Nikon D850 vs. D500 vs. 600mm f/4E vs. (NATO) fighter jets: Aces High!

In this final article on my very first experience with aviation/fighter jet photography, I’ll run through some of the pilot close-ups I took upon arrival from their exercises over the North Sea. While some of them liked to show off a little to the audience during takeoffs, they were obviously a bit more focused during their landings, although a couple would still take a second or two and wave at the over 100 aviation enthusiasts close to the runway.

US F-16 pilot landing (Msgt. Andrew Rohweder)
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/5.6, 1/3200 s., ISO 360, AF Area Mode: 3D-tracking, hand-held

US F-16 pilot landing (Msgt. Donnie Roseen)
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/5.6, 1/3200 s., ISO 280, AF Area Mode: 3D-tracking, hand-held

US F-16 pilot landing (Tsgt. Aaron Johanson)
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/5.6, 1/3200 s., ISO 200, AF Area Mode: 3D-tracking, hand-held

US F-16 pilot landing (Tsgt. Jake Amborn)
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D500, f/4, 1/4000 s., ISO 250, AF Area Mode: 3D-tracking, hand-held

US F-16 pilot landing (Msgt. Daniel Roth)
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/5.6, 1/2500 s., ISO 140, AF Area Mode: 3D-tracking, hand-held

Dutch F-16 pilot landing
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/5.6, 1/3200 s., ISO 180, AF Area Mode: 3D-tracking, hand-held

US F-16 pilot landing (Msgt. Wayne Teachworth)
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/4, 1/2500 s., ISO 100, AF Area Mode: 3D-tracking, hand-held

I guess I picked up a few new lessons (…and skills):

  • Aviation photography is fun…!
    Fighter jets are just amazing machines and the pilots seem to really enjoy what they’re doing; the whole vibe and interaction between the ‘spotters’ and the pilots is great to experience.
  • Aviation photography is difficult…
    Well, at least the type where the jets are flying right passed you at very high speed… You need both reach (long lenses) and agility (no tripod) to have a chance on getting any decent composition.
  • Aviation photography requires the right kind of camera…
    In my experience, I really needed those megapixels from the Nikon D850, in combination with a decent frame rate. Higher rate is definitely better. But what turned out to be the most important factor for me on this one, was buffer size, and memory card writing speed. The D850 unfortunately doesn’t reach D500/D5 writing speeds but the XQD card is also too slow; faster obviously than SD but still not fast enough. The new & upcoming CFexpress cards promise 3-4x faster writing speeds compared to XQD and rumour has it Nikon will arrange for backwards compatibility with the D850. Looking forward to that one!

Dutch F-16 pilot landing (Crew Chief Alex van H.)
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/5.6, 1/3200 s., ISO 220, AF Area Mode: 3D-tracking, hand-held

I just had to give the last image to my new “uber” cool German pilots.

Cool German F-16 pilot landing
Nikon 600mm f/4E FL on Nikon D850, f/5.6, 1/3200 s., ISO 250, AF Area Mode: 3D-tracking, hand-held

After all this flying madness it’s time I get back to my stories and images from Kenya’s Masai Mara (see articles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

And for any queries or comments, simply drop me a note at: enquiry@fliek.com

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