World in motion: shooting stills, video and hybrid portraits with the EOS R5 C

Photographer-director Tom Barnes explains why the EOS R5 C's blend of high-res stills and Cinema EOS video capabilities gives him everything he needs.
A bearded man sits in a barn surrounded by basketmaking tools, looking straight at the camera, in a portrait taken on a Canon EOS R5 C by Tom Barnes.

Tom Barnes describes his work as "shooting stills and motion of interesting people", such as basketmaker John Williamson, pictured here in his workshop in Devon, UK. Tom now uses the Canon EOS R5 C for all his creative portrait photography. "At no point am I ever asking it to do something that it can't do," he explains. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 C with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 24mm, 1/160 sec, f/4 and ISO 100. © Tom Barnes

"It was all Canon's fault," laughs photographer-director Tom Barnes when recalling why he started shooting video, "and I'm honestly not kidding." Tom, who spent the early part of his career photographing rock bands on tour, increasingly shoots video and hybrid portraiture as part of his commercial work. But it was the launch of Canon's first EOS camera with video capabilities in 2008 that opened up this opportunity for him.

"I was on tour with a band in America and filming clips on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the EOS 5D Mark IV)," he remembers. "Not knowing anything about shutter angles, base ISOs, variable NDs or anything like that, I basically just swung it. But at that point, I realised I could start taking the video side of things more seriously."

It's fair to say that UK-based Tom, whose work is in demand with clients as diverse as Lamborghini, The Sunday Times Magazine and Channel 4, has been on an odyssey in recent years – at least in terms of discovering the right camera setup.

"When I realised that video was going to become a big part of my workflow, I did my best to get ahead of it," he continues. "So as well as teaching myself how to edit, I bought a Canon EOS C200 when it first came out. There was a long period where I was shooting on both the Canon EOS 5DS and the EOS C200, followed by three years spent jumping to various other camera brands.

"I did nine system swaps in those three years, but I ended up coming back to Canon. I ordered a Canon EOS R5 when that was announced, with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens, and I felt that it was what I'd been waiting for. Then, when the Canon EOS R5 C came out, I realised that no, this was the camera I'd been looking for all along."

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A portrait of Isla, a Harris' Hawk, taken on a Canon EOS R5 C by Tom Barnes.

After photographing a falconer for a project, Tom shot a series of studio portraits of birds of prey, both stills and moving images. "I no longer think about focus at all when I'm shooting stills," Tom says. "On the EOS R5 C, I have Eye AF set up on button 1 and spot AF on button 5. I mostly just hit button 1 and lock on to the eye closest to the camera. That's been a complete game-changer and possibly the best way of having the autofocus set up as a portrait photographer." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 C with a Canon RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 172mm, 1/250 sec, f/6.4 and ISO 2000. © Tom Barnes

The ultimate tool for stills and video

The Canon EOS R5 C's combination of high-resolution stills performance and Cinema EOS video capabilities has brought a new level of freedom to Tom's work. "That's the joy of this camera," he enthuses. "Flip it to stills and it's essentially an EOS R5, but flip it to video and it becomes even more capable."

Initially, Tom expected to run his EOS R5 C and EOS R5 at the same time, but the EOS R5 C was better suited to what he wanted to achieve, so he bought a second one. "The timecode has proved to be an absolute winner for me," he says. "When I'm shooting and processing a multi-cam interview, I have that timecode embedded in the footage, which is amazing.

"One of the big things about shooting motion on the EOS R5 C is that because it's a proper cinema camera, I can set the shutter angle to 180 and then I don't have to think about it. I know the shutter speed will be completely looked after by the rule of 180 degrees, and then all I need to do is shoot at my chosen frame rate and then control the exposure with a variable ND filter. What a dream!"

The video below showcases the work of a Sheffield-based manufacturing firm. Tom wanted to showcase the skill that goes into making its handcrafted scissors, and the EOS R5 C helped him capture every tiny detail.

Handcrafted scissors piled on metal supports next to a wooden table, in a still from a video shot on a Canon EOS R5 C by Tom Barnes.

Reliable autofocus for solo shoots

Tom says he relies heavily on the Canon EOS R5 C's autofocus capabilities, regardless of whether he's shooting stills or video. The camera's Dual Pixel CMOS AF technology offers responsive, precise and reliable focus tracking with Eye AF and EOS iTR AF X. Based on an advanced deep-learning algorithm, the camera is able to track a subject even when only one eye is visible, or when a subject looks away from the camera.

"When I'm recording an interview, the autofocus is pretty much flawless and enables me to shoot a two-person camera setup on my own," he explains. "It doesn't hunt around; it just locks onto the eyes.

