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Old March 20th, 2011, 03:57 AM   #1
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Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

Hi, I'm looking to buy a camcorder to record training videos and short films/documentaries. I've previous experience of the Canon XHA1 but am really a novice film maker. I had been thinking about getting the new Canon XF100 primarily because of it's small size but came across footage of the Canon 5D Mk II and was blown away by the quality of footage.
So, would this be a good choice for me? Are there any major disadvantages of filming with the 5DMKII?
The big pluses I can see are that I can sell my old Nikon plus lenses and have one set up, its relative loww cost, interchangeable lenses, shallow depth of field (if I want it), and obviously its small size.
Any help is much appreciated.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 05:29 AM   #2
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

Hi sir. I do video production, including videography, and have been using the 5D over the past couple months to DP a no -budget short.

I want to say that while this camera is capable of spectacular images, I am finding it a general pain in the ass and if I had another HD camera with professional controls/features available for free, I'd use it.

Where to begin?

Currently you are limited to a 12 minute recording limit (unless maybe the magic lantern software you can install, which, by the way, has to be REINSTALLED from a card each time you power the camera on--has fixed this? Now, this doesn't mean 12 minutes per card, but, rather, 12 minutes of continuous recording. So, not good for 8 hour lectures, etc.

The shallow depth of field, while a benefit of the cam, is also very difficult sometimes to work with. For this movie, for instance, we have no focus puller (unless I try to do it myself), so for any shot, we use a depth of field calculator to see what compromise of fstop, camera distance, and focal length works best for the blocking we've established. Often you have to be quite far away, (10-20 ft) from your subject, on wider focal lengths, and stopped down to f4 or lower to get even a few feet of focus (getting closer, or opening up more, using longer focal lengths, often times you are limited to inches).

MOnitoring--the camera has an HDMI and an AV out (AV being SD. . .a miniplug to RCA cable is the usual way to go).

The signal from the HDMI out will generally not fill an HD monitor all the way (some can be tweaked to get around this) because of the cam's sensor size, so you get sort of a letterboxed and pillarboxed HD image unless your monitor lets you enlarge it. Furthermore, when recording, it's downconverted to SD, so you can't monitor in HD at all while recording!

The AV out is much softer than the signal from, say, my SD XL2 camera. Nigh impossible to judge focus from it, should you want to.

The LCD on the back of the cam is okay for focusing, but not great. This will also turn off if you have it hooked up to a monitor via the HDMI or AV outs, so you can't watch both simultaneously, nor the HDMI and AV out simultaneously.

Speaking of monitors, with a regular camcorder, you can calibrate your monitor, at least somewhat, be it a computer monitor, consumer HD TV, or pro monitor with the camera's color bars. But what do you do if your camera, like the 5D, doesn't generate any bars? Ah, another thing you'll have to wrestle with.

Sound- the camera can record sound, and you can set a level manually. As far as I know, however, and Magic Lantern may have again fixed this, you can't monitor your sound while recording, or watch the meters. Those are both big no-no's for videographers. Sound quality also is generally accepted as not being very good, and most folks recommend a separate audio recorder (on this movie we have been using the $150 Tascam DR07).

Anyway, those are the big complaints. There is also the rolling shutter, which we have had no issue with yet, sticking mostly to static shots or very simple, slow moves.

I am in awe of and commend those people who use this cam for run n' gun/b-roll/live events, etc., as I would probably jam a card through my eye if I was tasked with doing this.

It's generally advised that these dslr cams need quite a few accessories (follow focus rig, monitor, handheld rig, etc. etc.).

Point is, not the easiest camera to use in many situations.

This is one guy's opinion, many others will contradict it, and that is fine. Different viewpoints make the world go round.

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Old March 20th, 2011, 06:32 AM   #3
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

Well, I'm kind of old school but it is my opinion that you use the right toos for the job. You don't use a screwdriver to hit nails with and you don't use a DSLR to do seminars or any long form form project that doesn't allow for retakes. The reason Josh listed above are spot on but for me, use whats is best toaccomplish the job with the least amount of headache. I do lots of seminars for example and I could not even beging to think about using a DSLR to cover them, a good old SD videocamera whether going back to tape in the camera, a recording deck, straight to DVD or an HDD is IMHO the right tool.
TV commercial, music video, even certain parts of weddings as well as docos where perhaps record time is as important and much if not all of the audio is captured on a seperate device the DSLR is a great tool.
You pays your money and takes your choice.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 08:45 PM   #4
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

Good information above.

If the training videos are done with multiple takes and angles and put together in post, the 5D2 could be great. If you tend to set up a couple cameras in a long, live seminar - especially where the talent moves around a lot, it would be a pain.

Regarding documentaries, it depends on your intent and style. If you want to make a straightforward, historical document of an event, it would be a poor choice. If you want to give a feel about a person, place, or concept, it's the perfect tool. Ask yourself these two questions: 1) if I screw up a segment, am I content to cut it from the final product?, and 2) if the focus is shallow and is hunting for the talent, am I happy to show this as a happy accident? If you answered "yes" to both, the 5D2 is your camera.

