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Old Mar 24, 2010, 07:38 AM
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Matt Gunn's Avatar
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Better DSLR Canon lens for AP

My venture into aerial photography with the Orb has been successful thus far, but Im not really liking the results from the kit lens that came with my Rebel XTi.

For those of you using a Canon (or other) DSLR, I'd like to hear what you are using. I'm pretty sure any lens is better than the kit lens (non-IS).

I'd like to spend under $400 and keep it relatively light weight. Anybody using a prime?
Matt
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 08:22 AM
Frogman
Stoughton, WI
Joined Jun 2009
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For AP the kit lenses really aren't bad cause they are light weight. Because we almost always flight in good lighting conditions we don't have to worry about more expensive lenses with better fStop ratings. I have the 18-55 IS Kit lens on my Rebel and it has been great....granted I just got it in the air but love the images so far after 4 flights.

Under $400 lenses will not be much better than your kit lens. Most primes are also really fast lenses for lower light shooting. With the DSLR you will probably want autofocus which means the kit lenses are pretty good. If we didn't need AF we could look at some older primes with different mounts and then get an adaptor to the Canon EF mount. Many videographers that shoot with video DSLRs (Canon 5D/7D/550D) are getting these older primes for cheap on ebay and then putting a $20 adaptor on it. They are great but you get no autofocus which is pretty handy for shooting remotely. Under $400 is going to be tough. Better than kit lenses are pretty pricey. Even the kit lens for my 7D sells for over $400 and it's still a 3.5-5.6.

That kit lens on your camera is still taking much better images than any point and shoot out there even with the kit lens.
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 09:49 AM
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You don't really need autofocus for AP - just set the focus to the hyperfocal distance and use a smallish aperture. I've noticed a few people using the 10-22 lens for AP (hogster), but it won't come within your budget!
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 10:23 AM
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As frogman pointed out, the kit lenses are really not too bad at all. The Nikon 18-55mm is an extremely sharp lens for the money (under $200.00) what is more important is your settings and lighting.

I have experimented with my Nikon D40X using a few different Nikkor lenses some of which did not auto focus on the DX style camera. I went the hyperfocal route and after many fights and testing the autofocus kit lens still won on the quality of images. I have read and research darn near all there is on the hyperfocal topic and for some cameras and situations it works well. For me and my setup it did not. The autofocus on my Nikon has been extremely accurate and reliable so I don't use manual focus.

I have seen AP images with high dollar prime lenses and while there were nice it gets very hard to tell the difference when you are at altitude.

The DSLR with auto ISO feature is a big bonus. You can then set shutter priority at around 1/800 and go snap. If I could slow my ship down to heli speed I wood use aperature priority and lock an F stop for greater depth DOF as it sits, I use what works well for fixed wing.

Mike

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Old Mar 24, 2010, 10:55 AM
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I was under the assumption that DOF didnt matter at altitude; f2.8 would yield the same focal plane as f11 at heights we shoot at; for me, anywhere between 500-1500 feet.
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 12:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webdr View Post
I was under the assumption that DOF didnt matter at altitude; f2.8 would yield the same focal plane as f11 at heights we shoot at; for me, anywhere between 500-1500 feet.
EXACTLY, couldn't have put it clearer myself! Manual focus, set on Infinity, shutter priority if light allows and aperture priority to give fastest shutter speed possible, under lower ambient lighting. The better quality lenses will obviously perform better under lower light intensities at wider apertures but but but WHAT is your final requirement???
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 01:25 PM
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Jeeesh you shoot at 500 to 1500 ft?? That's a no no I keep all mine under the rule of 400 ft

I guess I should have been more specific. i shoot a lot of targets that are actually very up close and personal, the subject is always in focus more than the backgound. When I have set to infinity when shooting these closer targets everything has the same focus but the target is never as sharp compared to when I use auto focus. Using F9 at these lower levels on in close targets one would certainly think it clear things up in the back ground.

