UPDATED! Which… “Video DSLR” to buy?

Shooting on the 5DmkII for LUCASFILM

“Which camera should I buy?” I get asked this the most. Apart from which lenses should I buy. There is a lot of confusion amongst potential buyers as to which camera to buy. Not just from the Canon line, that is the Rebel T2i/ 55D, 7D, 5DmkII and 1DmkIV but also the GH1, GH2 and the various Nikons.

It’s almost impossible for me to recommend which model camera to buy because they all have their plusses and minuses and many of those are subjective, down to personal opinion. What may be important to me may not be important to you. Even when context is provided such as they are mostly shooting music videos, events, documentaries, movies etc then I still cannot answer.

What I am going to do in this blog post is list what I believe are the pros and cons of each camera.Take that info and then decide for yourself what is the most important for you. For example some people love the look of the 5DmkII over the others whilst others find the shallow depth of field too much…

I am in the fortunate position of owning most of the cameras in this post so I feel quite qualified to give my opinion on this topic…but to be honest any one of these will give you great results, it’s not all about the camera…that is just a tool…but obviously some of the features of one will appeal to you more than others.

Here is a sensor chart showing you the different sizes available in the market. I will be referring to this a few times in the blog.

Nikon D3s

First off let us go over the non Canon options as that’s easier.  I have to say unless you have an huge array of G series Nikon lenses (if you have manual aperture Nikon lenses then your lenses will work will the Canons using a simple adaptor like the Fotodiox Pro) then forget the D90, D5000 and D300s as they don’t offer full manual control in video mode making them a huge pain in the backside to shoot with. The only Nikon that offers full manual control is the D3s. To get the full manual mode you need to be in tripod live view mode rather than hand held live view mode.

What do I think of the D3s? It is an incredible stills camera and a so-so video camera. It has a full frame sensor, one of only two cameras in this blog to have that. The thing that made me buy it was the absolutely incredible low light performance as highlighted in the Zacuto Shootout. It was this alone that made me buy it. In my low light test I shot at 25,000 ISO and got incredibly clean pictures due to a brilliant NR chip in there for video. This makes it outperform all the Canon DSLRs by a huge margin in low light. It’s just a shame that it is not as impressive in general use. All the Nikons are 720p 24p only too. That is not a huge dealbreaker but it’s a limitation. As is the old fashioned MJPEG recording format and 5 minute clip length. The HDMI live out seems to be slower than 24p when you hit record.

I bought this camera as a low light tool to supplement my Canon DSLRs, not to shoot whole projects on. For some of my documentary work low light will be extreme and this camera will shine. I will be able to shoot in very low light without having to shoot wide open with crazy shallow DOF. To think I could shoot in candlelight at F4 and it will look gorgeous…That’s epic for me. Shooting wide open is great but sometimes you don’t want that crazy shallow DOF, you want to control it. This camera will give you that option. You can stop right down and with the incredible high ISO you can shoot in not much light and still get exposure!

Sound wise it has a crappy built in mic like most of the cameras here but you can put an external mic in, but there is limited control of the audio with no meters, but the ability to set 4 levels of sensitivity but more importantly no way to monitor it.

So that’s the Nikon D3s. A great stills camera with a killer low light video ability. Shame the rest is not great.

PROS: Full frame, INCREDIBLE low light in video

CONS: Expensive, 720p only, 24p only, 5 minute clips, MJPEG recording format, poor monitor out, no audio control.

Nikon D5100

Nikon’s answer to the T2i is a disappointment. Their first camera to feature full HD 25p but no manual controls. Simply a huge problem and unless fixed should be avoided.

Nikon D7000

The first full HD Nikon to feature full manual controls.

I like the image, very pleasing and low light is good. It has semi manual audio, HD HDMI (but not clean) out whilst recording (but also turns off the LCD like the Canons), it records full HD but only in 24p mode. For 30p and 25p it’s 720p only and there is no 50p or 60p. There also seems to be an issue that I cannot figure out. Where is the exposure meter in live view?

UPDATE: I tried shooting with it but the lack of meter is frustrating me too much, which is a shame as I think the image is really nice, good in low light. But until that meter is displayed it’s too annoying to shoot with. Why would they miss such a basic thing? Also the inability to change F-Stop after rolling is just plain dumb. I use older Nikon lenses so am ok with that, although I do have two newer ones and they have this issue.



Pansonic GH1

The Panasonic GH1 I have had since April 2009. It’s not a DSLR as it has no mirror but is often bunched up in the term Video DSLRs as it is a still camera with a video function too. We really should not get hung up on names for these cameras.

What do I think of the GH1? Well I love the small size. Love the EVF, moveable LCD, ability to take so many different types of lenses due to the lack of mirror and of course the price. Downside is the 1080p bit rate if a bit stingy meaning it breaks ups quite easily when trying to grade it. The 720p mode seems to hold up better but it’s such a shame that the 1080p is lacking. The 720p mode is 50p or 60p depending on where you buy the camera.

The camera comes in different flavours depending on where you buy it. In the EU it is 25p in 1080p mode (embedded in a 1080i stream) and 50p in 720p mode, so great for slow motion. Record time is limited to 29.59 minutes for EU tax reasons. If it could record 30 minutes or more it would be classified as a video camera and therefore have higher tax. Other PAL countries get this camera also in 25p but with the record time limitation. The US gets it in 24p (again embedded in a 60i stream) and 60p in 720p mode with no record time limitations. All the Canon cameras shoot in either 24p, 25p or 30p. They are non regional specific. A big downer on these cameras.

It has the best built in mic on all of the cameras and it’s stereo, although again we have no headphone jack. NONE of the cameras in this test have a headphone jack! If you plug in a monitor it switches off when you hit record. A big downer really! That needs to be fixed in the GH2.

Negatives aside. It’s a great little camera. The stock lens has the most impressive auto focus I have ever seen on a video camera as it tracks people’s faces and with a large sensor like in this camera (four thirds) it makes a huge difference. This makes it ideal for steadicam work as you can let the focus do it’s thing. Normally I say DO NOT USE AUTO FOCUS on any video camera. Manual will always be the way to operate a camera for me until it can read my mind and know what I want to be in focus! The image out of the camera is also pretty damn good. Of course what I want is a GH2 with better bit rate and proper monitor out, a headphone jack and controllable audio levels. A lot of this camera is already very good, it just needs a bump up in specs…

Low light is not brilliant. I find 1600 ISO way too noisy. Even 800 is not great.

PROS: Cheap, light, small, 50p/60p mode in 720p, full HD, nice stereo mic, EVF, articulated LCD, great lens mount, some Panasonic lenses have amazing auto focus ability. No overheating

CONS: Weak AVCHD code, no HDMI out when recording, low light average performance, poor audio options again, recording limitations in EU,  geographically locked recording formats, 24p and 24p wrapped in 60i and 50i.

EDIT: With the third party hacked firmware by Tester 13 we can get native 24p and 25p and motion jpeg full hd in very high bit rate and much improved AVCHD. It’s a massive leap up but it’s still 3rd party and not officially supported. Read more about it here…The major issue is all new GH1s CANNOT be hacked as they have the latest firmware which is not hacked. SO BE CAREFUL if you go this route.

Panasonic GH2

I am very impressed with this update to the GH1. It is a big step up from the GH1 although there are a couple of key features missing.

There is finally a native 24p full HD mode  (called cinema mode) which records in the very acceptable 24mb/s. Unfortunately it is only 24p not 25p which as a European shooter I need for broadcast here. There is no 25p mode. There is a 50p mode in 720p which means you can simply drop every other frame so you can achieve 25p but this is not ideal. I REALLY hope this can be addressed with a firmware update.

HDMI is clean out, no graphics but I have not done any testing with the Nanoflash yet. Reports so far say the quality is lower than the recorded. I cannot confirm or deny yet.

Articulating screen is great and the EVF is improved over the GH1 so is very usable. It has a built in slow down to 80% mode (effectively giving you what 30p would be if you conformed to 24p) and a built in speed up motion of two steps that can give you effectively a basic undercranking.

The M43 sensor gives you around a 1.9x crop of a full frame due to it being a native 16×9 sensor

Audio meters can be displayed on the screen whilst recording. Sounds basic but so lacking from DSLRs. Still no headphone jack. You also have manual control over the audio, well a number of steps you can set it at. The built in stereo mic is not horrible. Check out the cooking piece below…all the sound other than sync was done with it.

Low light is a world away from the GH1 which had nasty lines come up at ISO 800. I have shot 3200 ISO and it is totally acceptable. A HUGE STEP UP.

It has an excellent feature called 1:1 sampling. It samples the centre of the sensor in which equates to 1920×1080 and records that meaning NO moire or aliasing and gives you a nice extra boost on your lenses with no loss in quality.

It takes any lenses with the right adaptor, even S16 with the 1:1 sampling. A big plus this.

Image quality is superb with very little moire and aliasing. Rolling shutter seems the same as the GH1. Some users are reporting it worse but I have not done a side by side comparison.

So all in all a big improvement over the Gh1 but PLEASE we NEEED 25p!!!!! If 25p is irrelevant to you this is simply one of the best “DSLRs” on the market for shooting video. The stills mode is pretty good too!

EDIT: Another firmware hack has made this a fantastic option. 25p, no recording time and high bitrate makes this a much more attractive camera.

PROS: Great image, great 24p mode. Minimal moire and rolling shutter, live HDMI out and clean! Manual audio with live meters, articulating screen, improved EVF. No recording limit in non EU versions. 1:1 mode is awesome, good touch screen. Internal stereo mic not too bad. Has the best auto focus video system out there!

CONS: 25p where are you? Rolling shutter is not improved. 29 minutes 59 seconds max recording per clip in EU version



Home Cooking…avec le GH2! from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.

GH2: Movember Gala Party from Philip Bloom on Vimeo. Completely ungraded, showing great low light.

Canon Rebel T2i/ 550d

The new kid on the block and a damn impressive one too. I have left the 500D/ T1i out of this. Even though I own it, but due to the odd 20FPS 1080p mode, 720p 30p only mode but mainly (and this is reason why 3 Nikons aren’t reviewed) the lack of manual control. This baby ups the game and is the first consumer DSLR that Canon have made with full HD and full manual control. It’s killer. With an image of almost comparable quality to the pro 7D it has taken the market by storm and rightly so.

With an APS-C chip in it which is a 1.6x crop of a full frame it has a bigger sensor than the GH1 but smaller than the D3s. It takes all the EF lenses designed for full frame cameras as well as the special EF-S lenses which are designed for this sized chip. These lenses are generally cheaper than their full frame versions so you can save money that way. Only downside is EF-S lenses cannot be used on full frame camera if you come to upgrade cameras at some point. The major investment with any of these camera is the glass, not the body. So always keep that in mind when buying lenses.

It has the same crappy audio options, as in no control and no headphone jack. But does have the full range of recording options. 24p, 25p and 30p in full HD and 50p and 60p in 720p mode. Meaning you get shoot great slow motion with this baby.

I am a big fan of this camera as it has brought the power of DSLR filmmaking to the mass market. Some people see this as a bad thing, in that by making the cameras so affordable there will a flood of people on the market selling themselves as cameramen. It’s only a tool, like any camera. What we will have is people discovering or even re-discovering a love of video due to this large sensor.

Things I don’t like about this camera? Well it’s a consumer camera and is therefore missing a lot of what I love in the PRO bodies. It uses SDHC cards, they are cheap are small but I hate their flimsiness. I much prefer CF cards, but that’s just me! I miss the top LCD. We have no display on this camera other than the main LCD. Not a deal breaker but a shame not to have it. Also missing is the second dial on the back of the body which means aperture and shutter speed are controlled by the same dial, via pressing a button in at the same time. I don’t like this at all. The build quality is pretty good, but when compared to the pro line, in particular the 7D it comes across as bit cheap, but then again it is! It uses different batteries to the 7D and 5Dmkii, but they are cheaper…HDMI out sucks too….it’s 1080i letterboxed image live out which drops to 480p when you hit record. You do get full 16×9 playback though.

