Content creator Alexandra Andreeva took the Canon EOS R8 to Paris to tackle four photo and video challenges designed to test the hybrid camera's capabilities, celebrate the city's sustainability – and stretch her skills as she steps up to full-frame.
Alexandra Andreeva is a qualified doctor and trainee cardiac surgeon who enjoys photography as an escape from the pressures of her day job – although she also documents surgical procedures with a camera. She became the first content creator to shoot with the EOS R8, Canon's latest hybrid mirrorless camera.
For her personal work, Alexandra has relied on an older Canon APS-C DSLR, which she loves. "When you get used to one camera, you know the settings you have to choose so that the picture looks exactly how you imagined," she says. "But obviously the crop factor of an APS-C sensor is very limiting for a lot of things."
So, what sort of difference would it make to Alexandra if those limitations were removed? To enable her to explore the opportunities that a modern full-frame mirrorless camera opens up, she tested the EOS R8 in a shoot around Paris, tackling a series of photography and video challenges set by Canon Ambassador Martin Bissig.
For her first assignment, Martin wanted Alexandra to explore the creative opportunities of shooting with a shallow depth of field. Alexandra was equipped with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens, which, paired with the EOS R8's full-frame sensor, gives just a sliver of sharpness and a soft, pillowy blur when used wide open.
The location for this challenge was an urban rooftop garden, where Alexandra photographed the gardeners tending the crops. "The idea is that they deliver the fruit and vegetables only to restaurants local to the area, so it's very green and sustainable," she says.
The EOS R8's advanced Eye Detection AF really helps when shooting at the lens's maximum aperture. "You have to get the focus right all of the time when you're shooting with such a shallow depth of field, otherwise the images will be unusable," Martin explains.
Alexandra began by photographing Julie, the farm manager. "I took advantage of the Eye Detection AF because I wanted to talk with Julie while we were working and tell her what to do," she explains. "The camera managed the focusing fantastically on its own, so I could concentrate on the framing and composition without worrying about whether Julie would be sharp or not.
"The technology behind the camera is incredible. Julie was moving really fast through the rows of plants, the wind was blowing her hair in front of her face, and I was shooting through the leaves, but the camera did what it had to do."
The EOS R8's advanced Eye Detection autofocus ensured that the focus in Alexandra's photos remained where she wanted it, even when she was using the camera's 40fps high-speed continuous shooting option. "The shallow depth of field made the foreground nice and blurred," said Martin on reviewing the images, "which gave the images a three-dimensional look." Taken on a Canon EOS R8 with a Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STMlens at 1/1000 sec, f/4 and ISO1600. © Alexandra Andreeva
"Alexandra sent me a series of shots via email from the rooftop garden challenge," says Martin. "It was pretty cool that she could connect her smartphone wirelessly to the EOS R8, use the Canon Camera Connect app on the phone and send the photos straight through so I could review them and knew she was on the right track." Taken on a Canon EOS R8 with a Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM lens at 1/400 sec, f/3.5 and ISO160. © Alexandra Andreeva
Alexandra's next challenge was to take an environmental portrait of botanist Patrick Blanc, a pioneer of vertical gardens.
"We visited him in his house, which was absolutely mind-blowing," says Alexandra. "It starts as a normal place in Paris, but once you enter the living room, you notice that something's really odd: there are birds flying overhead and the two walls behind his table are basically tropical rainforests. Water is constantly dripping down into a huge aquarium beneath your feet, where you can see fish swimming under Patrick's desk."
This challenge demonstrated the creative advantage that the Canon EOS R8's full-frame sensor delivers in this type of situation. "It was a very narrow but tall space, and everything was close together," Martin explains. "The only way Alexandra was going to capture it all in one shot was using the combination of the full-frame sensor and an ultra-wide-angle lens – in this case, the Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM. It was also pretty dark in there, so she needed to dial up the ISO quite a bit."
The lens's powerful 5.5-stop Image Stabilizer and the EOS R8's outstanding low-light autofocus capability were beneficial in this environment too.
"It was a very challenging space to work in, and difficult to make someone who wasn't in the same room understand how it all looks," Alexandra says. "But the camera did really well. Although the ISO was set high, to at least ISO16000 most of the time, the quality of the images was great. The full-frame sensor, that's what makes every shot automatically beautiful, right? It widens all your possibilities."
Alexandra used the extreme view of the ultra-wide Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM lens to capture botanist Patrick Blanc in his indoor urban jungle. "The EOS R8's full-frame sensor combined with this lens creates a much wider angle altogether than a crop sensor," she says. Taken on a Canon EOS R8 with a Canon RF 15-30mm F4.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 15mm, 1/640 sec, f/5.6 and ISO12800. Vertical Garden by Patrick Blanc. © Alexandra Andreeva
Alexandra also took to the streets to take wide-angle shots of one of Patrick's living walls. "It was interesting to see his work and how it fits perfectly in the city," she says. "You have all these classic Parisian façades, then suddenly it's just a wall covered in a green forest." Vertical Garden by Patrick Blanc.
