ProFiles | Mark Allan image

ProFiles | Mark Allan

Almost 34 years ago a young Mark Allan grabbed a camera, lens and a few rolls of film and drove down to Live Aid, ticket in hand, ready to capture some shots. He couldn’t have predicted that was about to launch an illustrious and brilliant career in music photography, spending time among the stars and producing unforgettable images of such renowned artists as David Bowie and Amy Winehouse.

© Mark Allan

Now, more than three decades down the line, his work is being honoured at London’s Barbican (where he is a regular photographic contributor) with a new exhibition of some of his most iconic prints.

When he’s not hob-nobbing with music royalty, however, Mark is a regular face at Fixation, and he graciously agreed to spare a few minutes to chat with us about photography, the exhibition, and his time behind the lens….

Thanks for talking to us, Mark. What have you been working on lately?

Let’s see – I’ve been dealing with my exhibition. I’ve got a contract with the BBC, so I work regularly at Maida Vale – last week I did Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes, who were amazing. I recently photographed Jenna Coleman, who was on Doctor Who and is playing queen Victoria on ITV, as she was on the Graham Norton radio show. I also photographed Ian Wright last night – he’s going to be doing an FA Cup show on Radio 1. What else? An interesting band called the Psychedelic Porn Crumpets. The minimalist heartthrob Philip Glass doing the Bowie Symphonies at the Royal Festival Hall last week. I do a lot of classical music because I work using Nikon’s silent-shooting mirrorless cameras – bought from Fixation of course!

Wow, you’re very busy!

Really, really busy. And I’ve got the whole of the weekend booked to cover Sound Unbound for the Barbican, and I’m trying to get to Photo London tomorrow to go around and talk about the exhibition.

The exhibition is looking fantastic. What are some of your personal favourite shots from it?

I like the shot of Bowie in the deckchair, which they chose as the cover image. It had just been sitting in my collection of photographs, and I’d been thinking “Oh, one day I’ll do something with that.” I also like the Prince ones, and the shot of Amy Winehouse in the orange dress backstage.

I remember waiting for about four hours to get that picture – I had set up my lights and was waiting and waiting. I had no idea whether she’d actually come out of her dressing room and pose before she went on stage. In the end I got about three minutes with her before she got bored and walked off!

© Mark Allan

You’ve shot lots of portraits of such iconic people. How do you approach these shoots – do you plan meticulously or head in with an open mind and see what works?

The key word is “quick”. When you’re backstage, you’re competing with everything and everyone – soundcheck, hair and make-up, all the journalists queuing up to interview the star. Also, you don’t want it to look like a polished photograph in a studio, because that’s a different thing altogether. If you try, all you’re going to end up with is a third-rate, studio-like shot. Instead you want to show that it’s backstage, so you do it on a staircase, or on tour boxes, and that’s what gives the viewer the feeling that they’ve got privileged access. It is a different kind of portraiture, I think – it’s location portraiture rather than studio portraiture.

It has a different vibe.

A different vibe, and different equipment too. You’ll use battery-powered lights because you never know whether you’re going to be in this country or abroad, and therefore whether you’re going to have power, so you’ve got to be able to run a couple of lights regardless.

What have been some of your most memorable shoots?

One of the most memorable for me was photographing Live Aid. I just bought tickets up in Manchester where I was a student, drove down with a mate, parked the car up, stood in the queue, and when the doors opened I ran down to the front, stood there and waited for it to happen. For the whole concert I had seven rolls of black-and-white and one roll of colour, and I saved the colour for the finale.

I just had a 135mm lens and a 1.5x converter, and this meant that when Bono jumped down into the audience and pulled a girl out, that famous moment, she was right in front of me, but all I could get [on that focal length] was a tight headshot of Bono putting his arms out!

© Mark Allan

Live Aid was really your big break, wasn’t it?

It was very, very handy to do that just as I decided I wanted to become a photographer and was applying to Goldsmiths. They accepted me, and while studying there I became picture editor of London Student, and that led on to photographing more and more bands in London, and that led on to work at the Daily Mirror and then a freelance career from then onwards.

