Canon Announces EOS 5D Mark II: Firmware Update v. 2.0.3
The EOS 5D Mark II's video capabilities created more than a stir when the camera was introduced in late 2008. Its spectacular HD image quality, low-light performance, and shallow depth-of-field suddenly gave the industry a new breed of camera with amazing imaging potential at a [relatively] very low cost. Videographers, cinematographers, and other imaging professionals began integrating the EOS 5D Mark II into their productions. Shortly after, an entire cottage industry sprang up for accessories and software to make EOS HD-SLR cameras fit smoothly into all types of professional projects.
These same professional users frequently requested additional functionality, to make the EOS 5D Mark II more flexible to their needs: Manual exposure capability was a common request, and Canon's engineers listened and developed a firmware upgrade in late 2009 that gave the EOS 5D Mark II that capability. Subsequently released EOS HD-SLRs such as the EOS 7D and EOS-1D Mark IV incorporated the wider range of standard frame rates that users were asking for.
Based on continued requests and feedback from our professional video users, Canon's engineers have once again responded: Firmware version 2.0.3 is now available for free download from Canon USA's web site, starting in mid-March, 2010 on the Canon USA website. With this update installed, the EOS 5D Mark II will gain the following capabilities:
Variable frame rates:
A huge request from professional video shooters was the ability to record video at 24 fps, for a filmic look favored by many serious cinematographers.
Firmware version 2.0.3 will add several much-requested upgrades to the EOS 5D Mark II's Movie Mode, including variable frame rates such as 24p (23.976) and 30p (29.97).
Furthermore, the EOS 5D Mark II's true 30.00 fps (at 30 fps setting) differed from the NTSC-standard of 29.97 fps, sometimes making video editing and matching with audio a problem.
With firmware v.2.0.3 installed, the following frame rates are now available in the EOS 5D Mark II:
30 fps (29.97 fps)
24 fps (23.976 fps)
25 fps (requires camera to be set to PAL recording mode)
30 fps (29.97 fps)
25 fps (requires camera to be set to PAL recording mode)
Note: Firmware v. 2.0.3 does not add the HD 1280x720 resolution option that is available in other EOS models, such as the EOS 7D and EOS-1D Mark IV, and likewise does not add the 60 fps and 50 fps settings in those cameras.
Manual Adjustment of sound recording level:
Another big addition, tailored to the professional video user. Up to now, the EOS 5D Mark II's built-in audio recording has automatically adjusted its level for recording, and the only possible way for the user to change this was to attach third-party devices to the camera. Now, once firmware v. 2.0.3 is installed, video pros and enthusiasts will have the option of manual recording level (audio gain) control, over a 64-step range, selectable right on the camera's menu.
While the menu display will show level meters for Left and Right stereo input, please note that this upgrade will not allow users to separately adjust L/R stereo balance. There is one main manual adjustment for audio recording level only. And of course, the option remains for users to allow the camera to automatically set sound levels, as it has previously. The newly available level meters will remain visible within the new Sound Recording menu when levels are automatically set.
Now, EOS 5D Mark II shooters will be able to monitor and manually adjust audio levels prior to shooting. In addition, the sampling frequency has increased from 44.1 KHz to 48 KHz.
.Manual audio level adjustment requires that the camera be set to the P, Tv, Av, or M exposure mode settings before video recording begins.
Sound sampling frequency changed to 48 KHz:
Matching the audio characteristics of the recently-introduced EOS 7D and EOS-1D Mark IV cameras, firmware v.2.0.3 for the EOS 5D Mark II raises the quality of its sound recording to the same 48 KHz standard (up from 44.1 KHz).
With this improvement, the professional video shooter using the EOS 5D Mark II now has better sound quality than before, and the ability to manually set overall sound level in the camera, without accessories. Whether shooting in a studio or on location, these two significant additions are sure to be welcomed by serious video enthusiasts and video editors as well.
New shutter-priority (Tv) and aperture-priority (Av) shooting modes:
Up to now, the EOS 5D Mark II video user has had two exposure choices - either manually set shutter speed and aperture, or let the camera completely set all exposure values automatically.
