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Aerial photographic equipment – the digital age!

Commercial Aerial Photography has many uses throughout the world. Regardless of the end use, image quality has always been paramount and this is becoming more important as satellite imagery becomes increasingly affordable and of an increasing clarity.

(It must be remembered however that satellite imagery rarely competes with Oblique Aerial Photography where and angle is required) For many years aerial photographers like their land-based colleagues have relied on film and it has only been in the last few years that the digital equipment has been able to rival film. This is still not true for large prints where medium format film cameras provide the benchmark in perfect conditions such as display Construction Photography.

The main advantages digital has over film: -

  • Greater flexibility – allows photography in poorer condition which would not normally be possible, e.g. Photography in low light - ISO’s up to and above 1600.
  • Immediate data recall and review while on location.
  • No changing film.
  • High capacity memory cards allow hundreds of images on one card (depending on image size) - especially important where a large number of images are to be taken in a short space of time, such as Event Aerial Photography.
  • Image stabilization on lenses.
  • Immediate image transfer from the office to clients.
  • Easier archiving of electronic data with instant recall.
  • Easier manipulation of images for both archiving in Aerial Photographic Libraries and e-mailing.
  • Disadvantages of digital over film: -

  • Limitation in size of printable image depending on size of sensor. Most semi-pro DSLR’s do not have full frame sensorsArticle Submission, therefore smaller than 35mm. Professional DSLR cameras do have full frame sensors but these are roughly the equivalent of a 35mm film camera and no larger.
  • Meduim format digital cameras are not usually appropriate for use in Aircraft due to the restriction on ISO settings and the very high cost.
  • Possible to loose data inadvertently.
  • Camera battery power is paramount.
  • Need for constant hardware and software upgrades.
  • For many aerial photographers the move to digital equipment has not only provided greater flexibility but has also reduced processing costs as many clients will not require prints but only the digital files on a disc. Although there will be a large initial outlay for the equipment the savings over time on the lab processing fees should outweigh these.

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    Keith McGregor is a partner of Strawberrysoup, a web design agency with offices in Chichester and Bournemouth. Strawberrysoup specialise in creative web design, content managed websites, search engine optimisation, search engine marketing and graphic design

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