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Feature Image by: Stephen Tilley

Stephen Tilley's Canon EOS R5 experience

My first experience with the Canon EOS R5 was on a Pepsi campaign for 99, which included a series of images that needed to be shot using late night lighting. I had heard some noise about the Canon EOS R5 mirrorless camera and read some reviews and decided to try this camera for the first time on a major advertising commission, I had to trust that the shift from shutter to digital would be a smooth enough transition for me, amongst a reasonably large production. After some early fumbling around I managed to get a feel for the camera, its not the first time I have used a mirrorless camera, but this was the first time to use a mirrorless camera in a commission situation, and the first time using the EOS R5.

One of the shots was late, pitch black in an alleyway almost the only light source I had was the modelling tube on the Profoto B1,  the brief for one of the setups was the agency wanted a group of Gen X’s to literally run at the camera in a dark alleyway , I was running backwards with the talent at the same time and trusting the camera to find focus. I used Face-tracking which was so precise, that it eliminated a whole part of the image making process that I had to worry about, composition and lighting was all I needed to consider. I was shooting at 3200 ISO , f5, 800fps, EOS R5, RF 85mm f/2, profoto B1 and some incidental lighting. The performance and dynamic range of the camera particularly in the shadows was unbelievable and its unlikely I would have been able to shoot under these conditions with my previous EOS 5D Mark IV, and get the result I did on the EOS R5. I can understand the concern of photography purists who might believe that you are essentially removing a set of skills such as focus finding, in favour of technology which literally finds the face for you, making your life even easier, whatever you're angle it's hard to deny that it's a compelling camera to use and test just how far you can push its capabilities.

Both my children, have just starting skateboarding and we decided to take the family up to the Mangawhai skate bowl jam of Waitangi weekend this was the first time we had been, Canon kindly lent me the R5 and 11-24 mm (although this is NOT a paid plug)  I hustled my way into the bowl and shot this series @ 8000 sec, f4, iso 800, or mostly within that range. My day job is fashion advertising / portrait photographer and skateboarding is often shot using fish eye lenses, this provides an amazing result movements are exaggerated but the edges are distorted, I decided to go little against the grain of traditional skate photography, not as  as wide with straight edges, which includes the crowd a little more in the final frame.

Image credit: Stephen Tilley

The action is moving very fast, so I used face-tracking as I did on the Pepsi campaign, I don’t think the camera missed all day, I understand that these features are not entirely new, but its great to be able to use all my existing canon lenses and jump to the R5 mirrorless experience, with a very simple adaptor. I shot most of the day in single frame mode which makes the process fun trying to time the image perfectly, towards the end of the day I tried the max continuous shooting speed of 12fps, which is incredible but it makes life very easy in a situation like skateboarding and its more fun to work with the rhythm of the skating, so I decided to flick back to single frame, also I only had a small card 16GB and that was rapidly getting swallowed. 

Image credit: Stephen Tilley

The camera has an amazing dynamic range which would be so hard to even imagine in the days of transparency film 35mm and drum scans, It truly is amazing how technology has altered this art form. When the   momentous shift from analogue to digital happened, it would have been crazy to even dare imagine how far digital cameras have been transformed and morphed the industry. Where will cameras and technology be in 20 years from now, is a hard concept to grasp, mirrorless cameras will likely be the new norm as all of the key camera making brands appear to be shifting their attention towards this technology.

It's been amazing shooting through this era of change, I started commercially shooting film and had to quickly adapt to an entirely new work flow and systems with digital. The industry has sped up so much in that time, clients expect the shots almost immediately. I have been on set where we shot, selected and retouched the final image and sent off to print before leaving the studio. Not that I enjoy working like that but again the fact that we can even have a workflow process with that speed would have been science fiction to a younger version of myself!!

I love skate culture, the movies like Dogtown have largely inspired my fashion and commercial work, particularly in the tones and my passion for polaroids. I love watching amazing athletes command a death defying concrete bowl with such speed. I skated when I was a kid but unfortunately I was just terrible at it, the amount of concussions (no helmets) vs my successes at skating was largely working against me, which only makes me enjoy the sport even more as I have an appreciation for the skill levels and commitment of these athletes. Girls Skate NZ are amazing role models empowering young girls to skate in a sport that arguably was a boys club, Amanda and Mieka have created a safe environment for these girls to flourish. The influence of Girls Skate NZ’s was very clear at the Bowl Jam with a group of really talented young women absolutely stamping their mark on the competition.

Stephen Tilleys Canon EOS R5 experience