Canon 5D Mark II Tips

First published on: Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Last update (Sep 17, 2009): presents: Workflow for retouching a Canon 5D Mark II plus EF 24-70mm f/2.8L photo in Photoshop CS4.

This page is a collection of Canon 5D Mark II DSLR tips, techniques, camera settings and hacks.

Recent additions presents: Workflow for retouching a Canon 5D Mark II plus EF 24-70mm f/2.8L photo in Photoshop CS4.

Third-party “Magic Lantern” firmware extends 5D Mark II video (various sources):

  1. Visit the Magic Lantern Firmware Wiki.

  2. Full release notes by Trammell Hudson on — “Keep in mind there are no warranties and no guarantees, and if it breaks your camera you get to keep both pieces.”

  3. Imaging Resource — “Perhaps the most significant change is that Magic Lantern disables the 5D Mk II’s automatic gain control, with digital gain instead fixed at +12 dB and analog gain at +10 dB. Magic Lantern also adds a stereo audio meter to the top of the rear-panel LCD display during video recording, as well as crop marks for 16:9, 2.35:1 and 4:3 aspect ratio video. There’s also an on-screen indication of overexposed areas of the video which functions in near-real time, albeit with no manual control over the exact threshold at which the indication is triggered.”

  4. Rob Galbraith — “Dubbed Magic Lantern and developed by 5D Mark II owner Trammell Hudson, its new features are loaded into the camera by placing the Magic Lantern file onto a CompactFlash card and loading it prior to a video capture session. The changes it introduces are not permanent; if the 5D Mark II is turned off, either manually, when Auto Power Off kicks in or when changing cards, the Magic Lantern modifications are cleared from the camera. This firmware modification is not authorized by Canon.”

  5. Planet 5D — “The most significant announcement today is the release of the wiki which contains a “private beta, even though it is on a public website” of the firmware which states “THIS IS A PRE-RELEASE VERSION. Do not use it for production. There will be problems with it. It might destroy your camera.””

Get smoother playback of Canon 5D Mark II footage

If you have an older computer and want to get a smoother playback of your 5D Mark 2 video clips with no dropped frames or jerky movements, consider following HCR21’s advice:

I would suggest to transcode into a lossless frame by frame codec (On a Mac it would be AIC (Apple Intermediate Codec) or ProRes (ProRes 422 but of course there are similar codecs for Windows). This reconstructs a complete frame by frame video, the files are 30-50% larger and higher bitrate, but play smoothly even on older machines. One should do that for efficient editing anyway since H.264 is delivery codec and deletes material repeated between frames. Alternatively you can upgrade to a video card that supports hardware decode of H.264.

Free video / movie editing software

If you’re looking for free alternatives to the footage editor that came with your operating system (for instance, iMovie on the Mac) to edit your 5D Mark 2 clips with, or simply wish to add another tool with another set of capabilities to enhance your creativity, consider giving ZS4 or Avidemux a try,

Free video and movie editing software

The ZS4 has features such as “Unlimited number of audio, video and picture tracks“, while Avidemux has a color equalizer.

Both software run on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

Credit: iLife’s Free Alternative !

Best ISO to shoot the 5D Mark II at for lowest noise

At the expense of slightly reduced dynamic range, the best ISO the 5D Mark 2 should be dialed to for the lowest possible image noise is ISO160, according to Karma Traveler.

For a bit of background on ISO 100 image noise (specifically, banding patterns in shadow areas) from the 5D2, please refer to Nikon D3X s Canon 5D Mark II.

A suggested workflow for processing your 5D2 clips for submission as stock video footage

Remy Bejear Merriex posted this very helpful thread on the Shutterstock forum.

Here’s a summary:

  1. Large CompactFlash (CF) cards are a must, and Remy suggests at least 8GB cards with at least 133x write speed specifications. I think any of the UDMA cards should do just fine.

  2. Use AE (Auto Exposure) lock to force the 5D2 to maintain exposure settings (ISO, shutter speed, aperture) throughout the duration of the recording.

  3. If audio isn’t relevant to the clip, turn sound recording off to save space on the CF card.

  4. Use the Neutral picture style so that you have more headroom to edit and color grade in the postprocessing stage.

  5. Remy uses Adobe After Effects, an NLE (Non-linear Editing System) program, for editing, color grading and rendering the final ouput. One of the reasons is that “… for a quick job, I just find it less of a hassle”. After Effects also makes it easy to remove distracting background elements and unwanted objects from the clip. After Effects plugins used are Synthetic Aperture by Color Finesse 2 for color grading and advanced color correction, and Gridiron Nucleo Pro for rendering. Nucleo Pro is able to utilize the power of multi-core processors to speed up the rendering process. Remy prefers to render to PhotoJPEG at 95% instead of MotionJPEG.

Remote shutter / trigger options?

Learn about wired / wireless shutter release alternatives for the 5D Mark 2.

Fix the black spot issue with a firmware update

On January 8th, 2009, Canon released firmware v1.0.7 to fix the black spot issue in Canon 5D Mark II cameras.

Embrace the field curvature in 50mm prime lenses

In this post, Lloyd L Chambers finds that none of the Canon EF 24-105mm, EF 50mm f/1.2L and EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lenses give very sharp photos with the 5D Mark 2 even when stopped down.

Mr. Chambers also remarked that he has yet to own a 50mm prime lens that doesn’t exhibit some form of field curvature distortion. He gives one tip to get around this problem, and shares a related photo — embrace the curvature, and compose your photo in such a way that it isn’t obvious.

Of course, one way around all this frustrating sharpness stuff is to embrace it, and shoot with minimal depth of field: after all, drawing the viewer’s eye to one sharp spot is all that its really needed.

Free 5D Mark II Black Spot Reduction Photoshop action by Noel Carboni

Update: On 8 January 2009, Canon released Firmware version 1.0.7 to deal with this issue.

Free 5D Mark II Black Spot Reduction Photoshop action by Noel Carboni
Noel Carboni has generously provided a free action that can be run in Photoshop to remove the black spot problems in Canon 5D Mark II photos. Have a look at some before and after photos, and download the action here.

Free online tutorials
Canon Digital Learning Center -- EOS 5D Mark II
Learn up about the features of the Canon 5D Mark 2 and how to operate the camera at the official Canon Digital Learning Center.

For even lower image noise

It’s been found that you get much lower noise levels in images if you disable both the HTP (Highlight Tone Priority) and ALO (Automatic Lighting Optimizer) camera settings.

Use the Direct Print button for pseudo-MLU functionality

Re-program the Direct Print button on the Canon 5D Mark II to activate Live View and get a pseudo-MLU feature for free

The Direct Print button on the 5D Mk II can be re-programmed to activate LiveView. In Live View mode, the mirror flips up and the scene appears on the rear LCD. When you press the shutter to take the photo, the mirror does not flip down again, but rather the shutter is released to take the photo. The 5D remains in LiveView mode after the photo is taken.

Because the mirror is not flipped down and up again when the photo is taken in LiveView mode, there are no body vibrations being created when the photo is taken. What you have just got is a pseudo-MLU (mirror lock up) feature for free.

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