To discover how the EOS 5D Mark II has been received in the world of photojournalism CPN asked Edmond Terakopian - Photographer of the Year in the 2006 British Press Awards - to find out the thoughts of some of the world’s best photojournalists. He delivers his initial thoughts and finds out how photojournalists see the 5D Mark II influencing the worlds of stills and video.
Edmond Terakopian (UK)
When Canon announced the ‘semi-professional’ EOS 5D back in 2005 it probably had no idea that photojournalists worldwide would embrace it as their digital camera of choice. Whilst the EOS-1D series was well suited to photojournalism, it was too heavy and bulky for some, and the crop factor wasn’t too popular. The full frame version existed in the EOS-1Ds series, but was a somewhat more costly and bulky alternative. A smaller, lighter, full frame camera with stunning visual ability was needed, and the original EOS 5D ticked all these boxes. It also became the camera that convinced the ‘die-hard’ film shooters to embrace digital.
Thus the 5D Mark II had some very big shoes to fill, and the early signs are that it’s doing so in a big way. When I first tried the EOS 5D Mark II it was a pre-production model but, even then, the quality of the images I shot with the camera were mind-blowing. Even at ultra high ISOs it provided superb images, not only lacking in noise but also with accurate colour rendition.
Although the 5D Mark II is very similar in size and weight to the original, it is totally redesigned and is also weather sealed. However it has one additional feature that, although initially on paper seemed gimmicky, has been responsible for a 180 degree change of attitude from me; that of video. One look at the quality of the 1080p full HD video shot on the camera has left everyone I know speechless.
I had never been interested in video, and had even lost work as a result. After watching my friend and colleague Vincent LaForet’s short film ‘Reverie’ I completely changed my mind. The camera had soul and there was a feel to the film I had never seen before outside of the cinema or the highest quality BBC documentaries. It changed my thoughts towards video so much that within weeks I shot my first-ever short film, ‘Muse’.
Vincent LaForet (Canada)
Vincent LaForet is a commercial and editorial photographer based in the US. Although his career has been filled with prominent photographic commissions from the biggest names in the publishing world, and he has won numerous prestigious prizes for his photography, his new-found passion is for the world of the moving picture and film-making.
LaForet explains: “When I first picked up the 5D Mark II it was a pre-production model which I used to shoot ‘Reverie’. I can’t tell you how many times my jaw dropped because of the quality coming out of the camera. The best part of this was that initially I was having fun. It wasn’t thought through as far as a career move, or thinking about it as a different tool in my arsenal. ‘Reverie’ was just us going out and playing with it.”
He adds: “What we learnt, without knowing it, was how fast you can work with such a small and light camera. We would do this shot and that shot and that shot... you would do three to four shots in the same time that it would normally take you with a conventional video camera like a RED, because of its size and weight and all of the extra equipment related to it. This camera really allows you to play around, have fun and experiment in a way that other cameras don’t. I mean, who would think of mounting a RED to the side of your car with suction cups? Then driving down the street and slamming on the breaks! You would never do that!”
Looking into the future Laforet continues: “I think over time there’s no question that photographers are going to want to communicate using the video medium as well as their stills. It’s a whole new learning curve, and it’s exciting. We all know that some things are better told with a still photograph, others with the written word and others better told with video.”
He admits: “There is a reluctance by some photographers to shoot video but the reality is that the market pushes us to do what is needed. Everything’s moving online and the advertisers want to see more video and moving images; demand is going to dictate what we do. As a result newspapers and magazines are going to demand that photographers shoot a certain amount of video. We can talk all we want about what we want to do, but the reality is that the market drives it.”
He adds: “I'm seeing photojournalists flock to this camera - it's light weight, compact size and low light performance makes this a ‘must have’. The low light performance is also an incredible asset for photojournalists - many of the images we can now shoot with the 5D Mark II at ISO 3200 look better than what cameras shot in the ISO 400 to 800 range just a few years ago. You can now feel free to truly push the envelope farther than ever before.”
LaForet sums up: “The 5D Mark II is incredibly far ahead of most video cameras out there in terms of low light performance and allows you to shoot with natural light you wouldn’t even attempt to pull off with previously - that’s exciting.”
Daniel Beltrá (Spain)
Daniel Beltrá started his 20-year career as a photojournalist in his native Spain. Now living in the US he specialises in nature and conservation issues. As well as numerous solo exhibitions, Beltrá has been the recipient of two World Press Photo awards as well as awards from POYi, NPPA, WPA and the Lucie Awards. He is also a fellow of the prestigious International League of Conservation Photographers and is a contributing photographer to Reportage by Getty Images.
Beltrá says: “I was already very keen on the previous 5D, which was basically the main camera I was using in the field, even though I had access to the 1DS Mark II and 1DS Mark III. I always found myself coming back to the 5D because of its portability. Now with the 5D Mark II’s higher resolution and new processor, it’s just perfect. I want something that’s portable and easy to move around with and is also inconspicuous. It’s not bulky and doesn’t look ‘professional’. But I also want something that will let me do big prints and hang it on a wall.”
Daniel Beltrá picked up his two new 5D Mark IIs and went straight to the Amazon to work on a recent project: “Looking at the image quality I like it a lot. I have yet to process the RAW files properly as this is really the first serious trip I’ve done with the camera. I shot 7,000 files in two weeks and can clearly see the camera’s potential. I’m also looking forward to exploring the camera’s high ISO ability.”