As far as aperture priority using the fastest shutter speed possible, this isn't very fast in average lighting... At times it will knock it down to 1/300 this will get you very few "usable" images in a fixed wing aircraft. Shuttter priority at 1/800 with the auto ISO (if you have it) locked at 400 will allow for 90 to 100 percent sharp images from low lighting to bright sun.


FWIW, I am not an experienced photographer. I have done a pile of "in air" testing, I do know what has been working for me and I am just passing it on. There is a ton of articles on what works on the ground, but rules change when you have to shoot an unattended camera moving through the air while the meter is constanly freaking out when you hit the horizon and back down to the dark earth.


Mike
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 02:07 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by power View Post
Shutter priority at 1/800 with the auto ISO (if you have it) locked at 400 will allow for 90 to 100 percent sharp images from low lighting to bright sun.




Mike
Im going to try this and report back. I dont have Auto ISO on the Rebel XTi but I will set to 400 and experiment.
Thanks
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 03:23 PM
Frogman
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webdr View Post
Im going to try this and report back. I dont have Auto ISO on the Rebel XTi but I will set to 400 and experiment.
Thanks
Honestly I think an ISO of 100 or 200 should be plenty if you are flying in regular light during the day. If you are flying at sunrise or sunset then maybe bump it up a little. Yesterday I flew my older RebelXT with the shutter at 800 and the ISO at 100 (Shutter priority). My shots seemed all to be a little dark. I got investigating a little looking at the camera data for the images. Most of the images set the fStop via the shutter priority to f5.0 or 4.5. That should yield a great picture. Then I noticed I had somehow set my Exposure compensation to -1 and darkening everything down. There was my problem. The lower your ISO the better your odds of a noise free image. Honestly I think if I set the ISO to 200 and flew on a sunny day I could do a 1000 shutter speed and still be good to go. I don't think you need to go to 400 ISO unless it is cloudy or sunrise/sunset.

Maybe you're overthinking it too much. Sometimes you try to think about all the science and create the best setup when if you let the camera do some of the work you end up with better images. I'm a professional videographer and there are plenty of times where auto mode just works fine. Many will tell you that isn't professional but why work harder when the camera can do it just as good. You just have to know when to wrestle control back and go to manual mode.
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 05:57 PM
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One thing u have to remember is that kit lenses and lower end are plastic lenses. When I got my first DSLR I wanted to use my old legacy lenses because why waste them. Once I got my adapter I found the diff between quality is HUGE, I packed away my kit lens in its box and have not used it since. The "Legacy" lenses are allot heavier (glass) so if u need a good quality lens then u will need to buy the upper end that start 400-500$ for a 50ml. So u need to choose between Price/weight/quality for your needs.
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 06:31 PM
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Olympus 25mm F2.8 'Pancake' lens (90g)
Having been very impressed with the photographs taken by 'Verona'
(See: http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=920609 )
using the lightweight (for a DSLR) Olympus E-410 and standard zoom lens I started to look around for a used Olympus. I have now aquired a E-420 and one of the
new 25mm 'pancake' lenses for a total of about $450. Total weight 530g and very compact. Also shutter operation by an IR switch.
I have not yet fitted it to a plane but it is such a nice camera to use I have been using it instead of my heavy old Canon Rebel. The quality of the photo's are excellent.
I know that it is not ultra wide angle but I beleive that those lenses are better used in helicopters where you can hover close to the subject. I fly aircraft several 100 meteres high and a 25mm focal length (x2 giving a 35mm film equivalent of 50mm ) will be perfect for that.
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 06:52 PM
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Canada, ON, Cambridge
Joined Jan 2007
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I would say that at the heights you are looking at a prime lens would be best (35mm or 50mm). However if you want to fly lower, then I would take Mike's advice. He's the master when it comes to aerial photography. I've been doing photography for quite a while and the one thing I've noticed, none of the advice that the mags, courses etc work for aerial photography. They never take into account the fact that our cameras are moving all the time. They also don't take into account that we have vibration that the IS lenses were not made for.

