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D800 shoots an Air Show


Alpharetta, US
265 posts

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BigRedDogATL Silver Member Nikonian since 21st Feb 2008
Tue 15-May-12 06:25 PM

My normal subject matter is Aviation Photography and more specifically Air Shows. I debated long and hard on whether or not the D800 would be a useful tool for photographing Air Shows given the slow FPS and small RAW buffer. I finally decided that I could use it for doing static displays and certain HDR photographs, if it didn't work out for flying action. So I place a pre-order for one on Feb. 7th when Amazon opened up the orderin.

Until the recent release of the D4 and D800, my cameras included the D3S and D300+MB-D10.

On March 15th I obtained my D4, which I had pre-ordered almost a year earlier and immediately started using it as my primary air show camera, along with my D300.

Last week on Monday, the D800 I had ordered arrived and to test it I quickly took 10 different photos of my cat. Then this past Saturday I had an air show to photograph and decided I would give the D800 a try. I knew it would do great for static displays and group portrait shots, but I was uncertain how it would do for the actual aerial flying.

For the PDK Good Neighbor Day Air Show, in a suburb of Atlanta, I get the unique opportunity to photograph the show from beyond the normal crowdline. I get to stand at 'show center', right next to the active runway used for the show. This vantage point gives me some unique photo opportunities, but also requires very quick reaction in order to capture some good photographs.

I hand held the D800 and used my 70-200mm VR II f/2.8 lens with it. I also shot the show with my D4 camera and used my old 80-400mm VR lens on it. The D4 performed as expected and even though the 80-400mm is slow to focus, my technique takes that into account and I got the photos I expected. My total surprise came from how the D800 performed. I was blown away by some of the photos that the D800 was able to capture.

As I gain more experience with the D800 and test it with my other lens, such as my 200-400mm VR f/4, I expect to get even better photographs. But the photos below aren't bad for a first attempt to use a brand new camera body for something everyone said isn't the optimum use.

You are welcome to see all my photos at my gallery site, www.bigreddogatl.com Below are a few taken with the D800:

This last photo is of TeamRV flying. On the original, I can zoom in on each cockpit and clearly see the pilot of the plane and how each one is looking at their wingman.

Clifford W. Martin
Aviation Photojournalist

Nikon D5, D500, D4s, D810 + MB-D12, 200-400mm VR f/4, 70-200mm VRII f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8, 14-24mm f/2.8, 105mm f/2.8, 80-400mm VR II f/4.5-5.6, TC-14E III, TC-20E III, SB-5000, SB-800 (x2), GPS-1, tons of non-Nikon stuff