Oporto, Portugal shot with Canon 5D Mark II
A few moments away from directing a TV commercial in Oporto, Portugal allowed me to take images of this incredible city from my hotel room on the river. This is the very old and historic part of the city and it is quite lovely and densely tectured. I used my new Canon 5D Mark II and am amazed with the almost filmic quality of the imagery. Given that I am an image maker who has mastered actual film and its enormous ability to reflect contextual complex color palettes I was taken by this digital camera’s ability to come close (but still not close enough) to film.
I shot my wonderful Canon EOS 1V using Fuji Velvia as well but have not had time to scan the images. I have edited them and they are truly wonderful and as expected are still better in my view than those from the digital Canon. However, all that being said, I will note that this extraordinary digital camera can do things almost as well as film and even though there is still a lot of room for improvement Canon’s sensitive ability to build a camera that is both “filmic” AND amazingly ergonomic are to be lauded. There are other aspects of this machine that a film camera can never accomplish such as its ability to shoot HD video with a full sized sensor is a exciting and a terribly useful addition (even though presently somewhat awkward). We even used it for a few instances of B roll in our TV work… The HD was stunning. And, if that isn’t enough, it needs to be noted that one has refined control over the images in the arenas of contrast, saturation, sharpness. For example, I shot B&W images that we beautiful and I had the ability to easily determine the filtration (like a red, orange, or yellow filter as well as contrast and so on). Just amazing, and all on the same chip.
It is clear that the future of cameras is going in this direction with the introduction of this camera and also another frontrunners in the combination still and film world such as the RED camera and it’s little brother the Scarlet (soon to be released) which is completely modular and can shoot both film and stills at an extraordinarily high resolution. These are excitng times for image makers that is for sure.
The bottom line, however, is that good images, even great images, are not made by cameras but by good minds and good sensitiver and intuitive eyes. Today’s excitement about YouTube imagery is interesting. An “aesthetic” if you will has emerged around simply terrible imagery as if it is cool. Perhaps it is and there is room in the visual pantheon for all forms of visual thought. None the less, there is also a tacit understanding that there are those who see somehow more critically, sometimes beautifully, and those who see with an ability to tell stories that stick in our minds. So, no matter where one falls in on this discussion the fact is that it is the EYE and brain that matters. Cameras do not take pictures… people do! We just may have better tools now or at least more facile tools but the endgame is hopefully meaningful imagery that is made by humans and not just stuff created by pushing a button on a piece of equipment. I just spent a month in North Vietnam trekking among the Hmong and I took none of my heavy digital monsters but rather a tiny jewel-like Olympus OM4-T and the tiny lenses I used to use when I was a National Geographic photographer and a handfull of Fuji Professional slide film. The images are stellar. So, it is eyes not cameras.
We now have these wonderful array of old and new tools and I love to be amused by them, they are, however, nothing more than the “pencils and paintbrushes” in the studio of the mind.