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Camcorders for shooting airshows


Standard Member
Which affordable (not something with a large handle on top !) camcorder for serious amateurs to film propeller aircraft at airshows ?
I first look at Panasonic, get told if open side screen to alter exposure the viewfinder blacks out. Is there a Panny that allows adjustment to exposure during filming ? I need one that puts filming data into viewfinder and allows altering of it with knob etc during filming.

Canon G40 has that ability, but isnt 4K.

Sony AX53, get told its got +/- 1 exposure compensation.

canon G40 has +/- 3 well as we all know sky required at least +2.

Why have Sony wrecked their only contender, also they disallow full manual, so it must have effective exp comp as its only got Shutter priority. so why offer only +/-1 its as if they wish to kill its use. posters say they dislike Sony as they seem to want to wreck a good camcorder.

G40 someone says has black edges when aimed at sky, why a famous maker (Canon) does that ?


fundamental filming needs and its all overlooked with this and that extras gizmo that is fine if the fundamentals are in place first !!!!!

Japan doesnt have airshows with props and doesnt realise they fail in the hardware for such.



Prominent Member
Would a DSLR with video capabilities suit you better?

I have always put my trust in the "Auto" features of my Panasonic 750 and it has never let me down. The camera has coped with seaside, mountains, funfairs, Ghost trains (total darkness except for the spooks), Halloween trains with massive changes in light levels, fireworks and so on. Occasionally I have needed to enhance using my video editor but have always got decent videos.


Distinguished Member
I've been to Airshows and been beaten....bright sun wipes out the LCD so framing is far from easy. (no EVF on my camcorder). The pros use big-toys with EVFs but have a profit to pay for the Hire of gear....and usually will be on a Transit /LandRover to get clear of the crowds knocking the tripod, etc.
It also means there is better use of the PA, rather than children wanting Ices, etc.

Terfyn's suggestion of DSLR is fine quality-wise, but when the planes are a long way away, you need a long lens.....like 600mm - and that will be very pricey . . . and you mentioned 4K which implies a modern-lens that will have the additional resolution. Camcorders are "easier" to use and can zoom in/out quite quickly . . . .
The Sony AX53 is the cheapest of their 4K models, so some features will be missing.
I'm not sure what features you are suggesting Sony has wrecked . . . What is this one "otherwise perfect" model... or you mean across the range, perhaps?
Most 4K camcorders have restricted-zooms due to the combination of "Cost/weight" is my guess.... this is probably why I won't be buying the current models.

"Airshows" are a particularly difficult subject IMHO..... Indeed if going again, I might attempt to mount two camcorders ( Wide and Tele) providing a "Safety shot" when the plane disappears . . . also a wire-finder ( like a gun-sight) might be easier to use for framing fast-moving objects. By combining this with dual-control mounts, it should be possible to cover the Show. Subject to the crowd issues - after all, the Public is not concerned about your "shots".
((IMHO Football matches also need this dual-control to track the ball.))
The helicopter displays were not problematical, since they don't move too quickly and being relatively close, don't need the zoom extended.
+Audio-wide any "clean take" can be re-used, with care.

However, I suppose the Pros already know what to expect from jets, having done similar Shows a few weeks beforehand....They may be party to insider-reviews of the routine practiced by the display-teams, as it is in their mutual interest to get good media-coverage.... whereas we have other things to do at other times, etc.

Let us know how yr choice progresses and .... when it serves its purpose.


Distinguished Member
This: Panasonic AG-DVX200 (AGDVX200) 4K Handheld Camcorder with 4/3-type Sensor and Fixed 13x Optical Zoom Lens is on my wish list for work as a replacement for the current HD Panasonic cameras we have.

Manual lens controls, ND filter for really bright days, decent viewfinder and physical controls. The 13x lens should be enough as well.

Only drawback? Like so many of its competitors, you cannot use both viewfinders at the same time. Not a biggie, as all info in on the eyepiece, but makes some settings harder to get to without the touch screen.

Not sure what your budget is??


Prominent Member
Great camera but you could buy a decent share in an aeroplane for that price.:D

I would be interested in the experience of users with consumer cams at airshows.