- Jeff
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 07:57 PM
ehx
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Canon kit lenses are famous (actually infamous I guess) for being on the poor quality side while those from, say, Olympus are considered good (for a kit lens). Just spend a bit of time at a site like dpreview among many others and you will see what I mean.

Now as pointed out the kit lens should provide a better image than most any point-and-shoot, but any semi-serious photographer will upgrade the lens.

What focal length do you normally shoot at? A lot of AP is done with a somewhat wide angle lens, but if you are shooting at 500-1500 feet+ from your subject maybe a short telephoto can be used? If so Canon has a 50mm prime (80mm for you) for around $100 that you could try. It's often mentioned as a first upgrade to the kit lens. If you want better glass and/or a wider field of view you may have to look at a used lens on your budget.

If you haven't already done so you may want to make sure that it really is the lens that is limiting you. Do some distant subject ground shots with a reasonably low ISO (200) and cycle through the F-stop range to see if you have a noticeable "sweet spot". Maybe F4 is better than F2.8 or F5.6. Also make sure the camera is spot on in focusing with some manual tests. If you find something in ground testing confirm with some aerial flights.
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 08:20 PM
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thanks for the replies guys. I have alot to think about. I shoot professionally for a number of rc publications: RCUniverse, Model Retailer Magazine, RC Sport Flyer, and I have a few L-series lenses and a Canon 50D, but just being in the business I am, I naturally want to upgrade to better glass. Weight, cost, and peace of mind (putting a high dollar lens up in the air) are factors I need to think about.
Ive posted these in my other thread, but here are a few pics of what the kit lens does. All images have been sharpened and cropped in post production. Im getting about 5 really nice photos out of 50, most are slightly blurred.
I havent been able to test this week but I hope to next weekend, maybe I can find a sweet spot with the kit lens.
Matt
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Old Mar 24, 2010, 09:25 PM
Frogman
Stoughton, WI
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Quote:
Originally Posted by webdr View Post
thanks for the replies guys. I have alot to think about. I shoot professionally for a number of rc publications: RCUniverse, Model Retailer Magazine, RC Sport Flyer, and I have a few L-series lenses and a Canon 50D, but just being in the business I am, I naturally want to upgrade to better glass. Weight, cost, and peace of mind (putting a high dollar lens up in the air) are factors I need to think about.
Ive posted these in my other thread, but here are a few pics of what the kit lens does. All images have been sharpened and cropped in post production. Im getting about 5 really nice photos out of 50, most are slightly blurred.
I havent been able to test this week but I hope to next weekend, maybe I can find a sweet spot with the kit lens.
Matt
The slight blur is probably from engine vibration. That's normal and hard to combat. IS lenses seem to have the most trouble with that. The Olympus 25mm pancake lens sounds like it may be a nice fit. Just buy an EF adaptor to the Canon and you are good to go. Just remember there will be no AF on it.

I know someone said kit lenses are all junk. They aren't all junk. Kit lenses for Canon and Nikon have real glass in them not plastic. It's the quality of that glass that is inferior and also the build of that lens casings. Coatings on the lenses also affect the clarity and quality. Point and shoot cameras will frequently have plastic lenses. Even the kit lenses on a DSLR take image that are superior to 95% of the point and shoot cameras out there. Those older lenses that weighed more someone mentioned.....they aren't heavier because of all the glass vs. plastic lenses. They are heavier cause they are made out of metal instead of plastic casings. They are just built like tanks. For the weight I will take my 18-55 IS kit lens over anything I can afford. In good light it takes pretty amazing images. Just like a cheap camcorder in good light can shoot imagery rivaling a pro level camcorder. Under lesser conditions the pro level camcorder will win. When we are shooting stills from an RC plane the lighting conditions are normally good conditions so IMHO expensive high end lenses aren't that big a deal unless it is Hollywood paying us boatloads of money at which time our equipment across the board will be more robust.
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