Airshow photography with K5


Link Posted 09/08/2021 - 23:59
Greetings all.
I've been away from photography for some time now, 2 or 3 years, but I've dusted off my two Pentax DSLRS, a K5 and a K20D with a view to practicing for an airshow or two (I've just bought my ticket for a weekend at RIAT 2022) I might be visiting the Mach Loop also.

To say I'm a bit rusty in using them is an understatement. I have a Soligor 18-200, a Pentax 55-300, and a Tamron 500mm mirror lens. I think I've got a Soligor 400mm telephoto too somewhere. I'll be out and about trying them out as and when, but some well informed hints on the K5 particularly, would be much appreciated in respect of photographing hairyplanes.


Link Posted 10/08/2021 - 06:55
I've used a K5ii at airshows and the Mach Loop, ML wise, if your on Cad East the 55 - 300 will be good, somewhere around the 250 - 300 mark. since Shoreham, the flight line is a tab further back than it used to be so a 400mm + would be beater, your 500 mirror may be a bit slow as its likely to be fixed at F8, manual focus and with a bit of dull weather the ISO will be pretty high, similar for the Soligar I would think.

Forgot to mention, check out Back Button Focusing ( BBF ) and practice the technique before attending RIAT


" A Hangover is something that occupies the Head you neglected to use the night before".

K1 - Sigma 85mm F1.4, Pentax DFA 150 -450 F4.5 / 5.6, Pentax DFA* 24 - 70 F2.8

Samyang 14mm F2.8, Pentax DFA* 70-200 F2.8

K3iii + K3ii + K5iis converted to IR, Sigma 17 - 70 F2.8, Pentax 55 - 300 F4.5 / F5.6 PLM
Last Edited by Chrism8 on 10/08/2021 - 06:56



Link Posted 10/08/2021 - 12:16
Correction to lenses. Sigma, not Soligor! Shows how long they've been in the cupboard.


Link Posted 10/08/2021 - 16:39
Hi Steve,

always good to talk aviation photography particularly with a fellow masochist using Pentax cameras pre K-3III!

I've used a K-50 for several years and have been using a K-5IIs for past few months. Over the years i've shot well over 10,000 aviation images with digital equipment.

My thoughts...for what they are worth...your Pentax 55-300 will be your best overall choice by far if restricting yourself to one lens although it has two major limitations...1) not WR (assuming) and 2) AF with K-5 is very slow.

If RIAT is dry ...not a problem...if very wet could be a major issue.
My 55-300HD WR great if wet but slow AF...I can usually only get 2-3 shots before it loses AF when aircraft flying towards me (as in getting closer not necessarily head-on)

I've only ever been to Mach Loop when I knew weather was point in going otherwise so not an issue here particularly.

Any 55-300 lens is ideal reach wise for both RIAT and Mach Loop unless you want to capture epaulette rank badges on pilots which case you will need a quality 300m to crop or a longer lens. (as Chris mentioned).

If the weather is dry when i'm shooting aircraft these days then my preference is to shoot with a manual lens
and benefit from no AF problems. Suits me better as I grew up with successive 35mm film cameras when used to MF all the time. With aircraft you are shooting close to infinity vast majority of the time so most focussing is just small adjustments within a very limited range. If the focussing is slightly out you've messed up the shot, BUT better a slightly OOF shot than miss it altogether due to poor AF performance, and when you get it right it's usually very good with a sharp lens.

I've recently been using the Samyang 135 F/2 which i'm very pleased with. Reach isn't fantastic but adequate most of the time at airports/airshows and if you nail the focus it will crop nicely up to 75-100%. As it is designed to be MF the focussing ring is very nice to use, wide, easy to grip and well dampened. I've also used the Pentax M 80-200 F/4 which is reasonable IQ and quite compact and light. The Samyang as well also works ok with a Pentax 2x convertor i've got giving me effectively a 270 F/4.

Only other thing to mention is shooting style...i'm very much a sniper rather than machine gunner...single shots...rarely more than 4-5 in one aircraft pass...this works well with MF but not so well if you prefer to 'spray and pray'.





Link Posted 10/08/2021 - 19:06
Thanks for that. Well, if RIAT is wet I'm probably not going, especially as I'll be in a tent at night! I recall a few years ago getting soaked and frozen as Bisley one May and the philosophy developed then, "I'm supposed to be enjoying this!" It has applied ever since.

I like the idea of manual focussing. It makes sense as you describe it. I intend to go lurk at an RAF station or two soon to practice so I'll see how it goes. I'm quite sure that the K5 will 'out photograph' me but I'd be very tempted if a DSLR manufacturer was to bring out a high res SLR (preferably with a Pentax bayonet fitting) that operated pretty much as a K1000. All the bells and whistles can sometimes get in the way, I think.

I might add that my 'backup camera' is a Fuji HS50 which I rate pretty highly. I doubt very much that spending more money will improve my photography although it might feed my addiction to gadgets!



Link Posted 10/08/2021 - 23:19
Weather wise Steve...July can be pretty unpredictable as this past decade has shown. If you've booked for an overnight camp there at least you'll get four half days to go at. You'd be very unlucky to be rained off for two full days...although it does happen. I'll probably be going yet again with one of my sons but don't normally book until 3-4 months beforehand.

Agree with your concept of a stripped down, K-mount DSLR...i've often thought there'd be a niche market for it if the saving could be 15-20% compared to fully specced 'big brother'. I do occasionally experiment with some of the 'bells and whistles' but wouldn't miss many of them if they went. Similarly lens wise...i'd be very interested in a MF 200 F/3.5 with IQ , focussing ring to match the Samyang if cost was substantially lower than AF version.

One other advantage of shooting MF is that the battery lasts so much longer. Although I took two batteries with me to Old Warden recently for one of their flying displays, I only used one but still took about 1150 shots and had approx 5-10% left in it at end of day. (K-5IIs).

Anyway see how you get on at an RAF airfield...that's the sort of practice you would need. Air Force 'grey' and cloudy background is a good test of you and your equipment.



Link Posted 15/08/2021 - 10:24
I wouldn't worry too much about using a K5 and Sigma - these are all with the 170-500mm, from RIAT2013. My first time at an air show. I used a monopod and ball head for a bit of stability. Wet weather was a possibility on the day but I'd prepared a sleeve from a thick-ish carrier bag for the lens. Didn't need it as the rain held off. The K5 is, of course, weatherproof



Link Posted 15/08/2021 - 13:50
I wouldn't worry too much about focusing speed. Generally, the airplanes are not so close as mandating the use of AF. Just set the camera to manual focus, prefocus near infinity, and set the aperture to f8 or f11. On the K-5, you can easily push the ISO to around 800 or 1200 to get a high shutter speed to freeze the action. You can also set the exposure compensation to underexpose slightly to compensate for the sky if it's a cloudless day. Then, just aim and shoot. The planes will always be in focus, exposure will be pretty good, and you will get good details due to the rather high shutter speed.

Good luck, and most important, don't worry too much and enjoy the day.

Yves (another one of those crazy Canucks)

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