Like all the Canon cameras the most you can record at a time is about 12 minutes. If you point at something that does not move much you can get it up to 14 minutes or so. The LCD is surprisingly the best of the bunch of all the Canon DSLRs. Highest resolution.

There is much debate over how good the video is of this camera compared to the 7D. Very damn close. I haven’t seen any specific side by sides, only that in my limited use of the T2i it just seems to be not quite as good as the 7D and am not sure why…it’s close. But just not quite as good…I would love someone to show me what it is that is different!


PROS: Cracking image in video mode, very cheap, smaller than the pro line, full list of video modes to record in, nice big APS-C sensor, great LCD screen

CONS: Not weatherproofed like the pro line, missing top LCD screen, missing second dial, poor HDMI out, no audio control, no headphone jack, no intermediate ISOs, no ability to dial in your white balance like the pro line, 12 minute record limit.

Canon T3i/600D

This camera is effectively a replacement for the T2i and certainly improves on a number of features of the camera. Video wise I see little difference between this and the T2i but I haven’t shot anywhere near enough with the camera to categorically say this…

It has all the same features and frame rates as the T2i…New features include the articulating screen of the 60D which is a massive plus, it makes shooting on a tripod SO much easier and for ground shots too…other improvements at manual audio like the 60D and 5DmkII but it’s not well implemented being within a menu and not being adjustable whilst recording or displaying meters or a headphone jack.

A nice new feature is the 3x digital crop…ignore the rest of it, it goes from 3x to 10x…anything over 3x is a digital zoom and looks like poo…the 3x isn’t perfect. It isn’t super sharp but it’s a neat feature. I don’t think it’s as well implemented as the GH2 version.

It’s a really good camera, but I do recommend the 60D over it still due to better build quality, better AF for stills, more ISOs and if you look hard enough it’s not much more than the T3i!

Canon 60D

I have to admit I love this camera. It’s almost my favourite of the Canons. The image out of the 5Dmk2 is still my favourite but this camera is a dream to use. Why? That articulating screen makes life so much easier and is the best quality LCD so far from Canon.

Picture quality seems identical to the 7D, some users have reported improved low light sensitivity but I cannot confirm this yet. I have shot some low light stuff with it but I need to do a side by side to see. There is no improvement in moire, aliasing or rolling shutter over the others…

It has manual audio levels like the 5DmkII, but still buried away in the menus and does not display whilst recording or can be changed whilst recording. A bit frustrating but better than being stuck with AGC.

It’s odd as it is a bit of the 550D and a bit of the 7D. It is plastic like the 550D not magnesium alloy body  like the 7D BUT feels a lot more substantial and rugged than the 550d. It has the missing features of the 550D/ T2i, fully selectable ISOs, manual white balance, 2 dials for shutter and aperture and a top LCD screen for info. It takes 7D/ 5Dmk2 batteries but takes SDHC cards. So it really is a bit of both.

A number of people have done some long shooting tests on the 60D and have found it is not prone to overheating like the other Canons.

The HDMI HD signal drops to SD when you hit record like the 550D and the 5Dmk2. A shame, if this did not happen this would be my recommendation of camera for most people, over the 7D and T2i/ 550D. If HDMI HD out does not bother you and you don’t want or need full frame this is the camera to get. This is also the camera to get rather than the T2i/ 550D. Save your money. The extra features are worth the bit extra in cash. I promise you!

PROS: lovely video, articulating screen is awesome, all the frame rates including 50p 60p. Appears to not have the same overheating issues as the T2i, 7D and 5Dmk2

CONS: HDMI live out whilst recording is SD, no improvement in picture issues, SHDC rather than compact flash


Canon 7D

The first Canon camera to embrace the video feature as it has a switch to set it in video mode or stills mode!

It’s got the same sized chip in it as the 550D/ T2i albeit in a MUCH more robust package. The 7D is a beast. It’s completely weathersealed. I have left this camera outside for 4 days in snow and rain doing timelapses and it has come through without a glitch. This is for me what sets it apart from it’s cheaper brother. The build quality is simply superb.

Video feature wise it’s the same…24p, 25p, 30p in 1080p mode and 50p 60p in 720p mode. It can also rattle off about 8 or 9 pictures a second in stills mode. Very impressive. It has the same audio limitations that we run into again and again. No manual audio controls and no headphone jack.

The image out of it is superb. It’s sensor is almost the same sized as the sensor in 35mm movie cameras meaning with a mod or two it can take proper cinema lenses. A massive plus in the indie movie world and of course in the big movie world! I have used it with Cinema lenses three times now and it’s simply incredible!

The live HDMI out is the best of the cameras so far. Still letterboxed 1080i but it stays like this even when you hit record. This is a big deal and something you must consider when looking at the different cameras to buy. Getting critical focus when the image drops to SD when you hit record is very very hard!

Some people say it overheats a lot, something people say happens with their 550D too. But I have not experienced this much. Although I do live in a bloody cold country! I did experience it when I was doing very long interviews for 2 hours or so of non stop recording, but even then it was just a warning light. It never switched off.

Low light ability seems to be about the same as the T2i but not a patch on the D3s


PROS: Superb weatherproofing, stunning image, good in low light, switch for video mode, HD monitoring even when recording, Nice LCD screen, great price.

CONS: Not as good as the other pro Canon line in low light, not full frame, crappy audio options AGAIN, 12 minute record limit

Canon 5DmkII

This was the one that started it all and is still for me the camera with the nicest image. That comes down to it’s full frame goodness and full HD. The 5DmkII is absolutely unique in the video world as it is the only video camera in the world, currently, that shoots video in full HD with a sensor as big as this. The sensor is 864mmNow this does cause us some issues. Some people find that the full frame sensor makes it harder to get focus, as the larger the sensor the more shallow the depth of field. For me, I always say if it’s too shallow then stop down! It has great low light, better than the 7d but nowhere near as good as the D3s, so you can easily stop down and up the ISO to compensate…It’s aesthetically unique and that is what attracts so many filmmakers to it, including me, there is nothing else out there like this. The 7D has better options…the 5Dmkii has no 720p mode, has the same crappy hit record and drop to SD mode HDMI out, no dedicated video button. It does have manual audio levels which have been pointlessly hidden away in a menu that you can only set before you hit record and give you no audio levels on the LCD at all so there is still no way of knowing if you have are recording sound or not.

It’s highly unlikely we will ever see this camera get 50p and 60p. I simply think it cannot take it…It would overheat too much…talking of overheating, this camera has no warning light telling you it is overheating. What can happen, and I stress CAN, is the image can degrade the more heated up it gets. Then it will just switch off.


PROS: My favourite image out of them all, full frame beauty, manual audio levels, very good in low light, great build quality, you can get this camera for not that much more than the 7D if you shop around, did I say incredible full frame image godliness?

CONS: HDMI live out sucks, manual audio buried away in menus, no 720p mode, no overheating warning, DOF too shallow for some (although as I say just stop down!), 12 minute record limit, not as good weatherproofing as other pro Canon cameras, probably the most susceptible to rolling shutter issues of the pro Canons.

Canon 1DmkIV

The big daddy of the Canon line. This is first and foremost a stills sports shooters camera. The video is hidden away and is obviously secondary BUT must not be overlooked as it betters the other Canon cameras in it’s low light ability. It has a strange sized APS-H chip which is a 1.3x crop. This is a bit annoying for wide angles as there are no lenses made for this chip size so you will lose some length on the wide end.

The low light as I said is very powerful, again, not a patch on the DS3 but very impressive anyway. 3200 ISO is pretty clean, 6400 ISO is usable with a bit of post cleaning up.

It has the same video options as the 7D so we do have 720p 50p and 60p and we also have the same HD monitoring out even when recording. Audio of course still sucks with no manual audio level and of course no headphone jack.

The camera is built like a tank. It makes the build quality of the 7D look like the T2i and that is saying something. This is one camera that can probably take some serious knocks and keep on going. It takes both CF cards and those flimsy SDHC cards. It also takes it’s own special batteries which make it last a lot longer in video mode. The batteries in the 7D and 5DmkII get eaten up very fast!

PROS: Incredible build quality, beautiful image, superb low light, great long life batteries, probably the best of the bunch for least rolling shutter issues.

CONS: Awkward 1.3x crop, heavy, expensive, crappy audio, 12 minute time limit.

Canon 5DmkIII

Updated post to come shortly.

In conclusion…

Is that helpful? I hope so. As I said, there is no one clear favourite…I prefer the full frame image out of the 5DmkII for sure, but the HDMI out is killing me, on a professional set it is just a big problem. Also it doesn’t have the 720p mode that all the other Canon cameras have. Although the 720p mode is not great due to the hideous aliasing and moire that it can bring up if not careful.

The 7D is probably the best all rounder. Has all the video rates your want, HDMI HD monitoring and is a great price. Many prefer the aesthetics of the 7D over the 5DmkII, me I don’t but it simply comes down to personal preference. It has best build quality for the money, great image…but I just prefer the 5DmkII image…it probably ticks more boxes than the rest. Please don’t put weatherproofing as not that important. Being from the video world where nothing is weatherproofed, it’s so exciting to use these cameras in appalling conditions and not worry about them!

Of course one thing that also holds people back is the worry that a replacement will come out for one of these making their camera obsolete. Well, that is a danger with everything in life! That is why your main investment is in the glass, not the body. Your lenses will last 20 years! For pro users your bodies will change every 2/3 years. That’s the market!

Sony will soon jump on the bandwagon with the Alpha range. Be very interested to see what they are bringing to the table. I have heard a couple of interesting rumours. I wonder if they are true? The Sony NEX 5 and 3 are coming out soon and are very cute but lack manual controls in video mode and are only 30p…

Whichever camera you chose, don’t forget…it’s only a tool! The most important thing is what you do with it!

Next blog up is lenses…

Here are some pieces of work I have done with each camera:

Movember: Team Bloom ‘Tache from Philip Bloom on Vimeo.


Watch on iphone/ ipad


Watch on iphone/ ipad

55D/ T2i

Watch on iphone/ ipad


Watch on iphone/ipad


Watch on iphone/ ipad


Watch on iphone/ ipad



    1. How do you figure that the using an 11-16 on a crop sensor camera can give you a 10mm equivalent view? Somebody correct me if I’m wrong, but an 11-16 on a 1.3x crop camera would give you an effective view of approximately 14-21mm.

  1. Hi,
    it is still not easy to shout out which camera to buy right now… I bought my 7D last october.. just when it came out in Germany. It is great, I am happy with it.

    Here is a video I did right on the day of unboxing. Almost no extra gear… Just Canon 7D, Sigma 28 1,8 , (crappy) Canon 50 1,8 , Redroch FollowFocus, homemade glidetrack, cheap tripod. No monitor, no Z-finder.


    We released the video yesterday. It was held back until now.. nothing special anymore… there’s a bunch of 7D videos out there.. and the fact this was done in less then 24 hrs of work by a one man army.. well..

      1. Thanks Masa, nice video you got there too!
        Yeah.. It has been such a hussle to produce it fast.. cut and postpro in one night..
        and then.. ohhhh.. we will use it for promo things.. not publish it just yet… bla bla…

        The main thing that made it valuable was that it is shoot with the 7D and just when it came out! And the short time of production as “one man army” no special gear.. and no lights…

        Oh well.. still like it!

        And thanks to everyone that left comments on youtube, it is great to read that you like it and to know that you came from Philip’s Site!!! I got about 200 clicks the day I commented here!!!

    1. oh sh…almost forget….thanx, Phil , for this review ! but for me 7D is the best from all.100%.u can have enough DOF with this.of course,its about what u do and how u do.cheerz,mate

  2. Thanks to you Philip, i’m finally going with the 5DmkII. For me it was a tough match between the 7D and the 5DmkII.

    Thanks again Philip for everything you post on this blog.


