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How-to's Camera Reviews

Shooting an air show with the Nikon D2X

Darrell Young (DigitalDarrell)

Keywords: nikon, d2x, camera, bodies, airshow, airplane, sports

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With the powerful, fast, and flexible Multi-CAM 2000 autofocus module found in the Nikon D2x/D2Hs cameras, air shows are quite popular as subjects. Like shooting almost any high speed subject, a fast camera/lens combo is required.

Don't we all enjoy airplanes and wish that we could fly like the birds? For many of us, photographing high speed planes is a great thrill, and puts us close to the aviation we love. The sounds, smells, and excitment of the crowd are all very appealing.

Let's examine how we can use our Nikon digital cameras to capture striking air show images.

© Patrick Godfrey (pateod)

Image by Nikonian Patrick Godfrey (username: pateod)


Air shows are a lot like photographing flying birds, except that the "birds" are bigger and move much faster. I like to use my Group Dynamic AF settings in the cross-shaped "Pattern 1" (custom setting a3). This allows me to select the center AF sensor to focus and follow the airplane, and it allows the plane to move around in the viewfinder without leaving the focus area.




It would be a bit hard to use AF-S or Single Servo autofocus unless you are shooting planes still on the ground. AF-C or Continuous Servo autofocus works much better, because it allows your camera to track and adjust as needed.

Even though I like to shoot air shows with Group Dynamic AF in Pattern 1, you might want to experiment with other settings to see if you like them better.

If you are unsure of how D2x autofocus works, and how to interpret the manual for all the AF selections, please review the article Understanding Multi-CAM 2000 Autofocus. Several headings in this article relate directly to the use of the various features of the Multi-CAM 2000.

© Patrick Godfrey (pateod)

By Nikonian Patrick Godfrey (pateod)

Learn to use the powerful autofocus modes of the D2x/D2Hs for best air show results. The Multi-CAM 2000 article should make them much easier to understand.

(2 Votes )
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Originally written on November 19, 2005

Last updated on December 19, 2017

1 comment

Chuck Vincent (Chuckv) on February 6, 2015

Donor Ribbon awarded for his support to the Fundraising Campaign 2014

It's hard to rate you pictures of the four stearman's in formation, for I couldn't zoom into the shot. The thing I find most challenging in shooting airshows, especially prop planes, is to make the picture look natural (the prop in motion). You need at least 200mm to 400mm to get a decent shot, and anything above about 1/160 will stop the prop. I generally shoot about 1/125 to give the props a good blur, but it's challenging to get a sharp picture. Stabilizing pods help, but the weight will break your arms off. Chuck

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