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.

New HD video features in the EOS 5D Mark III

March 02, 2012

Want to watch sample videos shot with the EOS 5D Mark III? Click here for three short films, and accompanying behind the scenes footage: Color of Hope, Eye of the Mind, and Mario & Nette

Canon's EOS 5D Mark III succeeds one of the industry's most significant digital SLRs ever – the previous EOS 5D Mark II. That camera wasn't the first digital SLR on the market to offer video capabilities, but it most assuredly was the first to be adopted by the video industry and applied to everything from shooting weddings and events to full-blown Hollywood cinema production. Since the 2008 launch of the EOS 5D Mark II, users have wondered what refinements in HD video recording its successor would bring to the market. In this document, we'll explore some of the new highlights for the HD video camera user.

Greatly simplified switching from still to video recording:

EOS 5D Mark III has a new dedicated switch and integrated start/stop button on the rear of the camera. Rotating the outer collar of the switch from the 12 o'clock position (still-image shooting) to roughly the 10 o'clock position sets the camera for video recording, and immediately raises the mirror and activates Live View on the rear LCD monitor. Now, a single press on the START/STOP button begins actual recording. To stop, press the button again. Users no longer have to go through an extensive trip through the set-up Menu to comfortably switch to and from video recording mode. (It's virtually identical to the control used successfully on the EOS 7D camera.)

HD video Image Quality:

While the previous EOS 5D Mark II was renowned for its exceptional video image quality – especially at low light levels – Canon's engineers have not rested. A totally new, full-frame CMOS imaging sensor is used in the Mark III model. And this sensor was designed from the ground-up to provide superior HD video image quality, with noticeable improvements in control of moire and false colors. Noise reductions at higher ISOs is perhaps the most readily noticeable area of quality improvement (significantly better than the Mark II model, which was already highly-regarded in that area). For both still and video recording, Canon's engineers claim about a two stop improvement in high-ISO image quality.

An entirely new DIGIC 5+ processor significantly contributes to the EOS 5D Mark III's image quality improvements, working in tandem with the new CMOS imaging sensor. DIGIC 5+ is especially critical for its role in noise reduction, and the improved EOS 5D Mark III performance in this important area. The bottom line: critical shooters concerned with maximum image quality will find that whether in bright or subdued lighting, the EOS 5D Mark III raises the bar by a noticeable margin.

Choice of video compression methods:

Like the recently-announced EOS-1D X, the EOS 5D Mark III provides users with the choice of video compression used in-camera:

  • IPB compression
    Unlike the "IPP" method used in the previous EOS HD-SLRs (which could not be changed in-camera), the "IPB" compression option in Canon's new EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D X (as of March 2012) allows for good image quality and a significant reduction in overall file size. It's especially well-suited for situations where a video shooter expects to use relatively long, continuous-running clips (think of recording an event such as a press conference), where lots of tight editing is not as likely to occur in post-production. A single 4GB file will typically allow up to about 15 minutes of continuous recording, at Full HD 1920 x 1080.
  • NEW: "ALL-I" compression
    Entirely new, this compression method processes each frame as a single image, and each frame can be edited with its quality intact. It's ideal for situations where tight editing of short clips is expected, and offers very good flexibility for editing anywhere along a time line. The trade-off is that file sizes will be about 3x larger than those taken with either the IPB method, or those from previous-generation EOS HD-SLRs. A 4GB video file (Full HD 1920 x 1080) will contain roughly 4.5 to 5 minutes of video when recorded using the ALL-I compression method.
No more 12-minute recording limit:

The EOS 5D Mark III now instantly creates a new file on the memory card any time the size of a preceding file reaches 4GB. Without losing a moment, recording continues on the new file. Thus, continuous video recording is possible up to 29 minutes 59 seconds, spread out over as many 4GB files as required to make that happen. The maximum allowable file size for each file remains at 4GB, but unlike the previous EOS 5D Mark II, the new Mark III model has the ability to immediately create a new file, "on-the-fly". This requires no input from the photographer.

Expanded range of video recording sizes:

Compared to the previous EOS 5D Mark II camera, the new Mark III offers a broader range of possible video recording resolutions and fps rates. The following are available on the EOS 5D Mark III's "Movie Rec Size" menu:

  • 1920 x 1080 – 30 fps (25 fps if set to PAL)
  • 1920 x 1080 – 24 fps
  • 1280 x 720 – 60 fps (50 fps if set to PAL)*
  • 640 x 480 – 30 fps (25 fps if set to PAL)

All settings except the 640 x 480 allow the choice of ALL-I or IPB video compression; the 640 x 480 setting is available only with the compact IPB compression option.

* HD 50 fps or 60 fps recording places the greatest demands on memory card speed, especially during ALL-I recording. Required read/write speed during HD 720p ALL-I recording for CF cards is 30 MB/sec; for SD cards, 14MB/sec.

Headphone socket for monitoring audio:

Another big request from serious video users has been answered. The EOS 5D Mark III has a single-pin, stereo connector for industry-standard headphones to be connected, and allows monitoring sound as it's being recorded by the camera – during actual recording, as well as during playback.

View audio levels on LCD monitor during recording:

Press the rear "Q" button during actual video recording to see a graphic indication of in-camera audio recording level. And, if you're set for manual adjustment of audio levels, you can silently adjust this during recording as well – see the next item.

Silent control with Quick Control Dial – during actual recording:

Both new high-end EOS models have a newly-engineered rear Quick Control Dial. In addition to its conventional rotational operation, a new touch-sensitive technology has been developed. This allows the video shooter to make selections of what he or she would like to adjust – ± exposure compensation, shutter speed or aperture adjustment, manual audio recording level, or ISO setting. And, by just lightly tapping on the left or right side of the inner surface of the Quick Control Dial, its new touch-sensitive capability lets users silently make these adjustments, without the audible "click" of normal dial rotation. Two steps are required: make sure Quick Control Dial/silent operation is active in the video shooting menu, and then during recording, press the "Q" button to call-up the on-screen displays. Tap up or down to select the option to be changed, tap left or right to actually change the setting.

Time Code:

The answer to another huge request from serious video users – the EOS 5D Mark III now incorporates SMPTE-compliant Time Code capability. Time Code options include:

Dual card slots – CF and SD cards

EOS 5D Mark III is the first Canon EOS model other than the top-of-the-line EOS-1D or 1Ds series to offer two card slots for recording. Separate slots for CF cards and for SD-type cards are both inside the card door. Noteworthy is the support for faster cards than previous-generation EOS models:

  • CF cards – UDMA "mode 7" support
  • SD cards – SD, SDHC, or SDXC-compliant cards are supported
    (not compatible with UHS-I high-speed writing)
Summary:

There's no one single headline feature for HD video recording that separates the EOS 5D Mark III from its legendary predecessor, the Mark II. But what we have is clear evidence that Canon's engineers and designers listened to the requests and suggestions of a critical group of users – HD video shooters. And they've responded, with a variety of refinements and additions that enhance the HD video shooting experience. Image quality is better than ever, control is easier, audio monitoring and adjusting is much more effective, and editing after the shooting is done is easier as well with Time Code and choices of compression method.

EOS 5D Mark III still offers all the benefits of a full-frame camera, but now, with even stronger performance aimed at the serious video pro and enthusiast. Its video capabilities merge beautifully with its superb still-imaging features, making it more than ever a go-to digital SLR for the truly critical and creative enthusiast or working professional.

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

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