“Sofia’s People” Low light short on Canon 5d mk2 in 25p


This weekend I was invited by Teodor Stoyanov to do two workshops for an elite group of film makers in the capital of Bulgaria, Sofia. I went with my friend Dennis Lennie, who was an immense help not just in working out what needed to be taught but as I prolapsed a disc in my back on Thursday and was unable to move for most of the day!

It was so bad that I  was going to cancel, but I felt I was getting some mobility back and this engagement had been booked for some time and these people had travelled from all over Bulgaria to come hear me talk and to learn things from me. So I had to go!



It was very successful, we  met a wide range of people from the owner of a very large production company and her staff who shoot almost entirely on 35mm film and a large number of more independent film makers, directors, producers, cameramen, editors etc…

I taught them all about 35mm adaptors, using the Letus Extreme and EX1 as an example and also explained about the new technology of DSLRs that shoot HD Video. In particular the Canon 5dmk2 and the Panasonic GH1.



I took the Canon out on the streets in the evening to test out it’s low light ability and to show this footage to the attendees on each day. I shot entirely handheld using just the Zacuto Z-finder optical viewfinder which gave me much needed stability and the ability to easily focus. I didn’t take the full gunstock rig out as I wanted to be really inconspicuous. I looked like I was just taking photos. 


Using just one Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Nikon lens with a Canon Eos to Nikon adaptor for £20 off of ebay I managed to get some lovely shots. As 5dmk2 users out will testify shooting with this camera is hard due to the lack of manual controls, but having the nikon lens helped and I did the usual tricks to lock down the ISO. Generally keeping it no higher than 1250, occasionally 1600 but never higher as the noise levels would be unacceptable. 

This was all shot 30p. Everything was converted to XDCAM EX 30p in Mpeg Streamclip to make editing easy. The first three shots use FCP smoothcam to give a slightly surreal look to them the rest is all handheld raw. As I said no grading. So I did the entire edit in 30p, exported as a complete movie, brought it into compressor. Converted to ProRes 422 25p  at best settings and it looked great. Not just that but the music stayed the same speed and pitch. So easy!

If you want to download the FULL HD ORIGINAL FILE,  which is about 750mb then please go to www.exposureroom.com/sofia and click on download original. But you need to be member to do this. Membership is free!

So click here or  below to have a look at the edit I did of that footage and enjoy!




    1. Hi, Phil. Just want to say thanks for accepting my invitation and coming to Bulgaria to lecture the “LOW BUDGET CINEMATOGRAPHY” workshop. The feedback is very positive. Cheers, Mate.

      1. thanks Teodor, need a favour. We had mute pics on your testimonial. Can you record a web cam testimonial saying how useful it was for us and email it to us or put it up privately on vimeo? We want you on our site. thanks! Will try and get that receipt scanned, but my scanner isnt working!!

  1. Hi, Philip. I am Damyan Nikolov from Bulgaria. I’d like to thank you that you were our guest. I am really impressed of your work and of your way to explain everything. I will be very happy if i have the chance to share my ideas with you. I have plenty of them. Thanks again 🙂

  2. Hi philip
    Excuse me for poor english!
    Please tell me with what software? for convert to: …Everything was converted to XDCAM EX 30p…
    and what software? for:…Converted to ProRes 422.
    very very thanks philip

    1. mpeg streamclip. it’s free. converted to xdcam ex 35mbps 30p. edited in that using final cut pro then exported and re converted to h264 25p in compressor at highest multi pass quality.

  3. Philip, I need an advice I am thinking on renting the Canon Mark II. But I have been reading there has been complains about shutter roll when panning the camera. Have you encounter this issue before?

      1. So ideally you would recommend sticking with Canon primes on the manual video setting as opposed to nikon primes? Have you noticed any significant difference in image quality between the two?

  4. I wonder if they will ever merge the beauty of these camera with dedicated video cams.

    When are you coming to Australia to teach Philip? 🙂

  5. Philip, beautiful stuff, reminds me of Barcelona in a way… As far as I know the 5D at high ISO is always set to 1/30 (in reality 1/33) shutter. Did you feel that that slow shutter speed was annoying if you were shooting fast moving objects or was it OK?

  6. OMG! It’s so beautiful, I couldn’t imagine that the Sofia’s streets can be so much… like the way you show to us! Congratulation! I’m in loved with your work in the capital, yes I am Bulgarian!

    I’m gonna sgare this video with everyone who know! 😉

    I really want another Bulgarian video from you, may be someday… 🙂 Good Luck!

  7. gorgeous film, philip, and beautifully conceptualized too.

    Do you have to worry about release forms for projects like this, or can you just go out and shoot folks on the street? Is it enough if you ask if you can take their picture, and they say “sure”? Been wondering about this and hear conflicting things stateside.

  8. It’s important to note that in MPEG Streamclip, the option to xdcam is apparently only available if you also have Final Cut Pro installed.

    I found that out after many hours trolling through websites for more info, after going slowly bonkers when I couldn’t find xdcam as a selection!

    Philip – your Sofia movie is beautiful. Just the way in which this camera should be used in movie mode!


  9. Awesome!

    Canon should license this footage from you and make a new 5D MK2 advert!!

    Did you use any particular picture styes or white balance settings??


    Jay. L

  10. Hi Philip! Can you tell me if the 50mm zeiss lens you used for “Sofia’s People” is very different to the old contax/yashica version? The ZF version costs 3 times the c/y one…

    Unfortunately I have enough money for the old version only, is it a good lens for video? Thanks in advance.

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