The industry has changed quite a bit since then…

The biggest thing, I think, was the change from film to digital, though the first big change was from black-and-white to colour, which happened about two years after I started. The change to colour was interesting because it got me my first cover of the NME. I’d taken a picture at Finsbury Park of Morrissey waving a Union Jack around, and the NME photographer had turned up and shot it in black-and-white. But, of course, it was a picture of the Union Jack, so they wanted it in colour. That got me on the cover.

And then, at about the millennium, around 1999, it was the second generation of Nikon with the D1x, and at that point you just had to go digital. I’ve been digital ever since.

Did you resist it for a while?

It was just really expensive. When they first came out, digital cameras cost about the same as what they do now. It was like three or four thousand pounds for a digital camera, which back in 1999 was very very expensive. A normal film camera would cost you about £400.

This meant you had to actually have something that made it worth it, and at that stage I was the on-set photographer for Top of the Pops, which was filmed on a Thursday and brought out on a Friday. If you were shooting digitally, you did actually have time to transmit a shot and get it out in time for the next day’s papers. So that was why I adopted digital, and within about two months of buying my digital camera, I had paid for it.

It paid for itself.

Yes. I’ve been digital ever since, and I’m a real advocate for it. Whenever I talk to students, they invariably tell me “Oh yes, but film’s so much better, there’s more latitude, it looks nicer, it’s a better product.” Not for what I do it ain’t! You try pushing 400 ISO film to 3200 or 6400 ISO – it just doesn’t bloody work. And when you’ve got clients saying they want the pictures yesterday, you can’t do it any other way. Each to their own – if you want to go photograph landscapes on an RZ camera, fine – I can see the point in that. But not for what I do. Not for rapid-reaction press. You’ve got to have really good-quality digital

What is your setup at the moment?

I’ve got one Nikon D5 left and two Z 6s.

The new mirrorless cameras! How are they?

For what I do, they’re perfect. The autofocus isn’t quite as quick as the D5, so if you’re walking around doing party pictures or backstage shots you’re better off with the D5, which is why I still keep it. But if you’re doing other things I also do – classical concerts or working in a tv studio – it’s ideal. I was in the studio with Ian Wright last night, and throughout the entire interview he was doing I was clicking away, but you couldn’t hear a thing because the camera was mirrorless. You can do stuff you just simply could not do before.

And so you use an adapter and F-mount lenses?

Yep. You can’t tell the difference in terms of quality; it just makes every lens an inch longer. So if you’ve got a 24-70mm it does make it quite a long-looking lens. I assume that as I carry on I will end up with all of the new lenses.

Do you have a “dream project” – something you’d love to do but haven’t had the chance yet?

Yes I do actually – I really want to concentrate on [orchestral] conductors. In my exhibition there’s a whole wall of pictures of conductors, and the more I photograph them, the more you kind of realise that there are such massive differences in terms of style and performance. I’d really really like to do more work on conductors – maybe a book!

Image Mariss Jansons © Mark Allan

Mark was talking to Jon Stapley. To see more of Mark’s work visit his website or you can also follow Mark on Instagram at

Canon EF versus RF: Why use RF lenses image

Canon EF versus RF: Why use RF lenses?

One of the biggest, best surprises of 2018 was Canon’s announcement of its full-frame mirrorless EOS R system. No longer was Sony the only full-frame mirrorless game in town — suddenly photographers who wanted a small, fast camera with a large sensor were spoilt for choice.

Canon have updated the range with two professional full frame camera bodies and four new lenses. Read all about the EOS R5 and EOS R6 bodies here and the new lenses here.

Given how long Canon has been in the game, many photographers have of course built up substantial collections of EF lenses for its EOS system, and it therefore came as something of a surprise for some that the new EOS R system would be debuting with a new lens mount — the RF mount — and a selection of new lenses for it that would be arriving throughout 2018 and 2019. No doubt as a way of mollifying some photographers’ concerns, Canon assured everyone that the EOS R would be released with an option EF-EOS R adapter, allowing old lenses to be used on the new camera.