  3. Nice one, Philip. Finally a single post to refer people to when I get asked which camera they should buy. Thanks!

    By the way:
    The overheating – with the 5Dmk2 at least – is a real issue. A friend of mine baked his sensor on a shoot, it had to be expensively replaced. I guess the same would happen on the T2i/550D and 7D if you went on shooting after the warning sign flashes up for long periods of time. (I usually don’t dare to unless I absolutely have to like with interviews.)

  4. Great compilation! I got myself the 550D two weeks ago, and own the 5DMkII since earlier, and like you say, they both have their purposes. I have the 550D for slowmotion primarily, but can also use it as a b cam, works great hand hold especially, since it is so light. Nothing matches the 5D’s image though. Looks amazing at 24p, but I’ve also been playing around with the soft slowmotion, from 30p to 24p which works great.

    Can’t wait to see what new is coming out though! Maybe 5D MkIII will have all the features we miss today? But when is it coming… Who knows? 😉

  5. Thanks for the blog post, it’s very helpful to see all the options laid out like this. I got the T2i a couple of months ago to get into the DSLR game and have been sold. I’m shooting it on 80% of my projects now and am having a hard time deciding on either the 7D or 5D as my next one. I’m leaning to the 7D if only for the HDMI out, that’s my biggest complaint with the T2i. But tuen I think about the full sensor in the 5D and I’m back to square one! Clearly the only option is to do what you’ve done, Philip, and buy them all!

  6. The 7D is THE camera. After three projects it was paid for (already finished my 20th). My only regret is that my other cameras are collecting dust, and so is my 35mm adapter. Thanks for the advice I owe you a beer.

  7. Hello Phil,
    thanks for this post, very helpful to make the good choice 🙂
    You got me after all this time ! I just bought the Canon 550d.
    One question : I own a lot of Nikon lenses (with manual aperture), you wrote : “a simple adaptor like the Fotodiox Pro”.
    While looking for this one which costs about 75€, I found others for only 20€. Is there a difference between adapters that can justify those prices ?
    Thank you.

      1. Funny, I just got a Fotodiox Pro to use my Nikon 50mm 1.2 (lovely lens) to use on my 7D, and I get about 1mm of back and forth play. The adapter is really tight on the lens, but I get play when attached to the body. I’d like to exchange it but I can’t seem to get it off my lens (a spring loaded metal pin on the adapter dropped into a hole on the lens, seemingly by design).

        Anyone else seen this?

        1. Never mind, I figured out how to remove it. Still more play on the $90 Fotodiox Pro Nikon to Canon than on my $9 Fotodiox M42 to Canon. Back it goes.

          Also just found a white pixel on every shot I’ve done in the exact same place, regardless of which lens I use. Guess the 7D goes back for another one, too. 🙁

  8. Thanks Philip, this is the best “hands on” comparison I’ve found, yet. I bought the T2i for the reasons you mentioned; it allowed me to buy good lenses first while I was saving up to get the second camera.

    But, one of the most compelling reasons for buying the camera in the first place was how quickly I got comfortable with the idea of making films because of all your videos. This is my first DSLR (after 35mm film) and my very first attempt at video.

    After watching your video “Salton Sea” I bought the Tokina 11-16 f/2.8, and then the EF 100 f/2.8 L IS USM, having already bought the EF 50 f/1.4 USM and I have to say, I’m extremely happy with this setup as it allows me to do just about everything I need to do, within a (relatively) small budget.

    So, thanks again for giving us all the benefit of your experience. I think it’s safe to say… besides all these cameras, you, personally, are moving this technological revolution along.

  9. Hello Philip,
    good post!!!
    I often watch clips on vimeo from 550D and 7D and I found that something is different, but, as you said, it’s difficult to know exactly what is different. 🙂
    I found this review of the 550D:


    and there is a comparison with 7D, nikon D5000 and Samsung NX10. Mainly the 550D performes worse than 7D in color accuracy, noise, lowlight and motion (they said that the 550D has more blur on motion than 7D). Surprisingly they found the 550D is better in horizontal resolution. Weird!

    Anyway, I bought a 550D three months ago and I’m happy with it.



  10. It’s funny you mention the ‘no intermediate ISOs’ on the 550D. I have the camera (which, I may add, I find excellent for both stills and video), and I’ve noticed that, while you’re only able to choose the ‘standard’ ISOs yourself, the camera will actually choose intermediate ISOs if you leave it on auto-ISO mode. This is definitely true for stills (the EXIF data confirms it; even though when you’re shooting it shows, say ISO 400, on the display, in Aperture it will come up as ISO 320 instead). I’m also pretty sure it uses intermediate ISOs when you leave on auto-ISO in video as well, as I’ve done some quick tests, and the exposure changes much more smoothly than you’d expect if it were switching ISOs in one-stop increments.

    Of course, leaving the camera on auto-ISO sort of takes away from the ability to properly set exposure yourself, but the camera is definitely capable of intermediate ISOs, so hopefully a firmware update will come along to allow us to choose them manually.

  11. One of the things you mentioned was the camera being obsolete when the next best thing comes out. I have to say. I own a canon 5DmkII and even if something comes out better, the image quality in this thing is so good that it should last me a long time for fun little short projects. But ya, I wouldn’t use it for an A cam on any big budget deal. I’d rather use a camera better designed for it that gets raw image quality and has more bells and whistles. My only gripe with the 5d, is the skew, but I could see it lasting me several years even if there was something better. But an example: I have a first model macbook pro which I cut my a low budget indi film on 3 years ago which sold for 400% more then it was shot for. Are there better macbooks? yep, but I still use this because it still can get the job done for small projects. It’s not so much about the tools anymore, it’s about the man using them. And the 5D is an amazing tool and will be good enough for a lot of stuff for a long time.

    1. i would say obsolete in the pro market. If a mkIII comes out with no aliasing/ moire/ rolling shutter then you now that will be camera you HAVE to use. Pure Speculation of course.

      1. yea. This is true. I never really really considered the 5dmkii a Pro market camera though. It would need xlr in, nicer audio controls, better hdmi out, less skew and an eludium q38 space modulator to ever be pro pro. It’s just a novelty right now.

  12. GH1 – BIG PRO: Does not overheat. Ever.

    I was shooting outside in Florida today with the 7D and GH1. It was 99 degrees Fahrenheit. 7D lasted about 15 minutes. GH1: no problem.

  13. Well put. This is a very informative article that I hope people will take the time to read. It really highlights all the different aspects of each camera. However, as you stressed in the article, a camera is simply a tool and its what you do with that tool that really matters. You mentioned that the rebel line will allow more filmmakers to flood the market. I’m not too worried about this and happy for it. It’ll force us all to improve our craft and become even better.

    Great article!


  14. Philip, I also forgot to mention I am in the market for a lens in the 24-70mm range. I love the Canon “L” 24-70, but for me its out of my price range. Today I visited a camera store and demoed a Tamron 28-75mm f2.8. It only costs roughly $500. Also another thing that bugs the crap out of me is the fact that the “L” lenses don’t have hard stops on the focus wheels. This Tamron does. My question to you is…have you used the Tamron before and what is your experience with it? Can you recommend any other lens around $500 that will perform well? Obviously the “L” is a better lens but how much better for the price? Plus its heavy!!



  15. Great review Philip! You bring inspiration to everyone. I just ordered a cineslider for my 5DmkII. I hope i can attend one of your workshops here in the San Francisco bay area someday. Thank You!

  16. If anyone is wondering about overheating issues, I live in a country where the temperature in summer is 30 deg Celsius and it overheats pretty fast.. and quicker if its hand held. If we continuously record, I can get it in 30 mins. I traveled to east asia earlier and it was pretty humid out there. The overheating was coming 15 mins or so.. man I was sweating no wonder that temperature was giving hard time to my 7D. I was recording a 30 mins show and it was pain in the ass. But I guess the time has been extended with new firmware.

  17. Philip,

    3 years ago I found a video of yours on youtube when searching for videos on the Letus. I’ve been hooked since. so much great info on everything from Letus, lenses, bags, etc. I just got my 7D and your training DVD.

    I’ve been working in TV for 26 years and not a day goes by that I don’t learn something new. I just appreciate the fact that I now go to your site first and usually have my answer before I move on to others. I also direct many people there.

    Thanks for spending the time and effort. :O)

  18. Great round up. From that I think we can say that DSLRs with video have had an alright debut 🙂 The 2nd generation will be much better.

    1080p on the GH1 is pretty good for shallow depth of field stuff and static shots where the low bit-rate doesn’t matter. So it depends a lot on what you plan to shoot. For action, sweeping pans and stuff the main problem is that the AVCHD encoding on the GH1 has a bug which causes a spike in CPU occupation that messes up the image completely for a fraction of a second, which can ruin the entire shot. The codec does go to hell on highly detailed deep DOF stuff and lots of swift movement against detailed backdrops like trees and grass. But 99% of the time you can get away with it or shoot around it. Not using the slow kit lens and AF helps too, as it frees up the CPU to concentrate more on encoding. The kit lens is a very complex piece of hardware.

    The latest custom firmware is getting closer and closer to a working 70Mbit 1080p/24 in MJPEG mode which should put it on par with the Canons but with better image scaling. 1080p and 720p on the GH1 don’t have the same moire patterns you get on fine details, to the extent of the Canons. ISO 1600 seems to differ between models, if you hit lucky it has less banding and fixed pattern noise. But it’s more susceptible to less than optimal lighting conditions than on the Canons. Shutter at 1/30 and using a fast lens to help more light into the camera is a MUST for low light shooting on the GH1. You can’t get away with using 1/60 and a slower lens like you can on the 5D Mark II in dim lighting at ISO 1600 otherwise the image shows banding and tons of noise. In dim lighting with a wide aperture and slow shutter you can produce a clean image at ISO 1600 but colour saturation is still down a bit over ISO 800, which is very clean.

    One other thing I’ve observed is that the image seems as bright on the GH1 at 800 as it does on 1600 on the 5D Mark II, so it really can do low light very well if you treat it nicely… I think the sensor on the GH1 is more sensitive than stated. Here is a low light video I did with the GH1, some of it is in 720p mode at 1/5 shutter, so boosting low light massively for time-lapse stuff without using a interval timer remote.


    So my view is that GH1 is not as good as the Canon 5D Mark II for image quality but it has a punchy and pleasing image that some may prefer if they don’t mind the occasional bit of AVCHD compression.

  19. hey philip, I ejoyed your review, like many people, image quality is most important to me so I went with the 5D and 24-105mm lens kit I am just curious, was that interview you did in Oslo on DSLR Movie Making shot with the 5D and the 24-105mm lens? if so I am excited! that interview looks beautifully shot!

  20. Phil, what is your experience with overheating on them? I know you had the problem shooting with Rebel. What about others? I have never had the problem with my 7d before, but now the temperature sing happens to show up in Live View Mode even when the camera is actually not recording at all but the LCD is on. I just switch it off and in a second switch it on and it is ok, a least for some time. All in temperature ca. 25 degree Celsius and no direct sunglight. Thank you.

  21. Philip,

    I’ve reproduce this article in website and given enough credit only to you for the article. The main intention of reproducing the article is to reach to more wider audience and nothing else. Hope you understand my intention.


  22. Honestly, reading this was a great refresher in helping me get through much of the advertising banter about this and that from each of the vendors. I was heavily leaning towards the Nikon D90, I liked alot of the specs but have little no experience shooting video with it. I had been wondering why it seemed like Nikons werent taking off like Canons are with video, but your comparisons quickly answered the majority of questions that I had regarding that issue.
    however, the only thing I have to complain about are your sample videos, you make such good short films and your style is superb. how on earth is that supposed to help me choose what camera to dig into when you could probably shoot a fantastic clip with a Coolpix?!

    but in seriousness, fantastic, down-to-earth review from someone who has really used these, not just who was paid to promote. thanks

  23. thank you very much for this post, so we can pass it on to the ones who ask us the same question.

