Saturday, March 21, 2009

THE Canon 5D Mark II - Wedding Photogs, You Might Wanna Manage Your Expectations About this Great SLR!

Ok wedding photographer friends! Everyone knows I'm a Canon loyalist, and today I had the pleasure of trying out their new 5D Mark II. One word should sum up my thoughts about it as a SLR - AWESOME. One word describes my initial impression about the video mode - CHALLENGING. Bear in mind, I started in video way back and have some experience in that field, so maybe my expectations were high, but I know I'm not the only one frustrated - just read some forums about it and you'll see I'm not all alone. Click HERE to read a review on the 5D Mark II where the writer & I share the same opinion - the 5DII is NOT meant to replace video cameras. AND you'll need your tripod/monopod/Steadicam handy to produce professional looking results. AND you'll need to seek some education, training, and everything else related to cinematography, camera operation, stabilization, the list could go on. Basically what I'm saying my wedding photographer friends is that you might want to manage your expectations about this baby. It's an awesome SLR, but if you think for one moment you'll master HD video at the press of a button, think again.

One of the biggest draws for me (and many others) is the ability to achieve a filmic look with the 5D II's HD video using our amazing Canon lenses that can give us stunning shallow depth of field that we all love. Easier said than done on the 5D Mark II. Read more about these shortcomings HERE on SportShooter. To sum up this challenge, almost everyone who has seen videos made on this camera want to attain that shallow depth of field look in the middle of the day. In Vincent Laforet's Reverie Canon 5DII video, no shots were taken at mid-day or even in daylight. That's because this camera is made for lowlight video when your video exposure can produce shallow depth of field because it adjusts exposure accordingly. But in bright sunlight, you must do some workarounds to achieve shallow depth of field since manual exposure control is not possible with this camera in the video mode. You read correctly, manual exposure control is not possible in the video mode. Sorry wedding photographers, I know many of you are M-mode fans, but that goes away with HD video mode on the Canon 5D II. Yeah I was bummed big time. However, there are ways to "cheat" the camera into shooting at a wide aperture to get the shallow depth of field - yes I was a little frustrated, but not surprised. One work around to shoot in mid-day at say f/2.8, is to aim the lens at a darker target or area to trick it into a wide aperture (because video mode is always in AUTO), THEN hit the video record button "SET", then quickly lock that exposure and swing it to the actual target I want to shoot video of. Even then, I was struggling with the exposure because my ISO was too high resulting in overexposure. As wedding photographers, especially as wedding photojournalists, this is not always a fast way of shooting, especially when shooting a live event like a wedding. Will the bride & groom really want you wasting precious photojournalistic seconds trying to achieve that shallow depth of field during their wedding? True, you'll have better luck in low light situations, but you'll look silly in bright light swinging your lens around aiming at dark things and trying to get the video exposure right. Still shaking your head on this one? Yeah, me too, but I fell prey to the excitement of HD video too in the beginning.

I am disppointed a bit, simply because many wedding photographers were somehow lead to believe all the hype surrounding the HD video mode about this camera. While it captures stunning HD video, it also reaffirms my initial belief that videographers and their very expensive gear and extensive training will NOT be replaced by HD video capable SLRs in the hands of most photographers. Thank goodness! However, as an SLR I'm VERY impressed with the new Canon 5D Mark II and cannot wait to get mine in April! And you can bet I will probably try to master the video mode on it anyway because as everyone knows, I still love playing with video, and I kind miss flying a Steadicam =)


In summary, I feel that wedding photographers that want to achieve the stellar cinematography we're seeing on the web created by the 5D2 should take some classes, find an instructor/mentor/tutor/editor, or just get some good training on video/film/cinematography. Otherwise, leave wedding videography to the experts. You can point & shoot your video and it'll still look great, but to really get that "look", you'll need more than that =)

Thanks to those who commented already, especially "Denver"! Please read his comment, he's got some good insight.


Anonymous said...

