Best Storm Photography Setup

Discussion in 'Sky photography' started by Mike Vetter, Jan 22, 2015.

  1. Mike Vetter

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    Any opinions on the best photography setup for storm chasing?

    It looks like our best option right now is the Sony A7S: http://store.sony.com/a7s-full-fram...CE7S/B/cat-27-catid-all-alpha-interchangeable

    Why? Taking photos of storms usually involves low/bad light situations. This camera performs insanely well in low light situations: https://fstoppers.com/bts/short-film-moonlight-shows-extreme-low-light-capabilities-sony-a7s-38014

    The downside: this camera will cost you some coin - $2500 for the body and another $1k for a good lens.

    Thoughts?

    -Mike
     
  2. Marc R. O'Leary

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    For me its been just learning with the equipment I have. I run a Nikon D60 and a D5100. Basic lenses (getting a wide angle this spring). Good tripod is key...I use a Vanguard Alta Pro w/ pistol grip ball head. This is awesome for quick correction, extends actually above eye level (I'm 6'4") and has very flexible leg configurations. Its also super quick to set up and take down.

    I'm pretty used to low light, as I started storm chasing with lightning. Granted, I still have a TON to learn about shooting storms, I've been satisfied with my results thus far given my knowledge and experience limitations.

    Everybody has a preference and more importantly a budget. My budget is LOW. So I run what I brung...for now.
     
    #2 Marc R. O'Leary, Jan 22, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 27, 2015
  3. Marcus Diaz

    Marcus Diaz Experienced Member

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    I think the best setup is one you feel comfortable with. It's not the equipment as much as it is the operator. I feel like right now I'm happy with my current setup. I have a T2i with a 10-22 lens. I have a 60D on order and will soon get an 18-135 lens for that. Add a touch of Lightroom for some touch up and I'm usually pretty happy with my setup.
     
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  4. Jason Boggs

    Jason Boggs Member

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    I currently have a Canon 7D with the Canon 10-22 lens. It's a pretty good setup, but here in the near future, I will be getting the full frame Canon 6D for the lack of high noise issues with high ISO's. I will also be purchasing the 16-35 L lens.
     
  5. Jason Foster

    Jason Foster Member

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    The Sony A7S is a very strong pick for a chase camera for stills. There is never a 'one size fits all' response here, but it certainly is a strong one for those that can swing the money, are not fast, close in chasers, and know manual settings for prime storm photography.

    I also currently shoot with (a pair of) Canon 7Ds and L series glass (35-350mm f3.5 & 17-40mm f4). The noise on them is pretty annoying when low light issues come around, but since I mostly film in Florida, it isn't an issue. So much sun that I have to use neutral densities more than worry about low light.
     
  6. Brad Goddard

    Brad Goddard Member

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    I would throw in a big vote for the Canon 6D with a Samyang/Rokinon 14mm/2.8 on it. You get an amazing amount of quality for a relatively low cost. The 6D is getting to the point where you can find them around $1200 and is going to do outstanding at high ISO. If fact I just picked up a second one used and plan on just leaving the 14mm mounted to it at all times this year unless the fabled new Canon 11-24 is available before storm season. The Samyang 14mm is an absolute steal for what you get at under $400. It has been my go to ultra wide for the last two years. I also have a Sony A7R that is very nice, It takes a little more tinkering around to use with Canon lenses so it only tends to get used when I have time to set up a tripoded shot and take my time to dial in everything. The resulting dynamic range and overall Image quality is first rate though. I am still working on this but I think my main setup for chasing this year will be as follows...

    6D #1 w/ Rokinon 14mm
    6D #2 w/ Canon 24-70
    A7r w/ either a Canon 17 or 24 TSE
     
  7. Jason Boggs

    Jason Boggs Member

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    That looks like a pretty good setup Brad. Can't wait until I get the 6D!
     
  8. Sean Ramsey

    Sean Ramsey Member

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    I shoot with a Canon 7D with a 10-22mm as my primary lens but I'm seriously looking into a 24-70mm L lens for tighter shots. I can usually stay away from the noise issues because I don't take shots any higher than 400 ISO but shoot everything with a tripod once I lose light, which allows for a slower shutter speed without losing sharpness. At that point I keep the camera attached to the tripod and pull it in and out of the vehicle ready to go so I don't have to mess with re-attaching, etc and it works pretty well.

