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Fashion photographer and Canon Explorer Quentin Caffier is on fashion photography’s fast track. One of Europe’s new breed of busy modern professionals, his recent shoot with a pre-production EOS 5DS has convinced him that – to stay ahead of the curve – he needs every one of those 50.6 Megapixels. CPN caught up with him recently to find out why...
Photographers of any discipline, age or genre, are united in a love of new equipment. They might not admit it, but secretly they delight in opening a box to take out a new lens or a new body. For Quentin Caffier, the moment he tore open the unmarked box containing an EOS 5DS – sent to him from Canon Europe as part of its pre-launch professional evaluation – was the moment his world changed...
“I am always looking for quality in my pictures,” he states. “But in my work I have to shoot fast. From my previous experience with high megapixel medium format cameras, the bigger the megapixels meant the slower the camera. And for me, when I use a camera like that, the risk I face when working with models spinning around in dresses, for example, was always that I might lose the shot. That’s why I always preferred to use my EOS-1D X DSLR because I knew it would never let me down. Its reactions were always so much faster.”
But the advantage of speed always came at the expense of ultimate image quality. In Quentin’s business, detail is king and when the EOS 5DS arrived he was keener than most to see how it performed.
“I only had the opportunity to use it twice, because there was only one body to share amongst all the other Canon Explorers,” Quentin explains, “But it was enough. I shot JPEG because the RAW software was still being developed at the time, but I can tell you that I was impressed.”
Quentin chose two shooting scenarios to put the camera through its paces; a portrait session and some full-length fashion where the model could move around, as he explains:
“I wanted to shoot a model with freckles so I could see how much detail could be recorded in the skin. And I was amazed. You could see all the details. I shot close up on her eye with an EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens and was amazed to see the real pigments on the eyelashes. It was a total revelation.”
“The size of this camera makes it perfect for fashion,” Quentin continues. “For me, and the way I work, it’s great to have a five frames-per-second motordrive. As well as portraits I wanted to show images with lots of action, to illustrate that you can catch the movement of a model even with a high-resolution sensor camera. I was not disappointed. The real advantage that this camera has over medium format is that it is small and light. Being a 35mm DSLR, it has all the advantages of being quick to use, with very familiar controls (Quentin also has the EOS 5D Mark II) and with the superb Canon lenses I am always assured of their fast autofocus.”
Quentin’s choice of lenses was to highlight one of the important considerations photographers need to make when shooting in high-resolution. “I shot with my EF85mm f/1.2L II USM and EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lenses which were fine and all the images were completely perfect and very sharp,” he reveals. “But my old EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM was not as sharp as I would have hoped. On the EOS-1D X it is perfect, but on the EOS 5DS it was soft, and that's because the pixels are more densely packed on the sensor and so they pick up every tiny imperfection. I was not expecting this, and it is clear that you should consider adding a brand new lens to make the most of the EOS 5DS sharpness.”
A long-time Canon user, Quentin is quick to praise the advantages of the EOS system. “My career with Canon started with an EOS 50E film camera with its eye-controlled focusing,” he remembers. “I used this camera for a long time in those days of analogue (film) and then – after some unsuccessful experimentations with other brands and inferior sensors – finally went digital with an EOS 5D Mark II. The sensor was amazing back then, and it still is now of course. For me a camera is always judged by its sensor. Detail is everything.”
Quentin has won himself a reputation for bold, creative compositions and stunning lighting. It is his lighting technique that frequently gets people talking.
“My lighting style is always a mixture of colour temperatures. I’ve always been very curious with colour and creating mood. When I first started, I was always shooting in black & white but when I went digital and into the studio I discovered a whole new universe. The lighting has become a very important part of that. I really enjoy the colour work of Guy Bourdin, for example, and I am a big fan of sci-fi movies and so the style just kind of evolved from my personal obsessions.”
“For the last two years I have been working in the music business, because I like the creative freedom the jobs provide me. That’s why I have recently gone to live in Tokyo for a while, to see if there are more creative opportunities. But I was surprised because most Japanese clients are very reserved and the style of images is very conservative. I think maybe I need to come to London. I’ve heard it is a little crazy there...”
Reflecting on the EOS 5DS, Quentin sums up his thoughts: “Coming from an EOS-1D X to the EOS 5DS was very interesting. The EOS-1DX has a higher ISO range and the burst rate is a lot higher. A lot of people – including me – were expecting the EOS 5DS to be 4K but it is not. It is really a stills camera, which is clear. The EOS-1D C is 4K, of course, but it is designed for video and has a lower Megapixel sensor. Canon is very good at making a camera to appeal to all kinds of photographers, and with the EOS 5DS they have succeeded in creating a camera for stunning images.”
He continues: “When you are using a medium format camera, it’s not just about the sensor quality and density of pixels. It is also about the smoothness of the tones and the colour management. Having seen the images I made – even though they were only JPEGs shot in Fine Detail Picture Style – I have no doubt that this camera will be the game changer the industry has been waiting for.”
“I only had it for two days but that was enough to show me what the future has in store. The detail you can get now in clothes and fabric is phenomenal. I shot with it tethered to my computer [using EOS Utility] so we could all see the image in maximum resolution straight away, but I wasn’t sure it could cope with the demands on all that data being processed. There is a lot of information going through the camera when you’re shooting tethered but thanks to the Dual DIGIC 6 processors and the USB 3.0 it was possible to do that easily.”
Quentin’s usual workflow is to use Adobe Lightroom software when shooting outside and producing lots of images. But in a controlled studio environment he prefers to shoot with Capture One. “As soon as they support the EOS 5DS for tethered work, I’m getting it!” he laughs.
“I’m trying to make all my images as perfect as possible in camera. My goal is to make the image look exactly what you see it with the eye. I will always have a place for the EOS-1D X in my camera bag, but this 5DS deserved a place too. I didn’t know I needed it, until I saw the quality...”
Quentin Caffier is a fashion and advertising photographer based in Paris, where he works with a group of professional artists under the name ‘Five Monkeys Studio’. Each member of the team has an area of specialisation, including video, 3D scanning, illustration and textile design.
Among Quentin’s influences and inspirations are photographers such as Erwin Olaf, Desiree Doiron and Guy Bourdin, film makers David Cronenberg, Wes Anderson and Darren Aronovsky, plus musicians David Bowie, Bob Dylan and Trent Reznor.
Quentin has had several exhibitions in his native Paris (Artcurial, Galerie 13 Sévigné, Glaz’art, Salon des Miroirs) and enjoys mixing his fashion work with contemporary art.