    Phil, I think a lot of people, me included would much appreciate if you’d share your tips and tricks to minimize the moire and aliasing artefacts, which in my oppinion are the major drawback of dslr cinematography.



  24. Phil,

    Thank you for your excellent comparison. I have been inspired by your work for a considerable time now and enjoyed expanding my video skills over the last year. I purchased the 5D2 as soon as it was released and being a stills photographer have only recently begun to work in video.

    I noticed on your LUCASFILM image that you have a Tascam DR100 for audio pick-up.

    How do you find this compared the H4n? I have an old Edirol recorder but am looking to upgrade and quite like the flexibility of the 4-track recording capability of the H4n (something the Tascam does not have).

    Thanks again and I look forward to a London meet-up sometime soon…


      1. Thanks for your quick response. The independent audio level control certainly seems a real bonus. Does the H4n not have a headphone out as well? I will look into the Tascam more thoroughly and perhaps give them both a test. Thanks. J.

  25. The only time I had an issue with that was during a concert after 4 twelve min takes in a row. After that it came often, so I had to stop and turn it off every 5 minutes or so. But I don’t know what would happen if I ignored it, I choose to stop after the warning came on. The room wasn’t the coolest…

  26. Thanks for this summary, very informative. Glad I bought the 550D – what you mention as CONS are no dealbreakers to me (except the crappy HDMI out).

    Have you ever tried an underwater case for any of these DSLRs?


    PS: It’s really not okay that England kicked out Croatia this time…. 🙂

  27. why’s nobody talkin’ about the rebel t1i, i know it’s a poor camera compared with the rebel t2i but it also shoots video. but it’s never mentioned anywhere, why’s that?

  28. Thanks, good article.

    Coming from the pro photography (advertising and commercial) world, when I was looking into it the only choice for me was the 5D MkII, full frame top quality 21mp stills with the addition of HD Video was the way to go, the stills image would be at least 90% of the workflow in the short term – I’m now trying to up the video side naturally as an extra for clients (old and new).

  29. Thanks for a great summary article, Philip.

    I’m not sure if this thought will add much, but it was a big deal for me in deciding what my -2nd- body would be. I’ve had my 5D since right before the manual exposure firmware update and by the time I thought about getting my 2nd body, the new T2i/550 had arrived. The price point of the Rebel made it seem like a no-brainer as a 2nd camera. But…

    You mentioned SD vs CF cards on it, but the T2i/550d also requires all new accessories. With the 5D and 7D the batteries and other such additions like remote control, AC adapter are interchangable. In getting a Rebel, those would all have to be bought new again. It’s not a huge deal, but if you are going to take, for example, six batteries with you, it’s nice to know they’ll work in either camera.

    While buying all new accessories doesn’t quite make up for the difference in price between the T2i/550D and the 7D, all of the other benefits of it were plenty for me to decide to get a 7D as my 2nd body in addition to the 5DMK2.


  30. Hi Phil,

    I first came to your website while Googling around for reviews of the JVC GY-HM100U and ended up buying the Panasonic GH1, especially as it was about 1/3 the price, based on your work.

    I’ve had several consumer camcorders for years but was looking for something to take my hobby up a notch. I wanted nothing to do with MiniDV tapes and I want at least 60P frame rate as I do mostly run’n’gun stuff covering equestrian sports – 3-day events etc.

    While I miss the convenience of a servo-zoom I love the GH1. I bought a Rode mike and the sound is great (though I wish it had manual level control). The autofocus on the stock lens is awesome, not so fast on the 20 and 45-200 mm lenses. I have seen it lock on the rider’s face has the horse gallops by and I get great crisp shots and pretty spectacular slo-mo (to me anyway). Since the autofocus is so good I really need a follow-zoom instead. I know you pros don’t like zooming, but I try to keep the horse and rider the same size as they move near and far from me.

    Yeah the AVCHD-lite is a bit annoying at times – large fields of grass “twitch” every half-second because of something about keyframes in the codec, but since most of my stuff is for YouTube and DVDs, it’s good enough and this camera beats any consumer camera out there in its price range except maybe the T2i. But with the GH1 you get an EVF, giving you 3 points of contact to steady the camera without buying that nice Zacuto gear. And less gear is important to me when I’m running from one jump to another on a cross country course.

    I also love that I can use my f/2.0 50 mm prime from my first SLR bought in 1978. Images still look great – a good lens is always a good lens (until you drop it).

    I mitigate the roller shutter issue by shooting at the highest shutter speeds, but it’s still apparent at times. This wouldn’t have been a problem with the JVC, but then again the GH1 was 1/3 the cost.

    Finally, the GH1 takes pretty good stills, I often forget it’s a stills camera first.



  31. Hi there Mr Bloom,

    Many thanks for this most excellent article.
    I’ve just bought the 550D and I am testing the gear…
    Based on your website and the video preview of “Learn 2 Shoot Great Video on Your Canon 7D” at fstopstore, I was asking myself if those tutorial were easly applied to the use of the 550D (or perhaps you plan to make a version for the 550D) ?

    Anyway, again thanks for that pool of information (and my wife says thanks for the video of your siamese cats).

    Take care,

  32. Thanks for laying it all out like this. It’s really nice to see so many different cameras compared in one place. I got burned out trying to find honest, simple comparisons of the canon DSLR’s via google.

    Right now my plan is to start with the 550d, then upgrade to the 5d mkII (or MkIII, if it comes out soon), since any lenses or Z gear I’ll buy can work with both. From what I’ve seen, the 550d is perfect for shooting anything I work on for class or personal projects.

    And I’m sure you’ve mentioned it before, but would your 5d mkII / 7d training video still help a noob like me with the 550d?

  33. Philip;

    Thanks so much for this post, and for tremendous resource you provide. And thank you for inspiring me to pursue the third dimension — I owned my 5dMkII for months before I even tried to shoot any video, now I am hooked. I’ve also added a T2i to the setup, and I love the weight and size. I’m having a great time matching it up with funky old Pentax and Nikon lenses.

    Regarding the durability of SD cards, I once left a card in my shirt pocket and did not find it until after it had been through both a wash and dry cycle. Not only did the card still work, but all of the data was intact. I still use the card today in my Edirol recorder.

  34. I say we just stop buying ALL Canon lenses until we get this in a single camera (along with all the other marvelous things Canon has given us):

    – Better engineering to eliminate aliasing in video
    – Smart program mode that will seek out and get rid of moire
    – Full-frame sensor
    – Articulating screen
    – iPhone screen-like performance in bright ambient conditions
    – Higher res screen than even the T2i’s at half an inch larger
    – Small heatsinks or similar cooling solution to eliminate overheating
    – TRUE 1920 x 1080 resolution, at full 60 frames per second
    – In-body image stabilization
    – Option to disable audio gain control
    – Weatherproofing and built like a tank
    – Noise reduction circuitry specifically for expanded ISO ranges
    – Shipped with special kit lens that autofocuses brilliantly and silently
    – Uncrippled HDMI out at all times
    – Raw baby!

    If our demands are not met, then I WILL continue buying your cameras, Canon, but you better believe I’ll be snippy at the register when I do so. What would you do for a camera like this, Philip?

    1. Canon didn’t set out to go after the professional video/filmmaker/cinematographer crowd. They thought they were giving photographers a chance to do some quality HD video, like for wedding or event work (and mojos) where you could take one camera and capture 2 needs (stills & video).

      Yes, in light of the response (read sales), they are taking notes from folks like Philip and others who pushed these cameras BEYOND what Canon envisioned. That’s good! So there will be improvements in the next generation, however, it will NOT be to the level of top of the line, HD video cameras.

  35. Jose your dreaming man! RAW, and full 1080p60 would be nice…however I’m not sure the camera has the necessary “brains” to pull off this feat. I would imagine that it would take some horsepower! Phil what are your thoughts?

    1. Lol, yeah, I know. I’m just playing with everyone’s emotions.

      But, and this is a big butt, really the only things outside of the scope of current cameras would be raw (which might be the last implementation we’d see out of all these, and probably a few more years down the line) and everything else is doable. You’re right, might need a bit more juice to run it, so one day seeing an “ATI” or an “Intel” sticker on these puppies would be like being born again. The CPUs in these devices are there strictly for stills, and just so happened to be strong enough to take video, in its various forms.

      Except that there isn’t enough market justification to have a company like Canon deliver on every single last one of a videographer’s dream system. In body stabilization specifically would be like the company shooting itself in the foot with the premium it charges for IS lenses. But we can dream, can’t we?

      I do think that fixing moire and aliasing, AGC and noise reduction are doable with the current “brains” of today’s cameras, with the possible exception of the slightly less powerful T2i. And finding a solution to overheating would have nothing to do with power, just good old fashioned engineering.

      I think Canon underestimated the appeal of video in a DSLR — which is evident in the technical shortcomings of DSLRs. Here’s hoping they have realized the potential.

      Unlike others, I still like the idea of a killer video rig in the form of a DSLR, with the ability to take beautiful pictures to boot.

    2. The camera has the brains to pull it off, its partly a marketing ploy. There is a way to make the camera go raw by altering the firmware and the way it reads the sensor. I remember back in the day with the CHDK and all developments that were made with obtaining raw. Hopefully there is someone out there working on this as we speak??

  36. Phil ~ That was a really helpful read, thanks so much for taking the time to break it down.

    You mentioned that the 5D doesn’t give you warning of overheating, however when I was on a shoot in 107 degree heat & direct sun for 4 hours the thermostat button came on multiple times to warn me of overheating on my last hour. Am I to understand that this is not the norm and that the camera normally shuts off?

  37. Phil – I cannot say enough how much I appreciate your blog. I was just about to purchase the Zoom H4n but changed to the Tascam DR100 after reading the posts above. (Thanks, James for pointing this out.)

    Independent audio controls, more professional control layout and flexible power options are what sold me on it. Sure, more expensive than the Zoom but not by much. Looks perfect for double system sound using an HDSLR set up.

    The new Zoom that’s coming out soon is more compact in size but looks like it does not have XLR connectors. This is a real downer for doing professional audio.

    Keep up the great work and thank you, thank you!

  38. I’ve had the 7D and 5D mk II since the first week each was released and also owned the GH1 for a while. I will say I agree with everything Phil has posted in his pro/con on the 3 I have experience with.

    I have had 2 – 7D’s (exchanged 1 because of the heating) and both have/had the same heating issues when pushing them. Went to the drug store and bought some of those instant ice packs. I would get about 50-70 minutes before I’d see the heat warning. I found that after about 30-40 minutes I could wrap the instant ice pack on the battery side of the camera using 2 large rubber bands to hold it on the camera. Doing this every 30 – 40 minutes for 10 minutes at a time seem to do the trick for cooling. I did a 2 1/2 hr test without seeing the heat using the instant ice packs.

    Thanks for the write up on the Nikons as I have no experience with them and was dreaming of the low light on the D3, although the price and 720p have gotten me out of the mood. I’ll think I’ll wait for the rumored 5D mk II successor and keep my fingers crossed that they make a killer camera fixing some of the video short commings.

  39. philip, great piece as usual. I use all of the canons and adore em all.

    I would love to know your picture profiles for matching up your 5dmk2 & 7D to your Sony EX3… For long theatrical/live work I always use the ex3 with shutter off (dark shoots mainly) and find it really tough matching up the neutral profiles (or your profiles in your videos) of the canons to the EX3 e.g. ‘BBC’ profile to achieve good colour matching. It can take ages in post production to colour match
    So tell us your profile setups/colour matching workflow!!!! ?