    I really think a good tripod should be a part of any photography setup and shouldn't be overlooked in chasing for sure.
     
    #8 Sean Ramsey, Jan 22, 2015
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 22, 2015
  9. Jason Boggs

    Jason Boggs Member

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    Raising my hand because I'm guilty of not using a tripod most of the time. Laziness is all the excuse I have, but I definitely need to get in the habit of using one for every click of the shutter.
     
  10. Ben Holcomb

    Ben Holcomb Digital Janitor
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    I'm with Jason. I have a 60D but want a 6D with the Tamron 24-70 lens.
     
  11. ngjere

    ngjere Member

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    I've been shooting Sony since the Alpha a100 came out. I've been very happy with the monumental achievements that Sony has brought to the table in the few years since they took over the Minolta line. I've had the opportunity to shoot with a lot of old Minolta Maxxum glass bought at insanely low prices throughout the years. Each model release of the A mount has shown tremendous improvement over the previous. Presently I'm shooting with an a77 and various wide angles however, I'm beginning to migrate to the E mounts and may just say goodbye to full sized bodies in favor of the compact size of the E mounts. I've purchased an a6000 with the intent of using both this chase season and deciding my equipment future based on my experiences. I will say that the a6000 is putting out some incredible photos for the price. The A7S is a tremendous camera but a little out of my league financially at the moment.
     
  12. James Langford

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    I echo what Brad says. It's tough to beat the 6d at a $1200 with the $300 Sanya / Rokinon 14 prime. I also shoot with a 5d mk2 with either the 24-70L or more frequently now the 25-105L.
     
  13. Jeremy Bower

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    What is enticing to me about the Sony A7 cameras is you get a full frame sensor in a very compact, light weight body. The low light capability of the A7s really is mind-blowing. Imagine a camera that has usable files for the most part at 20,000 ISO (at least according to some users I know that own it). I'm a Canon shooter and at this point I'm pretty much invested in that system. For storm photography I mostly use my Canon 5D Mark II with a 17-40L, 24-105L, and 70-200L. I found this setup to be plenty good enough in almost any situation.
     
  14. Laura Duchesne

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    Right now, I use a Canon T1i with 10-22mm Canon lens. I also have a Tamron 18-200mm, but I prefer the wide angle for storm structure. I love my Manfrotto 190XPROB tripod with 804RC2 head. It is very sturdy and heavy enough so that storm gusts don't blow it over as easy. It has a 3 way head pan/tilt so I can level out my shot. For what I do, my setup works great. I always shoot in RAW, and make edits with software. I usually get the results I am after. However,I do have my sights on a new camera body, the Canon Mark II 7D, and a 70-300mm Canon lens, but that'll be a while yet... does anyone here have any reviews on that camera or lens?
     
  15. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    I almost bought the A7 earlier this year, but chose to hold off for a while. I am now leaning more toward the new 24.2mp Rebel (T6i) that is supposed to come out in the April-June time frame, since I'll be able to use my existing lenses with it. All I really want right now is a boost in resolution from my 12mp XSi, which the T6i should provide at a better price point (under $800 body only). Canon lenses will work on the A7 with a $400 adapter, but then I would still need to get a full frame wide angle to replace my 10-22.
     
    #15 Dan Robinson, Mar 7, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2015
  16. Brett Roberts

    Brett Roberts Experienced Member

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    As someone who went through a pre-purchase phase about a year ago where I researched the nitty gritty details of current DSLRs rather obsessively, this would be my pick for storm photography if money and size/weight were no object, and I were focused exclusively on stills (no video concerns):

    Nikon D810
    Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8
    Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8
    Nikon 70-200mm f/4 VR

    For pure image quality in most storm situations, it's virtually impossible to top that setup without jumping to medium format (and even then, it's not necessarily a given).

    Close runner-ups for bodies: (1) Sony A7r; (2) Nikon D750 or Nikon D610 or Sony A7.

