Tuesday, October 5, 2010

First impressions from using the 5D2 for video

I've had 2 occasions to use the Canon 5D2 for shooting videos and although I'm an inveterate reader of photographic magazines and textbooks, there's nothing like just going ahead with shooting and learning. Both occasions had stationary subjects and not the run-and-go situations that I would have preferred.

First off, here is my gear, as basic and as inexpensive as it can get for quality audio and manageable video: 5D2, Zacuto Z-Finder Jr, Azden shotgun mike, Rotolight, Azden WMPRO wireless, Manfrotto 190 tripod with a fluid head.

I had 5 key concerns with using a DSLR for video. I am addressing them below. See my blog on Sept 17th:

Concern #1: Auto-focus, or lack thereof. It wasn't really addressed here as subject was stationary although when the camera had to be pointed in another direction, it wasn't difficult to manually focus by knowing the focusing twist direction on the lens. Maintaining a 5.6 opening allowed for a deeper depth of field allowing for focusing mistakes. Still, if I had to shoot a bride coming down the aisle towards the camera, I'd prefer the soon-to-be-released Panasonic  GH2 or the current GH1. Doesn't work for me.

Concern #2: Audio control. The  latest firmware update for the 5D2 enables manual audio control. Still, I'd prefer a graphic readout with flashing lights going up and down. Doesn't work for me.

Concern #3: Exposure control. I kept it simple. Maintain an aperture of f4 or f5.6, 1/60 sec shutter speed,  auto ISO. Use the exposure compensation to vary the exposure. Works for me.

Concern #4: Form Factor. In a few years, I think we will look back on the use of DSLRs to shoot video as an experiment that we should have known as being unworkable.  The form and shape of a DSLR is just not suitable for shooting video. The just-released Sony NEX VG10 is the logical step in this evolution. Keep the the videocamera shape and functions but incorporate an APS-C sensor. 
The 5D2 with the battery grip (2 batteries) , 24-105f4 IS, audio receiver, Rotolight, plus the 430 EX flash is just too heavy as a package. My favourite  (and very portable)  Manfrotto 190 is inadequate to handle this setup.The DSLR form definitely doesn't work for me.

Concern #5: Motion JPEG capture. No comment yet.

Other observations:
The limit of 12 minutes for continuous shooting time is not suitable for speeches. At 4 gigs per 12 minutes, my 80 gigs will take me to 4 hrs of continuous shooting.
2 5D2 batteries is good for approximately 80 gigs of video.

The video that I produced at 1980x1080p, 30fps, looks amazing. (You'll just have to take my word for it for now. I'll be uploading it later). I admire people who are able to produce amazing videos with a DSLR but I can't do it for paying gigs where retakes and reshoots are not available options. For personal, "artsy" projects, yes, I'll use it.
Photo equipment  should be such that their operation and use becomes intuitive, an extension of one's brain/hands. I can see myself using a Sony VG10-type of camera for shooting videos: big sensor, workable continuous auto-focus, ideal form factor.

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