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Canon 5D Mark II Video Camera Review

Canon's high-end digital SLR takes high definition video. Is it any good?

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Canon 5D Mark II Video Camera Review

Image courtesy Canon

An increasing number of digital SLR cameras are adding video recording. Canon's 5D Mark II is notable because it blends very sophisticated photography features with 1920 x 1080p video recording.

Note that this is not a review of the 5D's photo features, but only it's video capture capability. Head over to our camera page for digital camera reviews.

Video samples shot with the 5D Mark II can be found here. For the 5D Mark II's specifications, click here.

Canon 5D Mark II Video Features At a Glance

The Good:Wide selection of lenses for creative video taking.

The Bad: Limited capability, short recording times.

If you're in the market for Canon's 5D Mark II, you're buying it for its still photography features. The fact that it records 1080p HD video is a nice bonus. But how nice?

Canon claims the 5D Mark II captures 1920 x 1080 Full HD video, which is true. But that's where the similarities between the 5D and your standard camcorder end.

Video Quality

As far as video quality goes, the 5D's is impressive considering that it’s not a dedicated camcorder. Color reproduction is mostly accurate indoors and out.

Optics

By adding HD video recording to a digital SLR, Canon has effectively opened its expansive line of camera lenses to video shooting, allowing for a number of creative experiments. Professional camcorders offer swap-out lenses too, but not the range of photo features on offer in the 5D, nor in such a (relatively) compact package.

That’s the good news. The bad news is while you can zoom during recording, you’d have to have super-natural abilities to keep the camera from shaking while you do it.

Focusing is also problematic. When recording, the camera will set its initial focus. If you move or zoom, the lens won’t automatically and seamlessly refocus, leaving you with a blurry video. You can refocus the scene by hitting the AE lock button, but that initiates a short sequence of lens mechanics which not only alters the focus of your video along the way, but makes noise that’s picked up by the camera’s mic.

Creative Controls

Canon also gives you a modest amount of manual control over your video. You can adjust the aperture and ISO sensitivity from 100 to 6,400. The ISO function helps to compensate for low light. Since the 5D Mark II does not have a video light, you’ll have to make do with available lighting.

You can also make adjustments to the 5D's the shutter speed. These are fairly basic controls when compared to what the 5D can do with still photos.

Limited Recording Time

The 5D limits recording sessions to 12 minutes, a limitation that not even inexpensive consumer camcorders labor under. Of course, with a weight of three pounds it would take considerable effort to hold the 5D aloft for an uninterrupted 12 minutes.

A Great Camera

Though the 5D Mark II has helped blaze a trail of incorporating high definition video recording into a digital SLR, you shouldn’t mistake this high-end camera for a camcorder replacement. Though the video quality is quite impressive, there are too many limitations to its video recording capabilities to make it worthwhile for a consumer to forsake their camcorder.

Pros, I suspect, are another story. They're no stranger to lugging a tripod around or spending hours editing video clips together into a coherent whole, so some of the 5D's downsides for consumers are more manageable for the pro shooter.

One thing's for certain, this is likely to be the trend to watch among higher-end digital SLRs.

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