I too was disapointed by some of the video attributes but as a reminder. The unit is designed as a still camera and once you get the hang of it... you'll love it. Granted this has been the longest learning curve in the past 10 years for me and a camera and my first impressions sucked as well but now I love it.

Raquita said...

Its my understanding that you have to do some moderations to it to get it to do what you want (control exposure during video) - and there are some DVDs and workshops that show you how -

Anonymous said...

ok but like uh... he doesn't even HAVE the camera at the time he's writing this, that's like me looking at the tech specs of a Beamer and say, "man the new 5-series is a major dissappointment!" So you drove one? "No I'm getting mine next week."

Armin DeFiesta said...

@Anonymous comment #2 -

As I mentioned above in my blog post in the opening paragraph, I spent a day with the camera and my comments were based on that, NOT on just the spec sheet. It's a nice upgrade from the original 5D for sure, but not the greatest when it comes to video mode operation.

tisha said...

Talk about throwing some stones...geeze he actually did spend a day with it...actually with MINE. So I can attest that Armin did everything in his power to help a gal figure out the video features on this great camera. I am a huge fan of the 5D's anyone will tell you I LOVE Mark. He is indeed my "other man". But he does have disappointments and Armin is simply talking about the issues he dealt with first hand so you can keep your nasty remarks to yourself "anonymous".

denver said...

Some of your remarks are spot on but I believe you need a little educating or refresher on video/film, so please don't take offense. First off, it's not the canon lenses that is the primary reason the camera is able to achieve shallow depth of field (although a factor). The primary reason, is the full frame sensor; the tiny little chips (1/4", 1/3" & 1/2") in prosumer HD cameras are unable to achieve shallow DOF, hence the reason why some videographers resort to 35mm adapters. Secondly, although I agree that no manual exposure sucks (subject to firmware update according to rumored sources) you have to understand that you can't shoot in bright daylight anyway and get shallow depth of field even with manual settings, unless however you use neutral density filters. Since you're familiar with Vincent Laforet's work you should read up a little bit more on his blog as he discusses this. Any cinematographer that shoots shallow DOF will tell you that ND filters are essential in daylight. Why? Because although photographers can have a wide open aperture and adjust for overexposure with higher shutter speeds and lower ISO, in film (motion picture film) you are limited by how fast you can set your shutter speed to. Shutter speeds are typically 180 degree shutter or 1/48, in other words typically double the frame rate, for example 24 fps, 1/48, 30 fps, 1/60, it has to be this way to give a proper film cadence, otherwise you get strobing, i.e. 1/1000th shutter speed in films like "Saving Private Ryan." The mere fact that you don't understand these two essential facts and even the fact that you didn't even bring up the fact the 5D MK2 doesn't shoot 24 fps really leaves me to question your video background. And perhaps you may have had one but never actually worked with motion picture film or digital cinema cameras. I sense your bias is stemming from the fact that you're afraid of photographers tapping into the videography market share and offering more appealing photography packages than your own. I don't blame you, game changing technology can be hard to swallow. However, let me speak to the strengths of the 5D MK2 instead of tearing down it's limitations (which can and already have been overcome). For the first time ever a full frame 35mm sensor that can shoot video, in fact the sensor is larger then the sensor in the RED One. It's essentially a 35mm digital version of a 35mm motion picture camera, a 35mm digital cinema camera. I could just stop there, but an interchangeable lens system that once was only found on systems costing much, much more. Small form factor that can go anywhere including on an RC helicopter like Vincent used on his Jamie O'brien feature. For bang for the buck, for game changing features and limitations that already have work arounds I've arrived at the conclusion that I'd shoot with the 5D over the best prosumer HD camera or even ENG camera any day. How have I arrived at this, I use both and find myself as a D.P. constantly turning to my director and suggesting the 5D in place of our other cameras. Again please don't take offense and I hope you found this helpful.

All the best,

Armin DeFiesta said...