Automatic exposure control can certainly have an advantage when following fast-moving subjects that may move from a bright to a shadowed area, or move from indoors to outdoors. Still image shooters and many users of traditional pro video cameras have had the ability to lock-in a lens aperture or a shutter speed, and have the camera automatically vary the other value. Now, once firmware v.2.0.3 is installed into the EOS 5D Mark II, users of this camera will have similar capabilities.
Another benefit of Firmware v2.0.3 is the ability to shoot movies while in Av or Tv modes (previously, only fully automatic or fully manual shooting was available in Movie Mode).
Shutter-priority (Tv mode): Selecting Tv ('time value' or shutter priority) on the camera's mode dial now allows the user to pick their preferred shutter speed, and the camera will automatically vary aperture and ISO for proper exposure, based on the light levels in the scene. Because physically changing the lens aperture can result in audible noise, this new Tv mode for video will first attempt to automatically vary ISO setting to adjust for changes in brightness. Aperture will also be adjusted if still needed, but this is secondary and minimized where possible.
Speeds from 1/30th second through 1/4000th are manually selectable in the Tv mode (shutter speeds are selected by turning the Main Dial, just as in still image shooting). Remember that faster shutter speeds may be useful in bright light to control exposure and/or allow wider lens apertures for limited depth-of-field, however subject movement will appear progressively more jerky or 'stacatto' as shutter speeds increase. Speeds from roughly 1/30th to 1/125th second tend to produce the smoothest flow of movement.
Aperture-priority (Av mode): A key attraction of the EOS 5D Mark II is its characteristic film-look, thanks to limited depth-of-field when compared to many traditional pro video cameras. Control over depth-of-field is a vital element in many shooting situations, and this means allowing direct control of lens aperture. Manual exposure mode obviously does this, but it doesn't allow for any automatic exposure changes or adjustment if the subject or camera moves from one lighting level to another. Now, with aperture-priority capability, the EOS 5D Mark II shooter has this option when they need it.
Simply set Av on the camera's Mode Dial, set the lens aperture you desire by turning the Main Dial near the shutter button, and the camera will automatically vary ISO levels (at low light levels) and shutter speed (as light levels increase) to maintain proper exposure - keeping the lens aperture you've chosen.
Since shutter speeds will vary automatically (they remain visible on the LCD monitor's information display), keep in mind that the combination of wide lens apertures and bright light levels will result in fast shutter speeds -- as noted above, this can result in somewhat stacatto motion effects when recording moving subjects. Keep an eye on the shutter speed when working in well-lit conditions in Av mode, and if possible run tests ahead to determine how fast shutter speeds will affect movement in your footage so that you can adjust the lighting or shooting mode accordingly.
Notes concerning Tv and Av video operation:
ISO values are always automatically set in Tv or Av mode during video recording; manual setting of ISO isn't possible.
ISO range is from 100 thru 6400 in the new Tv or Av video settings. Minimum ISO is 200 if Highlight Tone Priority is active. ISO expansion is not possible in Tv/Av modes.
Remote Live View shooting remains possible with a computer using the new Tv and Av exposure modes. Shutter speeds and lens apertures, however, cannot be changed on-screen using Canon's EOS Utility software.
All other features possible during video recording remain available: Users can shoot a full-resolution still image by pressing the shutter button, select any available video resolution and/or frame recording rate, select any of three AF options, and so on.
EOS 5D Mark II users can now review a Brightness or RGB histogram on the rear LCD before shooting video.
Histogram display during manual exposure shooting:
Before this firmware update, once the EOS 5D Mark II had been set-up for movie shooting (Live View Function setting to Stills + Movie, and Screen Settings to Movie), it wasn't possible to see a histogram display. Especially for users working in Manual exposure mode, this can be a critical method to judge exposure settings before shooting a scene.
Once firmware version 2.0.3 has been installed into the EOS 5D Mark II, you'll now be able to view a histogram on the LCD monitor before video recording begins when in Manual exposure mode (please note that the histogram cannot be viewed once recording has actually started).
A few final points about firmware version 2.0.3:
This firmware upgrade is entirely free, and will be available for download from Canon web sites around the world, starting on March 17, 2010.
Some brand-new EOS 5D Mark II cameras may appear before this date with firmware version 2.0.3 already factory-installed. These cameras do not need to be upgraded, once v. 2.0.3 becomes available on Canon web sites for download.
The firmware upgrade procedure is the same as previous upgrades for EOS cameras:
For more details, go to the Canon USA website.