Rudy Winston
Rudy Winston

Rudy Winston has over 14 years experience with Canon USA's Pro Products team, and has been responsible during that time for training Canon's staff on new products, creating presentations for customers and dealers, numerous writing projects, and providing technical assistance to professional and amateur photographers.

EOS 5D Mark II: How to Use Manual Video Exposure

March 30, 2011

Armed with Firmware version 1.1.0 or higher, the EOS 5D Mark II becomes an even more valuable tool to a wide range of users, and its video capabilities now take a giant leap forward in their potential for professional applications.

Since its introduction in the fall of 2008, Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II has created a storm of interest and activity by its innovative and super high-quality Full 1080p EOS HD Video recording capability. Traditional still shooters have rapidly discovered that this new feature allows them to be more valuable to their clients, or simply add a new dimension of creativity to the imagery they produce. In addition, professional cinematography and videography communites have found that for many types of applications, the EOS 5D Mark II’s video capabilities are unmatched, even by very high-end professional video cameras that can cost more than a luxury car.

Up to now, however, the level of built-in control that’s possible for the EOS 5D Mark II during video shooting has been limited. Canon received countless suggestions and requests from users of all types to add greater control to the video mode of the EOS 5D Mark II. Canon’s engineers have responded, with a new firmware upgrade that’s slated to be available in very early June, 2009. This new firmware (version 1.1.0) will allow full manual exposure control during video shooting. This document gives interested users and dealer sales staff some insight into this new capability.

Firmware v. 1.1.0: what it adds

Once installed, EOS 5D Mark II users will be able to utilize the 'M' mode setting to manually set shutter speed, lens aperture, and ISO when in Movie Mode. Previously, regardless of where the Mode Dial was physically set, video recording was always in the Program AE setting with no practical method to manually set a pre-determined exposure value. We’ll explain the procedure to manually set exposure during video recording in a moment -- the important thing here is to note that users now have a choice during video recording, once firmware version 1.1.0 is installed: they can continue to let the camera set exposure completely automatically, as it has up to now, or they can manually set exposure themselves.

What this firmware does NOT do, at least at this time, is add or change features like the camera’s 30 frames per second framing rate, its fully automatic audio gain control, or add in-camera time code capability. Canon has received many such requests for these features and capabilities from EOS 5D Mark II users, and these have indeed been conveyed to our engineers in Japan. For now, however, the only new feature we can speak of is perhaps the most important and fundamental one — the ability to manually control video exposure.

Installing the new firmware:

Firmware update version 1.1.0 for the EOS 5D Mark II is a free download from the Canon web site. Installation instructions are available on-line, and follow the same general procedure as previous Canon firmware upgrades:

After the firmware is copied onto a CF card, simply insert the card into your EOS 5D Mark II and navigate to Set-Up Menu #3 > Firmware Ver. x.x.x. Hit the SET button, then follow the on-screen directions to initiate the update.

  • Download the firmware file to your computer’s hard drive, and if necessary, expand it using Stuffit Expander™ or similar software. You should be presented with a file named 5d200110.fir
  • Copy the firmware file onto a CF card, using a card reader. Dragging and dropping the .fir file will work fine. DO NOT create any new folder(s) on the card, and do not put the .fir file within any folder on the card — if you do, the camera won’t be able to “see” it.
  • Install the card into the camera.
  • Go to the camera’s Menu, navigate to the third Set-Up Menu (yellow “wrench” icon on the menu tab). Scroll to the bottom item: Firmware Ver x.x.x. This displays the current firmware version in your camera.
  • Press the camera’s SET button to enter this menu setting. The camera will now look at the card’s contents, and if it detects a new firmware file, it’ll ask you if you want to update it. Highlight OK to begin the installation procedure.
  • IMPORTANT NOTE: Be sure you have a freshly-charged battery before you start the upgrade, and DO NOT touch any buttons, turn the camera off, and so on once the install process has started. If firmware installation is interrupted for any reason, it’s possible the camera may be rendered totally dead, and require service department procedures to bring it back to life!
  • Installation should take several minutes. The camera will provide a progress bar to tell you the percentage of install process you’re currently on. Once 100% has elapsed, the process is complete.

Using Manual Exposure Control during video recording:

Once it’s installed, the new firmware makes it pretty easy to actually perform your exposure adjustments. The same dials and controls you’d use to manually adjust exposure when taking still images are used during video recording, so operation is pretty intuitive for anyone with familiarity with the camera.

Make sure your Live View Function Setting is on Stills + Movie, and your Screen Settings are on Movie Display

Here’s the procedure:

  1. Live View/Movie function settings: Be sure your LV (Live View) settings are set to “Stills + Movie”. Then, press the SET button as indicated on the Menu screen to drill one more step down, and set your Screen Settings to “Movie Display”.

    This last point is vital: If your Screen Settings are anywhere but “Movie Display” you will not be able to manually adjust exposure.

  2. Turn the Mode Dial on top of the camera to “M” (Manual exposure mode), as you would to manually adjust exposure during a still image.
  3. Press the Live View button (to the left of the viewfinder) to activate Live View. This is always a requirement before movie shooting is possible, and this firmware update doesn’t change that.