See Philip Bloom's work as an example of a documentary style that fits DSLRs.

For narrative short films, the 5D2 can be amazing - do as many takes as you need to get the result that you want.

Keep in mind that the 5D2 is great at showing human faces and other organic objects over blurred backgrounds with limited motion. But it's not so great at wide shots with hard lines like buildings - they alias. And it's not so great when there is a lot of camera or object motion - you get jello, due to the rolling shutter effect. Rolling shutter is also poor for concerts with lots of strobes and flashes.
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Old March 20th, 2011, 10:13 PM   #5
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

Don Bloom makes a very good point when he says, "you use the right toos for the job" and the short version of my reply is go out and shoot with the 5D (and 7D too) and figure out what makes sense given your unique set of technical requirements, budget constraints, and aesthetic preferences. There is no single tool that does everything well.

Having shot with the Canon 5D (large full-frame imager), Canon 7D (medium APS-C imager), and Panasonic HPX170 (small 1/3" imagers) in recent times, I have to say, each has a sweet spot. The HPX170 excels for hand-held documentary work, no rolling shutter, nice ergonomics, controls are all easy to get at and adjust quickly, and excellent microphone preamps. The deep depth of field that is such a plus for the uncontrolled in the moment documentary work is a problem for formal interviews and more controlled shooting situations. I love shallow focus. Here the 5D and 7D excels with shallower depth of field at normal camera distances. But now we have terrible camera ergonomics, short shooting times, power and card management issues, the list goes on. But the look makes it all worth it. The Canon 5D and 7D produce stunning cinema images (as long as you watch your camera motion). I like the 5D with the larger imager more for still photography, because its shallow depth of field exceeds what is needed for most of the cinema style work that I do. The 7D seems to have a sweet spot when it comes to just the right about of shallow depth of field for my video work. So, in the ideal world, I would have all three! The HPX170 for my handheld documentary work, the 5D for still photography (nice to be able to use wide lenses are actually wide lenses) and the 7D for video when the conditions are controlled so that I can carefully set up shots and make sure the focus is perfect. So in the end, each camera has it's own unique set of "boundary conditions" that make it right for some things, not so great for others, and in the end, it's very, very subjective. I'm sure most people would slice the pie differently. There is no substitute for going out and shooting with the 5D to discover where the limitations really are, for it depends on how you want to use it whether something that someone calls a limitation is really that. Most camera "problems" are simply features of that particular camera. No camera does it all.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 09:00 PM   #6
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

All of the advice above is perfectly sound. The best advice I can pass along is to try both systems before you purchase. And for goodness sake, if you go with a DSLR do not sell your Nikon glass. You can use it on the Canon bodies with an adapter.

I shoot with a 7d and Sony EX-1. The Sony is much easier to use from a shooting standpoint because it has a professional suite of controls and components specifically designed for film making. The DSLRs produce delightful images at certain ergonomic costs. I'm forever forgetting to adjust focus on my 7d because the visual cues that would normally appear in the Sony viewfinder are not present and the focus screen on the 7d (to my eyes) makes nearly everything look in focus even if you are considerably off the mark. I have the same issue focusing it for stills; there are times the AF is off a bit and I can't discern it through the viewfinder. I've heard the focusing on the 5D is similar.

My DSLR gets most use in two situations. First, when I want to be discrete. I can carry it around and shoot video without anyone noticing. They think I'm snapping pictures. Secondly, when I want to manipulate depth of field and don't want to bother with an adapter on my Sony. Other than those two situations, I'd much rather shoot with the Sony.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 09:31 PM   #7
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

What up, Messrs Tames and Bass.

While I have thrown myself into the DSLR world in the past 18 months, and am largely pleased with the results (and certainly on the recessionary slash-and-burn budgets that we are finally starting to move beyond), I look forward to the next step. I can't deny the beauty of the images that the DSLR's can provide but it has been a long road to solve all of the ergononomic and functional issues that can be managed, and to work around the ones that can't. I've shot everything from indie no-budg bits to national ads and two scripted network pilots on these and have had nothing but enthusiasm from the clients. But I also bring to the table a lot of expensive hardware around these cameras to help manage the complications. Trying to pull one's own focus on a 5D with still lenses off the tiny rear screen (or an external monitor that drops to SD resolution when recording) is like a perfect storm of handicaps, especially when one is obsessed with the trendy uber-shallowness. I'd be very hesitant to recommend this scenario for times when multiple takes are not likely. I think a lot of people find themselves with soft footage in the edit (it's happened to me). There's a big price to pay for those luscious soft backgrounds...

I've managed to dodge much of the moire bullet but it finally caught up to me with this past pilot. One scene, a "Hell's Kitchen" parody featured a lot of stainless steel and contrast, and the crawlies were many places in the master shot. A series of art-directed panels with circular perforations exploded with color bands and we had to cover them with duvetyne, much to the production designer's chagrin (he was explaining to anyone who would listen; "at the scenic shop they promised me they wouldn't moire!" and I had to tell him "all bets are off with these cameras...not your fault"). Then, while shooting a series of simple waist-up testimonials, we had a massive number of moire issues with wardrobe that would have photographed fine with most cameras. One poor actress had to be sent back for four separate changes before we found a safe outfit to shoot. On a previous shoot, I had a CEO's salt-and-pepper eyebrow's present moire. Sure, some of it can be managed in post, but it's dangerous to rely on that.

