Canon wasn’t first to present a DSLR camera capable of capturing video, Nikon beat them by roughly a month with the D90. While the D90 was a rushed product concieved to take the glory from the new 5D, it doesn’t change that the 5D Mar II is the true revolution that brings 35mm feature film quality to the hands of everyone who wants it.
The basic specs of the 5D mk II is a 35mm full-frame CMOS sensor, 24MP, ISO 50-6400 (25,600), 3.9fps for stillsand 30fps 1080p video. The large sensor makes the individual pixels 6.4um squared in size, this is 2-3 times the size of most DSLRs and many times bigger than smaller digicams and digital video cameras (even broadcast and movie cameras use tinypixels in comparison). The pixels and sensor size is the key here, they provide the ability to capture images in low light with low noise witha shallow depth of field.
By keeping the noise levels low while capturing images in low light more natural environments with less artificial light can be used. A typical movie of commercial production uses trucks full of lighting equipment, by using an ISO of 6400 and fast lenses darkness is not really a problem anymore aslong as you can see comfortably the camera can take good photos. The only lighting equipment needed is the one used to create mood, softencontrasts and match lighting levels, not multi-kW lights needed to flood entire scenes.
Shallow depth of field is crucial to draw attention in the frame and reduce clutter. Shallow DOF is a direct function of a large sensor, long focal length, close focusing distanceand big aperture size. The reverse is true as well when the entire frame needs to be in focus. With the 35mm sensor the 5D gets the same possibilities for shallow DOF as the 35mm film cameras used for the highest budget feature films.
The 35mm RED ONE digitial cinema camera took a large (and revolutionizing) step towards digital movie-making about a year ago when it was presented, however the 5D mk II takes it one step further with a new level of ISO performance and a new kind of affordability. A 5D mk II costs $2700 when it becomes available later this November compared to the $17,500 base Red One system. A prime example of the things that can be achieved with the 5D mk II is Vincent Laforet’s Reverie, a short feature made during one weekend with almost no pre-production when he got the chance to borrow a pre-series camera.
By having a base as a Canon DSLR still camera it is compatible with Canons entire range of EF lenses, particularly the exceptional L-series lenses. The bad thing from a movie making perspective is the ergonomics and limited contrast detect auto-focus. Both of these problems can be worked around though; a tripod with a video head will solve the ergonomics and autofocus is seldom used in scripted film-making anyway. Shoulder mounted solutions are bound to be created, who’ll be the first?
Film making just got democratic, camera, lights, lenses and post-production capable of rivaling the best feature films is available to every one who can spare $3000 and has a computer. The future of film making is here.