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Impacting Our World Through Storytelling

"Randy will visually tell your story in ways that will enlighten and inspire even your most challenging supporters."
- Bill Boatwright, Retired, Director of Communications, Baptist State Convention of NC





My Canon 5D Mark II Camera Package

Canon 5D Mark II packageIt was a joy this weekend to meet so many folks at the Baptist State Convention of NC’s Communication’s Team “Videomakers Workshop”.  There seemed to be a great deal of interest in my Canon 5D Mark II camera so I thought I would put together some information that might be helpful to those of you looking at this camera for your production needs.

Now, the Canon 5D Mark II is not the camera for all production situations, but it is a great new tool for many of us to achieve high-quality images at a great price point.  If you need to videotape your Sunday morning worship service, this is not the camera for you.  But if you want to produce promotional video clips on your church or short term mission trips your members are involved in (among other creative avenues), this may be a great solution for you.

Last fall I was taking a 24-day trip to five countries in Africa and needed a small camera with high-quality to take with me.  I have (2) JVC GY-HD250 cameras but they are larger than I wanted to take on this trip.  (The JVC cameras would be great by the way for using in a live church service, multi-camera recording situation, because they have Genlock capability and can be synced to a video switcher).  So I began my search for a new camera package for traveling overseas.

I first looked at the JVC GY-HM100, which is a very powerful little camera (approximately $3,500) that records in native Quicktime so editing on Final Cut Pro is simply a matter of copying the files to your edit system and getting to work, as there is no need to convert the files to another format to edit.  I quizzed a Director of Photography friend and he suggested that I look at the Canon 5D Mark II.  It was beginning to gain a very wide acceptance among DP’s and would be film makers.

Here were the initial features about the Canon that stood out to me.

  • 21.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor with DIGIC 4 Image Processor - The image sensor in this camera is a large as a 35 mm film camera and larger than any other video camera on the market.  So you can shoot very high-end digital still images as well as 1920x1080 24p and 30p HD video.  This camera is also very good in low-light situations, better than any video camera I’ve used previously.
  • Interchangeable lenses - No image that you record will ever be better than the piece of glass in front of it.  Having a camera with interchangeable lenses enables you to choose the right lens for the shot you’re trying to record and it opens a lot of opportunities for creativity.
  • HDMI output - this is a plus but also a bit of a trade off.  The camera only has one video output via the HDMI and when you have a HDMI monitor plugged into it the LCD on the back of the camera is switched off.  The HDMI output also currently switches to 480i during record which distorts the picture.  This is not optimum but I usually set my focus and compose my shot framing prior to recording so it is not that big a deal to me.
  • Records in H.264 format - This is a very robust compression scheme that enables the camera to record up to 50 minutes on a single 16GB Compact Flash card.  However the H.264 format is not great for editing.  (I will describe my editing workflow in another blog entry in the coming weeks).
  • Small size - The 5D is the size of standard digital SLR, which is much smaller than most video cameras.  This facilitates my packing the camera, lenses, batteries, chargers, monitor, etc. in one rolling carry-on bag for traveling overseas.  The fact that I can shoot high-end digital stills and HD video with one small camera was very attractive to me.
  • Recording time - The biggest negative to me on the camera initially is that there is a 12-14 minute continuous recording time limitation.  To avoid over heating of the CMOS sensor Canon programmed the camera to stop recording after continuously running for 12-14 minutes.  A 4GB CF card can record about 12 minutes of video.  For most of the production work that I do this is an inconvenience but it can be worked around with little problem.  The one caveat on my Africa trip was that I was traveling with a Bible teacher that was scheduled to record a series of messages and wanted to capture them on video.  His messages averaged about 45 minutes each.  To solve this problem I also purchased the JVC GY-HM100 camera for recording anything that required more than 12 minutes of continuous recording.  I was able to carry it in my backpack.  I use four 16GB Compact Flash cards (about 200 minutes of record time) along with a digital storage drive for dumping the data from the cards in the field.  I then backup the digital storage at night to a firewire drive connected to my laptop and eventually archive the original footage on Blu-Ray discs back in the office.
  • Audio - The Canon 5D Mark II has a built-in stereo microphone that does a pretty good job indoors but outdoors will pick up a lot of wind noise.  I purchased a separate RODE mic to mount on the camera hot shoe which plugs in the 3.5mm stereo mini jack on the camera.  If I need to use a handheld or lavalier microphone I purchased a Zoom H4N digital audio recorder and sync that with the camera sound in editing (more on this in another blog entry).

That is a quick overview of what initially caught my eye about the Canon 5D Mark II and why I chose to purchase it for my overseas trip.  I have used it since on several productions here in NC and love working with it.  By adopting a “film style” production workflow I have been able to work the 5D into our client productions.

Production Examples

Most of the cover footage in the 2010 Baptist Hospital Mother’s Day Offering video were shot with the Canon 5D Mark II.  Some of the interviews were but most of them were shot with our two JVC GY-HD250 cameras.