  40. Nice summary.

    One thing not mentioned is the lens advantage of a full frame camera like the 5D2. You can put a fast set of primes on the 5D2 and cover the wide, normal and tele ranges. On the 7D, there are no fast, wide primes available. You might as well stick with f/2.8 zooms to cover your range.

    As an example, one could get the EF 24/1.4L, EF 28/1.8, or ZE 28/2, depending on budget and goals, and build a set of lenses up from there. On the 7D, the 24/1.4 is a 38.4mm lens and a 28 is a 44.8mm lens. They just aren’t that wide.

    So, for me, the decision of a full frame or crop frame body comes down to whether you want to shoot with f/2.8 zooms or a set of fast primes.

  41. You said the Canons are limited to a 12 minute record… but i see a lot of time lapses? are those longer than 12 minute? if so how does that work?

  42. Thanks for the camera round-up.

    Not sure why everyone ignores the Pentax K7. Yeah, it doesn’t have full 1080p but neither does the Nikon. What is does have makes it an awesome camera: a 23.4×15.6mm sensor, COMPLETELY weather sealed (which in rainy West Coast Canada is a must!), exposure lock, aperture and white balance control, 720p 30fps video(which I realize is limited), stereo audio recording with an external mic, HDMI out, and most importantly it can shoot video using every Pentax lens ever made (including all of those nice prime lenses from back in the day).

    It would be great if the frame rates were given some attention and full 1080p mode were enabled, recording time is also limited (as in some other models), but other than that, I’m not sure why no one gives this camera attention.

    1. because you said it…exposure lock. Not full manual control. The same reason why I ignored 3 Nikons and 1 Canon. Until it gets full manual control it can’t play in the sand pit with the others. It’s a basic fundamental thing, that was also lacking on the 5DmkII when it came out! Sort if out Pentax and Nikon!

      1. Sorry, I meant the Pentax has exposure compensation mode. +/- (not exposure lock), which is an excellent option to have. But yeah, I wish I could choose the shutter speed, instead of just being able to control the exposure and aperture. I do like that I can program the white balance though.

        Hopefully Pentax will include full manual control and 1080p on their next professional model because the bodies and glass on these babies are awesome (for photos as well).

  43. Great info…with Nikon, when would MJPEG quality loss be noticeable (large screen?) Seems like the trade off is less computing power/quality to process vs. improved quality/efficiency and more computing power with other formats.

  44. Wow, Philip it’s great article. I will go with 550d…since its best for the price!
    I am very excited about the next article: Lenses!!!
    I am having a very difficult problem with lenses. Prime lenses or zoom lenes, canon or sigma?…that kind of stuffs…

    I hope to read the next article soon!!

    PS. when you use rig or tripod, do you turn on IS or off? I think that will be the main point. If you don’t use IS when it is on a rig, I will just go with prime lenses, which doesn’t have IS 🙂

    1. I agree with the conundrum of lenses… I’m thinking about a 5DmkII and with the following primes…

      Canon Wide Angle EF 24mm f/2.8
      Canon Normal EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Autofocus Lens
      Canon Telephoto EF 85mm f/1.8 USM Autofocus Lens

      But my dad also has some nikon lenses and wants to give them to me…
      35-70mm AF Nikon Nikkor 1:2.8 D
      80-200mm AF Nikon Nikkor 1:2.8 D

      would it be worth using them with an adaptor like this?

      any suggestions?

  45. Thanks for condensing all that info into this page. Very useful.
    Thanks also for providing to us this constant source of info.

    One question. The HDMI of the Canon 5DmkII is crippled. It drops to 480p when recording. But when NOT recording, is it then really 1080 ? Because on a Marshall LCD screen, I can’t get a full screen. It is the Marshall V-LCD651STX-HDMI. I only get about a quarter of that screen surface filled. When playing back, the screen shows a 16:9 window that is ok. I was expecting also a full screen on that monitor when activating Live View (when not recording).

  46. Hey Philip, I loved your T2i Rebel video!!

    I’m wanting to get a T2i myself, and I’m about to order one today almost, I’m wondering if you could advise me on what I should get with it with my budget of 1300$.

    (quick note, I really haven’t used anything more then a SD cam, but I have researched a hella lot and am really sure I want this camera)

    Anyway, I could get the T2i and a good lens to go with it, or I could get a T2i with stock lens, a rode mic and zoom H1, then I have 150$ left on my budget, I guess some ND or UV filters or should I try to get a tripod for that money, or maybe start saving for a better lens…

    Anyway, mainly I came here to ask that and if I could get good footage with the stock T2i lens?

  47. Nice round up Phil – looking forward to hearing your lens thoughts + what you find yourself using most in various circumstances etc..

    70-200 L IS II looks great – but haven’t seen any footage yet with it.

  48. Thanks, Phil. Great write-up, as usual. I have two of the cameras reviewed (5DII, DIV), and your assessment is spot on and quite fair. One comment, however: while the 5DIII will likely eclipse the 5DII for video, it’s hard to imagine that it will overpower it in the stills department. I’m still blown away by the IQ of the 5DII with a 14mm II — just exquisite, and all I’ll ever need. I went back into the archives recently and looked at some slides, and I can’t express how disappointing they were! Film truly is dead. There, I said it.

    Some users tend to focus (ha,ha) on just the video camera portion, and this is an area where the manufacturers will continue to innovate rapidly. The stills portion, however, is reaching feature saturation, and the cameras for that segment will hold their value quite well.

  49. Philip,

    I have worked in the film industry since 1983. Two small points of contention to this and most of the articles about DSLRs that touch on DOF.

    1 – You give a full frame aperture size in your chart. Interesting, but since no one shoots full frame it’s a useless bit of information. The industry standard for non-anamorphic is academy aperture and masking it to 1.85 aspect ratio. It can be hard masked in the camera, but this is normally not done since it causes additional issues in telecine. Please ditch the useless full aperture in your chart and replace it with an Academy aperture.

    2 – You keep hanging on to “full frame” as your gold standard. Again, interesting, but it only applies to movie work if you’re shooting VistaVision. VistaVision as an originating format died decades ago after a very short life. It found use in the visual effects industry pre-digital effects, but has since died again. As a result, talking about how full frame is some sort of gold standard makes no sense if you’re trying to compare yourself to 35mm film work. 35mm uses Academy aperture 1.85 for non-anamorphic shooting. Any other options (3 perf, etc) are just bastard step-children that do get used for various reasons (usually money), but only represent a tiny percentage of the work that is shot Academy 1.85.


    1. hi Peter

      I think you are completely missing the point of what I am saying. Full frame video is unique, that’s why I love it. I clearly say the APS-C sensor is more akin to S35. You state nobody shoots full frame? Eh? I am shooting full frame and so are the ten of thousands of 5DmkII owners. You keep comparing these cameras to film standards. I am not. You comment really confuses me. You are saying I can’t called Full Frame my gold standard because no film camera shoots in a format as big as that? That makes no sense! Stop comparing the 5DmkII to film and let it take it’s unique place in the market. Also the sensor chart is spot on as it’s show the sensors of each camera. Yes it will be cropped to make way for the 1.85 ratio but everyone knows that we aren’t shooting 4:3 anymore!



    2. Sorry to interject like this but I found this exchange really crystallises something for me.

      Traditional film dogma, however much you cherish it Peter, won’t help you forge a path through the next 27 years of your career if you want to stay out front. Now that statement probably seems ridiculous to you, coming as it does from a young guy like me without 20 odd years in the industry! Of course experience is extremely valuable and useful. But I assume the people Philip is targeting this article at don’t have your experience in the film industry. Does that disqualify them from even starting?

      Of course not. These people may only just be starting out and may not be knowledgeable about the last 70 years of ‘academy standards’ – but don’t let that get in the way of the truth – Youth is agile and flexible. The best young filmmakers will most likely shoot cheaper, faster and better on DSLRs rather than if your dreams came true and suddenly everyone started using expensive 35mm film again and were steeped in dogma and film standards. You could shoot cheaper and better too Peter, if you dropped the dogma. I just don’t see how it helps foster creativity.

      Bob Dylan now springs to mind – the times are a changin!! Get out of the hall way if you can’t lend your hand…

      Film standards are still useful for cinematographers who speak the language of 35m film but these are much less relevant to the new breed of cinematographer.

      The filmmaking toolbox has been revolutionised and continues to undergo rapid change. It will do constantly again and again, and DSLR shooters like me will have to adapt. Do I see it as a threat? Quite the opposite, it’s an opportunity to be grasped with creativity, enthusiasm and passion.

      The DSLR simply isn’t designed to fit into the 35mm motion picture world. It’s something completely new for filmmakers. And it’s a stills camera therefore it is judged on photographic frame sizes. The chart in the article is completely relevant to people learning about DSLRs.

      Philip is not talking about film cameras. We’re talking about DSLRs, and to an audience who don’t have a lot of experience shooting film.

      Well… I’ve annoyed myself just thinking about it. Look – I have no idea why so many people get hung up on industry dogma and standards. Surely your eye trumps all of this, and is able to judge what ‘looks filmic’ and ‘good’ without resorting to outdated modes of theorising about film cameras and gold standards. The best filmmakers – most of them anyway – throw away the rule book and let ingenuity rule.

      There is no such thing as a ever-lasting ‘gold standard’. The technology is cyclic and those who cannot constantly adapt their way of thinking & working to new trends will surely be left behind.

  50. Please forgive my ignorance, but im fairly new to Video DSLRS.

    What do you mean by 12 minute time limits on the canons? Is that all the battery or memory can handle? Or do you mean they can only shoot 12 minutes at a time, sort of like each file can only be 12 minutes long? Im really looking forward to buying a 7d. But if you mean what i think you mean, that could be a deal breaker for me. I also obviously still need to learn more about it.

      1. Lol! Like i said, i definitely should read more about the cameras before purchasing one. But that doesn’t seem like such a big problem. Maybe after awhile it could probably get a little annoying. Other then that the cameras still looks amazing.

        Thanks for the quick response!
        And i love your time lapses!

      2. Sorry to high jack the post Philip,
        @ Sean They have a 4GB FAT 32 file size limitation
        Not sure if they Can or will ever over come that in the HDSLR’s
        But never say never I say 🙂

  51. I just recieved my 7D a week ago, and I couldn’t be happier.

    I took it to San Pedro de Atacama (North of Chile, dryest desert in the world) for a videoclip, and it works perfectly! beyond the image, the performance in the heat and so on was not a problem, and since we used a car grip, it size was very convenient!

    Sensor size? not a big deal for wide angles, there are plenty of them in the market for small sensors, I used a 10-20mm and I really didn’t wanted a wider image! Now, I’m also a wildlife filmmaker. Just filmed a penguin this weekend with my 70-300mm (for full frame), in which the 300 turns into a 480mm! (5,6) and I got some beautifull head shots of the penguin!

    Low light? worked at 640 ISO and is good enough for me, but I have to recognized that the 5DmkII is so much better in this condition! the only thing I miss perhaps.

    Image? 5D or 7D? with all the post we do today, honestly, it’s hard to tell the difference for most of the people we do the videos for!

    Rolling shutter? 7D have a faster procesor, which means, less jelly effect! It’s not a real problem as long as you use a tripod and make some nice shots, otherwise, it can be good to tell your story! hahaha, take advantage from the disadvantages!

    Timelapse? I’m in love

    Wheatherprof? rocks!

    Here a video I just made: http://vimeo.com/12363097

  52. @Greg, thanks for the video, the quality is better then I expected!

    What would you recommend as a good starter lens for video on the t2i?
    (sorry, I really should go research myself which I am going to do right now, but I’d like your opinion also!)

  53. One other thing to consider if you’re buying for professional use:
    The 5D is hot right now. Clients want to work with the 5D because they’ve heard about it and usually tech specs mean nothing to them.

    Based on my experience, and talking to other shooters, the 5D is the best bet for pleasing clients.

