I've been skeptical about the utility of the HD video produced by the 5D Mark II and other high-end DLSRs. Sure, we all saw Vincent LaForet's incredible video Reverie, but he's a top-notch professional with oodles of equipment, lighting and resources (including a helicopter, which so few of us use on our shoots).
But over on SmugMug's blog, Don MacAskill, the company's founder, writes about his somewhat less privileged father's experience shooting HD video with the 5D Mark II. His dad wrote that he, too, was skeptical about the results he'd get:
“I had seen Vincent Laforet’s amazing short film, but only in 720p. I knew what an amazing photographer he is and wondered how close an everyman like me could come to footage like that. Could the clips possibly hold up to viewing in 1080p?”
“So with only an hour’s practice shooting my dog licking peanut butter and the neighbor’s kids running in their yard, I left for the city to compare myself to a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer with his helicopter, pricey stabilizer, models, set lighting, and post-production experts. I had a few hours and a tripod. What we had in common was the 5D.”
How did he do? According to the elder MacAskill
“I had just one secret weapon, same as Vincent: a Canon 200mm f/2.0 lens, not exactly an everyman item. It made a difference and I used it for maybe half the shots (snip). I also used an 85mm f/1.2 for scenes like the cable car, and toys in shop windows.”
“Dog and kid shots look amazing too, but I have to be honest: I missed many shots of fast-moving kids that I would have gotten with my video camera. Maybe I just need figure out how to juggle zooming, focus, and having the controls scattered across the back of the camera, but it felt like I needed three hands and the skillz of a Cirque du Soleil juggler.”
So, what's the verdict? Like I predicted, the Mark II isn't going to be as easy to use or as complete a solution as a less-expensive dedicated video camera. Still, the video looks amazing, and as Don's dad and other Mark II users get more experience - and maybe a third hand - the results will only get better. (Plus, I bet we see some kind of third-party solution for holding the camera while taking video - something like a Steadicam.)
And considering that there isn't a price premium for the video capability - the 5D Mark II's cost is actually lower than its two closest competitors from Nikon and Sony, enthusiastic amateurs and pros are going to have a ball trying to get the best possible video from what promises to be an outstanding DSLR.