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Canon Explorer Fernando Guerra originally qualified as an architect, but went on to combine this training with his love of photography, to become one of the world’s foremost architectural photographers. The new EOS 5DS DSLR – with its extraordinary 50.6 Megapixel sensor – is the perfect tool for people in Fernando’s line of work, as well as for landscape and studio photographers. So when Canon invited him to put a pre-production model of the camera through its paces, he was only too happy to accept. Once his test run was over, CPN caught up with Fernando to get his first impressions...
Fernando reveals: “I had the camera for about two weeks, and I took it to my normal assignments. I was also shooting for clients, not only for Canon or just to test the camera. I’ve got seven people working for me and I’m not going to try something for two months to see how it works out. I have bills [to pay] and I have people that work with me.”
Of the evolution of the 5D-series cameras he recalls: “After the original 5D, the Mark II was a big step and the Mark III was another huge step. I cannot complain about the [EOS 5D] Mark III; the Mark III was perfect for me. We always want bigger and faster, and when Canon asked me what I wanted on the next model, I knew all those points would be addressed. What I really wanted was a bigger sensor… better performance in the dark areas or in the highlights. That I knew was coming.”
On the detail that is possible when working with the EOS 5DS, Fernando says: “When you shoot something like fabric – something that I end up doing a lot of the time, because I’m shooting interiors – or when you are shooting for an exhibition, where everything is going to be blown up to the size of a wall then, of course, you see the difference. If you look at a photo blown up and go into details, you can definitely see all the detail that… sure, you have it on a 20 Megapixel camera, but all of a sudden it just doubles.”
The trial period with the 5DS also brought up a issue for Fernando – RAW files v JPEGs, as he explains: “Because I had to deliver many pictures to the client, I started looking into the JPEGs. I wondered ‘Can I really deliver JPEGs to a client?’ I never did that before. That’s when we discovered that the JPEGs were really quite good… maybe good enough that you don’t have to open the RAW files. I was amazed, because of the clarity and the lack of noise. I was thinking ‘maybe I should shoot more JPEGs with this camera?’ Because if you’ve nailed the exposure; if you’ve nailed the white balance – you don’t see any problems. It’s a pretty special JPEG machine.”
He adds: “With the size of the RAW files, came the fear that all your computers are going to be obsolete. And it’s not like that at all. I was trying it with my computers and there was no slowing down at all. So I can make it work in my workflow.”
With such a large sensor, in terms of pixels, image quality is key: “The good thing here is that I have a sensor that can somehow relate to a medium format camera or system but, in fact, it doesn’t have the ISO limitations that those big cameras have. It’s very fast and we can shoot ISO 3200 with no problem at all; even [up to] 6400.”
Fernando notes: “In comparison with medium format, what I get with ISO 100 is maybe about the same. But even though I shoot things that don’t move, I move a lot and I catch a lot of the action around whatever I’m shooting. So, with a medium format, not only do you have a huge camera in your hands and a huge lens, the moment you start going up to ISO 200, 400, 800… you just start to have big problems. With this one [camera]… [there are] no problems with ISO or noise. I mean no problems at all. So that made a big difference.”
He adds: “I don’t need a camera that weighs four or five kilos and has a lens that looks like a basket. I’m more like a photojournalist than a traditional architectural photographer, who will usually have a view camera with all the movements. That was the way, 15 years ago, but not now. I can have two Canon 5DSs on my shoulders – I always work with two cameras – for less than half the price of a medium format camera. The world’s changed and cameras are smaller, better and faster. I don’t need medium format and I’m not going to look [at using it] again.”
Fernando reveals: “One of the first projects I shot was in the north of Portugal – in Covilha – a data centre for a Portuguese communications company. It’s on the shortlist to be one of the buildings of last year for the Mies van der Rohe awards [for contemporary architecture]. That means these photographs are going to be really important, so the architect can [potentially] get that prize. So, I wasn’t really playing with the new camera; I was really working. It had to perform and it did.”
He adds: “That data centre, the main building is a building where the exterior is completely [made] of metal plates. With any camera, it’s going to be a challenge, because you’re going to have all kinds of defects. Even with your eye, it’s difficult, because it’s really shiny and it’s reflecting light in all directions. So, that was one of the hardest tests that I gave the camera. When you have thousands of metal plates, all joined around, and you take a picture you think ‘Am I going to get moiré?’ For instance, problems with purple fringing or whatever… and, no, I didn’t get any.”