  54. Hi Philip,

    Awesome article! Been enjoying your blogs for the last little while, so I’d thought I’d crawl out of the shadows and say ‘hi’.

    Unfortunately, I’m still torn between Nikon and Canon for the same reason you mentioned in this article, because I just love their NR (and am waiting for Nikon to finally show some 1080p love). But I have to choose very soon because I’m currently getting ready to shoot my next short film, so after reading this article, I might just bite the bullet and get a T2i; and focus on getting some decent lenses.

    As for the slight difference in video quality between the 7D and T2i, I might have an explanation here, if no one has mentioned this. After checking out the data rates from some comparable 1080p footage from both cameras, I noticed that the 7D produces video with data rates just slightly higher than the T2i, approx. 1.5 to 2 Mbits-per-sec more than the T2i. This might account for what you’ve perceived as a slightly higher video quality on the 7D. Thought I’d throw in my 2-cents.

    Anyway, love your work and looking forward to reading your next post.

    Take care.

    1. Csaba
      You mean this post here: http://www.reduser.net/forum/showpost.php?p=609341&postcount=400

      You see, landscapes have lots and lots of detail, for example if you choose to magnify lets say a patch of grass from a large landscape clip, say a 2K scan, it will by the very nature that film is all that we humans today have as our ultimate reference, a 2K scan will I am sure show a lot more detail both in the shadow and highlights, as well as in the color and sharpness of a blade of grass, noise included, films can be noisy. So, there will certainly be a lot more detail in that patch of grass because we don’t as of yet have any better way to reproduce an image, than the good old film.
      So what David Mullen is suggesting is that a 7D H.264 1080P recording barely resolves 750 lines and not 1080 which means that this lack or loss of detail should clearly showup in the magnification test and hypothetically a 7D footage should resolve poorly on a large cinema hall which also happens to be our ultimate standard and goal.

      I have worked with the Red and It certainly does hold on to its own at that magnification, but I was surprised to see how good 7D stood against the Red on its own even though I knew that technically a 7D was not on the same league as the Red @2K, But, you will be surprised to know that it looked less noisy and also a bit sharper than Red @2K. I am sure others too would have experienced this paradox. So if 7D is as David Mullen claims just barely 750 lines, I am sure my brain is somehow fooling me into seeing things that clearly should not be there. On the other hand I could play with the red footage quite a bit before it started to tear.

      Now there are three things involved here, [1] what you eyes thinks it is seeing. [2] what the resolution charts show in controlled test, and [3] the codec that wraps the information in its folds. I am certain that the Red is good on [2] and [3], but leaves much to be desired in [1]. I don’t think Red will be catching up to the [1] any time soon. My own hunch is that as more and more people see 5D/7D clips, the more they would demand that everything should look as good as the 5D/7D’s and I think this is where the game starts to change.
      I am sure David is aware of this. Other wise his statement and concerns would not make any sense. So I assume that what he is saying is that even though the 5D/7D looks good on a large Hd monitor, it will fail to resolve on a large silver screen where the Red with its close to 1080 lines would resolve better.

      This is what makes the Zacuto resolution test so intriguing, I would suggest you should take a look at it and judge it for yourself. The 7D footage is indeed good as it gets if not as close to the Film, but damn close. And with its better sharpness, color and texture “Illusion” as opposed to the Red, it may ultimately tip the balance in its favour as more and more people demand a 5D sort of look which would force a prospective client to demand the same simply basing their choice on some clever INTERNET videos or indy production seen on nothing better than a large HD monitor.
      They may have a point here, but the game is changing fast.

      You can also test the 7D resolution against its Raw to jufge how good it is. The Raw: I can assure you is better than anything Red can ever throws up, so you have all the tools already at you disposal to carry out all the test by yourself. Just try it if you don’t have access to a Red or any thing else to try and see it yourself and decide if its ok with you or not.
      Red is an fantastic camera, but a cheap 550D can get you there easily, if you are diligent and mindful. But it surely pushes you a bit more. Infact quite a bit I would say but it is worth it.

  55. Hi philip, thank you for the great post.

    I owned a 550d and thinking of buying a 7d. I think the 550d is a good, maybe even great camera for beginers for the obvious reason (change to multiple lenses) compared to more expensive prosumer/semipro 3ccd/3mos camcorder. I love the color but the audio part i think they need to improve it to make it an all rounder.

    Love the 550d since day one! http://vimeo.com/syedsyahrul

  56. Thanks for a great post. Im considering going for a DSLR.

    Are there any places on the net where you can find raw video files from i.e. 5DMII ? I mean short test files, unedited and directly from the camera?
    So I can play with them to get a feel of how it is to work with them?

    Would appriciate any links/comments on this

  57. hi Philip

    i just found this pleas have a look

    5DtoRGB converts Canon EOS series video files to

    high-quality DPX sequences or ProRes QuickTime files:

    ProRes 4444 and 422 (LT) Output (requires Mac OS X 10.6)
    ProRes 422 (HQ) and ProRes 422 Output
    Higher quality output than Canon’s E1 plugin [compare]
    Higher quality output than QuickTime Player or FCP [compare]
    Raw YUV output option for unprocessed luma channel extraction
    Output luminance matte as an alpha channel (ProRes 4444 only)
    Timecode support: extracts Exif timestamp from THM files


    i don’t have mac so….
    but it will work with PC soon(i hope)

  58. What’s the *best* DSLR for video? None.

    They all have issues, as they actually were not designed for video, which was seen only as a gimmick. The good news is, in less than 12 months we’ll have some new model that will solve most of the problems, so my advice is to get any DSLR considering you’ll replace it in one year. So DONT overbuy on accessories!

    Which leads me to the next issue. A body alone is useless, you also need lenses, cam support and LIGHTING, not mentioning all the audio stuff (also in post, a whole another story. Poor audio kills the best cinematography).

    See it all as a bundle. Photo lenses are of no use to pull focus, so if you’re serious you’ll need proper manual lenses, of which the ZEISS Compact (both in AE and PL) are the most affordable, but they run for €15k for a set of 4 (21,35,50,85). And what about follow focus, filters, fluid heads, HMIs and LEDs lighting, sennheisers and Nagras?
    Well, nobody said this was going to be cheap nor easy. Just because DSLRs have shallow DOF, they still require A TON of stuff to make anything shot thru them look like film. Even for a 30″ short.

    But don’t forget the script (and acting) is still King.

    1. Henry. I gotta disagree with just about everything you have said.

      First off. You are talking like you are from a different era. Also not everyone is interested in narrative. What about docs? Weddings? corporates etc? all great with DSLRS.

      Photo lenses can be pulled focus with. My 1st AC on Red Tails did a fantastic job. You don’t need Zeiss Compacts. Way too pricey for most. Get the ZE or ZFs with adaptors. Why does everyone needs the CP.2? Overkill for 99% who read this blog.

      Yes sound, tripod, lighting but you need not go overboard. Very few people here are planning on making anything on the scale you are talking about.

      I will be breaking down gear by budget over the next few blog posts. If you are reading this please don’t buy into you HAVE to have X, Y and Z. You can shoot great stuff with very little gear. Just a few essentials.

      It is time to shake off the old style and usher in a new way of filmmaking.

      1. Hey Phillip,

        I’m convinced we agree in more things we dissent from. While it’s true you don’t need a light truck all the time, you DO need some stuff people just don’t consider, because ,most being newcomers, they think photography=video, and this is not the case. How many do you know that for instance, didnt take production sound seriously, and find out later that ALL audio must be looped (including foley, walla, etc), for which they dont have a budget? Ok, corporates dont need it, but they might require some Litepanel or two, and Docs require a lens that lets you focus/zoom properly and securely in a continuous fashion, things a photo lens wasn’t designed for. etc. As for weddings, well, get a EX1 for gods sake 🙂

        The truth is that I’ve been approached by way too many youngsters with their flashy new DSLRs, thinking this was WAY easier than they thought…

        Anyway, enough of this. You’re doing a great job pioneering new approaches to video and filmaking (back with the 35mm adapters years ago). A pleasure to follow you, Keep on the task!

  59. There is another area of comparison that i didn’t think too much of before since i’ve had my dSLR for a couple months. I didn’t realize how much i would enjoy still photography. I am open to considering Nikon now for Stills. So, a comparison of Nikon/Canon for stills is also good to know as well. I know this is a religion to some people but do you have any feelings on that Philip? Or is it apples/oranges. I assume the next gen Nikon should have all the video features of the 5DMkii. Looking forward to your summary on lenses. I just ordered a Red Tails 70-200, my first L-glass. 🙂

  60. Philip I want to hear any news you get about the Mark III
    I know CR dot com has most of the Intel but if you gather any please
    post it, even if it may never come true, I’m saving up now
    for the the Mark III just in case it comes early.

    Thank you

      1. You are kidding right?
        If so you need to get cozy with canon 🙂
        This is the first place I would expect to see any Intel…
        well maybe not but It’s the first
        Site I visit after my mocha lala cafe deluxe venti mocha
        $5 dollar starbunk whatcha ma call it every morning!


  61. Maybe you missed this one, so may I try again ?
    The HDMI of the Canon 5DmkII is crippled. It drops to 480p when recording. But when NOT recording, is it then really 1080 ? Because on a Marshall LCD screen, I can’t get a full screen. It is the Marshall V-LCD651STX-HDMI. I only get about a quarter of that screen surface filled. When playing back, the screen shows a 16:9 window that is ok. I was expecting also a full screen on that monitor when activating Live View (when not recording).

  62. Sort of new here. Been following you on vimeo for a while though.
    New to dsrls (thanks mostly to you and Guilmette) and got my t2i a few months ago. Absolutely love it.

    I would like a weatherproofed camera but I’d still be afraid to ruin it. AS you said it can handle 4 days (and probably more) in rain and snow but I’d still be afraid to try it.

    Anyway love the work you’re doing. Looking forward to the lenses part as I have no clue what to upgrade to from my kit lens.

  63. Thanks again for the break down Phil. After reading your post I decided to go with the 7D. It’s my first video HDSLR. Two big reasons for going with the 7D was one: budget, and two: it really seems to be the most well rounded HDSLR’s as you mentioned. For what I do it’s the perfect tool.

    Next investment in lenses. I have several Nikon lenses I already use and hope to add more Nikon AIS lenses to my arsenal.

  64. Nothing really substantial to add except my thanks to Philip for this post. Clarifies much, sets many on a new, exciting road, and once again underscores what a great voice his is to have in this “new world”. Hear Hear for Bloom. Thanks Philip.

  65. Great review Phillip. Today has been a banner day for GH1 videographers. The mad prefessor Tester 13 released a firmware patch that enables higher bitrate AVCHD recording. No more mud or codec breaking up with pans of detailed scenes. Us euro PAL users, no time limit either. Today we got a new camera :0)

  66. I got a T2i a couple of months ago. My very first SLR ever, stills or video. Its been great fun and Id bet that there is nothing you can get in that price range that comes even close. I figure by the time I work up to more serious work that there will upgrade choices that will offer much of what people are complaining about. Until then, its been great. Thanks for the write up.


  67. Just thought I’d let all of you know about some exciting developments on the GH1 side of things. Seems the hackers are getting somewhere with the firmware and have managed to unleash it’s full potential. Take a look here, it’s exciting news, and is changing daily. This might just make the GH1 a serious option. I don’t own one, but if this is legit, I’ll def. be getting one.


  68. well I have the 7d and the 5d mk2…..to me the 5dk2 has a better picture….but the HDMI out SUCKS…and they have to fix the 12 min limit….hear that canon!…the 7d sucks in low light…

  69. PB, thank you for the comprehensive/clear info–

    Can you elaborate on your experience finding focus on the Mark II? How much more difficult has it been for you to accurately find, vs on the 7D?

    Thank you!

