In an unusual move, Canon released a firmware upgrade for its high-end EOS 5D Mark II camera that substantially expands its video capability nearly a year and a half after the SLR was released.
Customers of the $2,500 camera had sought more flexibility in the 1080p video frame rates to better match their medium of production. The camera initially only supported 30 frames per second, but the firmware 2.0.3 update changes that to 29.97fps "to comply with TV production standards," adds a 23.976fps option for those in the cinema world, and for those who set the camera to use the European PAL video standard, there's also a 25fps option. (As is common, the terminology on the camera itself is rounded up to 30fps and 24fps.)
There are other significant changes in the update (downloadable from Canon's Web site). First, video can operate with a set shutter speed or aperture, with the camera maintaining exposure by varying other settings. Previously only fully automatic or fully manual settings were possible. The shutter speed changes let photographers choose between freeze-frame-style video or smoother but blurrier motion, and the aperture settings make it easier to keep a shallow depth of field to focus attention on the subject.
Second, the audio sampling rate has been increased from 44.1KHz to 48KHz for better sound quality desired by professionals, and input recording levels can be set manually. And third, a histogram can be overlaid in manual shooting to gauge exposure.
"I have been lucky enough to have played with the new firmware for the Canon 5DmkII over the past couple of weeks. It has utterly revitalised my love for the camera," said Philip Bloom, a filmmaker with 20 years experience. "The 30p has always been a problem. It's a frame rate that is of no real use to me as I need 25p or 24p for my work. Converting your rushes [rough video from the day's shoot] from 30p is more than a nightmare...This can take sometimes over a day depending on how long your rushes are."
Absent is support for 60fps modes for 720p video in the lower-end but newer 7D, the higher-end 1D Mark IV, and the newest Canon SLR, the lower-end Rebel T2i, aka 550D. The 60fps frame rate is better for slow-motion video.
Dawn of a new era The video SLR era is significant because it offers videographers higher-end features such as interchangeable lenses that are relatively expensive to come by in the video world. In addition, the 5D Mark II's full-frame 36x24mm sensor has much better low-light sensitivity. However, for professional use, where people need camera rigs to mount the SLR, separate audio recording gear, external monitors to aid in focusing, and expensive gear to edit video, the costs still can mount quickly. … Read more
Transcend, which makes flash memory cards for budget-minded buyers, announced on Wednesday two new high-speed CompactFlash models with transfer speeds up to 90MBps.
The Transcend Ultimate 600X cards are at the top of the line, able to read and write data at 90MBps by using the UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access) mode 6 interface. This line tops out at 32GB.
The Transcend Premium 400X cards range from 16GB to 64GB capacity and can write data at 60MBps and read data at 90MBps, the company said. The 400X and 600X cards use "premium" flash memory chips and employ error … Read more
Update: March 19, 2010: And we're back. Canon claims it's fixed the audio recording glitch it introduced with Firmware 2.0.3 and it's up to 2.0.4, which you can download at the link below. My suggestion (which I make about all firmware and driver updates) is unless you're experiencing a specific problem that the update purports to fix, it always pays to wait at least a week for reports of software-induced mayhem to emerge.
Update March 18, 2010: But wait! If you go to Canon's USA site there's now a cautionary … Read more
The 3D era is coming to movies and video--but it appears the world of still imagery won't be left behind.
Stereography, in which two cameras take photos simulating the perspective of two human eyes, has been used to create 3D imagery since the 19th century. Russ Beinder spotted a more modern approach at the Olympics, with a photographer using two modern digital SLRs conjoined with a Sports Illustrated-labeled rig. … Read more
Canon traditionally avoids lower-margin market segments--nice work if you can get it--and its announcement of the new EOS Rebel T2i continues that trend. Instead of replacing its tired, old XS and XSi models to compete with younger, spryer sub-$700 models from Nikon, Sony, and Pentax in that extremely popular price segment, Canon instead chose to release an update to its more expensive T1i, in the less competitive $800-$1000 range. Included in the new T2i are some notable enhancements to the video capabilities and the updated metering scheme from the 7D, but the T2i also seems to retain the old autofocus system from the T1i and a possibly unwelcome jump to 18-megapixel resolution.
Given Canon's focus on staying ahead of the field for video implementations in dSLRs, unsurprisingly the most whizzy new feature of the T2i is support for 1080p video at 30 frames per second (as well as 24p and PAL-friendly 25p) and 720p at 60/50fps. Those video files may make the camera's SDXC card support a necessity. There's also a jack for an external microphone. Canon also claims full manual controls and on-demand autofocus during shooting (which you don't really want to do with most lenses, since they're too noisy) as well as the usual set of manual exposure controls. In addition, in VGA quality (which the company mistakenly refers to as standard definition) the T2i camera supports a form of digital zoom where it optically crops to a smaller area on the sensor in order to produce a greater telephoto effect.
For photographers, the new high-resolution display--it uses a slightly wider 3:2 aspect ratio instead of the 4:3 ration in the T1i--and the incorporation of the 7D's metering system should also be very welcome. Canon also says that it has an expanded exposure compensation range up to five stops, which sounds really nice for HDR work, although it's not clear whether it can handle more than the typical three-shot bracket. … Read more
Digital-camera sales declined in 2009, but the market is expected to return to growth this year, a camera trade group said Tuesday.
Total shipments worldwide totaled 106 million, an 11.6 percent drop compared with the 119 million that shipped in 2008. In 2010, the market is expected to edge ahead 3.8 percent to 110 million cameras, the Camera and Imaging Products Association said.
As has been the case for years, the market fared better for digital SLRs, which offer higher quality, faster performance, and interchangeable lenses but also come with higher price tags and greater bulk.
The SLR … Read more
Canon on Thursday announced three new wireless photo transfer accessories for its higher-end digital SLR models, adding the ability to simultaneously shoot with 10 linked cameras and other new features.
The wireless file transmitter devices, which mount to the SLR camera bodies, are the WFT-E2 II A, available this quarter for the EOS-1D Mark IV; the WFT-E4 II A, available now for the EOS 5D Mark II; and the WFT-E5A, available now for the EOS 7D. Each transmitter costs $700--more than an entire lower-end SLR and lens--but provides a variety of options to connect devices to the cameras and to … Read more
LAS VEGAS--Sony's already overcrowded dSLR product line--the company offers six dSLRs under $1,000 if you include the now fire-sale-priced A700--gets another middle sibling in the Alpha DSLR-A450. This model won't be available in the US, however. Also, Sony didn't announce pricing, but there's not a lot of room to squeeze between the $699 A380 and the $749 A500.
The A450 seems to be a stripped-down version of the A550, mostly with the same everything except a smaller 2.7-inch, nontilting LCD and possibly no Fast AF in Live View.
After testing Canon's newest professional SLR, professional sports photographer Brad Mangin offers praise for the camera's autofocus system that's as lavish as the scorn he heaped upon the model's predecessor.
Mangin tested the Canon EOS-1D Mark IV at a football game, and his overall assessment published on his blog doubtless was music to the ears of designers at the Japanese camera maker: "This camera performed flawlessly...Canon should be able to keep long-time (and heavily invested) users like me happy with the new Mark IV."
Perhaps not so pleasant to hear was his excoriation … Read more