Harry - I've been to Airshows and been beaten....bright sun wipes out the LCD so framing is far from easy.
Told you Harry, buy a Panasonic. I have never yet been beaten by bright sun obscuring the LCD, I've always had a decent picture to frame with.


Distinguished Member
Terfyn, you really surprise me...folks complain about LCDs in sunlight - and Pana isn't immune AFAIK - ( I don't suppose either Pana, or Sony make their own LCDs ). When you are looking at the LCD, the sky is close behind which probably tells the eye to shut down . . . In defense of the Sony, the 55x Zoom can make tracking a jet a tad hit-or-miss as soon; - as they turn to dive they become very small for a few moments . . . hence my suggestion of using a wire-frame "Gunsight" to track a pair of camcorders - Set one to Tele, the other wide to see the action you aren't looking for. The Tele-one being zoomed as req'd . . . with the Wide as a safety-shot always pointing at the same area.
Probably safest to keep the zoom more-modest . . . . but in the moment excitement takes over . . .
Newer 4K camcorders with a 10/12x Zoom can pan-crop giving maybe a 36x overall zoom-in but losing the 4K definition . . . may not matter too much and could assist with movement.


Prominent Member
I write as I find. I do have a LCD shade but I do not use it as there is no need.


Distinguished Member
With pro cameras, you would not look much above 20x optical zoom unless using either a stabilized lens or a very heavy tripod and head. Something like a Vinten Vector 430 or 75. These cost many thousands, and that's before you have added the legs! Let's not get started on the cost of a 100x 4K lens...

For pro-sumer, I would shoot in 4K and crop to HD, using movement tools and post production stabilization tools to give good image framing.


Prominent Member
If the project is primarily to shoot footage of propellor aircraft, you'll need to factor in the effect of the 'rolling shutters' used on all modern camcorders..
Some camcorders (especially some DSLRs) cn have very slow scan speeds which tend to make propellers look rather comical..
Camcorders with larger sensors and faster scan speeds an be used with ND filters to 'force' the aperture and 'fake' propeller blur more effectively.

You'll get better and more consistent results with a CCD camcorder - or a CMOS camcorder with a global shutter - but you won't find one that does 4K at a reasonable price at the present time.

For shooting propeller aircraft I would look at buying an older Panasonic HMC151 --- decent controls -- 3x1/3" CCD sensors and a proper viewfinder. Only 720p50, or 1080i , but good quality images - and no 'silly' looking propellers :)
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Standard Member
Correct airshow filing means doing the following:-
1. set shutter to 1/50 or 1/100
2. set aperture to give corect exposure for general prevailing ground and sky scene at that time,
3. Pan focus aircraft, i.e. manually adjust focus during their travel.
4. ignore short lived changes in lighting, adjust in post processing, or change aperture if that change appears to be permanent for the sequence being filmed.
5. Require ability to change aperture during the recording if so.

Alternatively shutter priority and exp comp +2 might do but it needs adjusting when capturing ground scenes during the filming, which makes for deft use of brain and input controls as one starts to pan down. This is also dependent on if such exp comp is allowed by camcorder whilst recording. Bridge cameras apparently dont allow it.

I am looking at 20x optical, nothing less will do.

Canon G40 or AX30, has full manual but ...shock horror...discover it cannot do step 5., so it isn't full manual as hoped for. This is bad news. My last two camcorders allowed changes during filming.

also Sony AX53, but with no full manual control .... People have said Sony deliberately did this, thats the wrecking they refer to. Also its manual focus ring is very stiff and also said to be very slow, so slow as to render it useless, canon is nice.., so Sony not of use.

Panasonic HC-VXF990 has full manual if shutter set then aperture. revisit Shutter and it loses it.
Not sure if aperture can be altered during filming. has no large ring for focus but a little wheel so is that going to be of use in pan focus ?

Panasonic FZ330 bridge camera, but requires again end of filming to alter shutter or aperture or exp comp.

I need to know, of these which ones would minimise stupid bent prop blades ?

