I'm planning for my summer airshow season and I wanted to ask for your opinions regarding renting extra photo equipment to take with me.
I've got a photo pit pass for the show I plan to attend, and I am considering weather or not to rent more equipment for the show. The show is Aero-Gatineau, and the placement of the photo pit is very good relative to both the apron and the show box. I got some pics last year that I'm very proud of, but I've been thinking of upping my game. My favourite camera shop here in Montreal (Lozeau, for the curious) does offer rentals.
My current setup, which is what I had last year, is a Nikon D3400 body, with a Nikkor AF-P 70-300 VR zoom lens. I also carry the kit lens (18-55 VR II) and a 35mm prime, for close-ups on the static displays and whatnot.
One note is that the show will include a twilight performance for the first time this year, a glider with pyrotechnics... and I'd like to get some shots of that too. I'll be bringing a tripod for that, so I can park a camera on it during the day as well.
I'd like opinions on what, if anything, I ought to consider renting. A second body? A big prime telephoto? Nothing at all? I'm not too fussed about the cost (their rental costs are pretty reasonable). Please share your thoughts!
Off the top of my head, your current kit sounds like the standard "base" kit, which means there is substantial room for upgrading.
If you rent a body, you will have to configure all of the settings to your liking, make sure it takes your cards, make sure you can open the files (do you shoot RAW?), etc.
If you rent a lens, you pretty much slap it on and off you go.
If you only get one, I would get a lens. Renting is your chance to flirt with the high end, so go for something great. The 200-400 or a big prime perhaps. A 2.8 lens will help a lot with the night show. Everyone I shoot with goes hand held, so I can't speak to using it anything on a tripod.
If you want extra help, go for a full frame body that is great on noise. It will let you shoot a much higher ISO in the dark and still get ok pictures. It will take some manual reading to get the most of out it, but you'll learn a good bit too and it will likely inform your future decisions on what to try and buy.
When shooting what mode are you using? Do you use Exposure Compensation as the conditions change etc. Setting things up for a full background of sky is good but then depending on your settings a low pass having the hills as the background can be way off exposure wise. Do you know the desired settings for prop blur? Freezing the props is a very common mistake a lot of photographers make but so is using the slower shutter speed used for prop blur when the jets take to the sky. (I do that far too often in both directions, high SS after a jet performance or low SS after the props were up). It's a great idea to check the SS showing in the viewfinder just like you need to check the LCD for decent exposures.
Re the equipment I use it's a mix of older gear BUT it's hand held so I can pan thru at least 180 degrees of a pass easily. To do that with a tripod you need a really good gimbal & some room around it. My primary camera is a 1.6 crop body & Sigma 150-600 C which I now use heavily because the extra reach makes things easier. It replaced the Canon 100-400 which was almost long enough & will certainly be an upgrade over 300 mm's if you decide to rent the Nikon 80-400 or something in that range. Be advised however that these are heavier & more bulky which may tire you out earlier than expected. I also use a 1.3 crop body with a Canon 28-300 lens for the Snowbirds so I can go rather wide when needed to long for crossovers etc. Between those 2 set ups I get some pretty good results BUT I get in a lot of panning practice throughout the summer by photographing radio control events. A smooth pan is the key to sharper images. (I did buy & use the Nikon 28-300 which is roughly 1/3 the price of the Canon but I do not recommend it for this type of event. The images were soft & the AF was slow). The Sigma 150-600 & later the second version of Tamron 150-600 didn't exist then but if they had I'm sure I would have at least tried them on the D7100. One final thought is that IF you rent a body with a high FPS rating get quality memory cards with high write speeds or things will slow down quickly shooting a long burst. If renting a longer lens make sure it has a panning mode of image stabilizer (IS, VR etc) & use that setting.
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