  70. Philip you said this:

    >>The sensor is 864mmNow this does cause us some issues. Some people find >>that the full frame sensor makes it harder to get focus, as the larger the >>sensor the more shallow the depth of field. For me, I always say if it’s >>too shallow then stop down!

    This topic has been confusing me for quite some time..

    How does the sensor size have anything to do with DOF? I thought it was the lens and nothing but the lens.

    I was under the impression that a camera with a crop sensor, such as the 7D did nothing but simply ‘crop’ the image, making it more ‘zoomed in’ DOF remaining exactly the same though

    Could someone explain?


    1. Depth of Field is affected by focal length, f-stop, distance, and Circle of Confusion figure chosen (basically, how the degree of image enlargement for presentation will affect how much you can tell if something is sharp.)

      But sensor size determines the Field of View for a lens, so it affects the focal length we choose, which in turn affects Depth of Field.

      If we use two sensors but one is half as large horizontally and vertically, then the smaller sensor would have to use a focal length that is half as long to match the view of a lens on the larger sensor, at the same distance. So you’d switch to a 25mm lens to match the view of the 50mm lens on the larger sensor. And at the same distance and f-stop, the 25mm lens would have more depth of field.

      So the sensor size itself isn’t affecting depth of field, it’s the lens you choose based on the size of the sensor. If you just put the same lens on two different cameras, one with a smaller sensor (or just crop the image in post), then technically the depth of field hasn’t changed (if you ignore Circle of Confusion factors.)

      1. I’ll add that as a very rough guide, the “crop factor” is also roughly the f-stop correction you’d have to make to match Depth of Field once you’ve changed focal length to match Field of View. In other words, between a 24mm-wide sensor (Super-35 / APS-C) and a 36mm-wide sensor (VistaVision / FF35), that’s a 1.5X factor, and it’s roughly a 1.5-stop difference in Depth of Field.

        So in practical terms, if you used a 50mm lens on a Super-35 camera at f/2.8, you’d get a matching shot (FOV and DOF) on a FF35 camera with a 75mm lens at an f/4.0-5.6 split.

        So while there has been some concern about dealing with the shallower focus on FF35 cameras for narrative work, to some degree, the higher sensitivity / lower noise of larger sensors allows some flexibility in stopping down to compensate, so in practical terms, it may not be as big an issue as some have made it out to be. (However, it seems that most DP’s like to always light to an f/2.8 no matter what…)

  71. Hi! I have your DVD of 7d and you have recommended to setup the Picture style to sharpness 0, contrast -4, saturation -2, color tone 0. ISO expansion and highlight tone priority.

    My question is this setting you use for your videos for the 7d and in zacuto shootout is this the setting they used. Is this the best setting to get the best of the 7d. I also use FCP and Magic Bullets.

    Thank you and keep doing amazing videos!

  72. Hi Phillip, great site, learnt a lot so far, looking forward to the lenses post.

    Have been considering getting a DSLR, in my price range am split between the 550d/T2i and the GH1. The GH1 is about £100 more.

    Wonder if you could help me with a few quick questions.

    – You mention the lack of weatherproofing on the 550d/T2i. Just wondering how this compares to weatherproofing on the GH1?.

    – How does the low light performance compare on the these two cameras?.

  73. Hello Philip , I love my 550d but sound is awful ! –
    I want to send this message to Canon =
    ” I have a 550d – i love it ( i take videos with my Canon ) – but the sound is awful ( with built in mic or with a good external mic like audio technica or rode or others ) = the cause = the agc system ) please ; give us a new firmware = we don”t ask for On-screen audio meters , we don”t ask for Manual gain control but please NO MORE agc !
    Bertrand Foreau from France –
    I don’t know the right person i can send the message – If you have an idea –
    Your Paris Texas made with the 550d , hu hu , is great !

  74. Nice article. Thanks for the excellent summary.

    A couple of points in considering a GH1:

    1. Because the GH1 has no mirror box and thus a short focal plane,
    with a suitable adapter, it is possible to use almost any lens ever produced.
    This opens up many possibility to use legacy lens.

    2. As mentioned already, there some discrepancy between Canon ISO and the ISO Panasonic uses. Has any one made a standard test shooting with each camera with the same controlled lightening to establish their respective relative light flux performance.


  75. I’ve used the 7D, the 5Dm2, and the Red One. The 7D still feels like video, the Red is as heavy as a small car, but the 5D looks amazing and is incredibly manoeuvrable. So for me, the 5D comes out on top by a long way.

    Here’s a tv commercial I shot using the 5Dm2 with a Canon L 50mm f/1.2 prime:


      1. Hi,

        If you really only wish to work at 720p (for web music videos and due to computer system constraints) is G2 really so bad next to GH1? I would love to know if the 720p modes are comparable on GH1/G2, though I think the GH1 does 50/60 at ‘full speed’ from the sensor while g2 doubles frames from a 25/30 fps sensor. Does this impact on creative possibilities such as post, achieving ‘film look’ (through harsh cheating of course). Basically is the GH1 night and day above the G2 for cinematic/music shorts *IF* you can get away with just 720p? And also, I guess the 550d is a much better buy as it’s cheaper than GH1 anyway, though the 720p moire/aliasing and poor AF compared to the Pannys puts me off a bit. Would 550d still be an awesome upgrade to gh1/g2 in the cinematic movie production stakes (obviously not just out of the box but mainly after lots of post and care taken with shooting techniques).

        Having watched the Z shootout, the GH1 showed terrible banding around the lightbulb test, was that a bit rate problem fixed with the ‘hack’ or will that always be present (I really hate colour banding and blocking).

        Thanks for any advice, Loving this blog and your videos!

  76. Hello Phillip

    I am purchasing the T2i and wanted to know what is another good lens that I can use for Video and with a good low light ratio. I was told that included lens wasn’t that good in low light situations. Any help would be greatly appreciated. And my apologies if this was answered before…

    P.S. Love your work!

  77. Hi Philip

    Fantastic, thought-provoking, frontline blog – thanks for the hard work!

    I’m a writer heading into writer-director territory and am hugely excited about the whole HDSLR movement – finally equipment that filmmakers can get their hands on to learn their craft without robbing a bank or having an uncle in the industry.

    I’m on a bit of a budget and am about to invest in a 550d. I know you said you’ll be writing a separate entry soon on lenses, so I guess this question is as much to the other readers here – I’m aiming to try to put together a cheap (ish!) ‘filmmakers’ prime kit – maybe a 24/30mm, 50mm, 85mm, 135mm – by buying older second-hand lenses. A lot of people seem to be buzzing about the Nikon AI lenses from the 80’s, but they seem to be getting almost as expensive as some of the new Nikon lenses… Do you have any experience with the pre-AI lenses? Are they as good and will they work with the 550d?

    I’ll be getting the camera with the 18-55 kit lens as a day-to-day lens, but any other thoughts from anyone on the best way to start building a basic lens collection on a budget? Any advice appreciated.

    Cheers, m’dears.

  78. Hi Philip,

    I recently got the Cannon T2i/550D after reading this blog post and I must say that I am super happy with my purchase.
    Along with the camera body I got the Cannon 50mm f1.4 lens and I am very pleased with that one too!

    But I have a question about low-light video recording, when I shoot in low-light I notice noise and grain in my videos even though I dont usually go above ISO 400, well I can use ISO 200 but because of the dim light the video gets kinda dark so I figured ISO 400,F1.4 and Shutter at 1/30 might help.

    Like I said I am still not satisfied with the low light performance, do you recommend a setting or a different lens that I should try?

    Help input would be really helpful!


  79. Philip,

    First off, thank you for putting so much energy to spreading the knowledge! Your website has certainly changed my life– without your Salton Sea video (did you check out ‘Salvation Mountain?’), I wouldn’t have bought a T2i– I’m a serious shooter, but couldn’t justify paying so much for a DSLR like the 5d mkII or 7d that will be greatly improved for video shooting over the next few years. Love the T2i (for now).

    I’ve been cringing over buying lenses for my DSLR. I saw some stuff done on the EF 50mm 1.2L and I had to buy it… Now I’m beginning to think I should return it (while I can) and use the money for 2 Nikon primes.

    Have you ever seen those videos where a hungry Polar Bear waits patiently by a ice hole for a seal to break the surface for breath? Well that’s me waiting your lens blog. I’m hungry for that blog!

    Thanks Philip. Long live the DSLR revolution(ary)!

  80. Hi Philip,

    The noise factor which I was talking about in my earlier post to you, isnt so much as “noise” but I have been told that its the video compression that is responsible for that.

    Is there a work around for that?
    I am using Cannon T2i and importing it in FCP using the Apple LT codec and sometimes even Apple Intermediate Codec…

  81. What an informative and amazing article!

    One aspect of this article stood out most to me and I’d like to get more clarifications and advice.

    I’m very much interested in the REBEL t2i and Philip mentioned about the lenses:
    “Only downside is EF-S lenses cannot be used on full frame camera if you come to upgrade cameras at some point. The major investment with any of these camera is the glass, not the body. So always keep that in mind when buying lenses”

    My question is which full frame camera lenses would you guys recommend to go with the REBEL t2i? Apart from the EF lenses are there other affordable brands one can use.

    Also, are there any downsides to using full frame camera lenses on this camera?


    1. When Mr. Bloom first backed the T2i, I bought it, and I’m so happy I did. (Since then, prices have dropped slightly, but where I live, they are constantly out of stock…)

      My lenses are the following, and they cover most of normal situations:
      1) the short kit lens: EF-S 18-55mm: for wide angle shots, image stabilized
      2) the nifty fifty: EF 50mm F1.8 for low light and all the rest (very cheap, excellent IQ)
      3) the EF 70-210mm F4.0 (a 23 year old lens!): for when I need a longer lens

      Sincy buying the T2i, I must say my interest shifted slightly from video to still image photography. I find the T2i to be very fast, robust, small enough to hang under my armpit (!) and delivering excellent image quality.

  82. i’m sorry to say, but none of the above even resembles the RED.
    they all look like digital video to me (which is NOT good)
    there’s something too digital in the image.
    doesn’t look right.
    i guess i’ll have to wait for a change in hardware development.. 🙁

      1. ok, but would you consider making a full feature film with DSLR to be shown on a big screen?

        i mean, can it survive the compression? can you tweak the camera to be less contrasty and produce something closer to RED/film-like colors?
        that’s what i haven’t seen in all the footage that i looked..

        thanks 🙂

  83. The GH1 with the new hack gets me an average of 38mbps and therefore way over the 5D or 7D quality.The wrapper doest take me long to convert to 24p thru Jes or neoscene.The images are stunning which I hadnt experience and seen before.Am not planning my Indie film with 2 GH1s.Everything said and done, shouldnt the GH1 now be declared king of the DSLR video? Kindly give me your thoughts.Thanks

  84. Hullo Philip,
    Have you ever come across the vertical line issue while filming out of focus backgrounds on any of your Canons HD-DLSRs in low light conditions? I’m not sure if my 7D needs fixing or it is common for all 7Ds. The issue was raised on the web but I couldn’t find any definite answer concerning the nature of the problem. Thank you.

  85. Also Philip, when you used your 5D on Lucasfilm, I noticed you had an external monitor on top. What about a video feed out to a directors monitor? Have you been able to do that with the 5D? I’ve shot with both a 5D and 7D this past weekend on a music video shoot, and loved them both. I’m just looking into getting the one that will have its place on set, if you know what I mean.

  86. Phillip, this is a great review, the best one I have seen by far. For the last month I have been waiting for my local shop to receive my order of a 5D, but I’m starting to think that the 7D they have sitting on the shelf is my better choice. 80% of this camera’s use will be sport videography where I will be moving (skateboarding, snowboarding, biking, etc.) and action sequences, so I think I’m leaning towards the 7D. I would love to hear your thoughts.