He adds: “As a nature photographer I end up using big lenses and extenders. Anything I can gain in light is well put to use. I’ve been shooting a lot from a boat, and there are vibrations, so if I can increase the ISO and shoot at a higher shutter speed, it can let me get better shots. Even if I’m shooting a bird, the detail in the feathers at ISO 1000 and above is great. For shooting at dusk and at night, I see the camera opening up a lot of possibilities.”
When asked about video Beltrá says: “Although I haven’t yet shot video in the field, I can see the possibilities, which are tremendous. For example, I was up this big tree photographing an eagle’s nest, and I was thinking ‘wow, this would be great in video’ as you could hear the eagles chirping away. Thinking about the future possibilities it would be great to supplement my photographs with recorded audio and bits of video done on the camera for multi-media presentations.”
Sean Smith – The Guardian (UK)
Sean Smith has been a staff photographer with The Guardian since 1988. He has twice won the Photograph of the Year in the Press Photographers’ Year; has been voted Digital Journalist of the Year in the British Press Awards; won a Days Japan award and won a Royal Television Society award (a prize that's normally given to cameramen) for a Guardian Film that was made with Channel 4.
Sean Smith is delighted by the 5D Mark II and thinks its introduction is perfect as the imaging industry shifts: “With newspapers putting video up on their websites, there’s a fantastic opportunity for a new way of covering stories. Photographers can not only do stills, but also do some video, in a way that isn’t the same as traditional broadcast media. I don’t think photographers should try and become cameramen. Newspapers won’t become the same as broadcasters.”
He adds: “The 5D Mark II is interesting because it’s a stills camera which can do video and not a video camera you can freeze and take stills from. Stills don’t have a diminishing worth at all. It lets you do your stills but allows you to supplement them with a series of short video clips. There are interesting new possibilities with it.”
Smith explains: “The first bit of video I did was on a court case. I was sent there at the last minute. I didn’t have a microphone and hadn’t used the 5D Mark II to shoot video at all. I arrived whilst looking at the instruction booklet! It was a very short little thing; a mixture of stills and video - but it was good. There were some difficulties, but nothing too insurmountable. I found it was easier keeping it steady than I thought it would be. The microphone in the camera worked surprisingly well! Obviously you’d want a separate microphone, but it coped with it and we ran it on The Guardian website.
Smith is a fan of shooting stills with the EOS 5D Mark II: “It’s a really exciting camera; I’m as excited or more excited about it as a stills camera. I think the 5D is a great camera, and now steps forward the 5D Mark II; because of the higher resolution and the better quality at high ISOs, it’s great. The video is a great thing to have on there, but let’s not forget that it’s a great stills camera.”
He reveals: “I used the camera on an oil platform in the North Sea when the light went. I thought it was impressive. I like the bigger file and higher resolving power; it picks up more detail. With the bigger sensor you can now use good quality prime lenses that make much more difference, and you’re not relying on Photoshop. The camera just captures it.”
Smith notes: “The look is that of a film camera when you get good hand prints done. I like the simplicity of it; you take a picture and try and expose it right, and it’s like slide film. You just didn’t get the same quality with earlier digital cameras. I always liked Kodachrome and I’m getting the same quality; the tonal range is there. You don’t have to do much to the file; you get it right and it’s just there. For me the less you have to do to the picture the better. It’s more subtle, there’s more of what you’re seeing, there.”
On the future of ‘packaging’ images and video Smith reveals: “I think papers, magazines and websites will be looking for more bits of video to go with stories. I do hope that they don’t lose sight of the importance of stills photographs. Photos to me are still important. I’m a photographer and I’m not against video; I’m for it, but I’m also for photos. These aren’t mutually exclusive things and the validity of photographs is very strong. They are both important and they do slightly different things - in combination, they do something different again. It’s a great tool, and hopefully it’s going to allow us to do some new things. It’s a very interesting thing!”
Yannis Kontos (Greece)
Yannis Kontos is a freelance photojournalist based in Greece and represented by Polaris Images. His work has been published in most of the world’s major news publications including from Time, Newsweek, Life, and El Pais. He has had several solo exhibitions and has won a World Press Photo prize as well as awards from NPPA, LIFE Magazine and numerous POYi and European Press Photographer of the Year awards.
Kontos comments: “At the moment, it’s the most complete camera. It’s a semi-professional camera, but actually it’s really the professional choice. I’m really glad that I got a couple of these. It’s an evolution for photojournalism and multimedia will extend into different markets with HD video. It will give photographers a chance to offer video as well as images to clients.”
He notes: “This hybrid camera is something that we’ve really been waiting for. Where before we had to carry separate devices for video and stills; now we can do almost everything with the 5D Mark II. All you need is a tripod and, for better audio, an external microphone. This camera really allows you to work and I mean to a professional standard; you can do everything; you can do interviews, get general footage. It’s good; it’s an evolution and is something that many photographers have been waiting for.”
Kontos says that new opportunities arise with the camera: “In combination with good software, the low light capabilities are amazing. I personally use Apple’s Aperture and comfortably shoot on high ISOs, which in the past were completely forbidden. If, for example, you’re in Iraq on night raids with the troops, you can comfortably shoot at ISO 6400. It’s a great improvement and you can really use the camera in low light.”
Having spoken to my colleagues in photojournalism from around the world, one thing is clear - the 5D Mark II is already a success. It has been embraced by photojournalists, not only because of its stunning ability as a photographic tool but also by its astonishing ability as a video camera. As the industry moves forwards and embraces the Internet properly, it’s clear that the roles of photojournalists are changing. The 5D Mark II slots in perfectly and is a tool that one just cannot afford to be without.