Your Budget Friendly Guide to Spotting Gear [~$500 USD]

For a beginner, would a canon 7D Mark II be good? And is there any lense that you would recommend with that camera for a beginner but can still get clear photos from long distance

The 7dii is a good camera but they’re still relatively expensive and offer a weird combination of capability as far as spotting goes. Personally if you’re looking to spend that kind of money (~500-600 USD) on a body I might point you towards an 80D? The 7dii’s main advantage is a more advanced autofocus system and 10 FPS (whereas the 80D gets 7) but honestly 7 FPS is fine and the 80D’s AF is no slouch either. In return, you get 4 more MP, a newer camera, and you save like $80. If you don’t need weather sealing and whatnot you could also get a high level rebel like an SL2 or T6i.

As far as lenses go, the 55-250 IS STM will fit and it’s a good option. Some people may want a bit more of an advanced lens for a $500-600 camera, so if that’s you maybe consider a 100-400 from Sigma or Tamron.

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Okay, Thank you! I still have to find out my options but for now 7D mark 2 is the one I found, im sure ill also find others by the time I should purchase my camera and lens. Thank you for your suggestions!

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What about a Canon 6D? That’s a fullframe camera!
I got mine with less than 10K clicks for €450. Not the best body, I know, but I made the comparison between a 5D mk2 and the 6D. The 6D came out better, so that’s why I took a 6D as my first fullframe camera.
And as a allround lens I reccomend to get a 70-200 f4. They aren’t that expensive anymore🙂

The 6D is an interesting proposition, but unless you have a specific use case the 80D completely blows it out of the water. The two cameras in the US market are roughly the same price right now. By choosing the 6D over the 80D, you lose MP (4), you get a way more primitive AF system (34 less points, 44 less cross type points), you get an older camera (4 years), less dynamic range (about 1 stop), less FPS (-2.5 FPS), and it’s missing some features like an articulating screen. The only reasons to get a 6D over a 80D are 1. if you get a steal on it or 2. if you really, really need low light performance (which I suspect most beginner photographers won’t). Even then, with its 11 AF points of which only 1 is cross type, I’m not convinced a 6D could lock onto a moving target at night let alone track it. Remember, the 80D is the crop sensor version of the 6D Mark II, so it stands to reason it’d be way better than the 6D Mark I. Also, you are forced to buy more expensive lenses for it since you can’t mount EF-S on a full frame.

Regarding the 70-200 F4, I checked and in the US market they’re still like $450. Of course, being an L lens, it is fantastic. But it’s fantastic by the standards at which it came out in 1999. However, in the current age it’s barely sharper than that 55-250 which costs less than half. Obviously, you lose build quality and you lose a little light when zooming, but you gain versatility in zoom and a bit more on the long end (I would say most spotters probably want more than 300mm FF equiv). For just a bit more, you can pick up either a Sigma or Tamron 100-400. These obviously lose a little light gathering to the L but they’re way more modern and are built well. They also offer similar sharpness to the L over a much larger (and more useful) range.

Would a Canon 7D Mark II, or Canon 650D with the lens you recommended “EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS STM” would that be good for beginner planespotter?

Also, how far of pictures do you think I would be able to get? And would those cameras with that lense be able to (if correctly shot/ edited) take pictures that could be able to be uploaded to Jetphotos?

Yeah they would both work. Which one you want is up to you, it’s kind of hard for me to say because the two of them are two entirely different classes of camera.

Realistically, maybe half a mile? After that you start having to contend with heat haze even when it’s very cold (note that when it’s hot this distance is significantly reduced). Both of them can do JetPhotos no problem, because JP restricts you to 1280 long edge you don’t need very fancy gear at all to do it - it’s more about the conditions and editing know-how.

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Alright, Thanks!

Since I dont know a lot about cameras, If you had the option between these 2, which one would you take?

I would personally say go with the 650D and save the $350. You can save up the money later to upgrade the body to a 90D (they’re currently $800 ish), or you can put that money towards a nice mirrorless setup later. I think it’s important to learn the fundamentals on a cheaper setup, both because they have compromises that force you to use good practices and just to see if you actually like the hobby or not.

Great, thanks! You’ve been a huge help!

Last question, I promise 😅

Lets say from like JFK TWA hotel or a few locations from KFLL or KMIA would the lens be able to take good shots from there since the locations arent far from the planes?

With regards to focal length you’ll be fine. I was recently at KMIA with a 400mm FF equiv (the 55-250 on Canon is also 400mm FF equiv) and I felt like I had adequate reach for all situations except for maybe shooting lighter rotation shots from El Dorado. TWA will be fine as well as long as you’re not trying to shoot closeups. I have not been to FLL so I can’t say but just looking at the SpotterGuide you’ll be fine.

With most Florida airports, the heat haze is the problem, not the focal length. Even in winter you can essentially only shoot sky shots until like 4 PM, in summer I suspect long-distance ground shots are all but impossible until right before sunset.

Let me see if I can find you some exmaples.

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I’ve translated the focals into Canon crop (which you’ll be using) and the images are uncropped and untouched.

KMIA 78mm

KMIA 250mm

KMIA 250mm

KMIA 250mm

KMIA 156mm

I don’t have the raw shots anymore but here’s an edited one from TWA


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Thank you! This provides me with good information and helps out a lot. Usually every year I travel alot and go to Europe which isnt as hot as lets say the Florida airports which I mainly go to for winter time. Thanks once again! Have a good day😁

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Hello @AndrewWu

Do you have any opinion on the Canon EOS REBEL T5 with a EF-S 18-55mm lens ?

Thanks ! :)

T5 is a fine starting camera. You can’t spot with an 18-55 it’s too short.

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What kind of Lens can you recommend me?
Do you think a 55-200mm is better ?

55-250 IS STM for Canons

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Thanks you !

I think 18-55mm could pass for this view.

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Yeah probably, but not for most types.