Canon 5D for Video

Canon 5D for Video

How does the Canon 5D Mark IV Perform as a Video Camera?

The Canon 5D was my primary camera for two years SO when the Canon 5D Mark II was released, I looked forward to getting one. Some of the features I was most excited about was jumping from 13 mega pixels to 21 mega pixels, the larger LCD screen, and the self cleaning sensor. The video feature was interesting, but I didn’t take it seriously. I now love the Canon 5D Mark IV, and the video tools just keep improving, and the sound most of all. My experience is that of a still photographer trying to teach themselves video production, and it was a interesting experience.

I had the Canon 5D about two months, and couldn’t figure out how to use the video after reading the instruction manual several times. I got the live view to work, but wasn’t able to record and play back. So when I saw that Adobe was offering a free seminar on using Adobe Premiere CS5 with the Canon 5D Mark II, I attended the event. I was amazed by how they were using this camera! The presenter was with a video production company called the Bandito Brothers, see

The brothers were using 5D cameras with $300,000 movie lenses with custom Canon mounts. They had 16 Mark II camera bodies, and were using them in the mix with other much more expensive video cameras. Their client list includes Mountain Dew, BMW, and the U.S. Navy.

I learned that where the Canon 5D excels is in low light situations, under water, when a small, lightweight camera is needed, or when the videographer is looking for shallow depth of field and a widescreen “cinema” look. The color and definition is superb, and at 1920p x 1080p the high definition video is the real deal. I left the seminar inspired and excited, and went home and watched a number of training videos on how to use the camera for video. I began to think it might be possible to add video to my photography business services.

Knowing that I was in over my head, I began talking to my long time friend and videographer, Dustin. He has worked for CBS and Warner Brothers, and went to film school at UCLA. He was a cameraman on shows like CSI Miami, Lie to Me and the Mentalist. I had been talking to Dustin for years about starting a video production company, but with a Canon 5D; shooting great HD video was a reality.

Starting any kind of company in a down economy is a challenge at best, but starting a video production company in Los Angeles, with the highest concentration of video companies of any city in America, is just plain crazy. Dustin had saved enough money to live off of for a while without income, and enough to buy us a “rig” and a 5 inch battery powered video monitor. We decided to focus on the same kind of clients I have for my photography business at that time at, food, corporate, advertising and architecture.

Five months and 8 or 9 video shorts later, I was a lot more familiar with what the 5D can do, and cannot do. You will need to spend more than the camera costs to get the accessories needed to shoot quality video, but it is worth the expense and effort.

Canon 5D video strengths:

1. The video quality is amazing. Rich color, beautiful highlights.

2. Small, lightweight, easy to carry

3. Great in low light situations, requires fewer lights in the studio than standard video cameras

4. All your Canon EF lenses work, so you have more options than when using a camera with one lens

Canon 5D video weaknesses:

1. Sound is a problem in the Mark II, and much improved with the Mark III and IV. The internal microphone is unusable. I purchased a $200 shotgun microphone that mounts on the hot shoe, which is good enough for corporate interviews in a quiet setting. For broadcast quality sound, you will need to invest in an external device that will allow you to plug in boom and lapel mics, and software to make it work with your video.

2. You may want one or more “rigs” that assist with focus, zoom and holding the camera steady. These could include a tripod rig, shoulder mount rig, a “steady cam rig” and so forth. We spent $2,400 on our video rig.

3. The monitor on the back of the camera is too small to see if your video is in focus. So you will need an eyepiece with a magnifying lens or an external monitor.

4. Some Canon lenses do not zoom smoothly, even with the large knobs on our rig. The gears mesh well, but there are little bumps and jerks with some of my older zoom lenses.

4. Some Canon lenses do not zoom smoothly, even with the large knobs on our rig. The gears mesh well, but there are little bumps and jerks with some of my older zoom lenses.

If you are serious about great video, you will want to invest in some Prime lenses, and / or "Digital Cinema Lenses". Cine Lenses include Prime Lenses, non-zoom lenses with wide apertures and beautiful highlights and clarity

Canon 5 D Review Summary:

If you are considering the purchase of a Canon 5D Mark for still photography, I highly recommend the camera and the lens system. The resolution and quality of a Canon 5D Mark IV is equal to many medium format digital camera systems, at one quarter the price, size and weight.

If you are considering purchasing a 5D for video production, plan on spending $5,000 or more on accessories, rigs, monitors, microphones, digital sound recorders, external screens, wireless microphones, and so forth to bring the abilities of the camera up to that of a standard video camera. I recommend having both a 5D and a standard video camera in your video bag if you can afford it. But if you can only afford one video camera, you could do a lot worse than the Canon 5D. If I had to do it over again, I would buy the 5D over most other brands and types of still or video cameras under $8,000.


So what do you think about this?