In contrast Fernando’s previous shoot was for a much older building: “One or two days before, I went to Coimbra to shoot the [Joanina] library that is hundreds of years old. So, in the same week I was shooting an old library and a new way of storing knowledge or information that was just built last year. The funny thing about the old library is… I was looking at those books for details, of course, but also I had all the detail I wanted in the shadows, so I was getting things [in the pictures] that I don’t get with the Mark III. That, for me, was huge because you can have a lot more leeway. I don’t use a tripod a lot. I move a lot and I shoot a lot, and I’m always shooting in Manual mode. That means sometimes my exposures are a little off, and to be able to recover whatever mistake I did on this or that photograph is something that is possible these days with almost any camera. But with some [cameras] it’s better than others.”
One of the new features contained in the EOS 5DS, and its sister EOS 5DS R model, is the availability of crop/aspect ratio modes that can be viewed through the viewfinder when composing images. The crop ratio options that can be seen in the ‘finder are 1.3x. 1.6x and 1:1, whilst additional 4:3 and 16:9 aspects are available when using the Live View mode of the cameras. JPEG images are captured at the selected crop setting while RAW files are captured full-frame with the crop shown in Canon's imaging workflow software – DPP – allowing for fine adjustment afterwards.
Fernando explains: “The ‘Holy Grail’ for me, with this camera, is the crop modes. When you are shooting architecture, you are shooting with a very special niche kind of lens. It’s not the normal lens. You have the TS [tilt-shift] lenses. That’s one of the reasons I’m with Canon, because Canon makes the two best TS lenses in the world – the TS-E17mm f/4L and the TS-E24mm f/3.5L II – 80% of my work is done with [these] two lenses. That means you don’t have a zoom, so you need to walk. Sometimes you need a tighter view and, with the crop modes, if you don’t need a bigger resolution, you can just go to the menu and select 1.3x or 1.6x [crops]. This means the 17mm [lens] becomes a 22mm or, if you put it on the 1.6x crop, it becomes a 27mm.”
He adds: “With the 24mm, you have 31mm or a 38mm lens, with these two crops. With the TS-E45mm f/2.8, you have a 58mm or a 72mm. So, all of a sudden, with one camera and with two or three lenses, you almost have a zoom. This is very important for me and very special. My life definitely got easier with the crop modes. That’s my number one thing… along with the bigger sensor size.”
Fernando recalls: “Another thing that I loved about my Mark III, that continues to be above all cameras with this one, is that it’s silent; a silent shutter. Of course, now you have smaller cameras that have electronic viewfinders and they don’t make any noise. But I need to use my 17mm and 24mm TS-E lenses, so it’s always going to have some noise. But the thing with the noise of the 5D Mark III, and now with the 5DS, is you can feel the shutter is dampened. It has less vibration on your hand.”
He adds: “And it has the best screen in the business. The screen has the best colour, temperature and is the most amazing of all cameras that I know. So I can really see if the photo is coming out the way I want it or not. It’s light; it’s very sensitive also. So you can really be shooting in a darker place than when you were using the [5D] Mark III and you can still see something.”
Fernando concludes: “This camera is good, because it’s a perfect evolution from what I’ve been using. On assignment I also had my 5D Mark III [camera] and then I could compare the two. When you look at the [5DS] camera, it looks like more of the same. But it’s not, because it’s the small details that count. And when you see the shot printed in front of you… that was the ‘Oh!’ moment. OK… I get it.”
Canon Explorer Fernando Guerra is from Portugal and holds a degree in Architecture. He has been taking photographs since he was 16-years-old and, in 1999, with his brother Sérgio Guerra, founded the studio ‘FG+SG - Fotografia de Arquitectura’. In 2004 they set up the publishing house ‘FG+SG - Livros de Imagem’ to publicise the various architectural works they photograph. Their work has regularly featured in a variety of national and international publications including Casabella, Wallpaper*, Dwell, Icon, Domus, and A+U. FG+SG collaborates with various important Portuguese and international architects such as Jordi Badia, Zaha Hadid, I.M. Pei. Fernando’s work is in various private and public collections and has been exhibited in Europe, South America and Asia.