I am alarmed at the backwards development of camcorders... no decent focus ring, no decent full manual, my 10 yr old (dead) camcorder puts all these to shame. If the best of the bunch there has the least best effect on blades at 1/50 then I am sunk.

why have makers gone for sensors that warp blades ?

1/50 I hope will avoid that. 1/50 works in testing on my EOS70D though for videoing its hopeless as I cannot use viewfinder and zoom focusing isnt built in. DSLR lenses with a range of 28 to 500 dont exist or are very expensive., and one cannot do a decent progressive zooming in or out on an aircraft depending on if its coming or going by turning a ring.

Just what is there that fits the bill in the 5/6 steps above ?

Considering that the next biggest spectator events to soccer is airshows its about time Japan woke up to the potentially vast purchasing market.



Distinguished Member
Sadly, many of the points you raise re Camcorder design "Proper...." are a result of Mfrs Marketing Depts...and I'm convinced they don't use the gear they design....since they can "borrow" something better - or maybe have little interest in making films.
However, for airshows a 20x zoom should be OK for static displays and any near the crowd.... However, with recent accidents, the trend is for them to be at a distance . . . and if you want to hold a single jet (performing at a distance), IMHO 20x is not going to do it. My CX410 is definitely a consumer camcorder but the 55x zoom does at time "get the shot" - yet the Magnification of movement, the jets movement and the LCD/Sun situation meant I lost much of the distant shots ( -but It was my first airshow ). My fault for not having a coupled second camcorder to see Wide - as sometimes a secondary-event is fast approaching.

If you have "insider" knowledge of the programme of events and where/how this will unfold, then you should do much better.

However, I'm not sure why you want full manual control, either. I would expect anything over 300 ft away will be in focus at Inf . . . so unless your zoom has an exceptionally large aperture, it should be in focus.
Also modern CMOS sensors have an amazing exposure range - so adjustments can be made in Post with little/no degredation. Of course, you set things about-right - and I usually underexpose -since this lessens the risk of highlight destruction. I really don't care about shadow-detail.
The CCD debate should have been killed-off years ago.... CMOS sensors are almost universal as they are better in all departments ( esp Cost).... and the rolling shutter effect is hardly an issue for the Public, who wouldn't understand the effect anyway . . . they are looking at the subject in hand, - I guess we tend to concentrate on things that may not matter.
Have you looked at the Sony AX100? - agreed the Zoom is pathetic but it has built-in ND filters . . . although I suspect these have been "electronic" for years - as the ones I've seen don't have enough mechanical movement to insert a piece of glass. Whereas a gain-switch is easy.
+Sadly though you can get TWO AX33's for that money - and for Football matches or an Airshow . . . .

Thoughts on the dual-coupled camcorder mount:
( You are in the centre with action Left and Right )​
This mounts two consumer camcorders side-by-side; one set Wide and the "master" set as required. One pan-handle changes both views . . . however, although I've not made one, ( No second camcorder yet ), I'm thinking the coupling would be better if it was hydraulic, so there is a slight delay in the Wide-moving should the Master be moved suddenly. The same effect might be possible using a rubber-cord coupling with some viscous fluid . . . so maybe the Wide needs to be fluid-damped. Unfortunately, for Football matches, the Wide should be independent, as the ball can be at the opposite end very quickly.
Such actions might lend to stepper-motor control, which can be adjusted in the light of Event-Experience. However, a basic mechanical-link may be useful, requiring no batteries.

Gordon Streeter

Established Member
Hi, I have had success in filming aircraft in the sky in the past with my Panasonic HC VXF990. It is a fully automatic and "manual camera" that you need for filming against the sky shots.
You will find that you will need to use the viewfinder for filming as opposed to the side screen for aircraft up in the sky, and you have control of the focus and exposure without opening the screen.
I can't show you any aircraft shots that I have taken as they are on hard drives back in the UK and I am in Spain at the moment, however this is what the camera is capable of with against the sky shots that I took some while back on our local beach.

I also use this setup in the picture below for these types of videos, including aircraft shots.


  • Gun Camera.jpg
    Gun Camera.jpg
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