There was a time two years ago when most of my fellow students were excited about the Nikon D90. But, as Bob Dylan would say, ‘Times They Are A-Changing’. As of nine months ago, the new kid on the block that seems to be the DSLR at the forefront of everyone’s trail of thought is the Canon 5D. Here is a DSLR camera that can take HD video that looks as good as Z or JVC ProHD cameras. Of course it is small, so filming up close in small spaces (like cars) is obviously a benefit. It’s also lighter than the other professional cameras, and more portable and maneuverable for it. The fact that video is all stored via memory cards also has it’s advantages, such as bigger storage space and quicker uploads.
But I was asked to highlight some of the downsides, and evaluate the performance of the 5D as a whole. Like most cameras, although it’s multi-purposed, there’s some major downsides to using this particular piece of kit.
1. Overheating – I haven’t experienced this myself as of yet, but I’ve been warned by my skills instructor that Canon 5Ds are prone to overheating. This is probably due to the amount of energy needed to film HD video on such a small camera. The ProHD cameras are absolutely huge – to even have half the power of them in such a small unit would no doubt affect the battery. This point of course also means:
2. Battery Life – Perhaps easily resolvable by using a better battery, but nonetheless this is going to be a case of bringing spares to any shoot you go to using these things. During our little test shoot the other day, we managed to blitz half of a fully charged battery just by playing around for a few minutes. In cold climates, overheating wouldn’t be such an issue – whether this would affect battery life in some way is hard to say. If another volcano crops up on my rota (and I’m feeling experimental) I might go trekking with one.
3. Focus – A simple one-word problem. Hands down the ProHD cameras are better for this sort of stuff. The depth of field is a major plus, which is why the footage looks so good, and why so many people want to use these for video. However, changing that focus (particularly on moving objects) is strangely awkward to do. Lest not we forget, this is a DSLR camera – a piece of kit originally designed to take photographs. Not only does the focus feel a little awry, but also:
4. Rolling Shutter – The method by which the Canon 5D takes a video is different from the ones previously mentioned in that it takes video by ‘rolling’ the shutter over the image. It’s rather like progressive scanning – the entire image is sampled from top to bottom in a microscopic period of time, as opposed to interlaced scanning, where the image is constantly being sampled by switching between half the bars in the image and the other half. More information can be found here, but generally all one would need to take on board is that the sample rate of the Canon 5D can pick up things that other cameras cannot. I filmed the inside of the now-named Student Union ‘Hub’ when it was being built, with my Nikon DSLR – the halogen lights being used caused a wavy ‘beaming’ effect on my footage. This is because the light was being radiated at a speed that the camera was picking up. Apparently Canon 5Ds are bad to use with American street lights – there will likely be other ‘things’ this camera will pick up. As you cannot change to interlaced scan, there’s not a lot you can do about it.
5. Time Limits – The video function on the 5D also has an unknown time limit, but any time limit is a bad thing for a video camera. One of my old mobile phones used to only be able to record for less than a minute – when taking the token ‘memento’ videos at concerts, I realized just how annoying such time limits can be!
6. Basic Limitations – These are all limitations – this point merely references to the basics. A shutter speed no lower than 30, an aperture no bigger than 4.0. ISO settings were also a bit restricted – I don’t tend to use ISO alterations much anyway, due to how drastically it affects the footage. I only use sensitive ISO settings when I have no other option, but evidently, I’ll probably be using it a lot with these cameras. There’s no gain or ND filter to speak of, and also – although not entirely important – I always found that RGB ‘paint’ tool on the ProHD cameras was pretty cool. I found the RGB balance in the camera settings, but it was obviously not in the same league.