Which camera to buy?

I want to get my cousin a camera for his birthday. I just don’t know which one to get. He likes plane spotting from long distances. So if you know a camera that does well in long distance and is 250$ or bellow please tell me. Thanks, @Marco-legend

this is the one i use for rn, i think its a great starter camera and it has 50x zoom

Thanks you DmitrI the camera looks good. Say a plane is 4,000 in the air and I zoom in all the way (clear day) can you still see the plane?

i mean for the price range you stated the farther you zoom the lower the quality, so i think if a plane is 4000 feet up i dont think you will get a great shot but lemme show you some shots i took off this camera i will pm you

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It’s not about the camera, it’s about the lens if you want to spot from long distances.

I have a Canon Rebel XS. It’s about 10 years old and works great. I know @AndrewWu has a Nikon D4000.

I took this with my 70-300mm lens, aircraft was about 3,000 feet above me.


Ok so what is the lense that can zoom in the farthest?

The biggest one I know of is 100-600mm. On Amazon, these go for about $1,200 USD.

Keep in mind that a lot of lenses cost more than the camera itself. Lenses are one of, if not the most expensive part of plane spotting; because a big lens is required.

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Wow okay. So if I get the canon SX400 and put a. 150$ lense then I could see planes at 3,000 feet?

Depends on what kind of lenses you can get for $150. My Tamron SP 70-300mm averages about $200 USD, but the shots very often come out soft and not very sharp. It’s not noticeable at first glance, but once you start to zoom into the body of the aircraft, that’s when it looks blurry and low quality. For example, here’s a shot with it. It looks good at first, but once you zoom in, it looks soft and blurry.

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Thanks for all your help. So if I get a cheaper camera but a expensive lense then the quality will be not as good right?

Generally, that’s correct. Anything under the $250 range won’t get you fantastic quality like you’re hoping for, but it’ll definitely be better than a smart phone camera. I would be careful about jumping up into the DSLR range at that price. You would probably be able to find a nicer, more complex “point and shoot” camera than a DSLR (in terms of sensor, color, etc.)


You should definitely consider used equipment. You can get cheap DSLR cameras. My current camera for photographing aviation, wildlife and other action is a Canon EOS 100D. They are now fairly cheap used (one on mpb.com for £179, which is roughly 221 USD). The lens I use is a Tamron 150-600mm G1, which can now be had used in good condition for something in the region of £600 (741 USD).

A 600mm is big, heavy and expensive, 70-200 and 70-300mm lenses are smaller, lighter, easier to handhold and cheaper. If you really need extra reach you can use these lenses with 1.4x and 2x teleconverters.

I would definitely advise that you focus on getting the best lens you can afford. A good lens will take good photos even on an inexpensive camera body. A crap lens will produce crap results even on a high end professional camera.

Here are a few photos I’ve taken:

Happy to advise further in PM.


It’s a D7500 lol

I really hate to be that guy but $250 for a long distance setup isn’t going to cut it. Long distance spotting has to do with two main things:

  1. Your lens

  2. Heat haze

Obviously you can’t control heat haze which makes spotting from distance a risky proposition and maybe one you might not want to invest heavily in if you don’t want to do normal spotting. Heat haze ruins shots.

The lens is something you can control. Point and shoots like the Canon Powershot have a ton of zoom but their usable zoom range is not big before it gets soft. In addition, they are clunky to use for normal spotting and a similarly priced DSLR+lens combo will deliver far better than and point and shoot.

The biggest lens I know of for each manufacturer is the Sony 600mm F4 GM with the A7iii’s 3x crop mode, Canon’s 800mm F5.6L, and Nikon’s 600mm F4. Now, those are all pro grade lenses which cost about 13k each, just some perspective.

The biggest reach/money ratio is probably a Nikon AF-P 70-300mm. It’s not a huge range but on a crop sensor it is respectable and it’s cheap ($160). Delivers well in normal spotting and is not bad at distance. Up to 1/2 mile it should serve you well.

If you want to step up, get a 100-400 from Sigma or Tamron. I own the Tamron and it’s a good piece of glass but I wouldn’t say it delivers well for distance (not enough reach, really). I’ve shot heavies up to a mile but further and it doesn’t turn out well.

You could invest in a used 150-600 from Sigma or Tamron which will serve you till about 2 miles assuming heat doesn’t ruin your shot.

Honestly I’d just recommend a D3400 and a AF-P 70-300mm kit. Small, light, good quality, decent reach. PM me if you need more details.


Agreed 100%. This is the reason why I never mentioned anything within a $250 budget in my main post. High quality photography equipment isn’t cheap, although it doesnt need to be prohibitively expensive. Save up a bit longer or hold up a bank to get more funds. If you get something cheap your cousin will quickly find themselves looking for something better.


I got this Delta 777-200 with a Canon SX60 HS (260X zoom)
(35,000 feet )

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I’d say the Canon M50 with an insane zoom lens.

Thanks all for the help


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