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Technical

February 2009

Canon Ambassador Frits van Eldik has been shooting motorsport for over 20 years and has run his own picture and photographic agency for well over a decade. With a kitbag that already includes a number of EOS-1 series cameras and the original EOS 5D, Frits tried the latest EOS 5D Mark II to capture high-speed motorsport action.

© Remy Cortin

Top motorsport photographer and Canon Ambassador Frits van Eldik.

Initial thoughts

Amongst his very busy diary of motorsport shoots – F1, rally, Le Mans, and Formula 3 amongst others - Frits found some time to set up a special rally car shoot to try out the EOS 5D Mark II for action shots and HD video. Frits explains: “Here are my feelings about the 5D Mark II - I used it in between my regular work and the good news is that I was very impressed by the results!”

Frits added: “The pictures look great - maybe too good! I have never seen a sky that is so blue and a grass that’s so green, so colour saturation may be too much. I think that the camera would be great as a second body as it’s full frame and lightweight.”

HD video

Photographers around the world are now well aware that the EOS 5D Mark II offers full HD video recording abilities and many are now getting to grips with shooting and editing video alongside their more traditional still image work.

Frits notes: “The video quality is great. It depends on what subject you want to film but it’s far from easy to do so. Controlling focus on the screen is difficult and I would like to have more control over the settings. It is not a video camera, but the quality is great. We were already planning how to use this camera and, in the end, Canon has almost built a professional video camera. The problem for most of the users will be the software and hardware required for editing.”

Jeff Ascough shooting with the EOS 5D Mark II
© Frits van Eldik

Click here to watch a multimedia presentation of Frits van Eldik’s stills and HD video shot with the EOS 5D Mark II.

However, trying to shoot fast action stills and video using the same camera may prove a little problematic for Frits. “I will not change my way of living. I can now make a movie but doing this in the middle of a photoshoot is not easy for me. It may be for some photographers, but not for me,” he explains.

High ISO & autofocus

One of the key aspects of the EOS 5D Mark II is the camera's ability to shoot in incredibly low light with an ISO that runs to 6400, and can be expanded up to a 12,800 or a maximum rating of 25,600, however Frits admits: “I didn’t try many of the high ISO speeds due to the fact I don’t use it in my regular motorsport work. For the action pictures I took with the 5D Mark II I could easily use just the ISO 640 and 800 settings for shooting the images.”

© Frits van Eldik

Of the camera’s 3.9 frames per second shooting rate, Frits notes: “The autofocus is working fine but not as fast as you would hope for as an action photographer. However, it is possible to take some good action shots with this camera. I want to be 99% sure I have got a good picture, so I would probably not use it for my normal action shots - for all other kinds of photography is it very useful.”

Key lens advantage

The fact that the EOS 5D Mark II is a DSLR camera, not a video camera, means that photographers can now use all of their existing EF mount lenses to shoot HD video footage with the camera.

Frits comments: “The quality is very nice but the real advantage is that you can use photo lenses for video. In the end you cannot control the lenses, which is a shame. At night you shoot great things but it would be great to be able to control your depth-of-field in daylight as well. So, you need lenses that have a minimum aperture of f/5.6 or, even better, f/8 to get the effect that I want to achieve in daylight.”

© Frits van Eldik

Conclusion

Frits says: “For still pictures the camera is very good. If I were to use this camera daily I would have to figure out how long it will last. Two of the best aspects are the weight of the camera in combination with the file quality. I think it is not only the perfect amateur camera but it is also a very good professional body.”

He adds: “The 'problem' with this camera is that it is too good - you don’t have to think with this camera. But as a professional photographer I want to have full control. Overall this camera is almost perfect.”

Biography: Frits van Eldik

Frits van Eldik

Top motorsport photographer Frits van Eldik hails from the Netherlands where he worked for a specialist automotive picture agency for seven years before starting his own motorsports publishing company. He photographed his first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1989 and by 1994 was shooting all of the F1 races in a season. He became a Canon Ambassador in 2008 and enjoys photographing all motorsports and “everything else that moves fast.” In 2011 he is shooting F1 Grand Prix, world touring cars, street racing and a year in the life of the Dutch GP2 driver Giedo van der Garde.