Video Magic: Worth the Hassle?
For several years, many digital cameras have featured a "movie" setting to allow the user to capture video with a still camera. Usually, there are limitations that accompany this feature, such as a short-duration of movie clips (30 seconds to one minute) or a video file type that does not take advantage of the full size of the camera's sensor. Such is not the case with the EOS 5D Mark II. This camera can create excellent video that takes advantage of the full size of the camera's sensor. It can capture video in one of two resolutions: 1920 x 1080 and 640 x 480. Full resolution can be saved in 1080i or 1080p configurations. If you have a 4 GB CF card in the camera, you can fill the card up with about 12 minutes of video. A file size of 4 GB is the maximum you can generate.
While the video feature is not weakened in typical ways with the EOS 5D Mark II, our testing experience convinced us that in order to work the camera’s complicated video features, a user would benefit from professional video experience.
Here’s the main complication (or limitation, depending on how you see it): the camera lacks the ability to auto focus and track at the same time during video recording. With the camera set to either of the two "live" modes, your initial focus will be retained until you refocus by hitting the "AF-ON" button, which will refocus the camera to the subject you are recording at that moment. But, in that moment of re-focusing, the camera will cycle the focusing mechanism until it has determined the proper focus to the new subject matter. We also saw the video image flair out to white during this process. The camera opens the aperture to its widest to ensure that it is properly focusing on the subject, then closes the aperture down again. Probably, a professional would know to expect the camera to flare out, and would take into account that this would have to be edited out in post-production and shoot the subject accordingly.
Additionally, you cannot see the subject being recorded through the viewfinder, while the 3" LCD monitor is your viewing guide. Since the camera does not have an eyepiece cup around the LCD, you cannot get close enough to the image to ensure you are actually in focus. Maybe a professional could just go with his or her gut on this, but we couldn’t.
The EOS 5D Mark II does not have a standard video camera configuration that lends itself easily to balancing from the shoulder or holding the camera above or below your head. This will likely limit the camera to being used on a tripod only. Further, the controls for manually focusing the camera or starting and stopping the action are not conveniently placed as they otherwise would be with a dedicated video camera. This caused us no end of difficulties while trying to hand-hold the camera. In fact, it was at this point that we determined that hand-holding the EOS 5D Mark II was not a good idea.
Battery consumption is a minor concern, but it remains a concern, nonetheless. In capturing a mere 20 minutes of video, we went through half of a fully-charged battery. If you use this camera to shoot video for any meaningful length of time, have several batteries in your tote or know what you want to capture in one shot.
While we did try many different video capture scenarios with the EOS 5D Mark II, our results were less than stellar. That doesn’t mean beautiful video can’t be captured with it. We’ve seen some, but experienced professionals generated it. As an example of what is possible, see this video, created by Bob Davis.
Here are two still images captured from video we filmed with the EOS 5D Mark II: