To avoid duplicates and questions being asked over and over again, here's a summary of facts and things we know about the 5D markII.
M-Day (2/06/2009) is the day we finally got manual control. Green text below is valid after the M-Day. Grey text is left just for kicks, so that future generations of buyers never forget the ridiculous tricks the pioneers had to use :banghead:
WHAT WE KNOW FOR SURE
- You can use autofocus but it's the contrast-detect kind, it's slow, and if it has difficulties focusing (dark subject), it will temporaily overexpose your video, try to lock on something, and get back to normal exposure. In a word : don't use it ! (OK that's three words)[/*:giuvbfkz]
- You can only shoot full HD (1080p) videos up to 4 gigabytes at a time, which translates into approximately 12 minutes. This is because all digital cameras use Microsoft's FAT32 format which can only handle files up to 4GB even though you can use 32GB cards (over 32GB : to be confirmed).[/*:giuvbfkz]
- You can't capture the HDMI feed for uncompressed editing : page 124 of the manual states that when filming with the camera hooked to a HDMI TV, the image will be small even though the movie will be recorded in full HD. In reality the "image" is not "small", just the definition is VGA. Perhaps the camera doesn't have enough horsepower to output 1080p while capturing and compressing at the same time, so all you get is a copy of the LCD monitor (which is VGA).[/*:giuvbfkz]
- When not shooting in M mode, anytime the aperture needs to be changed if you're filming with EOS lenses, the camera will drop 3 frames. Variable aperture zooms report their max aperture modification when zooming, and cause frame drops just the same. Shooting in M mode allows you to change aperture or zoom in/out with a variable-aperture zoom WITHOUT frame drops ![/*:giuvbfkz]
- You have NO MANUAL CONTROL over shutter speed or ISO. You can trick the camera into choosing some value, but it's only a trick, and it's pure chance. Aperture is out of control too, unless you use non-EOS lenses with a (physical) aperture ring, or twist an EOS lens to break camera-lens communication after choosing the desired aperture value (more on that below).[/*:giuvbfkz]
- You can't choose an exposure mode to shoot videos, no matter what mode the dial is in, the camera will use a sort of fully automatic, not easily shiftable Program AE with auto ISO. Exposure mode is valid only for still pictures taken while filming.[/*:giuvbfkz]
- You can lock exposure with the * button on the back, and you can get a "rough estimate" of the exposure settings chosen by the camera for video capture by half-pressing the shutter release, only when the camera display is set to Movie Display in the custom functions. Just don't believe what you see when the shutter speed is longer than 1/30 ! these values are really those chosen for picture-taking while fiming ![/*:giuvbfkz]
- You can alter exposure compensation while filming ; after an AE lock it effectively changes ISO, while aperture mostly remains at either f22, f16, f5.6 or your lens' maximum aperture (example here). Be careful, when you get to the extremes of the exposure compensation scale, the camera will often change the aperture, resulting in dropped frames (more on that below).[/*:giuvbfkz]
- The camera can shoot videos at shutter speeds exceeding 1/125 (the maximum previously specified by Canon) if light demands it and if the camera has no control over the lens' aperture (more on that below). Be careful of the strobing effect caused by high shutter speeds (Saving private Ryan is often quoted as an example)[/*:giuvbfkz]
To gain aperture control and avoid dropped frames, you must use manual lenses with aperture rings. Nikon F (except recent models which lost the ring), Contax/Yashica (for Zeiss lenses), M42, Olympus OM, Pentax K, Leica R and some other mounts (Canon FD adapters add an extra lens and are not recommended) can be adapted to the camera via adapters easily found on ebay & other places. Manual focus lenses also have much better focusing rings than anything Canon can make on EOS lenses.
If all you have is fine and expensive EOS lenses (electromagnetic diaphragm), you can do it MacGyver-style. The trick is to physically prevent communication between the body and the lens, by using a little bit of tape or plastic over the pins you see inside the mount. This is harmless to the camera, it will simply think it has no lens mounted on. By doing this, you'll be shooting strictly wide open. Only the best glass need apply (more on that below). Daylight shooting will require ND filters (more on that below).
