ARTICLE

The best lightweight gear for filming wildlife – exploring Nina Constable's kitbag

The documentary filmmaker shares her journey shooting on Canon DSLRs and Cinema EOS cameras, and the benefits she's gained by switching to the EOS C70.
A woman with dark blonde hair films in a forest setting with a Canon camera on a tripod.

"The kit and the story for me go hand in hand," says British wildlife filmmaker Nina Constable. "Getting back from a day shooting and importing footage – interviews and filming along rivers – I'm just totally in love with every shot the Canon EOS C70 is producing."

"For me, one of the really important things with storytelling is hope," says wildlife filmmaker and self-shooting director Nina Constable. "We are living in a time when there are lots of stories of destruction or devastation, so inspirational people and habitats or species that are being restored are things I'm looking for."

While wildlife filmmaking is often associated with huge telephoto lenses and large rigs, Nina has built a successful career documenting wildlife and nature for the likes of the BBC, Sky and WWF, using first Canon DSLRs, then Cinema EOS cameras – and, most recently, the compact Canon EOS C70.

"As I'm working almost entirely independently, having lightweight kit that's easy to manage myself, while not compromising on image quality, is a key consideration," Nina says. "I have to carry all of my own gear, and I need to be able to move around a lot. The EOS C70 has blown my mind."

Here, Nina shares her journey into the world of wildlife filmmaking and the gear that allows her to always get the shot.

See No Limits_Nina Constable

A solo operator in the wildlife world

"I've always loved storytelling, but filmmaking wasn't something I ever thought was an option, or a viable career," says Nina. While studying for a degree in English, she became engrossed in photography and contemplated a shift towards visual storytelling. "Filmmaking seemed like a natural combination of two things that I really love: stories and photography."

After studying for a master's degree in documentary filmmaking, Nina did a media internship in Mozambique with an NGO, Save the Elephants, where she started to see the power of film as a tool for conservation. "That flicked a switch for me and made me realise how, even without a science degree, I could contribute," she says.

Conservation has since formed the backbone of her work exploring humanity's relationship with the natural world. Much of this today focuses on UK wildlife, from butterflies and bees through to beavers and dolphins, as well as woodland and meadow restorations.

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Nina usually works independently, wearing many hats. "The way I work today – writing, filming, editing – wasn't something I set out to do, it's just the way it evolved," she says. "One of the things I really love is that I'm not reliant on anybody else. A lot of the things I'm filming aren't set up – I'm following someone doing their everyday work, and I have to be really nimble. Working alone means that my films very much feel like a conversation between two people, so it's more intimate than it would be with a larger crew."

A woman with dark blonde hair makes an adjustment to her Canon camera while filming in a forest setting.

I didn't grow up with a television background or have any connections, and came quite late to wildlife filmmaking," says Nina. "What it's taught me is that it's never too late, and actually there are different approaches and different ways into the film industry and into conservation." © Nina Constable

Filming documentaries on DSLRs

With their small form factor, crisp image quality, hybrid capabilities and the flexibility of interchangeable lenses, DSLRs were Nina's trusted partners for a number of years, most recently the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and EOS-1D X Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III). "People could be a bit surprised when I came to a job with a DSLR," laughs Nina. "But they were also surprised by the quality of the imagery. You can shoot in 4K on both of these cameras, and when you pair that with quality lenses, it creates a beautiful cinematic look."

Nina used the EOS 5D Mark IV to film beavers at dusk (when the animals are most active), leaning on its low-light capabilities to capture their unique behaviour, while the EOS-1D X Mark II – thanks to its high frame rates and fast autofocus – came into its own when filming fast-moving insects. "In my work in meadow restoration, bumblebees have been a focus," she says. "Being able to shoot at 100fps means you can slow things right down and see their wing movement, which is a really amazing thing to capture. You are also able to track and keep them in focus."

When asked to provide a more cinematic look for a longer documentary for Beaver Trust, Nina turned to the EOS C100 Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS C70). "The transition from the DSLR to the EOS C100 Mark II was seamless because it has very similar functions but with added capabilities: ND filters, XLR inputs..." says Nina. "Having those capabilities was amazing, but I could shoot in a very similar way, as it's also quite lightweight. The sensor creates such a beautiful image."

An over-the-shoulder image of a woman filming a talking couple with a Canon camera.

"The way that I work as a freelancer, being a bit of a one-woman show, shows an alternative way into the business," says Nina. "Even if you can't necessarily break into a crew, you can still work within the film industry. I think the more women who do that, the louder their voice will be. I really want to encourage more women into the industry because there are still a lot of strides to be taken."

A man dressed in scuba diving gear climbs into a river while a woman with a Canon camera films him from the bank.

"Working outside and working with wildlife, I put my cameras through a lot," says Nina. "Image stabilisation is definitely a really important thing for me because I do a lot of handheld work, and I'm often rushing around. That added bit of stability makes so much more of your footage usable."

