Shooting With the Canon 5D Mark II

Two weeks from today, I will depart for a 99-day journey circling the globe working on a passion project Opening Our Eyes.  It will be both an adventure and a humbling experience.  But right now I’m getting down to the wire and trying to tie up a million loose ends.

This past weekend, I took a break from the details to attend the wedding of my nephew – my sister’s oldest son.

Chris and Trish Saal ©Thomas Kelly

I thought this would be a great opportunity to really do a test run with my new Canon 5D Mark II with the Zacuto rig Striker.  I wanted to capture good audio as well so I ran the Rode mic via XLR connection to the JuicedLink DT454.  To be honest, I was going to capture the audio two different ways – via the JuicedLink and also straight from the mic to the camera via mini jack, but I forgot to bring the XLR to mini jack cord so I ended up capturing all my audio via the JuicedLink. Because the 5D has had a firmware upgrade where I was able to turn off the AGC, I used the JuicedLink with the AGC disabler turned off. But until Canon issues a firmware upgrade for the 7D that allows you to turn off the AGC, you can use the JuicedLink to disable it.

Ultimately this combination was a nice way of working candidly.  I had the Rode mic and JuicedLink attached to an extender on the top of the camera, although I will probably attach the JuicedLink to the Zacuto rig in the future, leaving just the mic on the camera’s hot shoe.  But either way, I was able to get good ambient sound and/or spontaneous sound bites from people. I had done previous testing to know that I first needed to calibrate the camera audio by going into manual settings and dialing the audio down half way.  Then I dialed the volume down on the JuicedLink to whatever setting is necessary according to the meter levels.  In a noisy atmosphere with loud music like a wedding reception, I had it dialed way down.  You never want “hot” audio where the volume levels are spiked.

The image is simply stunning and I am really sold on the look. I shot in late afternoon sunlight as well as on a dark dance floor and the camera handled both beautifully.  The Striker rig with the Zacuto Z-Finder Pro 3Xworked great for stabilization and I didn’t find the focusing to be as hard as I thought it would be.  The Z-Finder Pro 3X is very sharp with built in diopters.  The striker is light and with the camera strap around my neck, it was easy to be in standby mode, relieving some of the stress on my hands.

I did notice though that I tended to start shooting more with a still “moment” mentality rather than in video/motion b-roll.  When I shoot video I have a mantra running through my head to “shoot and move” – meaning shoots lots of variations, from wide shots to close-ups from a variety of angles.  When shooting at the reception I found myself defaulting to one spot – rather than covering the angles and focal lengths, but then again I was caught up in the “personal” moment of the event so I wasn’t thinking too much about “getting the job done”.

All in all I have to say that I really loved working with this camera and I definitely love the “feel” of the images.  I can’t wait to really test it out over the next three months, and I’ll keep you posted.  See a short video “snippet”.

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6 thoughts on “Shooting With the Canon 5D Mark II

  1. Daymon J. Hartley May 11, 2010 / 11:23 am

    Thanks for sharing. Your posts are very helpful. Why the JuicedLink instead of the Beachtek DXA-5D?

  2. Gail Mooney May 11, 2010 / 11:34 am

    If I remember correctly – I chose the JuicedLink DT 454 because it had audio meters on it and the Beachtek model I was contemplating did not. There was a beachtek specifically made for the 5D but it did not have the AGC disabling feature so I couldn’t use it with the 7D which is my backup camera. Plus I saw some interesting samples comparing both devices and the JuicedLink just sounded better. With that said, I know many people who sware by the beachteks.

  3. Mark Green May 11, 2010 / 2:32 pm

    Gail I just shot some working video with My Nikon D3S and my 300mm 2.8. (on my Vinten / Gitzo rig of course), and yes, it’s hard not to love the DSLR look. I look forward to seeing your movie.

  4. Jorge Parra May 12, 2010 / 8:14 am

    Gai, I love your comment for what it’s worth. What yo experienced here ( a change in the way you are recording video) comes from the fact that the ergonomics are different. After having done TV commercials, both as DIrector and DP, I stopped shooting video ages ago since I hated the ergonomics of standard video cameras, and the change in ergonomics introduced by hybrid DSLR cameras also brings a new vision, a different way of shooting.

    I STRONGLY suggest and invite you to test the hand held camera without the Zacuto or any video-like gadget. You will find there are both angles of view and a general different outlook resulting from shooting like that. Actually, You already noticed that!

    Also, one old idea that I put back in use was that of attaching a monopod with some additional weight( small sand bag,etc) to the 5DMII, so the added weight makes the system acts as a primitive, yet useful steadycam replacement.

    You can then use the extended monopod to raise the camera to very high angles of view,( no crane required) and also the opposite: if you invert the entire system, you will have the camera recording at very low ground level, a cat’s or mouse’s POV , looking up, without you laying on the floor.

    Let the ergonomics work for you to be creative regarding the use of the camera. DOn’t jump all the time into old-style-video-like set up.

    You will enjoy the change if you embrace it!.

    Jorge

  5. Gail Mooney May 12, 2010 / 2:07 pm

    Thanks Jorge, I’m already enjoying and embracing it.

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