So, many photographers have got to wondering — why use RF lenses at all? Surely I can take the plunge on the EOS R system and keep using my EF lenses as well, right?

Well, we reckon that would be a mistake. RF lenses have many distinct advantages, and are specifically designed to compliment the EOS R and EOS RP cameras, allowing your images to reach their full potential.

To that end, we’ve assembled a list of the top five reasons to use RF lenses with EOS R cameras…


1. The short, wide lens mount

When designing the RF mount and the way that RF lenses connect to EOS R cameras, Canon managed to reduce the flange-back distance (the distance between the lens mount and the imaging sensor) from 44mm to 20mm, bringing it in line with comparable systems like Sony FE or Nikon Z. The lenses are also physically wide, with a large 54mm inner diameter.

Why is this advantageous? It allows for a large element to be placed at the rear of the lens, which reduces the scope for optical aberrations and means lenses can be designed with fewer overall elements, which means they can be made smaller.

These large lenses can also provide other advantages. Let’s take a look, for example, at the upcoming RF 28-70mm f/2L. Its nearest EF equivalent in focal range terms would be something like the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM, and you’ve probably already spotted the difference between the two — that large constant aperture of f/2 throughout the zoom range. It’s the design specific to RF that makes such things possible, and opens up your options in low light and more.

2. Super-fast lens/camera communication

RF mount lenses employ a 12-pin connection between the camera and lens — for comparison, the EF-mount uses 8 pins. What does this mean? Faster data transfer, which means lightning-fast autofocus, enhanced image stabilisation thanks to better communication between the camera and lens, and also provides general optimisation of image quality.

3. RF mount can provide superior image stabilisation

Let’s expand for a moment on the above point and explore how and why the RF mount provides better image stabilisation. RF lenses with image stabilisation (and it’s worth noting that not all of them have it) use a dual gyro sensor system to detect inadvertent movement, and this information is relayed across the fast connection to the Canon camera’s DIGIC 8 processor. At the same time, the sensor is also on the lookout for blur that is caused by these movements, and it also sends this data to the processor, essentially providing confirmation that the inadvertent movement is occurring, and allowing the camera to correct for it. It’s a well-engineered system, augmented by the super-fast connections of RF mount lenses.

4. The DLO (Digital Lens Optimizer)

While this interesting feature has made it onto some EF-mount lenses, it’s on RF mount lenses as a matter of course. The DLO uses the lens’s built-in memory capacity to allow it to store data on any aberrations that occur, meaning it can instantaneously and automatically correct these aberrations in the future.

5. It makes sense to have a dedicated second system

It’s unlikely that any working professional is planning to jump ship wholesale from the EOS system to EOS R. These mirrorless cameras make sense as a second system, whether that’s for jobs where a bulky DSLR would be a disadvantage or simply when shooting for pleasure. As such, it makes sense that if you’re going to have a dedicated second system, you have a dedicated selection of lenses for it. Laboriously swapping your EF 70-200mm f/2.8 lens from the EOS 5D Mark IV to the EOS RP every time you want to switch systems is going to be a cumbersome process, and you’ll find you get much more use out of the second system if it’s always set up and ready to go.

6. You’re future-proofing yourself

It’s an exciting time to be an EOS R photographer. Canon has mapped out the future of lenses for the system and it looks fantastic. To name just a few, there’s the upcoming RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS, covering the workhorse focal range beloved by many pros, which incorporates Canon’s Nano USM lens motors for the fastest autofocus possible. It’s definitely a sign that the firm is taking this system seriously, and the best part about it? It’s tiny. Remember how fewer elements means that lenses can be made smaller? We’re certainly seeing that with the RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS, which is practically half the size of its EF counterpart. Also upcoming are the RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM, a great all-rounder for travel, and the RF 24-70 F2.8L IS USM we’ve already mentioned, a high-performing standard zoom that’s perfect for weddings and documentary.

This is clearly a system that’s going places, offering features and functionality that you simply won’t get anywhere else. That, more than anything, is why we reckon you’re best off pairing EOS R cameras with RF mount lenses.