A lightweight kitbag with the EOS C70

"The EOS C100 Mark II showed me this real cinematic quality, and as my films are demanding more of me, I need features like XLR inputs," says Nina. "When I saw the Canon EOS C70, it seemed like it was basically what I'd been dreaming of." Now filming a sequel to her wildlife documentary, Beavers Without Borders, Nina has been using the EOS C70 to cover river restoration, traversing waterways and interviewing conservationists fighting for change.

Filming everything in 4K, Nina has noticed the effects of the camera's high ISO and increased dynamic range of 16+ stops in some of her low-light shooting. "I was filming two people snorkelling in a river which was totally shaded by trees," she says. "The sun was really low and the water was dark. But I could just bump up the ISO and the footage looks super crisp and beautiful."

The camera's compact form factor and ergonomics suit Nina's run-and-gun filmmaking style. "The weight is about the same as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II, but the Canon EOS C70 has a top handle which makes it easier for me to move around with it," she says. "It's also got this matte finish which makes it easier to grip."

The Canon Cinema EOS range.

A decade of Canon Cinema EOS

Discover how Cinema EOS – from the EOS C300 through to the EOS C70 – has enabled the making of 10 diverse productions over the past 10 years.

Nina has also found that her workflow has benefitted markedly from being able to control functions via the LCD touchscreen, rather than having to go into menus. "Because of the touchscreen, flipping to 25fps slow motion is literally just two taps away," she says. "The EOS C70 has made filming much more enjoyable. I'm able to film the way I really want to."

A bee hovers in the air next to a green stem with small white flowers on it.

"If you're a passionate storyteller and you really love the natural world or wildlife, you can learn about it, which is what I do on every single job – I do a lot of research," says Nina, who has been documenting meadow restoration in the UK and its positive effect on insect life. "Having that background in storytelling is actually a really important tool and something that scientists don't always have." © Nina Constable

A woman in the woods crouched down to adjust her Canon camera.

"My go-to lens is definitely the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM," says Nina. "Being able to zoom if wildlife moves in front of me is really important. I can adapt to the situation at hand. It's just a really beautiful, quality lens that I take with me everywhere."

A trio of must-have lenses

Using a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R 0.71X on the RF-mount EOS C70 has enabled Nina to keep using her stalwart EF lenses until she upgrades to RF glass in the future. Her go-to lens is the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM – comparable to the RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM – for its flexibility when shooting nature scenes up close. "This is a really versatile lens that enables me to get wide landscapes but also zoom in for tighter, artier shots," she explains. With the wide aperture, you can get a really beautiful, shallow depth of field and work in low light."

A Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and an EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM lens (now succeeded by the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM) with a Canon Extender EF 1.4X II (now succeeded by the Canon Extender EF 1.4X III) complete Nina's must-haves in her compact kitbag. The RF equivalents would be the RF 50mm F1.2L USM and RF 70-200mm F2.8L IS USM. Canon's RF series lenses deliver faster autofocus performance, thanks to high-speed communication between the camera and lens. RF lenses are also typically smaller and lighter than their EF counterparts.

"The 70-200mm lens is really amazing for wildlife and, with the extender, means I can keep a respectable distance, but still capture some really beautiful shots," Nina says. "At f/2.8, I can shoot in quite low light – because with wildlife, you can never predict the weather or their behaviour."

While she leans on zooms for much of her panoramic and wildlife work, Nina's go-to for portraits and interviews is the prime lens. "I always say I'm not really a true wildlife filmmaker because I also spend a lot of time working with the people on the ground," she says. "But meeting somebody that has dedicated their entire lives to the protection of just one tiny animal or one species, that is what really inspires me."

Írta: Lucy Fulford


Nina Constable's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use to take their photographs

A woman holding a Canon camera, adjusting the attached lens.

Cameras

Canon EOS C70

A new-generation RF-mount Cinema EOS System camera featuring Canon's 4K Super 35mm DGO sensor. "I'm totally in love with what the EOS C70 is producing," says Nina.

Lenses

Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

The RF lens that sets new standards in photographic performance, delivering supreme sharpness, extra creative control and a low-light performance that's simply remarkable.

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

A professional-quality standard zoom that offers outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. "Being able to zoom if wildlife move in front of me is really important. I can adapt to the situation at hand. It's just a really beautiful, quality lens that I take with me everywhere," says Nina.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM

With its fast maximum aperture and rapid focusing system, this compact, high performance standard lens can be relied on for superb performance in any field of photography.

Accessories

Canon Extender EF 1.4X III

Ideal for press, sports and nature photography, this compact extender increases the focal length of Canon L-series telephoto or telephoto zoom lenses by a factor of 1.4x, with higher AF accuracy and improved communication between camera and lens.

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