    The Sony A7s is an intriguing option, and for the specific case of night storm photography in the absence of significant lightning, it comes out on top. However, when averaged over all storm photography situations most of us encounter, I'm not sure its exceptional performance at ultra-high ISO is worth the loss of resolution. If money were truly no object, a bag with both an A7r (daytime through dusk) and A7s (after dark) would be perfect; the compactness of the mirrorless A7 series would make size/weight a non-issue, too.

    If you're about to purchase your first serious camera and storms/weather/landscapes are your primary photographic interest, my advice would be to avoid the Canon system, despite its continued popularity. Their sensor technology has fallen far behind all the competition regarding dynamic range at low ISO, which is a huge factor for many daytime storm photos. They have great lenses -- arguably the best lineup on the market overall -- but to me, it's not worth that tradeoff (which is why I went through pains last year to switch to Nikon after a decade using Canon). Recent Nikon full-frame DSLRs and the Sony A7/A7r all use essentially the same sensors, and they're the best on the market at capturing high-contrast scenes for images shot below ISO 3200 or so. (Disclaimer: this certainly isn't a slam against current Canon users, as I was one too until very recently; plus, there are numerous scenarios outside of storms where Canon still offers real advantages: video, sports/wildlife/action, and night/astro, for example).
     
  17. Michael Snyder

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    How's this setup working for you?

    This is a pretty big league set up you have going. Im trying to decide if I go with primes. I have the 10mm voigtlander, 18mm Batis, 24-70 F2.8 and the Batis 85mm with my Sony Ar7II.

    Choices, Choices...
     
  18. Brett Roberts

    Brett Roberts Experienced Member

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    I wish I could say this were my personal setup -- actually, it was only my ideal/dream setup (at the time of the post)!

    To be completely honest, I haven't kept up with the latest developments in the DSLR world over the past 18-24 months. I bought my D610 in early 2014, and after filling out my lens collection, I've been content enough not to have a wandering eye for new gear.

    As far as I'm aware, the D610/D750/D810 still lead the pack for consumer full-frame Nikons. Successors for the D610 and D810 are probably coming soon, though, which might bring a decent price drop on the current models when it happens.

    On the lens front, I think my experiences chasing over the past few years have pushed me more in favor of zooms than before. Changing lenses in the heat of the chase has cost me some good shots. Right now, I have a 14mm, 18-35mm, 24-85mm, and 70-200mm. I still think the setup I described in the post you quoted (14-24 + 24-70 + 70-200) would be ideal, especially with a VR version of the 24-70. A big collection of high quality primes might work well if you're mainly a structure fanatic and stay back -- although, even in that situation, good shots can be surprisingly fleeting. Otherwise, my view based on experience is that primes generally aren't well suited for this hobby. Their main advantage (tack sharpness) is less important for sky photography than many other areas, while their main disadvantage (inconvenience/clumsiness) can be crippling in some chasing situations.

    In your case, the 24-70/2.8 should serve you extremely well for semi-close tornado shots, as well as for dusk/nighttime structure and lightning. While the combination of a 10mm and 18mm may not be as convenient as something like a 12-24mm zoom, those FLs are strictly for structure, and you can usually spare the extra 10 seconds to swap lenses when you're that far away. My main recommendation would be to spring for a quality 70-200mm or 70-300mm zoom for distant tornado shots, rather than a series of telephoto primes.
     
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  19. Matt Nicholson

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    Hi All! I've been a Canon shooter for many years. Currently, I'm shooting/videoing with a Canon 7D and 7D Mk II, using either a 17-40mm f4.5 L, a Canon 24-70mm f2.8L, or my Canon 70-200mm L II (with and without a Canon 1.4X II Extender). There are many cheaper routes to choose. Any Full-Frame sensor cameras (EOS 6D, 5D series, EOS 1D series) are going to yield less "noisy" images. If $$ are tight, just try to keep your ISO as low as possible on a tripod, so you can slow the shutter a bit to get the most out of the available light. For Livestreaming, I use a separate phone mounted by Joby mounting gear. Happy Hunting!
     
  20. Troy Scheiber

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    Nikon D610 with Zeiss 135 f/2 Apo sonnar TZF.2 if you have the cash.
     

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