Press the INFO button on the rear of the camera to see the analog metering scale as an exposure reference in Movie Mode

  1. If you want to see the camera’s analog metering scale to use as a guide for setting manual exposure, press the INFO button until it appears at the bottom of the LCD monitor. Now, as you make exposure adjustments, you’ll see the indicator on the scale change as lighting and settings change. Of course, users are also free to use a separate hand-held meter or other methods to determine proper shutter speeds, apertures, and ISO settings.
  2. Turn the Main Dial (near the shutter button) to adjust shutter speeds, over a range of 1/30th thru 1/4000th of a second. Turn the rear Quick Control Dial to adjust the aperture setting, through the entire range available on the lens you’re currently using. And press the ISO button (top of camera) and turn the Main Dial to vary ISO, or set Automatic ISO operation.

Shutter speed range in Manual Exposure shooting:

As noted above, users can set manual shutter speeds during video recording anywhere from 1/30th of a second thru 1/4000th. Speeds can be set in 1/3-step increments, or via Custom Function I-1-1, in 1/2-step increments. Shutter speeds are set by turning the Main Dial, preferably before video recording begins, although they can be set and changed during actual recording. The effects will take place virtually immediately, but it’s possible that the sound of clicking through the dial’s settings will be picked-up in your video footage through the camera's built-in micorphone (of course, that can be avoided by using an optional external microphone plugged into the camera's audio input, or using a seperate portable sound recording device).

It should be noted that during full automatic exposure operation, the EOS 5D Mark II is limited to shutter speeds of 1/30th through 1/125th of a second only. In fact, Canon recommends that if users are shooting action type footage, that they consider using 1/30th~ 1/125th speeds for smoothest continuous movement in finished video. When higher speeds are used, it’s entirely possible that action or movement in video footage will appear more choppy, even though the 30 fps frame rate is unchanged. On the other hand, for users who may consider “frame grabs”, the faster shutter speeds will usually mean sharper, crisper individual movie frames from which to “grab” individual still images. The bottom line is that users should experiment with video footage at various shutter speeds, to see what impact the fast speeds provide for different types of subject and/or camera movement.

Lens aperture settings:

Apertures are adjusted by simply turning the rear Quick Control Dial, once the EOS 5D Mark II has been set-up for Manual exposure shooting during video recording. Be sure the camera’s main On-Off switch is raised to its upper-most position, which activates the Quick Control Dial — if you’re just set to “ON”, the camera itself is active and turned on, but you won’t be able to adjust the Quick Control Dial for any exposure-based settings.

Any lens aperture that’s supported by the lens can be manually set by the photographer. Apertures can be changed during actual video recording, but as with shutter speeds, please note that you very well may pick-up mechanical sounds from both the click-stops on the dial, and also from the electro-magnetic lens diaphragm as it moves the aperture blades.

ISO settings:

Any ISO from 100 through 6400 can be manually selected by the photographer when the Manual exposure control is active. Press the ISO button (top of the camera), and turn the top Main Dial (near the shutter button) to adjust ISO; you’ll see a list of ISOs appear on-screen when you press the button, with the current setting highlighted in blue. You’ll also see a little icon on the lower-right corner for the Main Dial, reminding you that this is the control that’s used to adjust ISOs.

Interestingly, the Auto ISO setting can be used as well. In fact, if a video shooter wants to lock-in a particular combination of shutter speed and lens aperture, he or she can set those manually, and use Auto ISO to let the camera adjust exposure sensitivity on the fly. Auto ISO can adjust over the range of 100 through 6400.

Since one of the EOS 5D Mark II’s biggest attributes is its outstanding image quality at higher ISO settings, the ability to freely set any ISO up to 6400 gives enormous possibilities to the video shooter. Furthermore, when manually setting ISO, if the camera’s ISO expansion is activated (Custom Function I-3-1), the “H1” setting, equivalent to ISO 12,800, can also be set manually (it’s not available during Auto ISO setting).

Please note that the “Low” expanded ISO setting, equivalent to ISO 50, is not possible during video recording, even if Custom Function I-3-1 is active.

ISOs can be manually changed during live video recording, but again, it’s not recommended because of the audible noise that may be picked-up by the in-camera mic as the Main Dial is turned (again, using an optional external microphone will solve that problem). Instead of the full screen display of available ISOs, during actual recording you’ll see a much smaller indication of the active ISO on the lower-right of the LCD monitor. This will change as you alter ISOs manually. The Auto ISO setting can be accessed, even during live video recording.

Still images during video recording:

If the camera is shooting video and is set to Manual exposure control, any and all manual settings currently in effect are used if the photographer shoots a full-res still image by pressing the shutter button fully during actual video recording. This retains the behavior originally built-in to the EOS 5D Mark II, where during automatic video exposure, still images taken during video were always shot with full automatic exposure, regardless of what settings may have been in effect before video recording began.

What about fully automatic video exposure?

The fact that the new firmware v. 1.1.0 adds manual exposure capability during video shooting doesn’t mean that the previous fully automatic exposure is out the door. For users who want to shoot with auto exposure, as they have in the past, it’s easy. Just be sure the Mode Dial on top of the camera is set anywhere other than “M” when you begin video recording. You’re back to fully automatic exposure control as soon as the red “video on” icon appears on the LCD monitor.

Summary:

Whether you’re a still photographer who’s just interested in testing the video waters, or a committed video or cinema professional who sees the EOS 5D Mark II as a valuable tool in your shooting arsenal, this new capability to set exposures manually totally transforms the camera. Control is the operative word here, and nothing is more fundamental in photography than exposure control. Armed with Firmware version 1.1.0 or higher, the EOS 5D Mark II becomes an even more valuable tool to a wide range of users, and its video capabilities now take a giant leap forward in their potential for professional applications.

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