"Obviously it gets a bit tricker for the AF system if you're shooting B-roll and you've got loads of people in the scene, where it might focus on the wrong person, so for that I'll use manual focus. But most of the time, especially if it's an interview or a single person on their own, I use Eye AF."

Long duration recording

When you rely on a camera to earn a living, you need it to work flawlessly. Even though the EOS R5 C is compact and lightweight, its magnesium alloy construction and active cooling system ensure it's a durable tool for professional daily use.

"The build quality is great," confirms Tom. "The cameras really get knocked about on set, but I know that I'll be able to take them to hell and back and they'll still be fine.

"I'll use one EOS R5 C with the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens for my stills, which just has a little tethering support kit on the bottom and a trigger. But the camera I'll be using for the moving images is in a cage, on rails, there's a V-lock adaptor on the back, and then everything plugs into that. If you rig it properly, it will run all day and it will be super dependable."

The camera's built-in cooling fan is one of the key differences between the EOS R5 C and the EOS R5. It enables extended long duration recording capabilities, a feature that Tom counts on for interviews. "You can only hear the fan if you put your ear right up to the camera," he says. "But if you're doing it properly and mic-ing people close to them, you're never going to hear that fan."

A man stands in a workshop against a bench, holding and looking at one half of a pair of scissors, taken on a Canon EOS R5 C by Tom Barnes.

The Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM is Tom's workhorse lens: "It's probably the best version of a 24-70mm lens that I've ever used," he says. "It might possibly even be the best lens I've ever used, which includes medium format optics. What Canon has done with RF glass is nothing short of a miracle." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 C with a Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM lens at 70mm, 1/200 sec, f/4.5 and ISO 400. © Tom Barnes

Customisable controls to suit your workflow

Muscle memory can make the difference between capturing a moment or missing it. But while Tom enjoys the familiarity of the Canon EOS R5 C's controls and menus, he also welcomes the level of customisation on offer.

"I tend to use some buttons for stills, then map the other buttons to movie recording because that means I'm not hitting the same button for various things," he explains. "There are enough buttons to allow you to do that."

Tom also takes advantage of the assignable Control Ring on his Canon RF lenses. "I use it for exposure compensation when I'm shooting in Aperture priority, and it's a brilliant thing," he says.

"The ability to program almost any function to almost any button is one of the most useful things about moving to mirrorless. You can finally have a camera set up exactly how you want it. If I wanted to shift my Control Ring to adjust my ISO, for example, I can do that. I love being able to customise my equipment and get it set up for exactly how it would operate in my workflow."

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A still from a cinemagraph, shot by Tom Barnes on a Canon EOS R5 C, of Zola, an African spotted eagle-owl.

Creating cinemagraphs with the EOS R5 C

One technique that Tom employs throughout his personal work and his commercial assignments – where it fits the brief – is creating cinemagraphs. A cinemagraph is essentially a hybrid image featuring a moving element within a still frame. Any camera that has the capability to record movies and photos can be used to create cinemagraphs, but being able to shoot everything with a Canon EOS R5 C saves Tom time. "That's such a massive advantage for me, especially working with commercial clients," he says.

There are different ways to make cinemagraphs, but Tom creates his manually in DaVinci Resolve*. "You need to do some preparation," he explains. "You have to have the camera locked off. You'll need to know what the movement is going to be and where you're going to freeze the frame to then introduce the moving element. You don't want there to be a great deal of motion at that point, so that when you mask it out, it makes sense."

The cinemagraph above is of Zola, an African spotted eagle-owl. "I shot the video at 100fps because when an owl blinks, it's over very quickly," he says. "When I'm shooting short-form videos, I mainly work at 25/50fps, but I will occasionally shoot at 120fps."

Using an EOS R5 C enables Tom to create seamless assets for his cinemagraphs. "I'm able to shoot moving images and stills that are very similar in quality," he says. "I can light everything in the same way and achieve very similar colours, which takes a lot of the effort out of having to balance things in post."

It appears that Tom has finally found his own balance with the EOS R5 C, too. After years spent trying different video and stills systems, he says that "possibly for the first time ever" he feels happy and settled with his kit.

"This camera will now cover every single job that I do," he continues. "The 45MP resolution is the sweet spot for stills, and when you need to shoot motion, you just flip a switch and you're there. Everything's laid out in a great way – it shoots brilliant video, it shoots fantastic stills. It's not far off the perfect camera for me."

Marcus Hawkins

*DaVinci Resolve is a registered trademark of Blackmagic Design Pty Ltd.

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