In an unusual move, Canon released a firmware upgrade for its high-end EOS 5D Mark II camera that substantially expands its video capability nearly a year and a half after the SLR was released.
Customers of the $2,500 camera had sought more flexibility in the 1080p video frame rates to better match their medium of production. The camera initially only supported 30 frames per second, but the firmware 2.0.3 update changes that to 29.97fps "to comply with TV production standards," adds a 23.976fps option for those in the cinema world, and for those who set the camera to use the European PAL video standard, there's also a 25fps option. (As is common, the terminology on the camera itself is rounded up to 30fps and 24fps.)
There are other significant changes in the update (downloadable from Canon's Web site). First, video can operate with a set shutter speed or aperture, with the camera maintaining exposure by varying other settings. Previously only fully automatic or fully manual settings were possible. The shutter speed changes let photographers choose between freeze-frame-style video or smoother but blurrier motion, and the aperture settings make it easier to keep a shallow depth of field to focus attention on the subject.
Second, the audio sampling rate has been increased from 44.1KHz to 48KHz for better sound quality desired by professionals, and input recording levels can be set manually. And third, a histogram can be overlaid in manual shooting to gauge exposure.
"I have been lucky enough to have played with the new firmware for the Canon 5DmkII over the past couple of weeks. It has utterly revitalised my love for the camera," said Philip Bloom, a filmmaker with 20 years experience. "The 30p has always been a problem. It's a frame rate that is of no real use to me as I need 25p or 24p for my work. Converting your rushes [rough video from the day's shoot] from 30p is more than a nightmare...This can take sometimes over a day depending on how long your rushes are."
Absent is support for 60fps modes for 720p video in the lower-end but newer 7D, the higher-end 1D Mark IV, and the newest Canon SLR, the lower-end Rebel T2i, aka 550D. The 60fps frame rate is better for slow-motion video.
Dawn of a new era The video SLR era is significant because it offers videographers higher-end features such as interchangeable lenses that are relatively expensive to come by in the video world. In addition, the 5D Mark II's full-frame 36x24mm sensor has much better low-light sensitivity. However, for professional use, where people need camera rigs to mount the SLR, separate audio recording gear, external monitors to aid in focusing, and expensive gear to edit video, the costs still can mount quickly. … Read more