Fortunately we are in the downhill trend of the DSLR phase and with the AF-100 and F3 out there, there are finally alternatives for those seeking the look (admittedly for more money, but one must always factor in the extra gear you need to get the job done). And within a year I imagine we will have some other options as well. I think there are very definite uses for small-chip cameras, especially when speed and small crew concerns are present as well as a turnkey-type purchase is desirable.
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Old March 21st, 2011, 09:43 PM   #8
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

Charles:

A bit off topic maybe, but I wonder if you have tried AJ Newman's Magic Lantern version 4.7 and now 5.1. If you haven't you may be surprised how much has been added to the 5D Magic Lantern experience. He introduces a thing called Magic Circles that provide an magnefied inset for focusing assistance, that will remain on screen as you are rolling so you can follow focus. The other magic lantern things are included-- like zebras and sound control. One of my favorites is false colors, which is a godsend for getting right exposure. Still hasn't got Montior out straightened out completely, but the promise is great.

I posted this video of for internal development, but it give you idea of how it is looking.


Edit:

Here is a better video of the magic lantern by AJ Newman, called AJ 5.0. I pulled my link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmChXPHnuQo
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Old March 21st, 2011, 09:45 PM   #9
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

I'm a 7D/t2i/TM900 and former XHA1 as a serious amateur shooter. You may consider another option that provides a lot of punch and purchase two Panasonic GH2's (or a DSLR of your choice) and one Panasonic TM900. It all fits in a backpack, allows you to set up for 3 camera shots (2 dramatic DSLR-type shots and 1 wide cover shot) and is extremely portable. You should be able to get the whole kit minus tripods and sound gear for around $5,000. The TM900 packs a lot of punch for a $1,100 camera that fits in the palm of your hand. It also shoots 1080-60P which is excellent for slow motion work. It's definitely a consumer camera and you'll miss the infinite controls of a pro cam - but not for entry level professional work or wide cover shots and compares nicely with entry level prosumer camera images.

DSLR's are great for emotional pieces and pieces that allow retakes. They are lousy for changing light, dynamic changing focal length, and for situations where you need deep DOF to catch a demonstration, for instance. I love the 7D, but it has serious limitations for general work. I'm also finding that smaller sensor cameras have a place in the world. I just finished posting some TM900 sample clips and comparisons to the 7D if you are interested:

TM900 - Pretty impressed!

TM900 and 7D comparison video
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Old March 21st, 2011, 10:01 PM   #10
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

Chris, I mostly shoot with the 1DMKIV--are any of his hacks available for that camera do you think? and do you have to reboot every time you power up?
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Old March 21st, 2011, 11:31 PM   #11
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

Charles:

It seems like the advancements are coming hot and heavy to the t2i, to a lesser extent to the 5d, and I have seen nothing on the 1D. 60D has a start, but 7D has not been cracked yet.

With AJ 5.0, you have to have it loaded to any card you are using, and after writing to the MBR on the card from a menu selection in Magic Lantern, it automatically starts up on that card on future start ups. So if you had 10 cards, you could load with a base config on 5 of your cards, then those cards are live.

As you are shooting, and if you shut down for a bit, you can save the current configuration. and camera will start back up with the saved settings later, on that card. You can then capture that configuration file and owver write it to the other four cards.

Alex's ML for the T2i is now incorporating most of this stuff too. In fact, in latest beta version for T2i they have incorporated most of the stuff from AJ 5.0 . They have also learned how to use Canon's own fonts, so the menus may be changing to look more like the Canon menus.

These features on both of these cameras are going a long way to make these DSLR's more digital cinema like. If you try to rush through the menu, and are one of those nervouse button pushers, you can freeze up the cameras, and then you merely have to shut them down, and pull the battery, and restart. Otherwise, all in all, I am impressed with what has been happening these last few months.
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Old March 23rd, 2011, 03:34 AM   #12
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

Chris,
Yes I definitely agree. These are really impressive developments to magic lantern. It's great to see the project developing. I noticed the AJ version is now listed on the magic lantern website.

Magic Lantern Firmware Wiki

Does this mean most of the bugs have been ironed out? Have you run into any issues in using this version of the firmware?
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Old March 23rd, 2011, 06:55 AM   #13
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Re: Major Disadvantages of Using 5D Mk. II for Filming?

I just downloaded and had a play with the AJ 5.0 version of Magic Lantern. I had a freeze after the old hitting-too-many-buttons-too-quickly (popping the battery fixed it).

Other than that I have to say WOW! The new features are f****ing amazing. False colours, live histograms, and the magic circles focusing really do go a long way toward transforming this camera into something that has all the software features required to call it a genuine video capture device (as opposed to a stills camera that also shoots video).

Enormous props to the whole development team. A truly awsome job.
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