Nikon | Canon | Fujifilm new releases image

Nikon | Canon | Fujifilm new releases

Nikon today introduces the first of the f2.8 pro lenses for Nikon Z. The NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S is a professional lens that boasts an exceptionally compact build, advanced optics, and extensive weather sealing. Stills or video, this workhorse lens delivers superb results.




Main feature
  • Exceptional close-up performance: Minimum focus distance of 0.38m
  • Advanced optical design: 17 elements in 15 groups with anti-reflective ARNEO and Nano Crystal coatings
  • Customisable control ring: Manual focusing (default), silent aperture control (great for iris transitions during video recording), or exposure compensation
  • L-Fn (lens function) button: Assign up to 21 different functions. From AF lock to metering, bracketing, and more. OLED information display panel: quickly confirm aperture, focus distance, exact focal length, and depth of field
  • Tough, compact build with extensive sealing to protect from dust and moisture

The Canon EOS RP is essentially a smaller, lighter and cheaper alternative to the imaging giant’s first full-frame mirrorless camera, the EOS RX-T2_BK_18-55mm_FrontLeft_White

Just like its bigger sibling, the EOS RP is powered by the DIGIC 8 image processor and boasts Canon’s coveted Dual Pixel CMOS AF. The mirrorless camera houses a full-frame 26.2MP CMOS sensor and is capable of reaching a maximum ISO of 40,000. Alongside Dual Pixel CMOS AF, the EOS RP matches its high-end counterpart’s 88% horizontal and 100% vertical coverage. And – although not quite as impressive as the EOS R’s mammoth 5,655 AF points – the EOS RP still packs a similarly jaw-dropping 4,779 AF positions. It also features Face+Tracking, Eye AF, One-shot AF and Servo AF modes, and those shooting in low light can make use of the camera’s ability to focus down to an impressive -5 EV.
Main features
  • Incredible quality images at any time of day
  • EOS handling without compromise
  • See everything, miss nothing with Dual Pixel CMOS AF
  • Shoot flexibly and connect seamlessly
  • Create high quality and super-steady movies

The Fujifilm X-T30, the follow-up to the X-T20, now boasts Fujifilm’s fourth generation image sensor and processor found in the X-T3.

Designed for all photographers from beginner to advanced, the X-T30 offers phase detection pixels across the entire frame, Full HD and 4K/30p video recording, a new intuitive 3.0″ touch-screen, and an improved body design for increased comfort and stability.
Main features
  • New Fourth generation 26.1-megapixel APS-C X Trans CMOS 4 image sensor and X Processor 4 (same as X-T3)
  • AF algorithm has been improved to deliver even more advanced AF-tracking performance for both stills and video
  • 100% phase detection pixels are now across the entire frame, making it possible to quickly and accurately focus on a subject
  • Improved video functionality: 4K at 30fps, Full HD 1080p, including 120fps to create super slow motion effects
  • Filmmakers needing high colour fidelity can record 10-bit, 4:2:2 colour through the camera’s HDMI port
  • New intuitive 3.0″ 1.04M-dot 2-way tilting touch LCD & 2.36M-dot OLED electronic viewfinder (EVF)
  • New Focus Lever: replaces Selector Buttons to achieve faster and more intuitive camera operation, allows for extra grip too
  • Improved ISO: extended 80-51200, standard ISO160-12800
  • Built-in WiFi for shooting from your smartphone or tablet devices
  • 1x SD UHS-I card slot, built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth V.4.2, headphone Jack via USB-C Adapter & NP-W126S battery

The Fujifilm XF16mm f2.8 R WR Lens expands the X series line-up of compact, lightweight and stylish lenses with a focal length that’s suitable for architecture, landscape and low-light photographyX-T2_BK_18-55mm_FrontLeft_White
Designed for Fujifilm’s mirrorless cameras, the lens features a focal length equivalent to 24mm (in the 35mm format), has a maximum aperture of f2.8 and adopts an inner focusing system driven by a stepping motor for faster and quieter auto-focusing.

