Plain Aviation

the life of a planespotter and true avgeek

Month: January 2016 (page 2 of 3)

Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 – Image quality test and review

I do a fair amount of general photography outside of planespotting, so I was in need of a standard zoom lens to replace the crappy kit lens that I was using (which came from my old Rebel SL1). I eventually settled with the Tamron SP AF 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD, which many refer to simply as the Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8. Tamron makes two versions of the 17-50mm f/2.8, one with VC (Vibration Control, another name for Image Stabilization) and another one without (which is the one I’m reviewing). I was able to pick up this lens second hand for just over $200 USD, which is not too bad as it normally retails for $500, but is quite old. According to this test done by, the Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 is supposed to have image quality on par with the much more expensive Canon EF-S 17-55 f/2.8 IS USM, which is regarded by many as a fantastic lens.

Spotting Location 3 – Terminal 2 SkyDeck

The “SkyDeck” in terminal 2 of HKIA is the only “designated” viewing location at HKG, meaning that it’s probably where the airport authority would prefer that we spot from (especially considering you need to pay to get in). However, that doesn’t mean that you can or should only spot here, as the airport authority can’t and won’t stop you from spotting elsewhere. That being said, this is where I always go when the 25 runways are in use, as it’s perfect for 25R arrivals and very convenient. You don’t need to mess around switching between the Tung Chung line and various buses to get there, as SkyDeck is located in the main passenger terminal, meaning  you can easily take the Airport Express or a taxi to and from. There are also restaurants, bathrooms, and even a movie theater, whereas most of the other locations are in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS USM – General overview

Recently I decided that I’ve been planespotting for long enough that I should upgrade to some new gear, so I went out and got myself the Canon 100-400mm Mark I, also known as “the planespotter’s lens” due to how popular it is among spotters. Now I wasn’t ready to go and dish out a bunch of cash, so I opted for a second-hand copy which I picked up for less than half of how much a brand new Mark II version of the lens retails for. The lens was quite old, having been made in 1999, but I found it to be in mint condition. Considering the lens cost me a fair price of $850 USD, I’m not sure who got the better end of the deal here – me or the shopkeeper.

For the nervous flyer – Don’t be scared (and here’s why)

A fear of flying is definitely quite prevalent these days amongst travellers, especially with news sources blowing up even the smallest aviation incidents for people to read and panic over. It’s understandable why people would naturally be scared of flying. Sitting in “a metal tube travelling through the sky near the speed of at 30-thousand feet” just seems to be against our basic instincts. What’s worse is that airplanes seem to deprive you of any sense of what’s going on. Most of the time you can’t even get an unobstructed view of what’s outside as there are only so many windows seats on a plane and even then the window is so small that very little is able to be seen through it and you might as well just be looking through a telescope. Moreover, most flyers don’t know much, if anything, about the workings of the modern airliner, and that can make things quite scary, especially when you’ve lost a lot of your senses. I’ve heard stories of people shitting their pants (hopefully not literally) during a go-around (which is very common, especially in bad weather). It’s understandable. Your plane is seconds away from touch down, when all of the sudden the engines roar and the plane starts climbing away while you’re sitting in your seat unsure of what’s happening. It doesn’t just end there.  Every bump, every thud, and every sound can be the cause of concern for most flyers.  It’s not a problem for pilots, aircraft engineers, or us aviation enthusiasts however, as we understand what’s happening while we’re sitting in the aircraft, and for the most part, we enjoy experiencing it. That loud thump that came from the undercarriage while on approach? Oh that must be the landing gear. That strange whirring/barking noise that you sometimes hear on Airbus aircraft? That must be the PTU transferring hydraulic power. How fascinating.

Train-spotting? What is that?

So apparently in the same way that we have plane-spotting, train-spotting also exists. I guess the concept is essentially the same; you have different manufacturers, models, operators, and registrations, although apparently train registrations are called reporting marks and aren’t exactly the same as aircraft registrations. I mean it’s interesting that train-spotting exists, but not so surprising. If we’re so obsessed with planes, why can’t others feel the same about trains? On that note, I wonder if boat-spotting exists. I’ll save that for another post.

Spotting Location 2 – GFS Headquarters

The name of this location is quite misleading as you’re not actually supposed to be spotting from outside the GFS headquarters. You’re welcome to try doing so, but most of the time you’ll be catching the butt of planes departing from 25L. I mean the APU exhaust and rear fuselage are quite sexy, but I’d rather catch the front. To get the right angle, you should be approximately halfway between the threshold of 07R and the GFS headquarters. This spot is really only good for 25L departures and 07R arrivals (which come at best once every hour). 07R departures are visible, however you won’t be able to get any shots due to the fence.

Canon’s 18-55mm kit lens – my opinion

So although this may be a deviation from the usual aviation-related posts, I’ve been seeing so much hate and praise for Canon’s 18-55mm kit lens that I thought I might as well share my own opinion.

As you  may know, most Canon entry-level DSLR’s are sold in bundles with the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM “kit , mainly the XXXD (or Rebel in the United States) models. Opinions on this lens are quite varied considering it’s only a simple budget-friendly piece of glass for those who are only starting out with photography. Most people hate it because of its unimpressive image quality, cheap plastic build, and crap aperture. I mean if you were to ask a pro-tog to describe the overall quality of this lens in one word, that word would either be cheap or crap.

Spotting Location 1 – HAECO maintenance area

This location is really the only place where you can catch 07L arrivals, which occur frequently during the winter time, usually in the morning. I really don’t like this location as it’s quite far from the approach path of RWY07L, but unless you have a sweet yacht to go out in, this is the best option available.

From here, 07R arrivals (which come around once every hour and are usually cargo) will be approximately the same distance from you as 07L arrivals. The recommended focal length here is ~250mm for APS-C cameras, and ~400mm for you rich bastards with full-frames.

Spotting on an polluted day?

Yesterday the weather was particularly nice and the sky was blue, so I decided to go plane spotting. When I got to my spotting location for the day however, the sky changed dramatically. There was heavy pollution, and no longer was the sky blue. However, I was lucky in that the lighting was at least half-decent, so I was able to get usable shots. However, due to the pollution, contrast suffered severely and there is no background to my shots, other than a hazy sky. On the other hand, sharpness was virtually unaffected. I’m not sure if this is because of my quality L lens or the fact that I was shooting at f/8. I was expecting extremely soft images due to the pollution, but even the unedited files turned out razor-sharp.

Cathay’s new livery

Back in November of 2015, Cathay Pacific unveiled their new livery, first painted on the 777-300ER B-KPM. It features a larger and “freed” brush stroke on the tail with the “Cathay green” covering the entire horizontal stabilizer as opposed to a small square in the middle. Moving forwards the aft-fuselage remains the same, while the front looks quite different. To begin with, the words “Cathay Pacific” are now written above the windows in a bigger and more elegant font. Further forwards, ahead of the forward-most door and behind the cockpit windows is another smaller brush stroke, again in the “Cathay green”. The awkward green strip on the nose is gone, and instead the faint blue ribbon that runs along the fuselage continues across the nose, very modern and simplistic.

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