The Blue Angels captured by D4s / 200-400VR2

The excitement is in the air as airshow season is back in swing. With aircraft in the air, the question comes back as it always does each season, what lens? We are very fortunate as we have many, many options but I fear all those great options cause more confusion than clarity. You might narrow them down to these three:
Nikkor 180-400VR
Nikkor Z100-400
Nikkor Z70-200f2.8
Why these three and what about them that makes them possibly THE lens for you? The one common factor is they are all zooms. That flexibility gives you flexibility in all factors from where you stand on the flight light to arranging elements in the frame. No two airshows are the same so having one lens that is flexible also permits you to have just one lens covering all the airshows you want to photograph.

The 180-400VR is my preference, it would be attached to the Z 9 which makes a killer airshow photography kit. I don’t recommend this combo though to folks (I’ll discuss why in a moment). Next is the new Z100-400 which is hands down my #1 recommendation to you. Next would be the Z70-200f2.8 with the Z1.4x in your pocket. How do you know which is the right lens for you?

This is the trick, and it is a trick in many ways. Airshow demands that we are on our feet all day panning away to get the shot. That combo is why you are the biggest variable in which lens is best for you. I prefer the 180-400VR because its physical weight attached to the Z 9 is the perfect balance for my panning. That “swinging” of the rig right left, left to right panning is a balance of the rig and you and when it’s right, you have sharp image click after click all day while not beating down your body. You won’t know this for a new lens until you shoot with it which means that to find the lens for your airshow photography, I think you should rent before you buy. It might take an airshow or two but you will end up with the right lens for the rest of your photography. Don’t get hung up on focal length as much as flexibility, in the lens and in yourself and you will find the right lens!

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