Main feature
  • The lens features 10 lens elements in 8 groups including two aspherical elements. Optimal arrangement of aspherical lenses suppress spherical aberrations and field curvature while maintaining high performance from the center of the screen to every corner.
  • The lens weighs just 155g and is 45.4mm in length. It is the widest lens of the compact prime lens series. The aperture and focusing rings feature precise click stops and smooth damping for enhanced operation. The metal exterior uses the same design style as XF23mmF2 R WR, XF35mmF2 R WR, and XF50mmF2 WR for a robust, premium feel.
  • The inner focusing AF system uses a stepping motor to drive lightweight focusing elements for a fast, silent autofocus performance.
  • The lens is weather-sealed at nine points around the barrel making it weather and dust resistant. It is designed to operate in temperatures as low as -10°C. Used with the weather and dust-resistant FUJIFILM X-Pro2 or X-T1/T2/T3, and X-H1 bodies means users can shoot confidently in light rain or dusty environments without worrying about the conditions.
Micro Four Thirds | What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages images

Micro Four Thirds | What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages?

In a world of full-frame mirrorless cameras and DSLRs with ever-spiralling megapixel counts, do Micro Four Thirds cameras have a legitimate claim on the professional photographic market? The system that was launched by Olympus and Panasonic in 2008, was an evolution of the original Olympus Four Thirds concept and is still going strong today. New cameras and lenses are continually being released for the system, however, it can be difficult for photographers to get a sense of whether this system is right for their needs.

We’ve put together a quick, contemporary guide to highlight the pros and cons of the Micro Four Thirds system in an attempt to make things a little easier for you.

Like every camera system, Micro Four Thirds has its advantages and disadvantages. Use this guide to figure out how these pros and cons would correspond to your needs as a photographer and/or videographer, and whether that means Micro Four Thirds is right for you…. .


Smaller and lighter – This is something Micro Four Thirds cameras have been known for since their inception, but it does bear repeating. Most Micro Four Thirds cameras are significantly smaller than their DSLR counterparts and smaller than most full-frame and APS-C mirrorless cameras. This also goes for the lenses, a Micro Four Thirds telephoto tends to be noticeably lighter than a telephoto for DSLRs. If you’re the type of roaming photographer who needs to carry their gear around a location, this reduction in weight can really add up over the years. The smaller form factor of the cameras also provides an advantage in situations where you want to be unobtrusive, such as wedding or street photography.

Longer focal lengths – The sensor size of a Micro Four Thirds camera provides an equivalent focal length of 2.0x that of a full-frame camera, providing the same field of view as a full-frame lens with twice the focal length. A 300mm lens acts like a 600mm focal length on a full-frame camera. For shooting distant vistas or easily spooked wildlife, this is a godsend, allowing you to achieve focal lengths that wouldn’t be possible on full-frame cameras without spending massive amounts of cash.

Mix and match lenses – The co-operative, collaborative nature of the Micro Four Thirds system is something we’d like to see more of as it’s so useful for photographers. Panasonic Lumix users can snap up the latest Olympus lens, stick it on their camera and start shooting, and vice versa. No adapters, no fiddling – it just works. How nice would that have been during the great Canon vs Nikon wars of the 1990s, eh?

Unique technological innovations – All cameras have their individual quirks, flairs and features that make them worth buying. It’s worth taking a detailed look at Micro Four Thirds cameras to see if they suit your photographic preferences. Panasonic Lumix cameras, for instance, come equipped with 4K Photo modes that allow the user to extract 8MP stills from 4K footage and the flagship GH5 even ups this to 6K Photo. Before deciding on your system, it’s worth looking into whether the camera you’re eyeing up has interesting features that might find their way into your workflow.

Comparatively lower cost – Again, it’s all relative. But in general, you’re shelling out significantly more cash for full-frame DSLRs, large-sensor mirrorless cameras and their paraphernalia than you will for a Micro Four Thirds system. If budget is a concern, this is worth considering.


Small sensors means inferior low-light performance – The nature of the Micro Four Thirds standard means that its models are wedded to a specific size of sensor, across all of the models which use the system. There’s no getting around the fact that it is a smaller sensor than full-frame or APS-C. This confers some advantages, such as the crop factor mentioned above. However, it also means the cameras are unavoidably poorer in low-light, with inferior dynamic range compared to their larger-sensor counterparts. In most lighting situations the cameras will cope just fine, but if you’re regularly going to be shooting in situations that require the use of high ISOs, this could well be a deal-breaker.

