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Alessandra Meniconzi: Inside Swiss customs

Ornate headdresses worn by the female members of the St. Johannesverein, Appenzell, Switzerland. Taken on a Canon EOS 80D with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. © Alessandra Meniconzi

Swiss photographer Alessandra Meniconzi's work centres on the ancient heritage, customs, spirituality and daily life of indigenous people, whose traditional cultures are at risk of vanishing. To capture such intimate imagery, she often finds herself in testing situations where the available light can be limited.

A recent shoot in the Appenzell region of Switzerland, for example, involved an early morning study of the procession of the cattle up to alpine pastures. And the dawn light proved a good test for the Canon EOS 80D. "It's a very good camera," she says. "The quality of the image it produces is comparable to a professional camera, and it's not too heavy."

Close-up of a smiling face of a woman in religious costume.
One of the young women dressed in traditional costume to celebrate the Corpus Christi procession in Appenzell, Switzerland. Taken on a Canon EOS 80D with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. © Alessandra Meniconzi
Christian Ziegler’s

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The Canon EOS 80D's sensitivity range goes from ISO 100 to 16,000, and can be expanded to a high of 25,600, which can facilitate faster shutter speeds in difficult lighting situations. It also has 45 all cross-type AF points, which helps when creating precise compositions and eases focusing when the subject is off-centre.

"I use high ISO settings for night pictures when I photograph stars or landscapes, but I rarely go above ISO 3200," says the Canon Ambassador. "For this shoot, I was in the German part of Switzerland, photographing the ascent to the alpine pastures, and I pushed the ISO up to between ISO 1600 and ISO 3200. It worked well – there was plenty of fine detail and not too much noise."

Producing impressively sharp, colour-rich files, the EOS 80D has seamlessly fitted into Alessandra's kit bag and has helped her create the portraits and landscapes that she's become known for. Another thing she loves about it is the touchscreen – it provides the option to explore creative shooting angles that would be otherwise impossible.

"The touchscreen is lovely; very responsive and fast," she says. "It's the first time I've used a touchscreen on a camera. When you're pressed for time, it makes life very easy."

I couldn't press the shutter release button because it would jog the camera, so I used the touchscreen. It was great.

The Live View continuous shooting mode delivers 5fps; the Canon EOS 80D's maximum rate hits 7fps. But as Alessandra explains, the multi-functional touchscreen has other uses. "I was inside a church recently where I wanted to capture the people moving, but couldn't press the shutter release button because it would jog the camera," she explains. "So I used the touchscreen. It was great – I didn't have to push it very hard at all."

And then there's the 22.3mm x 14.9mm CMOS cropped sensor – with EOS integrated cleaning system to ensure crisp, dust-free results every time. "The files are very, very good," she explains. "I took a picture of ladies at a religious festival, during which the women wear clothes with fine lace and embroidery. When I saw the file on the computer, I was amazed. Not only is there great detail and an impressive dynamic range, but I feel the colours are more vibrant. For that file, I just used curves and levels – I didn't add any saturation."

Procession of women wearing religious costume for Corpus Christi.
Beautiful detail in the costumes. Characterised by unrivalled grandeur and festive elegance, these dresses consist of an ankle-length skirt known as a 'Fältlirock', and the ornate long-sleeved 'Schlotte'. Taken on a Canon EOS 80D with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. © Alessandra Meniconzi

The cropped sensor not only delivers stunning images in a range of lighting conditions, it also gives Alessandra extra reach when she wants it. "I have a full-frame camera and a 300mm lens," she says, "and sometimes when I need a little more reach, I use the 80D and it becomes a 480mm lens. For me, it makes my lens more powerful. It can be especially useful when shooting wildlife when the full frame and the 300mm simply isn't enough."

It helped that Alessandra was using the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens – a workhorse telephoto zoom that uses a clever trick of employing its virtually circular aperture diaphragm to give out-of-focus areas a softer, more uniform feel, thereby helping foreground objects stand out.

Close-up on two women wearing ornate headdresses.
Colour and detail abound in the Corpus Christi procession of the female members of the St. Johannesverein, Appenzell, Switzerland. Taken on a Canon EOS 80D with an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. © Alessandra Meniconzi

Ultimately, it's hard to overstate just how surprising Alessandra found working with the 80D for the first time. "With other cameras I have to change the settings, but with this one I just left them as they were," she says. "The quality of the images can be compared to those produced by a professional camera. They are very good."


To find out more about the Canon EOS 80D, visit the product page.

Written by Mark Alexander


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