This question seems the state that it is usually okay to use a camera during takeoff and landing, as long as you've turned off the wifi, etc.

If I'm in a window seat, can I use a large telephoto lens, i.e. Canon 70-200L or 100-400L? When fully zoomed, these things are pretty massive. Or is this likely to draw the angry attention of cabin crew more than, say, a 40mm pancake?

I am interested in shooting downwards as the plane banks, to capture a "close-up from above". Let's assume that the person next to me is okay with me possibly leaning back into their space.

  • 1
    I'd think you would be leaning toward the window. Those things aren't THAT long. But you'd need a very fast shutter speed.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 6:00
  • @WGroleau, they are. My experience with a 70-300 on the bus is that at the 70 end I don't need to lean, but at the 300 end I do need to lean away unless shooting at an angle of less than 45 degrees from forward. Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 6:52
  • The Canon 70-400 I used to have, with the camera, was about a foot long. Zoom was done by turning a sleeve and the part that slid out was only one or two inches.
    – WGroleau
    Commented Jul 7, 2017 at 11:57
  • Apart from objections from the cabin crew, you're going to struggle to get sharp close-ups due to the fast motion. The angular resolution at 400 mm will be of the order of r = 10^(-5) radians. If the plane is at a height of h and traveling at a speed of v, then the angular speed v/h times the exposure time must be smaller than 10^(-5) radians to avoid visible unsharpness. If you shoot at the shortest exposure time, say 1/4000 seconds and take v = 200 m/s then you find that h = 5000 meters. Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 2:23
  • While that means that from 5 km altitude you can shoot pics that look like taken from 500 meters with a 40 mm lens, what you are not going to be able to do is shoot from 500 meters to get a picture that looks like taken from 50 meters altitude, unless you can expose for 1/20,000 seconds (at 500 meters the plane will be moving at 100 m/s) and that also requires you to be able to crank up the ISO by a factor of 5 more than shooting at 1/4000 seconds exposure time. Commented Jul 9, 2017 at 2:26

2 Answers 2


Something that heavy is likely to constitute a serious hazard should an emergency situation occur during take off or landing, and thus you will almost certainly be told to stow it should any cabin crew spot it.

Its worth noting that the question you link to has, in its top answer, as the very first paragraph:

There are no specific regulations against taking photos during take off and landing - as long as you are not endangering the crew and passengers.

It would be hard to argue that something that is nearly 1.4KG in weight would not constitute a danger to the crew or passengers in an emergency situation...

  • To be fair, 1.4 kilo is on the light end of lens/camera combinations. I'm pretty sure nobody would object to something that size, unless it were obnoxiously long. One of the big telephotos, on the other hand, would probably get you more than a few disapproving looks. Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 8:28
  • @SebastianLenartowicz ok, you stand still and I will drop 1.4KG on you from a height of 10ft (to simulate the object being thrown around in turbulence) and see how you fare...
    – user29788
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 8:30
  • While I see your point, if there's not a general prohibition on cameras being used during takeoff (which, in my experience, there isn't), 1.4kg isn't atypical for a standard consumer-grade DSLR package. While I wouldn't appreciate having my camera dropped on my head (mostly because of the repair bill), the lenses the OP is referring to are substantially larger (and heavier) than this - on the order of 5-10 kilo in many cases, and quite bulky. In my experience, the flight crew doesn't complain about photographers unless they're being obnoxious about it. Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 8:33

It is highly depend on airline and crew. Even if general rule allow it, the crew has right to forbid it. For example, the Air China forbid usage of the phone even in flight mode during all flight. (It should be turned off).

I would definitely try to take photos but I would rather take you camera from the bag only after the pilot has told crew members to take their seats, just few seconds before take off. You can put your camera bag under the seat in front of you for easier access.

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