No optical viewfinders – Electronic viewfinders are getting better and better, to the point that many photographers will happily say they prefer them. But, they still cannot quite match the ‘in-the-moment’ immediacy of an optical viewfinder and this is something Micro Four Thirds cameras will not provide.

Weaker autofocus (for stills) – This is a gap that is closing, with Micro Four Thirds manufacturers having done a lot of work on their autofocus systems. However, if this is an important feature for you, autofocus on DSLRs will still be reliably superior when it comes to stills shooting faster and more accurate. This situation may change in a few years, but hasn’t got there yet.

Panasonic Lumix 4K/6K Photo Modes Explained image

Panasonic Lumix 4K/6K Photo Modes Explained

It’s been a truth universally acknowledged for quite some time now that if you buy a Panasonic Lumix camera, you get the capacity to shoot 4K video — all the firm’s latest models come sporting this functionality. Which is all to the good, but is worth your attention even if you have no desire to produce video content, thanks to something called 4K Photo mode (and, more recently, 6K Photo mode, which we’ll get to).

What is 4K Photo mode? It’s something that allows you to ensure you never miss even the most fleeting of moments, using the camera’s video-shooting capabilities to capture split-second stills. How does it work? Read on as we explain…

What is 4K Photo mode?

Put simply, 4K Photo mode allows for the extraction of 8.3MP stills from 4K footage shot on Panasonic Lumix cameras. Though this is significantly lower resolution than the camera will produce in normal shooting modes, it is perfectly adequate for many purposes and will result in perfectly good prints of a reasonable size. 

It basically uses the video mode as a form of burst shooting, and this means that the camera is effectively capturing action at 30fps, which is significantly faster than most stills cameras’ burst modes. Point your camera at the action, and it’ll fire and fire and fire, and at the end you’ll be left with a selection of stills at the 4K resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels. You can also choose your still’s aspect ratio if you so desire — choose from 16:9, 4:3, 3:2 and 1:1 

It gets better too — there are plenty of different mode options for customising how you want 4K Photo to work. Which modes are available will depend on which exact camera model you have, so always double check, but here are the options available across the range:

4K Burst: 

This is the straightforward mode — hold down the shutter button, and the camera burst shoots 4K images at 30fps. Lovely! 

4K Pre-Burst: 

This is a useful mode if you are in a situation where the action is unpredictable. When 4K Pre-Burst is active, the camera will continually record 4K footage, and when you press the shutter button it will allow you to select from the thirty frames recorded both before and after you pressed the shutter button (a second either side). Miss the moment by an inch? This mode means it isn’t a problem.

4K Burst Start/Stop (S/S): 

This mode allows you trigger the 30fps burst shooting to start with one press of the shutter button, then stop it with another. Useful if you need to move away from your camera while it’s recording. 

Post Focus: 

This is something you’ll only find on newer Panasonic Lumix models such as the Lumix G80. It uses 4K shooting in conjunction with Panasonic’s Depth from Defocus technology to allow the user to pick the focus point in an image after they’ve shot it. You can completely alter the perspective in your images to focus on a different subject, as well as zoom right in up to 5x on a shot and make use of focus peaking in order to determine exactly where you want the focus to sit. It’s undeniably impressive technology, and makes capturing those key moments all the more easy.

The Lumix GH5 and 6K Photo

Users of the new Panasonic Lumix GH5, the firm’s flagship, also have even more to play with in the form of 6K Photo Modes. These are, in essence, exactly what they sound like — using 6K video technology to allow the user to extract 18MP stills, rather than 8. Good news is too that 6K Photo users also get access to all of the same modes as 4K Photo, with 6K Burst, 6K Burst S/S and 6K Pre-Burst all present and correct.

We hope this has given you a more thorough understanding of how 4K and 6K Photo modes can be useful in your own work. If you have any more questions, drop us a line and we’ll be happy to help.

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