Martin Christ

A man tilts a Canon camera upwards on a dusty film set, while a second man points out something in the distance to him.

Cinematographer and Canon Ambassador Martin Christ served as both co-director and Director of Photography (DoP) on a high-end commercial for a global provider of trailers and superstructures. Martin, pictured here on the commercial's set, used a Canon EOS C700 FF with Canon Cine Primes to capture the action, and describes the project as one of his most challenging to date. © Martin Christ

Over a career spanning 25 years, cinematographer and Canon Ambassador Martin Christ has traversed the globe, garnering accolades from Der Deutscher Fernsehpreis, the Panda Awards and the Blue Ocean Film Festival, among others. He has worked on everything from high-end TV commercials for leading car manufacturers and goods suppliers to behind-the-scenes documentaries, his passion for discovery adding the fuel to his creative fire.

"I like to travel, meet new people and discover new worlds," says Martin. "My profession has taken me to all continents. I've met new people everywhere and I want to continue this physical, but also spiritual journey. I have accompanied tea pickers in Vietnam and eaten with them in the poorest huts; filmed in the slums of Mumbai [for Dabbawala – The Lunchbox Miracle], but also in the noblest lofts in Manhattan. Even after all these years, it's always exciting to see the images condensed on TV or on the big screen."

Born in Göttingen, Germany, Martin studied film and television at Ruhr-Universität Bochum from 1990 and went on to concentrate on cinematography at Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts. Parallel to his studies, Martin gained his first practical experience in the film business as a camera assistant for various commercials and film and TV productions. But what really inspired him to pick up a camera was music.

"I grew up with MTV and was always fascinated by music and music videos. I created videos, or rather imagery, for bands I was friends with. It all had a rather experimental character, a mixture of Super 8 and Hi8 material, for which I had borrowed a camera," remembers Martin. "When one of those bands got a record deal, I made my first music video on a budget, as a director and DoP, and got the equipment from a Polish DoP whom I was assisting at the time."

A black and white headshot of cinematographer Martin Christ filming with a Canon camera.

Location: Cologne, Germany
Specialist area: Features, docudramas and commercials
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS C500 Mark II
Canon CN-E50mm T1.3 L F

Since 1996, Martin has been working as a DoP, his projects having received a multitude of awards. Yet his biggest achievement, he says, has come in the form of being able to work in a variety of environments. "I think that in my long career, I've learned to cope very well both on big sets with a big lighting crew, grip, etc, and on small documentaries, where I'm sometimes alone with a small camera. I can adapt very flexibly to situations. I believe that I have learned to remain calm even in stressful scenarios, and at the very least not to pass on this stress," he explains.

A woman's eyes and nose are reflected in the rearview mirror of a car in this still from a promotional film by cinematographer Martin Christ.

Challenging situations in Martin's work have included shooting in difficult conditions for the three-part series Universe of the Oceans, which took him to Spitsbergen in the Norwegian Svalbard archipelago, among other places, in freezing temperatures.

"You meet different cultures, have crews on location with whom you have to communicate, and you have local problems. In Spitsbergen, for example, we were not allowed to move during our filming without an armed ranger, who would have intervened in case of polar bear attacks."

On the other end of the scale, hotter climes in Australia while he was shooting Australia's Passion, about kangaroos in New South Wales, meant soaring temperatures that impacted filming. "I've shot at 45°C in Australia, which is of course exhausting for man and material. It was during an extreme heatwave and bushfires were in the region. This meant that we could only shoot in the early morning and late evening. The equipment also got so hot that I couldn't hold the camera for very long."

A man sits in a room behind behind a large Canon cinema camera. Another man is stood in the corner of the room.

Martin has used Canon cameras and cinema lenses throughout his career, from shooting promotional trailers to award-winning docudramas. © Martin Christ

A close-up of a Canon EOS C700 camera, which is positioned on a tripod in a large garage filled with gleaming racing cars.

Martin shot a commercial for a leading car manufacturer on a Canon EOS C700 with Canon Cine Primes. © Martin Christ

Die Mannschaft (The Team), a 90-minute feature film that went behind the scenes of Germany's 2014 win at a major football tournament in Brazil, was a project that Martin directed and used his Canon EOS C300 (now succeeded by the Canon EOS C300 Mark III) to shoot. And it was a body of work that posed a different sort of test.

