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I want a 5DMK2... maybe?

Earlier today I got an email from a guy I haven't worked with for about 20 years. He was asking me about the Canon 5DMK2 and the Canon 7D and wanted to know my thoughts on them. Its a common and recurring question but most of the time it is a discussion that doesn't happen between guys with 25 years experience in the business.  Face it, the HDSLR 'craze', if you will, has been more commonly picked up by 'the kids'.  (Generalization I know...)

After spending a bunch of time on the email response to his question, I figured I should probably share it here. So, in no particular order, these are some major compromises you need to be willing to deal with if you are going to try to work with a HDSLR.


You DO realize you have to transcode the footage just to begin...

Since you tend to cut on Avid, if you are going to transcode, maybe you would prefer just transcoding to some Avid codec, (I owned an Avid for about 3 months in late 97, early 98 and got ride of it, HATED it. so I don't know any Avid tips at all) 

You DO NOT want to try to edit the H264 files right from the camera... it blows!!!

7D v 5DMK2

Also, you may prefer the 7D, you can shoot 24P NOW, (there may be a 24 FPS firmware update for the 5D soon, and if you want LONG lens options the 7D's cropped sensor gives every lens you own a 1.6 magnification right off the top, and you still get the fun DOF for the most part.


Regardless of which camera you get you MUST buy the Zacuto Z-Finder...

One of the main problems with the Canon DSLR's is that they were never meant to be used as video cameras. When you put it in Live View, or video mode the eyepiece becomes non functional. This means that you need to use the LCD on the back of the body. This means that you need to hold the camera away from your body and it makes it nearly impossible to see if anything is in focus.

There are multiple companies that make loupes to view the back of the camera... I've tried a couple.. and the Z-Finder is the one you want. Its as simple as that.

Costy yes,  but once you look thru it you'll NEVER regret it the $400 bucks you spend on it.


And don't forget the Audio... both canon cameras have HORRIBLE audio subsystems. HORRIBLE, don't expect to use it for anything but a scratch track. you NEED to dual record on another device, think of it like going back 20 or 30 years and shooting film with a Nagra...

Many people are using the Zoom H4N...

The Zoom H4N is a great little gizmo,  300 bucks and has a ton of features including onboard compression and the ability to record 4 tracks at once, 2 on the built in stereo mics and two XLR inputs, (BIG drawback, ONE level adjustment shared for the two XLR inputs.


So anyway, those were the notes that I shared with my friend, I hope it can be helpful to you too.


UPDATE: 100313

Neutral Density Filter

Another thing that is missing from the 5D MK2 and 7D is neutral density. Traditional video cameras usually have some sort of filter built in but not on the HDSLRs. You have to remember that in the photography world you can adjust the amount of light that hits the sensor with the shutter speed. If you are trying to create a filmic look you really can't or shouldn't be messing around with your shutter speed. Because of this you need to have some ND available. 

The Singh-Ray Vari-ND gives you from 2 to 8 stops of ND by just rotating the front ring and is vital if you want to control your DOF in the bright sunlight. 

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Reader Comments (1)

Good caveats, but the audio and 24p issues are largely solved by the firmware update scheduled for March 16. Here's a video showing the new framerate and audio options:

Note: audio will still be far from perfect (no headphone output for example), but more than adequate for most applications, although it will require a field mixer or preamp.

March 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Fox

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