The problem with Canon EOS 5D Mark II video

Update: before commenting, jump to the second post in this series.

Canon EOS 5D mark II supports HD video recording, and as can be seen in Vincent Laforet’s sample short filmed with the camera, the picture quality is stunning.

There’s just one problem. The camera only supports shooting 30 frames per second. This means the camera is effectively useless for Europe, since our TV uses 25 frames (or mostly, 50 fields) per second. You can convert between the formats, but it means you have to degrade the image by either dropping frames, which results in jerky movement or frame blending, which results in image ghosting.

Ghosting is hard to explain, so I created two movies that demonstrate the problem. The first one is the 30 fps movie of a bouncing 5D, and the second one is the same movie, converted to 25 fps using frame blending. If you stop the movement of the 25fps movie, you can see the horrible blur caused by the conversion. Below is a stop-frame from the resulting ghosting:

Now, if you shoot with 5D and post-convert to 30 fps, this issue will only be a problem in some shots. If you shoot mostly static subjects, people won’t really notice the difference, except your picture will appear a bit blurrier in movement. However, when you get hit by this with a moving subject on a right kind of a background, it will make your shot impossible.

Given this problem, I think there’s only one explanation as to why the camera only shoots at 30 fps: Canon intentionally crippled it. I refuse to believe the designers and executives who made the camera feature calls could be so ignorant that they didn’t realize Europe lives in a 25/50 fps world (vs Japan and US, who use 30/60). Hence the call was probably made by whomever controls Canon products in Europe, who didn’t want to see his video camera sales suffer.

The option to Canon users with this issue is that we either pressure Canon to implement 25 (and maybe 24 fps) support, or we help our friends at CHDK to hack the camera to support other frame rates. As can be seen by the Rob Galbraith EOS 1D debacle, Canon can be pressured to fix their products.

Canon – the hacking will happen if you don’t support the other frame rates, so I recommend you add the support. You can only lose by angering your clientele, and making them jump ship with hacking your products.

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