The next challenge saw Alexandra making a short film about Benjamin Benmoyal, a French-Israeli paratrooper turned fashion designer. Benjamin rose to fame with collections that use a unique fabric woven from old VHS and audio cassette tapes. "It's amazing, not only from the point of view of the designer, but also the recycling and sustainability aspect," Alexandra comments.
Keeping fashion in mind, Martin explains which video features in the Canon EOS R8 would be particularly useful. "We could make use of the 180fps slow motion to capture the movement of a model," he says, "and use the oversampled 4K to show as much detail as possible – as well as shooting in Canon Log 3 in order to allow for professional colour grading in our editing workflow."
Alexandra was not experienced in shooting video. But even as a beginner, she found it easy to shoot slow-motion and Canon Log 3. She was also very impressed by the quality of the EOS R8's 4K 60p video, as oversampling from the 6K sensor produces higher quality output than video recorded natively at 4K resolution.
"I wanted to start the film with Benjamin putting tape onto a bobbin so that it could be used in the weaving machine to make the fabric, and end with a model wearing pieces made from this material," Alexandra explains. She made use of the EOS R8's vari-angle touchscreen to capture the process from creative angles. "It meant that I didn't have to climb high or get down low when I was shooting the fabric being cut or pins being put in the mannequin," she says.
Being able to use 180fps high frame rate recording to film the model as she moved around enhanced the footage. "She was wearing a massive poncho made of the tape fabric," Alexandra says. "So I asked her to do some twirls and turns, which made the material shimmer in the sun. It looked great, especially in slow motion – like a sea of fabric floating around."
Testing the EOS R8's low-light potential was the final task set by Martin. With the shoot taking place at night in Montmartre in the heart of Paris, Martin wanted to challenge Alexandra to shoot handheld, taking advantage of the full-frame sensor and pushing the ISO.
"When it comes to high ISO performance, full-frame sensors are much better than APS-C sensors," he says. "The EOS R8's 24.2MP full-frame sensor gives you excellent low-light capabilities, which helps you to be creative and shoot in conditions that you probably wouldn't have before."
With its 24.2MP full-frame sensor, DIGIC X image processor and advanced Dual Pixel CMOS AF II autofocus effective at light levels as low as -6.5 EV, the EOS R8 is outstanding at capturing sharp, low-noise stills and video at night. Taken on a Canon EOS R8 with a Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/125 sec, f/2 and ISO6400. © Alexandra Andreeva
Alexandra uses Manual mode to set her exposures, as she says she can quickly get the look that she wants. "The controls on the EOS R8 are located a little differently to those on the DSLR that I'm used to," she says, "but it's very intuitive, and I was also able to switch very easily from photo to video, which was great." Taken on a Canon EOS R8 with a Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/250 sec, f/2 and ISO6400. © Alexandra Andreeva
Alexandra admits that she hadn't attempted anything like this previously, as she mostly concentrates on nature and landscape photography. "The whole trip was a big challenge for me, because I'm not used to shooting in a city," she adds. "But this low-light challenge was the most interesting from a technical point of view. I ended up shooting at settings as high as ISO8000 or ISO16000.
"We were near the Sacré-Cœur. It was a classic, beautiful Parisian street, but very dark, with the lights of the city in the distance. I took some shots of a girl crossing a street and you can see all the lights from the traffic behind her, which added some colour."
The EOS R8's autofocus will function in light levels as low as -6.5 EV, outperforming even some professional cameras. "I love night photography, but this sort of performance is something I'm really lacking with a DSLR," Alexandra says. "Here, I was not limited at all. I caught everything I wanted to catch."
Alexandra was impressed by the EOS R8's clean images taken at high ISOs. "I'm used to the limitations of an old APS-C camera, but even though it is physically smaller, the EOS R8 can do thousands of other things much better as well," she says. Taken on a Canon EOS R8 with a Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/125 sec, f/2.2 and ISO8000. © Alexandra Andreeva
Martin surprised Alexandra with A2 prints of some of her pictures, produced on a Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000. "I was really blown away by the amount of detail you would get out of the 24.2MP sensor," he says. "We're shooting digital, processing digitally and consuming most of our images on digital devices. But to print a shot out on paper, hold it in your hand, look at the details, look at the composition – it's just a different feel and I really love that."
Alexandra found the lightweight Canon EOS R8 easy to handle and comfortable to use over a whole day and night of shooting. "There's now the freedom to carry a full-frame camera without worrying about it being too heavy," she says, "and knowing that the results will be great."
Alexandra summarises her experience with the Canon EOS R8 as one of complete freedom. She felt that the advanced features and hybrid capabilities of the full-frame EOS R8 liberated her from the limitations she was used to with her previous APS-C camera and opened up new creative possibilities.
"It gave me this feeling that I can do and shoot everything I want to. Whether it's recording video, shooting at night, using a really shallow depth of field or taking a portrait in a very active environment – you can just do it all."