Walking out of the Straits Times staff canteen today, I saw a bloke setting up a Canon photocopier display...and taking pictures of the display with the new Canon 5D MkII.
After politely snatchi...er, asking to look at the camera, I can now report some findings from a preliminary fondl...erm, in-depth technical assessment.
People looking for a more detailed reviews can check out my good friend and colleague Ed Terakopians blog, and of course, the extensive content on the Vincent LaForet site, but I can give a brief view from the perspective of someone with feet in both the stills and video camps, so to speak.
The camera of course surpasses the quality and handling of the 5D, which is expected, so we can get that out of the way. It has a stunning top ISO of something like 25,000 with more than acceptable noise, it's light and quiet, with a full frame chip. So far, so drooltastic.
The 'killer app' which is causing a stir however, is the cameras video shooting capabilities. From a brief look I have to say its mighty impressive...but not perfect.
The Holy Grail for many video shooters is getting their video to 'look like film' and althought the 5D MkII achieves one aspect - the ability to blur out backgrounds at wide apertures (difficult on small chip video cams), it doesn't shoot 25 frames a second, which is another aspect of the cinematic 'film look'.
The 5D MkII's chimping screen is used to view as you shoot the video, but the screen is pretty small and not too great for the critical focussing required to shot Hi-Def. What looks good on the chimp screen can be well muzzy on a big plasma telly...which should be the ultimate arbiter, not some poxy 320x240 web-window.
After all, we're all here to raise the bar...riiight?
The camera shoots such nice looking video out of the box, that it's easy to get carried away with the visual aspect, and to forget that as the saying goes, 70% of good video is good sound, and for that, you need good microphones.
The mike outlet (mono, not stereo) is on the back of the camera (eh? why?) and there doesn't appear to be any way of monitoring the sound, either visually or with earphones...so you have no real idea what audio you'll be getting until you've finished recording. This is a crucial aspect of good video and something that I think will hobble many people initially using the camera.
Apparently there is an external mike available (there's a socket for one in the side of the camera), but I'd say the only way to get good sound would be to use a separate audio recorder like an Edirol or somesuch...so you end up faffing about with added bits and bobs, which was the thing this camera was supposed to stop.
Although a stunning piece of kit, inevitably for video, it's a compromise. I'm currently using a Panasonic HVX 200 video camera, which has four channel sound, a Leica lens (hoo yeah baby), shoots 1920x1080 progressive, variable frame rate video to tapeless media and is built like the Tumbler.
You can attach excellent fixed or wireless mikes, and monitor the sound visually and with earphones as you shoot.
So the 5D Mk II is not a 'real' video camera?
Not quite...but it IS a photographers camera, and that's the clincher.
For many photographers, using the 5D MkII will be a no brainer, as they'll already have the lenses and the cards. Some will already have audio recorders for shooting slideshows, so after some faffing, they'll be getting good sound.