As a professional photographer, I use quite a variety of devices to take my photos, from cameras to lenses to tethering stations to solid state drives and lighting. In this series of articles, I’ll tell you exactly what gear I use and why, starting with cameras and lenses.
The combination of camera and lens you use will definitely have an impact on how your images look. In essence, it is the heart of photography. You can’t do any work without an imaging device.
Canon 5D Mark IV
This DSLR, the last of Canon’s 5D series, was released in 2016. It captures 30.1 megapixel images, which are enough to capture detail. The camera’s low-light performance is also pretty impressive, even in 2022. In my opinion, you can push the camera to ISO 12,800 and get acceptable images. If you go beyond that, you’re probably shooting in the dark. I went all the way up to ISO 6,400 for large print work and nobody batted an eyelid. The 5D Mark IV is a full-frame camera, which means it produces images with better color depth and accuracy. Personally, I prefer to shoot with a full-frame sensor because it’s in the perfect sweet spot between expensive medium-format and crop sensors.
The 5D Mark IV is a camera I use most of the time for work that doesn’t benefit from extreme detail. This can be a magazine shoot or a social media shoot for an influencer. If I know the image won’t be cropped heavily, I’ll grab the 5D Mark IV as well. Another use for the 5D Mark IV is casual photography. While it’s not a camera I take with me every day, it is the body I take with me on trips and other personal occasions.
The 5D Mark IV is also the camera I use for video work. While it’s easily beaten by everything Canon has put out, particularly the EOS R5 or even the R6, it’s still acceptably good for photographing talking heads, workshops or anything that doesn’t require high frame rates. It’s an excellent B-camera, especially with the C-Log installed. Since the video work I usually shoot with the 5D Mark IV wouldn’t necessarily need crazy color grading, I didn’t bother installing it. Simply put, projects that don’t have the budget to rent a video rig will get done with the 5D Mark IV. These clients aren’t looking for a cinematic, award-winning touch from a colorist. You are looking for a video.
If I know I’m doing professional work and for some reason I can only bring one camera body, the 5D Mark IV is the body I go with. It combines both reasonable video specs, which will allow me to film a small commercial, and good all-around photo specs, which will get most if not all of the job done.
If the job is more demanding in terms of image quality, or I know I’m going to make a fine art print of the image, I’m more likely to switch to the Canon 5DS. This camera has its own quirks, it’s much more niche in use and the conditions have to be perfect. I see using the Canon 5DS as using a Hasselblad: for the best work in the best conditions.
Of course, since the camera is so high-resolution, it’s not such a good low-light performer. There’s a reason it’s called the 5DS: to be used in the studio. The most usable ISO on this camera is 800, although I don’t mind pushing the camera beyond that as my images are often enhanced with grain. Another important thing to know about a camera that operates at such a high resolution is that it captures incredible detail, including slightly off-focus, blur, chromatic aberration, sensor dust, and other imperfections. The technically best images I got with the 5DS were shot entirely with high-end flash in the studio.
This is a still camera, although it can record video. This might be the last camera you want to use to record video. Choose the much older but cheaper 5D Mark II for shooting video, or invest in something that isn’t a video potato like the EOS R5.
I’ve subscribed to the hype surrounding the “holy trinity” of lenses, as you can see from my list very well. It’s a good collection of lenses, but if I had to buy my lenses again I would do it differently. Stay tuned for this article. It will come out soon. But let’s talk about the lenses.
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 II
This is the least used lens in my arsenal. I tend to pull it out when I’m shooting full body pics and want to get a bit bizarre with the angle. Typically this lens is used for 4K video on the 5D Mark IV as the camera will crop the video output. Below are some images I took with the 16-35mm f/2.8, mainly at the wider end of the zoom range.
I can’t really say much about this lens as it’s not very usable. To be honest I would probably sell this lens if there weren’t times when the wide angle distortion is exactly what I need. Today I would go with the 11-24mm f/4 or even the EF 8-15mm Fisheye f/4 as I really like the aesthetic.
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8
This lens deserves a separate article as it captured pretty much my entire portfolio and commercial stills. To be honest I was quite disappointed when I bought it as I saw a boring lens that didn’t deliver an exciting wide angle or a soft bokeh at the telephoto end. The zoom range wasn’t as impressive compared to a 24-105 f/4 IS either.
I mainly use this lens in the 45-55mm range. This is not an intentional decision, but an unconscious one. Of course, I also use the lens at other focal lengths, but that happens much more rarely. This lens is quite old, but not the oldest in my arsenal. While it’s good for both video and stills, it’s by no means the sharpest or most accurate. If you want ultimate performance, look away from Canon and towards Zeiss. They are known for their performance. Try again to justify that upgrade, because Canon’s tried-and-true zoom from the past decade will do most of the work. That said, I will be upgrading my 24-70mm when my current one fails completely. So far it has dents all over its body, it’s taken a lot of physical abuse and I can’t zoom all the way to 70mm. Still, the aperture works, the zoom range mostly works, and the weather protection, well, we’re not testing that. I had it in the snow in Finland and it worked fine. It also fired in the pouring rain and scorching heat. The reliability of this lens, even though I bought it used, is beyond question.
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS
This is the second most used lens in my setup. I typically use it when I need to get extra close for video or relatively close for beauty work. However, I rarely use it for portraits or full body shots. This lens is great at giving you the ability to shoot at great distances, but I always think carefully before taking it out for beauty work. The reason for this is simply that I like everything in focus and the 70-200mm doesn’t always give me that ability, especially beyond 150mm, even at f/11. If you’re shooting nice macro shots, I would advise you to avoid using the 70-200mm lens and switch to a 100mm macro or a 24-70mm lens. While it sounds counterintuitive, a shorter focal length grants you more depth of field, bringing more of your image into focus. I’m talking about all the millions of beauty pics where the tip of the nose is far from the focus. Overall, this is a lens that I also use fairly seldom, mostly on location and when I can’t get close enough to my subject, which also rarely happens.
As you can see, if I could only own one body and one lens to shoot all my work, I would go for the Canon 5D Mark IV and a 24-70mm f/2.8. If you’re reading this article looking for advice on buying gear and are dying to buy something new, buy the Canon EOS R5 and a RF 24-70mm f/2.8 and never look back. As boring as this combo is, it’s the most useful.