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Flying high with <br class="br_visual" />Brutus Östling <br class="br_visual" />and the EOS 70D

Flying high with
Brutus Östling
and the EOS 70D

© Brutus Östling

July 2013

When wildlife photographer Brutus Östling was asked to evaluate and test the EOS 70D, he was impressed by its capabilities. CPN Editor David Corfield finds out more...

“You can tell if I like a camera, by how little I have to say about it…” Brutus Östling remarks. “The fact that I have nothing at all to say about the EOS 70D means that I really like it. Goodbye!” This interview is going to go well then, I thought, one minute into my chat with the affable Swedish gentleman...

© Brutus Östling

On the way to photograph the sea eagles, these curious seagulls joined Brutus following behind his boat. Taken on a Canon EOS 70D with an EF8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM lens at 11mm; the exposure was 1/3200sec at f/8, ISO 400.

“Of course, I’m joking!” he laughs, sensing my panic over a crackly phone line. “I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about this camera, and I was delighted when Canon asked me to take part in some testing with it. It became very clear to me that here is a DSLR that is packed with some fantastic technologies to make photography more fun and exciting. It’s perfect for capturing fast subjects and I used it very successfully to photograph birds recently. Anyone who picks up this camera will have no problems getting great pictures.”

Östling doesn’t have to worry about any challenges to his position as one of the world’s top bird photographers. He has earned his stripes as one of the best by careful attention to detail and an intimate knowledge of his subject (on the day of our interview, he was busy constructing a special hide in his garden to attract kestrels, a bird for whom he has a special affection). He is a master of his art, and has been a loyal Canon photographer for as long as he can remember. “I have been using Canon for many years, and every time a new body comes out I am amazed at how the technology has developed, and how good the engineers are at making it work so easily in the hands of photographers,” he admits.

“The great thing about the EOS family of cameras is that there are some similarities you can trace right through the EOS family, such as great handling, the compatibility with the excellent EF and EF-S lenses, the sharpness of the LCD screen and, of course, fantastic autofocus. With the EOS 70D you can not only photograph birds, landscapes and people, really easily and fast, but you can film it too in HD with EOS Movie with focus speeds that I never thought would be possible. That really inspires complete confidence from a photographer.”

Fast focus, incredible detail

© Brutus Östling

The seagulls followed Brutus all the way to the sea eagles, giving plenty of photo opportunities and a chance to practise with the new camera. Taken on a Canon EOS 70D with an EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 135mm; the exposure was 1/1600sec at f/5.6, ISO 400.

The hallmark of a Brutus Östling image is its sharpness. He has an almost obsessive desire to record subjects in the sharpest possible detail and with the EOS 70D’s new 20.2 Megapixel APS-C CMOS sensor, he was not disappointed.

“Apart from the focus speed of this camera, and its capability to record a subject at 7 frames-per-second, the sensor really stood out as one of this camera’s best features. With a crop factor of 1.6x you can get just that little bit further with a telephoto lens, which might be the difference between a good shot, and a great one.”

The biggest test for the EOS 70D in Östling’s hands was a visit to the fjörds of Norway to shoot the enigmatic sea eagles, a most majestic bird, that he has a great respect for – and with a fearful set of talons that the local salmon populations live in fear of. To pit the EOS 70D against the eagles would be an interesting exercise...

“I have to be honest with you, I had my doubts at first,” Östling admits. “In Norway, with its steep black mountains falling straight into the sea with a dark background, and a dark bird to try and capture. Well, that is the ultimate test...”

© Brutus Östling

Fourth in a stunning sequence of five images, following the sea eagle as it flies overhead and then zooms into the water for a direct strike on a fish. Taken on a Canon EOS 70D with an EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM lens; the exposure was 1/1100sec at f/5.6, ISO 800.

“So having a camera with a fast drive is essential for this type of work,” he continues, “Especially when photographing the sea eagles. When the bird dives for a fish you really need to be shooting on continuous drive straight away, right up until the moment the bird hits the water and flies away – the action happens so quickly. The 7fps speed of the EOS 70D means that nothing escapes it. Not even the fish!”

“I used the various AF modes while photographing the eagles, just to see if they could help me keep the birds in sharp focus while tracking. I used the quick selection button while shooting through the viewfinder and found that I could easily follow them as they came towards me and dived into the water. Knowing that the focus is locked on and accurate allows you to concentrate on the composition. It’s a fantastic feeling knowing that the focusing is taken care of.”

Östling is very old-school when it comes to his photography technique. Nothing is left to chance, and he plans for every eventuality. He thinks nothing of waiting hours in a hide for the decisive moment. “You have to accept that,” he laughs. “You have to be ready to react straight away, and believe me it does get tiring, which is why you absolutely have to have a big trust in your camera to do the job whenever you demand it. There is no easy way to fantastic wildlife pictures,” he emphasizes. “But this camera will help increase the hit rate of great shots.”

Speed and success

And it wasn’t just the speed of the EOS 70D that impressed Östling. The processing power of the DIGIC 5+ processor offered him an impressive performance, with a nice advantage. “The camera has an APS-C sensor,” he explains. “Which means that there is a 1.6x crop factor. And because of that it extends the reach of the lenses just that little bit more, so I have more freedom to crop into a shot for the perfect composition. I was using the EF70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM for a lot of these images and love that lens as it offers me great flexibility for framing. And the RAW files were very impressive with incredible detail retained in the shadows and highlights, too. Even the JPEG files were absolutely perfect. I could happily publish those just as they are – they were exceptionally clean with very low noise. Really impressive.”

Seal of approval

The EOS 70D is the first EOS DSLR to feature Canon's groundbreaking Dual Pixel CMOS AF system, which radically improves Live View autofocus and moviemaking.

Summing up his thoughts, Östling gives the EOS 70D a big thumbs up, praising its performance and intuitive controls. “I even liked the touch screen on the back,” he admits. “Although my fingers are like sausages so I prefer to choose my settings the old fashioned way. But for shooting movies, though, the Live View mode through the LCD is fantastic and gives 100 per cent field-of-view.”

“I actually began to start being more creative with this camera, as it challenged me to explore new ideas, and new techniques. And for a professional photographer that is often very hard, as we often like to stick to tried and tested techniques.”

“So in summary, then, I would happily have the EOS 70D in my camera bag and recommend it to those interested in wildlife photography. It proved itself in the most challenging of circumstances and had enough tricks up its sleeve to impress, from its AF system and Dual Pixel CMOS AF to Movie functions and being able to be operated by remote control through WiFi. It takes photography and DSLR filmmaking to a whole new level.”

Biografie: Brutus Östling

Brutus Östling

Brutus Östling was born in December 1958 and grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. He started a publishing house at the age of 22 in 1981. After publishing more than 1,000 titles in 2005 he changed his career and became a professional photographer, specialising in wildlife photography.

Three of his photo books have been bestsellers in Sweden, and some have been translated into English, and other languages. His first ‘Mellan vingspetsarna’, with photographs of birds from the Arctic to the Antarctic was published in Sweden in 2005 and won the WWF Panda Prize 2006 as the best nature book in Sweden.

Throughout much of 2010 Brutus shot a project on pelicans in Europe and the USA, which resulted in the book 'Dalmatians and other Pelicans'.

In 2012 Brutus photographed birds in the US states of Alaska and Florida, including iconic bald eagles, and in 2013 travelled throughout Europe to appear and speak at a variety of photo events and workshops. He was a Canon Ambassador from 2009-2014.