Wow, I can’t believe how fast time flies! The 2015 Planes of Fame Air Show has already come and gone. It’s one of my favorite photo events of the year. Well, there was one thing new about it, they had an afterburner after dark feature. This part of the show is exactly what it sounds like, and the F-18 and F-22 really delivered! It was a lot of fun and made the usual Friday routine much better! Oh, there was one more thing, I used my new camera, the Panasonic FZ1000.
As usual, I’m not here to do an exhaustive scientific review, but rather share my impressions after having used the FZ1000 for 3 days straight and making several thousand photos. I’m also not doing an in-depth air show review, sorry. Let’s just say that if you are in the Southern California area in May and you love vintage aircraft, including WWII Warbirds, late model Korean/Vietnam War era planes, and even some modern high tech jets, than you owe it to yourself to check out the Planes of Fame Air Show and Museum! If you do go, bring your camera, plenty of memory cards and batteries, a wide brimmed hat, chair, and sun screen.
I actually had 3 cameras set up for the air show this year. My trusty Canon 60D with Tamron 200-500mm lens, and the Olympus E-M5 with 7.5mm Rokinon Fisheye, Olympus 17mm f/1.8, and Panasonic 45-200mm. I also brought along my Red Dot Sight (RDS) for my E-M5. The idea was to use it instead of the electronic viewfinder (EVF). I could keep both eyes open, put the red dot on my target, follow it in the sky and snap away. It didn’t quite work out for me, more than likely because I need more practice. So the RDS went back in the bag and while I did use the E-M5 from time to time, it mostly stayed in the bag.
My 60D and big Tamron always work. And I did start out using them. That is until I got the FZ1000 out of the bag. It felt perfect in my hands. Larger in size than my E-M5, and maybe even a bit bigger than my 60D’s body, but much lighter. It has a much better viewfinder than my E-M5 (in my opinion), and shoots faster than the 60D or E-M5 (12 fps vs 5.5 fps and 9 fps). And the best thing is that it does very well with fast moving objects, especially in good light, which was very plentiful. Although I’ve read many, many reviews and personal accounts on the FZ1000’s performance, I was still impressed when I experienced it in person. Once I got the feel of the FZ1000 on the first day of the show, the 60D went back in the bag and stayed there. I never used it again for the next 2 days of the air show.
The FZ1000 looked a little out of place compared to my photography friends Canon 1DX and other photographers equally large Canons and Nikons. But I wasn’t there to impress anyone with my gear. I was there to enjoy the show, and that meant not lugging around a heavy bag of stuff. Yes, my 60D and Tamron 200-500mm offer a lot of reach but the FZ1000 can get out there too at 400mm. And did I mention that it’s fast? Wow (again), is it fast?! As soon as I brought it up to my eye and half pressed the shutter, it would almost immediately lock on and I could fire off a burst at 12 fps. There were plenty of misses, but also a lot more keepers. In fact my keeper rate was so good that I came home with upwards of 4,000 frames to sift through. I’ve been steadily reviewing my photos since the event last week and have deleted hundreds. Having so many is allowing me to get very picky, which is a good thing. There’s really no reason to have 4 or 5 near duplicates of virtually the same image. Having such a fast burst rate can really fill up a memory card too. Not complaining, just sharing. One more thing to share is memory card write speed. My Transcend 32 GB SD cards are not quite fast enough to keep up. Looks like I’m going to need to upgrade them. Good thing they don’t cost too much.
Getting back to the reach, the 60D and 200-500mm Tamron have an advantage over the FZ1000’s 400mm. But as the show went on and I got more used to the FZ1000, I found 400mm to be quite enough. The trick is to wait for the planes to come closer. I noticed that everyone around me would start shooting when the planes were much too far away. All you are going to get when you do that is a little dot on the screen with a bunch of sky. All of the planes made plenty of passes and would usually come around for what’s known as a photo pass. That means when they flew by they would bank and tilt their wings giving you a much better view. They were also much closer than when they were grouping up and trying to get into a formation. I also took advantage of takeoffs, landings, and the planes moving back and forth on the hot ramp. This was another area that the FZ1000 worked perfectly. I didn’t need to change lenses when I wanted a wide shot. I just zoomed out and pressed the button! If something changed, I could quickly zoom back in and grab a detail shot.
Are there any downsides to the FZ1000? Sure! Compared to my 60D the battery life is poor. But the same can be said for my E-M5. The remedy is to have extra batteries, no big deal. For it’s size, the FZ1000 is fairly light weight. It doesn’t have the build quality that my E-M5 does. That doesn’t mean it’s a delicate little flower, you just need to be mindful not to get too rough with it. No different than any other piece of electronic equipment.
And now for the results!
Something to note about the photos above, they’ve all been edited in one way or another. None of this is straight out of the camera. I shoot RAW with the express intention that the images will be post processed.
I have so many photos from this air show that I’m going to create a new gallery for them, so check back from time to time for that. And since I brought them with me, I am going to do a follow up on the air show and my 60D and E-M5.
That’s it for this post, I hope you enjoyed it! Until next time, Happy Shooting!