Best DSLRs for aviation photography

The mach loop draws-in professional and amateur photographers due to the fine opportunities to test their aviation photography skill to the limits. The best DLSR cameras for military aircraft such as fast jets and helicopters depends on whether you are taking photographs for enjoyment or to earn money, or even a social media following.

The Loop offers an almost unrivalled location in which to photograph military aircraft doing their thing. Some of the photographs taken by visitors to the loop over the years are simply incredible. It is very rare to find such a mix of backdrops, mixed with aircraft travelling at around 450 Knots and mostly under 500 feet – you can even see the pilots and navigators in some cases!

Which digital SLR?

Whether you are a Nikon or Canon diehard, or simply enjoy taking videos and photographs with your phone, the loop makes it an enjoyable experience!

In time, we will begin to build up this page with more information on the most common camera settings, along with recommended camera and lens combos for a variety of budgets. Bear with us whilst we work on that!

Camera bodies

The best camera for aviation photography is one that adapts to a variety of situations. So, the ability to manually set Shutter Priority mode and Aperture priority mode are vital.

The best cameras for aviation photography needs to have all of the modes needed for different situations, such as Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority.

Canon entry-level DSLR: Canon EOS 450D, Canon EOS 750D, Canon EOS 800D

Canon mid-range DSLR: Canon EOS 70D, Canon EOS 7D

Canon advanced/pro level DLSR: Canon EOS 5D, Canon EOS-1D

Nikon entry-level DSLR: Nikon D3300, Nikon D3400, Nikon D5600

Nikon mid-range DSLR:
Nikon D7200, Nikon D500,

Nikon advanced/pro DSLR: Nikon D810, Nikon D750

Camera lenses

Best Camera settings for aviation photography

Wondering which camera settings to use for the best aviation photography images? Trial and error, mixed with good fortune is the usual rule of thumb. However, following these basic aviation photography tips will point you in the right direction!

Remember, the shutter speed is largely determined by the image you want to capture. If you want a crystal-clear shot of a fast jet, you want to ‘freeze’ the aircraft in time with a high shutter speed. If you are after a full-disk prop blur, a lower shutter speed will facilitate this.


Camera settings for fast jets such as Hawk, Tornado and Typhoon

AI-SERVO
TV / Shutter priority
Metering: Evaluative
Focus: Auto
Shutter speed: 1/1000s, or as low as 1/640-800s for a Hawk
Blurry background: Drop down to ~1/500s!
ISO: 400 or less
Nb: Don’t be too trigger happy, take shots in bursts of 2 or 3, to avoid shutter lag.

Camera settings for helicopters such as Apache, Chinook, Merlin and Wildcat
AI-SERVO
TV / Shutter priority
Metering: Evaluative
Focus: Auto
Shutter speed: 1/100s to 1/200s
ISO: 400 or less
Focus: Single or multi-point

Camera settings for prop aircraft such as Hercules, King Air and Tucano
TV / Shutter priority
Metering: Evaluative
Focus: Auto
Shutter speed: 1/250s
ISO: 400 or less
Focus: Single or multi-point

Generally speaking, the higher the ISO, the noisier the photo. Keeping below ISO 400 (where possible) will keep this to a minimum, but is of course dependent on light conditions.

Your aperture should ideally be one stop down from the lenses max e.g. for a f/5.6 lens you’d want ~f/8.

Track the aircraft at the earliest and steadily pan/follow it, keeping it centred as much as possible whilst partially pressing the shutter to engage the auto-focus.

Bear in mind, the lower the shutter speed, the less ‘keepers’ you are likely to get. It can get incredibly windy on the hillsides!