Daring to be different: Tier Zero and the EOS R5 C

The young creatives who make up this trail-blazing agency have long relied on Canon equipment, but the technical capabilities of the hybrid mirrorless EOS R5 C are enabling them to take their projects to the next level.
Four people sit at a round table, all leaning in to look at the Canon EOS R5 C that's sitting in the middle of the table.

"We thought it would be cool to give people a look into how we do things, and turn the camera towards our personality," says Charlie Lindsay about creative agency Tier Zero's Canon EOS R5 C product launch video. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 C with a Canon RF 35mm F1.8 MACRO IS STM lens at 1/100 sec, f/11 and ISO3200. © Tier Zero

"In Canada, you don't really see a creative agency where everyone is literally from a different country," says Jamal Burger, co-founder of the Toronto-based Tier Zero creative agency. "Coming to Canada as a minority, how that affects our thought process creatively, and with no prior business experience – we are trying to do the same thing our parents did for us. Trying to figure it out."

Originally working as independent creatives armed with the most affordable equipment at the time – including the Canon EOS 600D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 850D) and the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM – friends Jamal, Charlie Lindsay and Due Pinlac joined forces as Tier Zero after their individual commissions began to gather momentum and project requirements grew.

Their first full production as a collective was for Canon Canada's Creator Class, where they took the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III across India to New Delhi, Agra and Varanasi. "Creator Class solidified our intention of storytelling from a humane standpoint, travelling with ethics, not just going somewhere as tourists and voyeurs," says Jamal of the project, which remains one of the team's favourites.

More recently, Tier Zero filmed a campaign on the Canon EOS R5 C. We spoke to them to find out more.

A technician wearing white gloves cleans the sensor of a Canon camera.

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A black and white headshot of Jamal Burger.

Jamal Burger is responsible for making sure Tier Zero is always growing. An ideas man who loves to create stories that draw from his personal experience, Jamal began his creative journey borrowing his friend's Canon EOS 5D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV). © Tier Zero

A headshot of Trae Nguyen, against a yellow background.

Trae Nguyen began as an intern and immediately loved how different the feeling was on a Tier Zero set. Four years on, she is a fully fledged member of the team and loves to create stories infused with her Vietnamese heritage and passion for food. "We're like family," she says. "Everyone on set matters to us. That's our driving force and what distinguishes us when we work together." © Tier Zero

Past, present and future

'We'll figure it out!' is a Tier Zero philosophy that keeps coming up in conversation. It's central to this young and growing agency – even though they don't know everything, they remember where they came from, they take it forward and they grow together.

"Everyone in our team started with a Canon – I started with a Canon EOS 600D," recalls Due, Tier Zero's creative director. "It was accessible from a price standpoint, but also produced great quality images, even for a starter. You get the 600D, the nifty fifty [Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM] and you're like, 'Wow, I can do depth of field, I can get it sharp like my colleagues do.' It was a starter pack that really gave you confidence to produce creative work, and prompted you to go out and shoot, even if you didn't have a client or project in mind."

From the EOS 600D, the crew stepped up to a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV), and then the Canon EOS-1D X Mark III. It's this history with Canon DSLRs that made the team's transition to the mirrorless Canon EOS R5 C for upcoming projects such an easy one, while also giving them the opportunity to take advantage of the camera's additional video production capabilities.

A headshot of Charlie Lindsay, against a red background.

As well as a director, Charlie Lindsay is also a passionate photographer. During production, he ensures story subjects get to feel like they've experienced something too, and strives to bring people into different worlds. His first camera was the Canon EOS 550D (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 850D). © Tier Zero

A headshot of Due Pinlac, against a green background.

Tier Zero's creative director, as well as a director, DOP and editing wizard, Due Pinlac has been at the agency since day one and has a passion for sharing real stories. He also values creative transparency, emphasising the story but also the production and the processes behind it. The Canon EOS 600D was where it all began for him. © Tier Zero

Tier Zero and the EOS R5 C

Camera gear has come a long way since the team were shooting independently with "DSLRs that happened to do video" as Due dubs them. This is why Tier Zero are genuinely excited about the Canon EOS R5 C.

Now a collective with bigger clients who demand both video and photography, the team has found that a hybrid mirrorless camera such as the EOS R5 C makes the seamless switch between media so much easier. Moving up to 8K video with unlimited record times and 45MP photos is a huge leap forward tech-wise, but crucially the EOS R5 C shares the same ergonomics as the DSLRs that the team is used to working with. "The EOS R5 C allowed us to go back to our roots – having a small camera and really experimenting," says Due.

A close-up of a person filming with a Canon EOS R5 C camera at chest height.

The EOS R5 C is Canon's smallest Cinema EOS camera, shifting from an 8K video setup, with the dedicated interface, features and controls that pro filmmakers need, to a 45MP stills setup at the flick of a switch. © Tier Zero

The Canon EOS R5 C sits on a table next to a clapperboard.

"Video-wise, the Canon EOS R5 C checks everything off, and in the brief time we used it for photos with a studio setup, everything was crisp – it was looking great," says Charlie. © Tier Zero

"One of the main things that appealed to us was the flexibility of the camera. It really mirrored our workflow," adds Charlie. "Convenience-wise, it's not too bulky – you can travel with it and it's flexible on set. Photos-wise, the images are so crisp."

"The EOS R5 C is such a small and compact camera," Trae continues, "but its capabilities go a long way." Trae has used the camera to shoot cooking videos in small kitchens and says features such as the flip screen have been a huge help. "I do a lot of bird's-eye views, going quickly from photo to video, all when my hands are full and with food on them – the EOS R5 C handles it all and has been very easy to work with," she explains.

Another on-set strength of the camera was its Dual Pixel CMOS autofocusing power. "We could trust the internal autofocus," enthuses Due. "Normally, we would have a focus puller, but from the initial 'We Are Tier Zero' shot, where we make fun of ourselves, to the whip pans, we were impressed with how quick and sharp the focus was every time."

A man sat on the edge of a boat filming with a Canon EOS R5 C camera.

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A man holds a Canon EOS R5 C up to his face and looks through the viewfinder.

"The Canon EOS R5 C is so quick to set up and tear down," says Jamal. "It made everything very quick and allowed us to get a lot done in a couple of days. Normally that kind of shoot would take four days, and we did it in two." © Tier Zero

The efficiency and capability of the Canon EOS R5 C effectively halved Tier Zero's usual production time, plus its headline features have been a dream for post-production. For instance, the 8K video resolution provides extra flexibility for 4K output. Due says: "There will always be those 'smoke and mirrors' aspects that will allow you to get that advanced production value. You can rely on that to retain the quality while working on a full budget shoot, or even when doing it on your own. Canon Log 3 internal is a big step for us, too."

For Jamal and the team, while they look ahead and dream of ambitious projects with the EOS R5 C in hand, it's also important that their creative process stays grounded. "Our dream is to get to a place where we can be those kids with the Canon cameras five to 10 years ago, but do it at a higher level," he says. "We still want to be those people coming up with the ideas and seeing them follow through in ways that are personal to us."

Tim Coleman

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