The Help For the Journey program for NC Baptist Aging Ministry (NCBAM) was shot with the 5D and a SONY EX3.  Most of the cover footage is the 5D along with many of the interview shots.

Here is a clip recorded in Ethiopia with the 5D handheld using the RODE stereo video mic on the camera and embedded in a blog entry on

Here are a couple of video clips produced by the Media Team at the Summit Church in Raleigh, NC.  Very nice work!  These were produced with the Canon 5D Mark II and the 7D.

My 5D Production Package

Canon 5D Mark II tripod mount
This is my Canon 5D Mark II with Zacuto rail system on my Sachtler tripod/head

Canon 5D Mark II hand held system
My Canon 5D configured for shoulder mount with Cavision pistol grip and shoulder mount attachments

Canon 5D Mark II package
Canon 5D with options/attachments

Canon 5D Mark II camera/lens
The basic Canon 5D Mark II camera body with 24-105 lens.  The camera body sells for about $2400 and this lens package with camera body is about $3500.

Canon 5D Mark II with 16-35mm lens
This is the Canon 16-35mm wide angle lens which is great for hand held or dolly/jib shots.

Canon 5D Mark II 70-200mm lens
This is the new Canon 70-200mm lens.

Canon 5D Mark II with Zacuto Z-finder
The Zacuto Z-finder eyepiece transforms the 5D into more of a traditional feel video camera and allows for more precise focus when hand held.

Canon 5D Mark II Zoom H4N and RODE mic
For audio I use the RODE stereo videomic on camera for natural sound and the ZOOM H4N digital recorder for syncing sound when using a shotgun mic, wireless mics, etc.

Canon 5D Mark II Sachtler tripod
I purchased the Sachtler FSB 4 triop/head system with carbon fiber sticks.  This is a great fluid head and very lightweight for travel.

Canon 5D Mark II Compact Flash cards
I use four SanDisk 16GB Compact Flash cards for field production (about 3.5 hours worth of footage) in a Pelican case for travel.

Canon 5D Mark II Nextodi 500
I purchased a Nexto di 500GB portable storage unit for dumping the Compact Flash card footage to in the field.  Very handy!

Canon 5D Mark II Zacuto rail system
I purchased the Zacuto rail system for mounting a follow focus unit, portable teleprompter, mattebox, etc. to the camera.  Other systems are also available from RedRock Micro and Cavision among others.

Canon 5D Mark II follow focus
I purchased a follow focus unit for my camera which is great for normal use and very helpful for complicated focus pulls requiring another crew person to pull focus.

Canon 5D Mark II LED light
I purchased two Lightpanels MicroPro LED lights for use overseas.  These lights are a bit expensive (just under $500 each) but you can mount one on the Canon 5D or mount them on small lightstands, etc.  They operate off of AA batteries or AC power and can come in very handy.

Canon 5D Mark II Cavision grips and shoulder mount
I purchased the pistol grip and shoulder mount attachments to use with my Zacuto rail mount system to steady up my hand held shots.  You can also buy these attachments from Zacuto or RedRock Micro.

Canon 5D Mark II rain suit
I bought a ThinkTankPro” rain cover for the Canon 5D for user overseas.

Canon 5D Mark II SmallHD monitor
For critical focus and color check a monitor is very important.  I bought the SmallHD DP1X monitor package along with a Zacuto clamp to mount to my tripod, etc.  Great monitor.  They now have a smaller version about to be released that will be a great addition to a 5D package.

Canon 5D Mark II Thinktankphoto bag
If you are traveling with your package you’ve got to have a good protective case.  I chose the ThinkTankPhoto Airport International bag because it meets carry on size restrictions for international airline flights and is very well made.  It is a rolling cart with lots of configuration possibilities and pockets.

Canon 5D Mark II ThinkTank Photo bag interior
This is an inside look at the ThinkTank Photo bag.

Resource Links

There are many different sources of information on the Canon 5D Mark II on the web.  I’ve included some that I found very helpful below along with links to the gear that I purchased.

Here is information from the Canon site on the camera:

Here is one of the best sites for hands-on evaluation and tips on the camera:

Check out these movies produced by Philip Bloom with the 5D Mark II and the 7D:

Skywalker Ranch from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

If you edit in Final Cut Pro you will definitely want to download and install the new free plugin for transferring your footage into a FCP project.

Here is a very informative forum specifically for the Canon 5D Mark II:

Here is a website dedicated to filmmaking with the 5D:

A great general website for anything to do with video, graphics, animation, etc.:

Zacuto is the company that makes the Z-Finder eyepiece, the rail system and some of the add on’s I use on my camera:

Another company to look at for add on’s:

And yet another that is on the lower end of the expensive curve:

This is a great HDMI monitor solution for the 5D:

An on-camera mic solution:

A digital audio recorder for syncing sound:

An external storage device for dumping CF cards in the field:

A great rolling carry on bag option:

A great source for buying gear: as well as (  Of course if you have a local video or photo dealer that you can work with, the local support is a good thing.

I hope this information has been helpful.  Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of service.

Randy Durham
Credence Pictures