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A 5D Primer

My Canon 5D Mark II is a high-end digital still camera that shoots amazing quality 1080 HD video. Here’s a sample of raves and resources about the 5D.

From “How Digital SLRs Can Change the Way We Make Movies
by Shane Hurlbut, ASC
American Cinematographer, January 2010

I first saw the Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital SLR at an ASC function at Samy’s Camera in Los Angeles, just prior to the camera’s commercial release. The 2-1/2 pound camera, which has a 36mm x 24mm 21-megapixel CMOS sensor, can shoot 1920×1080 video at 30 fps (recording to UDMA compact flash cards), and its ASA range is adjustable from 50 to 25,600.

I have since shot a number of projects with the 5D, and I’ve never been so excited by the creative possibilities a camera offers cinematographers. With its incredibly small footprint, which enables a lightning-fast working method, this camera truly is a game-changer.

The lightbulb went on over my head when I considered Canon’s long history in still photography. Motion-picture cinematography originated with still photography, but HD technology has, by and large, been based on ENG videography, an awesome achievement in documenting the news, but not the proper foundation for theatrical features. What we’ve been missing is an HD camera born out of the still-photography tradition, and that’s exactly what we’ve been handed with Canon’s 5D (and 7D, but I’ll get to that later).

The 5D’s small size and light weight make it infinitely versatile and nimble, enabling you to move quickly and capture perspectives that would be impossible with any other camera system, and its sensor size provides what are essentially the depth-of-field characteristics of VistaVision. It would be a good sensor in any body, but the fact that it showed up in a 2-1⁄2 pound still camera completely shifts the paradigm for moviemaking.

You can handhold the 5D in ways unthinkable with film cameras, and for long periods without fatigue. Sure, you can still mount it on sticks, dress it up with a mattebox and create a monster, but that’s moving in the wrong direction …

From “Capturing an Episodic Drama With a DSLR
By Gale Tattersall
American Cinematographer, July 2010

Some filmmakers tend to think of their equipment as the starting point, but when executive producer/director Greg Yaitanes and I began to plan the finale for the sixth season of House, M.D., we started with the script.

According to that blueprint, a lot of the action would take place in a collapsed building, which meant that in order to film it, the crew would be spending about five days on their hands and knees and bellies on sets that were about 2-1/2′ tall. Our production designer, Jeremy Cassells, had designed the sets so that everything could move away and float up, but we realized very early on that the time to do this shot by shot would kill us unless we worked with small cameras.

I had shot some commercials for Canon Japan on the Universal Studios backlot, and the clients asked us to shoot the spots with the 5D Mark II DSLR. I thought they were absolutely nuts. How could you photograph a serious commercial with a tiny stills camera?

But I did some tests, and the results were actually quite beautiful. When I went back on House, I showed Greg what I’d done with the 5D, and we went through some fairly extensive tests before making the decision to use it on House …

One of the things I discovered during testing was that the 5D brings something unique to the table: a large-format sensor that lets you play with a very shallow depth-of-field. I would argue that if you shot on 70mm film in the 16×9 aspect ratio, you still couldn’t achieve less depth-offield than with a wide-open T1.2 or T1.4 lens on a 5D …

From “Impressive Canon SLR Sports HD Video, 21 Megapixel Stills”

Once in a great while, a sequel comes out that is so outstanding, it not only blows the original out of the water, it stands on its own as a paragon of excellence. Cases in point: The Empire Strikes Back, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, and Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan.

Add the Canon 5D Mark II to that list. For the better part of a year, rumors abounded about an upgrade for Canon’s full-frame prosumer camera, the 5D, but nobody expected the awesome bomb that the Canon eventually dropped on us. No mere upgrade, the Canon 5D Mark II is a milestone in many ways, and it’s one of the best cameras we’ve tested yet. It features a massive 21 megapixel sensor, full high-definition video, a giant display and much more, setting a new high-water mark for digital single-lens reflex cameras.

For starters, Canon nearly doubled the resolution of the 12 megapixel 5D. Like its predecessor, the full-frame sensor in the 5D Mark II is equal in size to a 35 mm film negative, making it much larger than the sensors used in most consumer and prosumer cameras. The size confers two advantages: It gives the camera terrific low-light sensitivity, because the sensors for each pixel are larger, enabling them to collect more photons. And it allows you to use all the lenses in Canon’s EF line to their full potential , without any magnification — an advantage especially useful for wide-angle shots. By contrast, smaller sensors effectively multiply the focal length of standard lenses, for instance converting a 28mm lens into the equivalent of a 56mm lens.

Canon also stuffed full-HD video recording into the 5D2, making it only the second SLR to record in HD (after Nikon’s impressive D90) and the only one to record in full 1080p glory. You can tell Canon didn’t think this feature would get much play by how deeply they buried it in the menu system. Fortunately the 5D2 also features a dedicated live-view button which pre-arms the camera for movie recording.

Photographers and indie filmmakers have been drooling over the 5D2’s video quality ever since Vincent Laforet’s demo movie hit the net in September. Most video cameras give a distinctly non-film look due to the poor depth of field produced by their small sensors and fixed lenses. Thanks to the full-frame sensor and Canon’s high-quality lenses, the video from the 5D2 looks a lot more like movies shot on film …

From “Canon 5D Mark II Officially Awesome: 21MP DSLR First to Shoot Full HD Video”

Easily the most anticipated camera in the galaxy, Canon’s 5D Mark II is official, and officially excellent. The full-frame, 21-megapixel DSLR is the first to shoot full HD video, and with Digic 4, Canon is promising low-light performance on par with that of Nikon’s D3 and D700 thanks to improved light gathering and noise reduction, with ISO range 100-6400, extendable up to 12,800 and 25,600. Add to that its high speeds and first-in-class video capabilities, and you can tell this camera was worth the agonizing wait …

From “Canon 5D Mark II’s Full HD Video Is So Stunning Our Eyes Explode”

As teased a couple days ago, here’s the absolutely stunning video from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Vincent Laforet, the one that shows how incredible Canon’s 5D Mark II’s video capabilities really are.

Remember, this video is totally unenhanced, completely raw from the $2700 DSLR (with a ton of nice lenses). I saw it a while ago in full HD on a 50-inch TV and I was completely blown away. Here’s the making of vid, if you wanna see how it was done …



Photography Video Workflow: Final Cut Pro + Canon 5D Mark II


5D MK II Workflow – Final Cut Pro


Other Images:

The Best of Canon 5D MkII Moving Images

From the manufacturer:

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Features & Specifications

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Operator Manual (6MB download)

Canon EOS 5D Mark II White Paper Papers/EOS 50D and 5D Mark II WP2.pdf

Wikipedia: Canon EOS 5D Mark II