Recently, I jumped into the world of mirrorless cameras by trading in for the Canon R5. I plan on writing a post in the near future about the pros and cons of switching to this new technology. For now, I will say that this is the beginning of a new photography paradigm, not just because they removed the mirror box and much of the remaining mechanical systems in the camera, but because of a lot of other technology that has been introduced in the latest generations of cameras. I’ve only had a few opportunities over the past ten days or so to try out the new camera. Like any new tool, it will require some time and practice before it becomes second nature but I am confident that, in time, this will be a great benefit in my nature photography.
One of the big benefits for me about the Canon R5 is that it will unify my process. Previously to the R5, I used a full-frame camera for landscapes and macro work and a cropped-sensor body for wildlife/birds (due to the extra reach these types of cameras provide). With the Canon R5, the 45mp full frame sensor allows me to shoot all the subjects I am interested in with just this single body.
On top of this, 4K video taken at 120 frames per second is now an option. This may be the most overlooked feature of this camera/technology. In my opinion, this slow-motion photography is the pinnacle of nature photography. You have the perfect blending of the freezing action of stills but with the increased action that video story telling provides. I know, this is nothing compared to the jaw-dropping speeds and quality achieved by the folks at the BBC but I really like having this option and I hope to do more of this in the future.
First, I want to share some of the details behind capturing the two completely different subjects and scenes in this video. Neither were taken at optimal conditions. The fish is Senator Scales. She is a long-eared sunfish that we have had for a little more than two years. She is currently sharing the tank with Major Mad Tom, the slender madtom catfish. I photographed her using the R5 and a 500 mm f/4 lens handheld. The only light was the poor old florescent in the aquarium hood fixture. I was shocked this turned out as well as it did. The Ring-necked Ducks were photographed this past weekend in Pike County, MO. These videos were shot with the same kit. Some of the panning is not very smooth because I shot on a beanbag from my car window and not a smooth gimbal head. I’m glad to see that autofocus in videography is now a legitimate option in this camera whereas it really wasn’t with dSLRs.
I originally setup the camera for video based on a few recommendations from photographers on YouTube. For the most part, these were right on and what I was used to from shooting video on dSLRs. However, after discovering I could not find a player or editor that would run these, I knew something was amiss. My computer is relatively new with a processor that should be more than adequate, so I was pretty sure that it could handle the large 4K files. The problem turned out to be the fancy-pants new c-log codec that everybody was talking about. I won’t go into unnecessary details, but this codec allows for better video compression and extra dynamic range in the neighborhood of one to three stops. However, what I have come to realize is that 95% or greater of the video cards and software are not built to support this codec. Because I did not know this at the time, I was forced to create a ‘proxy’ by converting the duck videos into smaller, 1080p versions. Therefore, these videos are not up to 4K standards. After troubleshooting things, I discovered that by turning off c-log, the files behaved as expected on my machine.
Did I say “as expected?” Not exactly. My usual video editing software, Power Director, would still not properly play the 4K, 120 fps clips. So, I thought this might be the perfect time to finally learn the incredible (and free!) DaVinci Resolve editing program. Definitely a step up in video editing, DaVinci is not as straight forward as what I was used to. But, after a couple very well done tutorials on YouTube, I was up to speed on the basics of the program in no time. There are tons of features in DaVinci, most of which I’ll probably never use. I can say that I’ll probably never open Power Director again! Da Vinci Resolve is that good.
Anyway, I hope this rambling wasn’t too boring and perhaps made some sense to those who might be in a similar position of learning the video side of things. Without further ado, here is the first videos I have taken with the R5. I’d appreciate any comments or questions you might have, especially if they serve to educate me!