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Travel photographer and Canon Explorer Lucie Debelkova was one of the first to shoot with the high-resolution EOS 5DS R and, as she explains to CPN, she found 50.6 Megapixels brought her much closer to the magic of the north...
Regular visitors to CPN will be familiar with Lucie’s intoxicating mix of majestic vistas, full of stunning colour and detail. Her precision with her camera and a love for wide-angle lenses has won her acclaim around the world. So it was entirely appropriate that she had chance to sample a new world of high-resolution imaging with a pre-production EOS 5DS R. So how did it all go?
“Well, I went to shoot the Northern Lights and an ice hotel in Sweden, about 250km north of the Arctic Circle,” she reveals, “And I put myself at the mercy of the weather and conditions...”
Lucie is not the kind of lady to let bad weather get in the way of her photography, but even she wasn’t prepared for the conditions in Sweden. “When you shoot the Northern Lights you spend hours out in the cold and this time in Sweden the humidity levels were at an incredible 85 percent – even when the temperature went down to minus 25 degrees!”
Cold weather is a critical concern for photographers for many reasons, not least of which is the risk of everything freezing up. And with high humidity in Sweden that’s exactly what happened. But when one of the lenses just happened to be the new EF11-24mm ultra-wide rectilinear zoom, it posed Lucie with a problem.
“It’s a beautiful lens with a very large front element,” Lucie explains. “And amazingly sharp from edge to edge; perfect for the EOS 5DS R, so I had to make sure that every shot counted before the temperatures started to cause ice to form. When a lens freezes in such high humidity the cold creates a layer of ice so you cannot shoot any more. And on the 11-24mm lens it was sometimes a real struggle.”
But still the camera continued to function. “If you want to shoot in these temperatures the EOS 5D and the EOS-1D series are perfect. They are brilliant cameras. Canon has perfected the whole package,” Lucie remarks. “I had an accident last year when my 5D Mark III fell on a rock, but it still performed fine. Any other camera would have shattered to pieces. So you see: I really test these cameras hard!”
The opportunity to use Canon’s new high-resolution DSLR was eagerly seized by Lucie, who was keen to see how it performed based on a recent experience with a medium format digital camera.
She explains: “At the end of 2014 I did some test shots with a medium format digital [camera] but for me and my travel photography, the smaller the equipment is, the better – provided the image quality is not compromised. The EOS 5DS R is the smallest camera you can get that delivers that sort of medium format resolution.”
“I have been shooting with the 5D range for a long time now and so the familiarity is there with this new EOS. This [EOS] 5DS R is more or less identical to the EOS 5D Mark III I use every day so it didn’t take any time at all to become used to using it. It felt great. It didn’t feel like shooting with a new camera; it just felt like shooting with the same camera as my own, but one that took better pictures.”
On the image quality, Lucie was emphatic. “The first time I saw the images on my computer screen I was very impressed. The level of detail in the Ice Hotel and in the skies overhead was fantastic and the pictures were super-sharp. However I was less impressed by the amount of space the resulting files took up on my cards. I put a 32 GB card inside and I could only take 350 photographs!”
“But I was very curious to see how this camera coped with the Northern Lights because it doesn’t have a strong ISO performance, which is logical because on the sensor you have twice as many pixels, so those pixels can’t be as clean as those on the 5D Mark III’s 22 Megapixel sensor, for example. That’s why the Mark III has greater ISO range.”
“So In many ways it was an unfortunate test, as I was trying this camera out in unfair conditions but the results were still impressive and the noise levels weren’t bad at all. For 95 percent of the work I do it would be a great camera to have, capturing colour and detail in ways I have been dreaming about.”
As for her choice of lenses, which ones were the best at matching the high-resolution sensor’s exceptional ability to record the finest detail? As Lucie explains, the groundbreaking sensor can also reveal more about a lens’ performance – both in good and bad terms.
“I was told that the EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens would not work well with this camera because it was an older generation optic but I have to say I couldn't see a huge difference. You have to ask yourself how much sharpness and detail do you really need when you’re not producing super big prints?”
“For this trip I took the 14mm f/2.8 lens for timelapse work plus the new 11-24mm ultra-wide lens and the 16-35mm f/4 IS zoom. These two L-series zooms are lenses that have Canon’s latest optical technology in them and I have to say they are exceptional pieces of glass. So now if you have a camera like this you have to upgrade your lenses too!” she laughs.
“I carry everything in an f-stop bag, which I must say I find brilliant, plus I had a lightweight Manfrotto tripod made from carbon-fibre, but the tripod got me thinking as I realised that it wasn’t completely ideal for this kind of camera.”
Lucie explains: “You need to think really hard about a good strong tripod with the EOS 5DS and 5DS R because – as I realised - with the extra resolution of the sensor, every little vibration and movement is noticeable in the image, so it’s important to really pay attention to this important area. Now I’m going to be looking at a much sturdier tripod if I decide to go ahead and buy one of these cameras for myself.”
Following Lucie’s previous visit to shoot the Northern Lights, she decided to try out the camera’s built-in intervalometer, and she found it a useful piece of functionality, but perhaps with room for improvement...
“It was lovely to have that timelapse function as part of the camera this time. But when you go for unlimited shots there is no way to pause the timer, check exposure and so on. Instead you have to stop the process completely. So having to switch the camera off wasn't ideal – but maybe Canon will refine that in the future.”
“However, thank goodness the batteries are the same,” she quips. “Normally when a new camera is made the batteries change and they are not backwards compatible. But here they are just the same as my EOS 5D Mark III and that is fantastic. Like the pictures this camera takes, it’s all about the detail. And Canon has a great eye for that.”
For more product information and in-depth technical insight into the capabilities of the EOS 5DS and 5DS R high-resolution DSLRs, visit our special high-resolution cameras section and discover exactly what 50.6 Megapixels could do for your photography.
With the camera having just gone on sale, perhaps now is the time for Lucie to treat herself? “I think for landscapes this camera really is the ultimate,” she admits. “It’s on my Christmas list for sure and I was sad to give the pre-production one back.”
“What Canon did with the EOS 5D Mark III was refine it so it appealed to everybody, but they missed out the landscape photographers needs, so this new camera is like the perfect tool for me now.”
She continues: “After I got back from Sweden I went to my local dealer in Dubai where I live and they printed out some of the images on their large format printer for me. I loved them at such a large size! But now it makes you want to have everything bigger!”
She laughs: “I hosted a photo workshop in Qatar and my students said to me that in the Middle East they like the bling, but they didn’t like this EOS 5DS R because it didn't look new and impressive! It seems it’s not enough these days to just have a gold badge on the front; they wanted more. But personally I think they missed the point. The real ‘bling’ for photographers like me, is inside. It’s all about that amazing sensor.”
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Lucie Debelkova was born in Prague, Czech Republic, and regularly travels to all corners of the world on various photo assignments. She covers subjects such as special destinations, ancient or modern cultures and food features for a variety of clients. Her philosophy is to take positive photographs highlighting the best a place has to offer, whether it’s the vibrancy of the landscape, the architectural grandeur of ancient monuments or modern architecture or the warmth and friendliness of the people. Lucie’s work has featured in many publications around the world including The Sunday Times, The New York Times, Wanderlust, Lonely Planet, Digital Photographer, What Digital Camera, Outdoor Photography, Vanity Fair, Saudi Voyager magazine, East & West as well as several in-flight airline magazines.