Filmmakers have been using the Canon 5D Mark II to make music videos, short films, feature films, documentaries and commercials for as long as the camera has been in existence. In fact we’ve shot most of our educational videos on the Canon 5D Mark II. You can watch a sample video tutorial shot on the 5D below.
What makes the Canon 5D such an incredible camera for indie filmmakers?
The Canon 5D Mark II was one of the first DSLRs to burst onto the scene in 2008. Before that time, video cameras that allowed for interchangeable lenses were simply too expensive for indie filmmakers. A few wise companies saw a demographic with a technical need being ignored and jumped to their rescue by creating Depth of Field (DOF) adapters. These were bulky adapters you could put on your video camera that would allow you to change lenses on your camera. The downside was that you’d lose a couple of stops of light in the process and your recorded image would often be upside down. These issues aside, it seemed to be a welcomed compromise. That is until DSLR video technology came onto the scene.
The Canon 5D was one of the first of such cameras. Not only was it an affordable camera (the body is roughly $2100), but it was also one of the first full-frame HD (1920×1080) cameras at this price range making it one of the highest resolution cameras in its class.
Most importantly though, the camera has been able to adapt (to a certain extent) based on user feedback through a series of firmware updates. When the camera first came out it couldn’t shoot 24p. However, in 2010 Canon released a firmware update allowing users to shoot 24p. This was a major breakthrough for indie filmmakers. We now not only had the option of interchangeable lenses, but we also had the ability to shoot at a frame rate that has been predominantly reserved for film cameras. We were now as close as we’ve ever been to a cinematic look for under $10,000.
Pushing the camera even further
Best of all, others companies, after having heard many of the requests of filmmakers took it upon themselves to push the camera even further. For example, the Magic Lantern plugin helped unlock many of the camera’s video capabilities (i.e. Zebras, on screen audio meters, gain control, custom crop marks etc.). Similarly, Technicolor released a color profile called “Cinestyle” that you could add to the 5D’s picture profile list that would give the image a “flat” look and help push the dynamic range of the camera even further.
With these ad-ons video sharing sites starting publishing videos comparing the 5D footage to Red footage saying “guess which is which”. Now of course, there are obvious differences between the cameras but the fact that the 5D could even be compared to the Red (at least in web video) was a great feat! Take a look at the following video for example. This video was shot on the 5D and 7D with the Cinestyle preset installed.
There are a few drawbacks to the camera. For instance, you can’t shoot anything higher than 30fps and therefore can’t shoot slow motion footage. You also may experience problems with rolling shutter, aliasing and moire. Similarly, the camera is still primarily a stills camera so there are limited video features and virtually no sound features (or at least no professional sound features). This means that you’re going to need to go off-camera for any quality sound recording and you’ll need to use third party video accessories to help you with things like camera stabilization, focus pulling, monitoring and so on.
The Canon 5D mark II is a great camera for filmmakers if you know how to work around its limitations. Recently the 5D Mark III was released which solves some of the issues we discussed above (read our comparison: Canon 5D Mark II vs. Canon 5D Mark III).