"Emotionally, that film was certainly the biggest challenge," he says. "I am a football fan and I was with the team for the whole six weeks, shooting every day. I suffered and feared with them. After the end of the final in the Maracanã Stadium, there was of course huge jubilation, but I also had to concentrate to get the right shots."

You studied film and cinematography at university. What were some of your favourite films that inspired you?

"Apart from many music videos, I found the silent film era and German Expressionism exciting. I got to know this world in my studies. For example, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Robert Wiene) and The Last Laugh (1924, F.W. Murnau)."

You've been in this industry for a long time now. What have been some of the happiest moments of your career? 

"Documenting Germany winning the World Cup, watching the first feature film I shot on the big screen [2006, Armageddon], the first premiere in a big cinema [2012, Adenauer] and when a difficult shot planned in advance works out. There have been so many happy moments, though, it's hard to pick out highlights."

What else do you hope to accomplish? 

"To continue learning every day."

What advice would you give to your younger self, which could help students in a similar situation?

"Keep friends and contacts outside of the film business. I believe that it is important to always look at the industry from the outside, and perhaps not to take everything too seriously. Also, be less 'cerebral' and follow your intuition more."

One thing I know

Martin Christ

"It's important not to focus too much on the technology, but to pay attention to other influences as well. For film projects, you have to remember that the camera technology is only one of many parts. Let the other departments do their work."


Martin Christ's kitbag

The key kit that the pros use

Martin Christ's kitbag containing Canon cameras and lenses.


Canon EOS C500 Mark II

With a 5.9K full-frame sensor packed into a compact and reliable Cinema EOS body, the EOS C500 Mark II provides new inspiration and great flexibility for all cinematographers. "It's my favourite camera at the moment," says Martin. "It has a full-frame sensor and you can build it modularly into a film camera for large sets, then use it with a variety of prime lenses. You can also use it with a variety of photo optics for documentaries."

Canon EOS C300 Mark III

The successor to the EOS C300 Martin uses incorporates Canon's newly developed 4K Super 35mm DGO sensor, with 4K 120p slow motion and Dual Pixel CMOS AF into the same body as the Canon EOS C500 Mark II. Martin says: "I shot the feature film Die Mannschaft in Brazil with the EOS C300 and I had no technical problems throughout the six weeks, despite daily use in often hot, sandy and humid conditions. It remains forever in my kitbag."


Canon CN-E50mm T1.3 L F

The lightweight CN-E50mm T1.3 L F offers superior 4K lens resolution, a full-frame image circle and a compact design. Martin says: "I'm very enthusiastic about the CN-E primes. They offer great low-light performance and creative control over depth of field."

Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM

The successor to the lens Martin uses is a standard zoom that goes just that little bit further, whether you're shooting photography or video. "For documentary use, this is my standard lens," says Martin. "I bought the first version with the EOS 5D Mark II [now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV]. It has a great feel and is just the right focal length range for me. In backlight especially, it keeps a good contrast."

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM

The updated version of Martin's lens is now even better in bright light, and engineered to perform in the most challenging conditions. It is perfect for emphasising pin-sharp subjects against a smooth out-of-focus background. "For documentary use, if I can only take two lenses with me, I'll add the 70-200mm to the 24-105mm," says Martin. "That's where I value the speed, f/2.8 over the entire focal length range. I use it for close-ups and interviews, especially when I want to achieve an even shallower depth of field in full format."

Canon EF 100-400mm 4.5-5.6L IS II USM

This versatile, portable super-telephoto zoom lens is ideal for shooting sports, action and wildlife, its 4-stop Image Stabilizer and high-quality optics delivering superb sharpness. "I shoot a lot of sports documentaries and for both ball sports and motor sports, I use the 100-400mm because of its ideal focal length range. Even at 400mm and open aperture, it has a very low drop-off in resolution at the edges. I don't know of any equally lightweight lens that can keep up with it," says Martin.

Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM

This versatile lens gives great results in portrait work and handheld movie-making, thanks to its ability to achieve a shallow depth of field with beautiful bokeh, along with built-in Hybrid IS and a lightweight design. "The 100mm Macro is very fast with f/2.8 and has an outstanding imaging performance," says Martin. "I use it not only for extreme close-ups, but have also shot a complete dream sequence with it."

Canon EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM

With a constant f/2.8 aperture throughout the zoom range and a 3-stop Image Stabilizer, the EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS USM provides outstanding performance and framing flexibility in low-light conditions.

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