It doesn't take much to get started in some action packed photography!
There are tons of options when it comes to dedicated camera gear. Everything from entry level kits you can get for under $500 all the way to cameras with no lens that cost over $5000! For reference, all the photos of my gear was taken with the first camera I had: a Canon Rebel T6 with a 50 mm lens. It works great for this kind of photography, but it's less capable for action shots. So what sort of equipment do I use to capture the action trackside? Let's dive in and take a look at the gear I've gathered during Hangar 53 Studios' first year. I'll fill you in on why I chose it and what it does to help me get the photos you've all come to look forward to.
Canon EOS R10
You can't take photos without a camera (get a load of the big brain on this guy), so I figured this would be as good a place as any to start. When selecting a camera to use it's easy to get caught up in spec sheets. Each manufacturer has TONS of cameras to choose from across a wide price range. What sensor size? How many megapixels? DSLR or mirrorless? I found the best way to narrow down the options was to select just a few key features. Number 1: whatever camera I purchased, it had to be able to shoot photos FAST. Number 2: I needed an autofocus system that wouldn't let me down. Number 3: price point had to be low enough that I could get higher end lenses that would fit an upgraded body later. These needs led me to Canon's EOS R10. It's affordable, focuses quickly, and allows me to invest in high quality lenses. So let's dive into those!
Determining my Needs
The camera may take the picture, but lenses are the other half of that equation. When I first looked for what to pair with the R10 I was determined to get the best performing gear I could afford. Good glass isn't cheap and can make a world of difference in photo quality. As I didn't have an unrestricted budget to just click "add to cart" I had to be strategic with what I chose. Again it came down to determining NEEDS. I wanted to be able to cover wide and tight in photos. I also needed a relatively wide aperture that was consistent across the zoom range. I was also unsure of how far I would be from the track. Sometimes I can be in extremely close while other times I'm further away. Versatility is absolutely crucial to me, but there's no "one size fits all" when it comes to lenses. So these are what I chose:
1st: RF 24-105 f4
The first lens I aquired with the camera body. A zoom lens with a focal range from 25mm to 105mm allowed me to cover most of what I needed: wide angle to short telephoto shots. The aperture has a maximum opening of f4 which doesn't let TONs of light in, but is consistent across the zoom range. This means as I zoom in there's no need to adjust other settings to compensate for less light entering.
2nd: RF 70-200 f2.8
Gettin' in Close
Here. We. Go. This one is my favorite! It's the second lens I bought, and I had rented it many times before I added it to the collection. With a focal range of 70mm to 200mm I can be close and fill the frame with the whole bike/car or have the reach to be farther away. Some tracks you can't get as close as others and the extra reach is a must. The ability to have a maximum constant aperture of f2.8 also gives superior low light performance and comes in clutch as night falls trackside.
The Extra Stuff
Batteries, filters, SD cards, bags, straps, more batteries...and a reflective vest?
Now for all the extra stuff. The add ons that aren't necessary for taking photos, but are a quality of life investment. The camera bag is the biggest one. I need a place to store all my equipment in one place that is convenient to carry around. I like this one because the inside is configurable to my needs and it can be worn as a backpack or a shoulder bag.
When I'm using the camera I've always got a strap on it. I like to use the Peak Designs quick release straps. It lets me quickly and easily change from a neck strap to a wrist strap. My biggest recommendation when it comes to neck straps: replace the strap that came with the camera. Get one that is wide and has some kind of padding to spread the weight of your camera and lens across a wider area. It may not seem like much, but 3 pounds of gear hanging off your neck all day isn't comfortable. Spreading that weight evenly makes a world of difference.
Then there's batteries. With more batteries on top. I don't always have the luxury of having an outlet nearby when I'm trackside. So I've invested in 3 total and a pouch to keep them in. The biggest downside to the R10 camera is the battery life: I burn through them. This led me to get a portable power supply for longer trips where I'm camping trackside.
All the gear above and there's one more crucial piece to the puzzle: SD card. Where the digital photo is saved before I can upload it to Lightroom to edit. There's as much to unpack with SD cards as there is with the camera. It mostly comes down to how quickly the SD card can have data saved to it or transfer data off of it. Action/race photography leads to a high volume of photos which leads to a need for fast read and write speeds. My recommendation: don't just look at the storage capacity of the card. Look for the read/write speed to know how quickly data transfers to and from the card. A faster card is 100% one of the best quality of life investments I've made when it comes to moving high volumes of photos from track days.
While you can get good photos from outside the track, being able to get to the infield lets me get right in the corner. Sometimes I'm close enough I could high five the homie rippin' on the bike. Without a reflective vest, access like this doesn't happen. I keep a personal vest on me when I go to local tracks.
Looking to get into photography? Here's this photographers opinion.
Having been in and out of photography for a while I had never given any thought to gear specs or capabilities until I decided I wanted to become a professional photographer. The single hardest part is not getting caught up in new equipment coming out. It's a constant fight against the urge to upgrade something. If you're looking for a camera judge your use case. Do you really need a full frame sensor? The R10 I have is a crop sensor, which comes with a couple advantages. First it's smaller, which leads to a smaller and lighter package overall. Second it has a crop factor. This artificially increases the focal length I'm using, adding reach compared to a full frame. For me these pros outweighed the con of poor low light performance. The savings that came from a lower cost camera allows me to direct my focus to high quality lenses. As Hangar 53 continues to grow and provide photographs to more people so will the gear requirement. Wash, rinse, repeat: define the need, fulfill it, and take some BANGER photos for you to enjoy.