Gear Reviews:

The Best Canon Camera for Paramotor Photography (Right Now), and it’s Probably NOT What You Think…

Canon D60

For Me Canon is Where It’s At, but This is a Broad Topic

People ask me all the time what kind of camera I use to shoot from paramotors, and in a jokingly I always say, “…The one I can afford to drop.” But don’t consider any camera worth dropping worthy of shooting from, just as you wouldn’t consider any camera worth a fortune worth risking airborne either. Yet considering how much time, energy and money you put into your paramotor training and gear, you’d surely want something in the higher quality camera range so as to do proper justice to your efforts in achieving flight like the birds, wouldn’t you? That’s where this article comes in, as it will show you the benefits of taking a higher quality camera up, yet one that won’t break the bank. Of course this is providing you’re of the skill level so as not to drop it or land on top of it somehow; so on that note I can’t stress it enough: If you’re new to the sport and/or haven’t flown in a while, DO NOT take expensive gear up!

Deciphering the Gamut of Gear Out There

When it comes to cameras for paramotoring, to me only one thing really counts and that is whether or not the camera body contains a full frame sensor. By full frame sensor I’m taking about the physical equivalent of a 35mm film slide; in other words unless you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on a camera body with an even much bigger sensor, the majority of camera body options available out there will taper off at the full frame sensor size.

But first, why full frame?

An understanding of image quality on a scientific level isn’t required here but some simple knowledge is: The bigger the sensor, the more tonal or dynamic range of the available light that’s captured. Think of tonal range as the graduations in color from black to white. You can make it as simple as three graduations: black, grey and white… Or you can divide it and redivide it until you’ve got shades of grey numbering exponentially into infinity. So, imagine a shadow across some concrete that is displayed in an image produced by a smaller sensor. Now, make that same image with a bigger sensor, and a bigger sensor, and a bigger sensor, and gradually you will be able to make out more and more detail in the shadows. But it’s not just the shadow detail (the dynamic range from light to dark)- It’s also the dynamic range between colors, from red to orange, orange to yellow, and so on. So the entirety of the light spectrum has finer and finer graduations and therefore, more color and more detail can be captured the more advanced the equipment is. In other words, you can create mind blowing, finely detailed wall imagery with big sensors. And big sensors are especially important in aerial photography, where everything is off in the distance, already at a disadvantage. But the slightly more expanded reasoning behind using bigger sensors is that they can carry bigger pixels, and bigger pixels capture more photons of light. So that’s enough of the mechanics behind sensor technology but if you want some more, you can check here.

Full Frame Camera Choices

Full frame camera choices are somewhat limited in number compared to the gamut of the rest of the camera options out there. Canon, Nikon, and Sony immediately come to mind. Since I’m a Canon shooter that’s what I’ll be referring to for the rest of this article but know that equally good imagery can be obtained by Nikon and Sony, with minor differences. Unfortunately like everything truly worth it (more or less), full frame cameras do come at a price. Currently in Canon’s lineup are the 1Dx ($6,799) and 5D Mark III ($3,399). These prices are for the camera bodies only, mind you, and I don’t recommend paramotor photography with either one. Although the 1Dx with it’s all magnesium construction could probably survive drop into the weeds from 100 feet, an $8,000 – $9,000 camera/lens package that weighs as much as a 6-pack just does not make for a great paramotor photography tool. Distraction wise, unless you have money to burn you’re probably going to be thinking about not dropping it way to much up there. The paramotor camera should be a tool, not a distraction (and certainly not a brick either). The 1Dx, although phenomenal in just about every respect, is just too much camera with it’s size, price and weight to be taking up in a paramotor. That bring us to the 5D Mark III. Again, still too much money to be taking airborne for me, although size and weight wise it’s fine so long as I flying one of the newer, lighter paramotors out there. Keep in mind too that it’s also not just the camera body – it’s the glass in front of it and most (myself included) would argue that the glass is actually the more important of the two! Again, a topic of another post but worthy of a pit stop now none the less. Lens technology is just as important as the camera body it’s mounted to and to that end, I only fly with higher end lenses. Higher end lenses tend to be heavier though which add to your overall weight equation – It’s not uncommon for some of Canon’s L-Series lenses to be 2-3lbs each.

The Verdict

So, which Canon camera then is the best for paramotor photography, in my opinion? Yes it is the Canon 5D, but it’s not the Mark III… It’s the Mark II, which came out way back in 2010. 4 years is a long time tech wise anymore these days but when you look at the differences between the 5D Mark II and Mark III, we’re mainly talking about megapixels, focus points and ISO. Where paramotor photography is concerned, they are arguably minor points in consideration of the big picture, and no pun intended. The 5D Mark II is a great camera, and an even greater camera for paramotor photography in that descent used 5D Mark II’s can be obtained on eBay for around $1,100 to $1,300 right now. Considering the new price in 2010 was $2,699, and that the 5D Mark III new right now is $3,399, it’s a bargain. Canon closeup