Upgrading my equipment
30/11/15Through the many clients I have had on my workshops, I have witnessed just how much cameras have advanced since I bought my EOS 1DS MkIII and 5DMkII. The 1DS is still an outstanding bit of kit that will remain central to my commercial work and the 5D offers full frame resolution and simple operating ease that is ideal for clients to learn on. Yet I have been impressed with the likes of the hi-rez 36mb definition achieved by Nikon's D8 DSLR range, alongside some of the in-camera software add-ons I've seen from multiple manufacturers in the last couple of years.
In truth, in my quest for ultra-high resolution for my seascape vistas, I had been considering moving to medium format. Yet in searching around, I did not find a camera/lens system that looked like it would suit my approach while standing up to the rigours of my kind of usage. My Canon DSLRs have been with me while hanging-off cliffs, climbing mountains, kayaking around the coast or wading through rivers. They have been swamped by salty spume, frozen in the arctic and withstood a host of knocks and drops without ever missing a beat. Let me say that I am not cavalier with the treatment of my equipment and try to take utmost care. However, considering the conditions I work in and what I ask of my cameras, the everyday wear and tear you have to expect in a seascape environment is inevitable. So I was in a bit of a fix.
EOS 5D SR
That was until June this year when Canon launched the EOS 5D SR. A DSLR that delivers a whopping 50mb of resolution all packaged in the quality of build I have come to trust. It also has a mirror set-up that is based on a cam. This transforms the action of the mirror movement to a soft 'pad' while I can offset the mirror lock-up by a fraction of a second. This means I can still wait for 'the' moment looking through the viewfinder and capture it without the inherent risk of camera shake. I waited to read the first tests and see if there were going to be any negative reports, then I went and had a look at one. Somewhat limited high-end ISO functioning notwithstanding, I was totally impressed. This camera provided the solution I was looking for.
POWER TO WEIGHT?
Over and above the 50mb file size, amongst a whole array of capabilities (like most new high-end DSLR's) it has a levelling facility that is hugely helpful when shooting on rocky terrain or in very low light levels. I am forever moving my camera and re-aligning the horizon. On cliffs it's often difficult to get behind the camera to look through the viewfinder while standing on a level footing. When shooting in the surf, a tripod gradually sinks into the shifting sand. So this new feature is brilliant. So to allow for the extra power this facility uses, plus my usual long exposures and extended/cold weather shoots, I opted for adding the BG-E11 battery pack that doubles operating performance. For while the EOS 1DS has a big battery that lasts and lasts, I found my 5D MkII really eats its battery when shooting with a 'multi-engined' telephoto lens or with Bulb exposures. A couple of clients have come down with 5D MkIII's and even with their uprated EP6N batteries, they have to continually check their power usage and are forever re-charging. Now the weight of a camera has, within the bounds of my usage and approach, never really entered into the equation. I will happily carry the little bit of extra weight to achieve capturing the right results, so the power pack is ideal for me.
A NEW PERSPECTIVE
To compliment the new camera body, I have added a wide angle 24mm tilt-shift to my lenses to open-up a whole new approach for my seascapes. Its refined depth of field capabilities are stunning and I look forward to experimenting with rock pools and prominent features to find new perspectives. I have yet to really put it through its paces as the lens, due to its nature, has no moisture seals and the weather has been stormy ever since I took delivery. Wet weather camera covers do not allow the necessary access to operate the tilt-shift mechanism properly, so I am hoping for some more settled conditions to go out in and get acquainted in the next few days.
I also bolstered my lighting capabilities with the addition of a mighty 600 ex-rt Speedlite flash gun. I regularly use flash for my seascapes and this offers extra punch that really makes a difference in lighting the mid-ground when compared to my 580 Speedlite. When used in conjunction with the new camera, I am getting some very encouraging results. As ever, the finish and build of this equipment gives complete confidence when facing the coastal elements.
TRIPOD & MOUNT SELECTION
To make a solid base for my new set-up that weighs-in at just over 3kg, I upgraded my tripod collection. While my Giottos 'Silk Road' with a simple 'Ball Head' mount is really compact, lightweight and ideal for trekking, I decided to get a sturdier Manfrotto 550 carbon tripod topped with an Arca-Swiss D4 geared head. A beautifully crafted piece of equipment that is a joy to work with. Combined with the 5D SR's levelling facility, this is perfect for fine-tuning my horizons and holding everything rock steady.
With the increased image file-sizes - in Photoshop the 5DSR's hi-res RAW files are approaching 300mb - the final addition to my equipment update came in my studio post production. I had a new 27" iMac with Retina Display built with a whole heap of flash processing power and storage memory to work alongside my other 27" iMac that I use for graphics. This new computer runs Photoshop CC and not only flies through processes like multiple image panoramic stitching but the twin screen set-up looks truly amazing in my studio!.. I am such a tart when it comes to such things while my long-suffering partner Sam just shrugged her shoulders and said it looks like the den of an 007 baddie. Whenever she walks past now she cackles and says "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"...
However, dastardly plans to take over the world aside, all the guests on my 2016 Seascape photography workshops will benefit from this new sate-of-the-art post-production facility. To find out more click here.