@Denver -- actually I'm glad you commented, and I hope more of my photographer friends visit this post and read what you have to say so they have even more insight into the DP/video/film world than they'd care to hear from me, lol, so thanks for sharing your knowledge. I am not at the level you are at all. However, I am familiar with the extent of knowledge, experience & training that's needed to achieve the cinematic look many wedding photographers are hoping they can get with the Mark II. Right now, most of them do not realize that extent. But with your knowledge and the workarounds and practice, anything's possible. I get a lot of wedding photographers & client visits to my blog, so this review was aimed at my wedding photographer network. I wrote it in the context over the latest hype about SLRs going HD video in wedding photography. I feel wedding photographers have been mislead - whether by viral marketing or marketing in general - that producing the coveted shallow DOF they love so much in SLRs can easily be achieved in the 5D Mark II. I just wanted to share with them that would not be the case without proper knowledge. Maybe it's time I change the title of my blog post =)

There's been so much chatter on wedding photography forums about how anyone can do video and take the wedding photography world by storm creating a fusion of both! There are even workshops now given by other wedding photographers to train other wedding photographers how to shoot and capture both still and motion and package it as a new service offering for wedding clients. I personally think it's great and have no problem with those endeavors, but I also think it's setting expectations too high as I've found already from friends that have purchased these SLRs. Many of my wedding photographer friends had certain expectations thinking the Mark II would be THE game changer with video. Sure, it probably will be for some, but it won't replace the true talent and skill needed to produce the cinematic wedding video qualities you see from folks like StillMotion with the 5D Mark II. But they also use real video cameras with the adapters you mentioned and Letus devices. I'm just hoping some wedding photographers realize that just because they can shoot with an SLR in a photojournalistic style doesn't mean they'll be able to replicate that with the 5DmkII in HD video mode without proper knowledge & training. A good number of wedding photographers have been lead to think they could just press a button and it'll look like just their photography. Hopefully this post and comments like yours will provide more insight into what will go into video if they want comparable results to those who've been doing this for years. Thanks Denver for chiming in... and OFF-TOPIC: how did you ever land on my blog? Just curious what keywords you used, I thought I'd get the usual wedding photographers commenting =)

Anonymous said...

Armin this is a great dialogue and now that I understand the context you are a %110 spot on and so for your blog readers I say "amen" to the point you're making. I definitely don't want to discourage your readers from venturing over into the exciting world of video but unless they're willing to entirely jump ship and learn the trade they will have a difficult time if not impossible gaining traction. I know this from first hand experience from the flip side of attempting to shoot stills. Sure I have some basic knowledge from my film background of proper framing and setting exposure levels but I'm not well versed in the art, of posing, on camera and off camera lighting and I wouldn't know the first thing about using Lightroom or applying action sets in Photoshop. Now if I wanted to do photography and decided I would fully commit to it full time then I could but you're absolutely spot on that this idea of hybrid style of shooting just simply isn't gonna work for two reasons. A) As I've pointed out it can take years to learn the trade and B) Even if you do learn the trade you must really make a decision which is priority stills or video, if you get great stills video will suffer, get great video, you're going to miss some really great stills. I'll even go as far as to challenge anyone to try it, but I guarantee they'll fumble the ball and at the end of the day they'll give a less of a performance than what they would have if they stuck to their photography and allowed a videographer to do his/her job. If they want to be a videographer then become a videographer, if they want to do both, do both but decide on the day of the shoot, are you a photographer today or a videographer? On a recent shoot in the Caribbean with some European leaders of a company, they observed how I was using a DSLR and asked if I might take some stills. I attempted this but to my dismay I missed some pretty important moments for video, when they felt I wasn't getting enough stills because my priority was video they asked if I could shoot even more stills at that point I had to decline because I was their to shoot video not take stills. Very few photography companies will a large crew I think will pull it off but don't plan on it if you're a lone wolf. Anyways that's my insight to support your point. Eventually I suppose the photography community will pick up on it, I was completely unaware that so many saw it as advantageous in photography circles. BTW picked up on your review from the

Denver Riddle

Miguel said...

Dan Chung seems to have it figured out
Nikon D series lenses with the adapter.
The manual aperture ring
his work is amazing

Videographers should be very afraid.