To shoot at some other aperture value, simply set the aperture in Av or M mode, and remove the lens WHILE pressing the depth of field preview button at the same time. Put the tape or plastic over the contacts, and re-mount the lens. Camera's top LCD will read 00 for aperture. Autoexposure remains active, so you have to lock AE if you want to avoid the jumping exposure "home video" look.
If unmounting/remounting lenses every 2 minutes is not your thing, you could also try that idea I've had.
You can also twist the lens instead of completely unmounting it. Be careful not to drop it !
ISO can be "controlled" within a 4 stop range, by locking AE then moving the back dial.
Shutter speed can be "forced" to something else than 1/30, if you want to avoid too much motion blur (which contributes to the dreaded "video look"). The shutter speed increases when you get near the lower end of the exposure compensation scale, and ISO is already low. If you want a 180 degree shutter look (shooting at 1/60), just lock AE with -1 compensation when ISO reads 100. Dial a -2 compensation and you're now shooting at 1/60. Only doable in good light since you need to shoot at ISO100. And of course, only possible when the lens is mounted normally, since the camera must know the focal length from the lens chip itself.
MISCELLANEOUS DETAILS AND TIPS
With a video bitrate up to 41.5 megabits per second (equals 5.2 megabytes per second), any card that can write 5.2 megabytes per second should be perfectly suitable for video with the 5D, as long as you never take stills during your videos. UDMA capability or higher read speeds are only useful to dump your footage on the computer. See here for a speed chart.
Be careful, on "modest" cards, if you delete some clips and the media becomes fragmented, the camera can have problems maintaining a steady data flow, and may start to show the low buffer bar, eventually stopping the capture when it reaches the maximum. It can happen anytime. The only solution : never delete anything in the field. You never know what you might find useful later. And big cards are cheaper than ever.
Neutral density filters are needed to reduce the amount of light effectively let in by a wide aperture when you have lots of light available. Shooting at f2.8 in sunlight will require a serious amount of ND filters. They block infrared light less than visible light : the more you use, the more your sensor becomes exposed to "infrared pollution", so you'll need an IR filter too. You can stack several ND filters, or use a variable ND filter.
Sharp lenses will give you better images if you shoot wide open but will also reveal more of the flaws that plague the 5D markII. Its video implementation is considered very primitive, and because it has no dedicated video processing hardware, the full HD image is obtained via possibly very dirty tricks at the sensor readout level. Artifacts commonly observed are aliasing or moire on high detail areas even though they're absent from 21 megapixel stills.
[attachment=4:giuvbfkz]aliasing.jpg[/attachmentvbfkz] [attachment=3:giuvbfkz]moire.jpg[/attachmentvbfkz] [attachment=1:giuvbfkz]dof.jpg[/attachmentvbfkz]
Lowering the sharpening level in camera can help avoid making aliasing more visible than it already is.
And of course, the 5D wouldn't be a 5D without its famous hot pixels.
An undocumented feature already present in the original 5D can cure them automatically for pictures, but it doesn't have any effect in video mode. If you can afford it, keep exchanging defective cameras until Canon understands the need for a user-settable hot pixel fix.
SOOTHING FINAL WORDS
The RED ONE also suffers from IR pollution.
To some extent, all CMOS sensor-based cameras (Sony EX1/EX3, RED One, Canon HV20/HV30...) suffer from slanted verticals when panning horizontally, and jellocam when panning vertically or just shaking the camera.
The H.264 compression scheme used by the 5D markII has a bitrate exceeding 38 megabits per second, which is much more than the bitrate on HDV video cameras (25 megabits per second). Higher bitrate means less destructive compression.
The Nikon D90 doesn't suffer from aliasing, but from line-stepping (which can be cured, unlike aliasing, arghh). It shoots 24P but it also has a smaller sensor and is limited to 720P definition.
Colored moire (like on the dog's back or the windshield) can be cured with common noise reduction plugins.
What you lose in aliasing, you gain in narrow depth of field and unprecedented low-light video ability. Aliasing might be gone in the next generation of video-SLRs.
Subject to modifications.
Feel free to point the errors out, just send me a personal message !