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Camera choice for aerials


A 35 mm camera fitted with a polarizing filter was used for this aerial
A 35 mm camera fitted with a polarizing filter was used for this aerial

A dSLR (DIGITAL SINGLE LENS REFLEX) OR 35mm SLR FILM CAMERA ARE GOOD CHOICES

The light weight, small size and ease-of-handling of a 35 mm single-lens reflex (SLR) camera or a dSLR (digital single-lens reflex camera) make them ideal for most aerial photography, particularly if it is equipped with auto-exposure and a motor drive, although these features are not essential.

MEDIUM-FORMAT

A medium format camera with a waist level viewfinder is impractical if you are shooting out a window, but it can do a great job if it is equipped with a view prism. The amount of detail that can be sharply rendered by a medium-format camera makes it ideal when very large blow-ups are to be made, and its large viewfinder makes it easier to ensure the subject will be captured. However, since there are fewer exposures per roll, film (or digital memory card) changes will occur more frequently and more often. Having pre-loaded interchangeable backs makes this relatively easy. The increased weight and size of a medium-format camera may make it slightly more cumbersome to deal with in the relatively-small space of an aircraft.

LARGE FORMAT

A 4 by 5-inch camera will provide unsurpassed detail for big enlargements, but is impractical for successive rapid shooting.

PANORAMIC CAMERAS

Some panoramic cameras that use 120 film have angles of view of more than 90 degrees and are virtually distortion-free. They produce superb large negatives or transparencies that will enlarge with a great amount of detail visible.

Shooting at a steep angle is a breeze with a 35mm SLR camera.
Shooting at a steep angle is a breeze with a 35mm SLR camera.

A FAST SHUTTER IS IMPORTANT

Cameras with fast shutter speeds – at least as fast as 1/250 sec., depending on the focal length of the lens – will avoid images that show camera shake. Ideally, your camera will be capable of 1/500 sec. or more.

FILTERS ARE IMPORTANT, TOO

UV (ultraviolet) and polarizing filters are handy accessories in aerial photography. Both will eliminate some haze and, by reducing polarized light, the polarizer can intensify colors, particularly the blue of the sky and the whiteness of clouds.

DON'T FORGET THE ALL-IMPORTANT NECK STRAP

It's essential for any camera used in aerial work to have a firmly-attached neck strap that is not only long enough for flexibility but also strong enough to hold the camera if you should accidentally drop it. If your neck strap is too short, you should wrap it firmly around your wrist.