The EOS 5D Mark IV can do many things well, but in the hands of portrait photographer Lorenzo Agius it performed to another level, with its blend of speed, quality and flexibility enabling genuinely new ways of working.
Lorenzo Agius is a busy man, shooting a mixture of fashion and portraiture for big-name clients. Nevertheless, when the opportunity to try out one of the very first pre-production EOS 5D Mark IV cameras came along, he made sure he had time to fit it into his schedule.
Over the course of a long weekend he managed two shoots, one in his studio and another on location, putting the camera through its paces and testing virtually all of its new features. Was he impressed? "I found the camera pretty much faultless," he declares, adding that its mixture of speed and quality is an ideal combination. "I can shoot much faster than I can when I’m using my EOS 5DS and that is such an advantage. Doing fashion work and portraits you sometimes need to shoot more frames per second to grab that moment."
The EOS 5D Mark IV captures its 30 megapixel RAW frames at a top rate of 7fps, and can only deal with that amount of data thanks to the development of the DIGIC 6+ processor, which also helps with image quality. "When I shot on location I noticed straight away that images had more dynamic range. If light levels change unpredictably, or the subject moves slightly out of the light, I know I can bring back that brightness in post-production without sacrificing any image quality.
(Video - Press on Image)
"It’s something we’re noticing now as we are retouching the images from these shoots and looking at them in detail. I often find myself in unpredictable situations on a location shoot, and if the frame with the best expression on the subject’s face happens to be one with less-than-ideal lighting, then I need to be able to recover that. Having latitude is crucial to what I do and this camera has the latitude I require."
That kind of flexibility, and the ability to ‘recover’ from unexpected situations, can also be found in other aspects of the EOS 5D Mark IV’s specification. "I always thought the EOS 5D Mark III was pretty good at processing high ISO images – I was happy using it up to ISO 1500-1800. But at those same sensitivities the EOS 5D Mark IV is dramatically better, and I’m pretty sure I could take it much higher. That frees me up to use whatever aperture and shutter speed I want, in whatever situation I’m in," he says.
"And then there is Dual Pixel RAW – this is amazing!" he exclaims. "I love shooting at wide apertures for shallow depth of field, but there is not much margin for error when you’re using lenses like the EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM wide open. I find it hugely frustrating to lose an otherwise excellent shot because one eye is not in focus, or the subject has moved slightly just before you take the shot. But if I shoot a Dual Pixel RAW file then I can adjust that point of critical sharpness after I’ve shot it.
"Quite honestly I’m not sure how they are going to improve on this one. I’m quite glad that’s not my problem."
"I can rescue shots like that now, so I always have the best moments from the shoot, despite any problems with focusing, exposure or lighting. What I love most about what this camera is the way it frees me up and gives me more opportunities and more freedom. I have more chances to get the shot, and that’s so important. When you only have a few minutes with a celebrity you really don’t want to lose any opportunities. Canon has saved me from the indignity of having an out-of-focus or badly exposed image, and I love them for that!" he says.
Seeing things differently
Like some other recent EOS cameras, the EOS 5D Mark IV can track people in Live View as they move around the frame, adjusting focus so they remain sharp. While this has obvious uses for video shooters, Lorenzo also found himself using the technology for stills shooting too.
"With the camera on a tripod and set to Live View, I can have it lock on to my subject’s face so this is always in focus. Then I can shoot without looking through the viewfinder, or even being at the camera, which lets me interact with the people I’m photographing much better," he explains. "I’m taking the camera out of the equation and conversing with my subject on a very personal level.
Lorenzo worked in this way using remote Live View on a tablet computer, which was connected to the EOS 5D Mark IV over Wi-Fi, using the Canon Camera Connect app. This also let him control the camera and capture images remotely – an experience he likens to shooting with large-format cameras.
"It’s like going back to the days of photographers like Richard Avedon: he didn’t look through the lens of his 10x8 camera when he used it, because you can’t. He stood next to it talking with his subject, and that’s what I did when I used the EOS 5D Mark IV. It was brilliant! I get sharp results and better expressions – it’s like having a focus puller and a gaffer with me, except I’m shooting stills."
Lorenzo says this way of working reminds him of the slower, more considered way of shooting typical of film photography. "Digital can be a bit automatic: you press a button and if you don’t get it this time you’ll get it the next time or the time after that. You’ll get the shot eventually as long as you take enough pictures, which is a bit lazy I think. Shooting like this, slower and where I could give all of my attention to my subject, got me a much better success rate. I felt somehow more conscious of taking the picture.
"I’m taking the camera out of the equation and conversing with my subject on a very personal level."
Master of all trades?
The EOS 5D Mark IV has been described as an ‘all-rounder’ camera, and Lorenzo agrees, although he’s keen to point that universal appeal hasn’t been achieved through compromise. "I think that, regardless of what kind of photography you shoot there is something in this camera that will benefit you and enable you to do new things," he says. "If you are journalist and you shoot in low-light conditions you are going to love the high ISO capability. If you are a sports or wildlife photographer then you have 7fps shooting and similar AF system as the EOS-1D X Mark II. And if you are a portrait photographer like me, then it’s going to let you do everything you want to do with a single camera."
"Focusing, speed and image quality. My assistants and digital operators who saw the camera when I was using it, and saw the files coming off it, were amazed. Their jaws were on the floor." he says.
Lorenzo also owns a pair of EOS 5DS cameras. "I guess I’ll use them when I really need that extra resolution for bill board images or something, but the EOS 5D Mark IV is faster, has wider dynamic range, or focuses better and has all this flexibility we’ve been discussing – Dual Pixel RAW and such like. I think it might be the first camera I’ve ever used where I haven’t thought ‘it’s amazing, but something is missing."
"There is just no level of disappointment for me, the thing is on a different level. Whether you’re a pro or an amateur, you’re going to get better shots and rescue images that you couldn’t save before. Quite honestly I’m not sure how they are going to improve on this one. I’m quite glad that’s not my problem."
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Original article can be found here