory card speed is okay but could be better. It's 3 years old now. When I take a burst of photos I have to wait some time before it is done.

I'll check the program mode, could be useful for testing for sure.

The Tv mode (i can set shutter speed) usually have a tendency to produce slightly overexposed pictures even if I use fast shutter. I guess I have the wrong setting for light evaluation. I don't really care if the pictures come out a bit off straight out of the camera as long as they have a good dynamic range so it can be modified in photoshop later.

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I'm pretty sure you'll get even sharper images if you shut the lens down a stop or even two. Lenses don't perform at their best when wide open. Let the shutter speed work itself out, but I guess you probably need 1/500th or better. Fully manual exposure will be a pain, so I'd avoid that. Maybe think of using the auto-bracketing function if exposure is proving difficult?

Please note these comments are based upon hearsay and book learning and unsullied by experience from the real world. Nice pics by the way.

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1. Shutter priority ( tv )

2. Set shutter to 500 or 1000

3. Set ISO to 200. If the aperture is 2.8 or less raise the ISO to 400.

4. Not all lenses have correct infinity focus. To test, set the aperture wide open, focus on a distant object, shoot then focus and shoot a few more of the same object backing off the focus slightly each time. The sharpest image is the correct position to tape down the focus ring.

Good luck!

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yepp, that does it. Finally getting the supercrisp shots.

I tested the 50 mm lens yesterday and that one had no issues with sharpness so it's just some settings with the 85 mm.

I started a facebook page with photos over my city. It is very popular I have to say, in just 2 days 225 people like it.


Always fun if the photos get apprecieated. Lot to learn yet about taking photos but a nice area to post them.

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