    Thanks a million,

  87. Hello Phillip — I have an old Nikon D50 and access to a friend’s Panasonic DVX100, basically two low end products that I’m looking to replace with a DSLR. At first I was sure that I had no use for the features of the 7D, but I soon realized how much I’ll miss my D50’s top screen, mainly. Anyway, my question for you is how ridiculous is it to spend the extra money for the LCD, weatherproofed body and photo capabilities while I’ll be using it mostly for video? And furthermore, should I just get a T2i since the video seems very similar to the 7D?

    Anyway, if you answer this, thanks a lot.

    Isaac High

  88. I’m considering buying either the 7D or the 5DmkII and am wondering how close to ready your article on lenses is. I’m leaning toward the 5DmkII but am also in the dark about how to go about buying my initial set of lenses for these cameras for making short and feature length narrative movies.

  89. Philip, any idea when you blog on lenses will be out? i have just bought a 550d and desperately need some advice about a good lens to buy for video.

  90. Philip, any idea when the blog on lenses will be? I’ve just bought a 550d and desperately need some advice on what lens i should buy to replace the kit one.

  91. Kudos for the quick update on the nikon d3100, i didn’t see where it had manual control, is this true?! i’m uber bumed that there is no 60p for slow motion, and I’m defiantly looking forward to seeing how the auto focus responds as well as any updates to the jello issues.

    Can’t wait to see what they bring out for the d90-d300s range, i’ll do my best to get one if it comes out and bring it to your fall return to boston…if i can get a ticket 🙂

  92. Excellent round-up of the options. I bought my 7D a month ago and love it! I’m sure we are about to see some interesting developments over the next 12 months, but for now I am very happy with my choice, it is a very capable video camera that has been showing up a two year old HVX201.

  93. Nicely put Philip, good concise wrap up of the general state of things and of course, you have the experience to back it up. While I understand your preference for Canon gear (which is entirely fair, we all have our favorite tools), I’d like to make a case for not excluding the GH13 out of the current options available to us shooters. Your point of it not being officially supported is well put and should absolutely be taken into consideration when making equipment decisions.

    However, much in the same way Magic Lantern has provided a host of usable options for 5D users, the GH13 patches do transform this camera into something far more usable. Since it’s been released, quite a bit of development has gone on and with the greater knowledge gained through testing, there are new patches that not only enhance the images it can gather, but are now robust enough for serious consideration.

    One aspect not discussed so far is the difference in approach between Canon and Panasonic in that for video, the Canon’s use line skipping for capture while the Panasonic uses blocks of pixels. From what I’ve seen this has made the GH1 very competitive in terms of detail resolution. I’ll also add that living in Phoenix, not worrying about overheating or a 12 minute recording time are attractive features for me personally.

    But techie stuff aside, there is now an entire third party cottage industry dedicated to DSLR’s to customize the base cameras into usable tools. Whether its hardware or software, modifying the cameras is considered the norm and the indie community in particular and the DSLR oriented entrepreneurs in general have embraced this fact.

    When the earliest filmmakers found that their cameras didn’t do enough, they went into their machine shops and invented new solutions, many of which that changed the industry forever. IMHO, Canon and Panasonic firmware modifications are no different and should be included in the discussion when it comes to overall capabilities.

    You may agree to disagree, and that’s cool. I think you have an important voice here and no matter your response, I support the good work you’re doing on all of our behalf.

    1. I think you misunderstand me. Totally for it. Done a blog on it and it is mentioned here. It is still unstable and not recommended for the novice user that’s all and this blog is really for someone who wants to get into it


  94. Phil I just did a behind the scenes shoot for a photographer that I work with and used the 1DmIV. All I can say is its a an incredible camera. The biggest positive I found was the battery life. Those huge batteries last forever and the extra weight is actually beneficial to steadier shots (In my opinion). The low light performance is great but still doesn’t do as well as the 5dmii. My only annoyance was the weird crop factor. Why wouldn’t they put their full frame sensor in this camera?

    Other than that…solid camera. Had the privilege of shooting with all “L” glass. 16-35, 24-70, and 70-200 IS II.

  95. Things that worry me just from the specification:
    – poor LCD (230k, T2i has over 1 Mpix)
    – no full manual control (You can’t change aperture in video mode)
    – worst bitrate than Canons (Nikon – 10 min. max. 1,8 GB, Canon 12 min. max 4 GB)
    – no 25p, no 720p60

    We dont know:
    – type of convertion to 1080p – line skipping or scaling? (artifacts level)
    – HDMI out at recording – if it something like 480p with poor LCD would make it uselles for “manual focus” users
    – how strong is jello and rolling shutter effects are

    The last chance is D90 replacement… If its video functions could not compare with Canon 7D or Panasonic GH1, I have to change Nikon to one of them. I am disappointed with D3100 and I can not understand Nikon… they has no professional video camera products to protect….

  96. hi philip, i see your keeping up the good work. 🙂

    aside from the lens blog, it would be good of you could talk more about tripods, i know the ones you recommend are v expensive (miller) but for those who own the t2i and the 7d, its a bit out of our league… any info in the near future would be much appreciated.

    many thanks


    1. Hey James – Forgive my unsolicited response (I know you’re asking Mr. Bloom), but I recently went through this issue myself. “Expensive” is relative, and in most cases you get what you pay for. As a photographer transitioning to video, I figured I could use get dual use out of my photo tripod, a decent carbon fiber Manfrotto 190CXPRO3, by swapping in a video head, a Manfrotto 503HDV. That’s about $660 worth of tripod and head, a lot of money, or so I thought.

      That support system seemed pretty robust to me, and it worked okay with my HVX. But, when I tried it with my D90 for video, every little contact with the rig resulted in camera shake. Some of that is the D90’s sensor, but I also figure the tripod allowed too much transfer of energy. The D90 with a 50mm lens is so light, there isn’t much mass in the camera to reduce the effects of any unwanted vibration or movement. I swear the thing would shake even if I looked at it 🙂

      Another important feature of a video tripod, which wasn’t obvious to me until I got one (more on that later), is a bowl mount. Actually, I didn’t even know what that was at first. It allows you to quickly level your head so your camera’s image is level. This is especially important when you pan your camera. Without the bowl mount, I was spending a lot of time moving my legs up and down trying to level my tripod. On uneven surfaces, this was a pain.

      An older, used Vinten Vision 10 and matching legs showed up locally on Craigslist for $800. A few months later, it reappeared for $600. There weren’t a lot of reviews online on the older model, but watching Philip’s review of the newer models, and checking the prices of the current models, I figured this was a sweet deal.

      The Vinten is HEAVY, but that’s a generally desirable trait for a video camera tripod (unless you’re hiking with it…). It’s also really tall. I could get my Manfrotto rig close to that height, but only after raising the center column, which only magnifies the stability issues. The taller Vinten means my camera lens is about 6’+ or so above the ground. This has come in real handy shooting events from the back of the room, as you can shoot over most people in the audience. Anyone about to walk in front of the camera would usually see it and quickly duck under the lens.

      The Vinten head is also almost all metal construction. Most of the smaller bits on the Manfrotto are plastic (like the QR release and lock). I try to treat my gear carefully, but sometimes your stuff gets bumped. My tripod sometimes travels in the same rolling duffle as my light stands. I’m certain the Vinten knobs and buttons will outlast those on my Manfrotto.

      Another feature that I’ve come to appreciate is the floor spreader. I saw a news cameraman pull his camera from his tripod, and with one hand and a foot (pulling up on the spreader), he folded his tripod with no effort to change locations at a venue.

      The Manfrotto head I have is pretty smooth, but the light weight of the whole system means I need to grip it gently before making a camera move (pan/tilt). The Vinten has so much more mass that I don’t have to worry too much about shaking the camera when I reach for the handle.

      So, back to the “you get what you pay for” cliche, it’s holds up pretty well with tripods like anything else. I got lucky with a great deal on a used tripod/head. It’s way overkill for most of my shooting (and I now have a D3s which doesn’t suffer nearly as much from jello). But, I know it’ll support anything I’m likely to shoot, including accessories like a monitor. I’ll likely get something in between my two current tripods down the road, but having used something pretty high-end for a while now, I have a better idea of what I want in a tripod. Also, if you stick with the video work, it’s likely a really good set of sticks will outlast several generations of cameras. If you get out of the biz, it’s also likely a good tripod will retain more of its value than a DSLR would.

      You can certainly make a less expensive set up work, you just need to learn to work around the limitations/weaknesses.

      Vincent Laforet gives a great overview of support on his online class at http://creativelive.com/courses/vince_laforet/. You can check out the free clips to get a sense of what he covers in the course.


      1. good tripods simply are not cheap. The Vision 10 is overkill for a DSLR as it’s not sprung for that light payload but it will still be very steady…I haven’t tried the new Manfrotto 504HD but that is not cheap either. The miller DS20 is still my favourite for DSLRs. I am trying out a new light payload VInten and will share soon.

        Cheap tripods simply are not good…you pay for the head and the stability of the legs.

  97. Hello,

    has anyone had any experience using the fotodiox (or any other) FD to EOS lens adapter? I thinking of getting a couple of fast FD primes for my video work but have heard some disparaging remarks – ie. losing an fstop or 2 and improper infinity focus. Any suggestions would be great. I’m not limiting myself to FD lenses either – if old nikons are better choice via a similar route then that would be great too. BTW philip, this might be a topic for the lens post.

    Cheers guys.


  98. hey philip! i think u r awesome in making videos…
    im going to buy 500d. I’ll use it for making music video.
    What do you think??
    I’m interested in 55d but i dont have enough budget…:D
    please reply…thx…

  99. Good update, and some great informative comparisons. Still I think in terms of investment people who buy the 7D should of saved a bit longer and got the 5DmkII. Image quality will not advance much further then what the 5DmkII gives now. And for low light video / photography there is no comparison. But still all brilliant cameras with their own distinctions.

  100. For the small time/hobby filmmaker (who has a budget) in my opinion, the best solution seems like the canon eos 550d as it is so much cheaper and more or less offers the same as the 7d and 5d which is a great images!

    You should just record your sound externally, then you also don’t need to worry about long wires attached to the camera or anything plus you’ll more likely get better sound for less money. Win win situation =)

    And then as you mentioned in your lens recommendation, get the nikon adapter and buy some manual lenses 😉

    1. Also I would like to add that the Nikon D3100 features manual video according to this Danish Nikon Man (they don’t mention his title), Thomas Lorentezen (spelled something like that, it’s a mere guess)

      Let me translate from 1.34 to 1.47 (rough translation, but specifically states manual video mode)

      – Reporter: What if you would like to set the camera settings manually?
      – Thomas: Well, as one becomes more interested in creative photography, which many luckily do, then you can of course set the camera manually both in video mode and regarding photo stills.

      The Interview made by the Danish photography magazine, Zoom:

      Have a good day,

  101. Philip, which camera do you prefer the image quality to? More specifically, which camera do you prefer to grade the 7d or 5d? Which one do you think has a better image to grade? Thanks so much for your time Philip!

  102. Hi Philip, where in your opinion do the dslrs and new breed of filmic camcorders leave the adaptor companies such as lets etc?
    Is there still a situation where you would choose one over a decent dslr?
    Thanks Stuart

      1. The canons ? the 5d only.

        Manual sound levels are an important little point if you are looking to do without a sound recorder (as many photojournalists might be)

        Your choices are 5d AND D3s

        If you are a web only deliverer (as many photojournalists might be) the D3s is a finer camera than the 5 especially if you are also trying to avoid using lighting
        (as many photojournalists might be)


        1. Sam, the manual levels of the 5D are not great Buried away in a menu and not adjustable whilst recording and no displaying of those levels either. Yes it gets away from AGC but doesn’t help the main issue. No headphone monitoring. Even you must agree with me on one thing here. Sound recording needs to be monitored.


          1. Phil I completely agree – no headphones is a joke – I dont even understand how a ‘professional’ camera gets out of the developers door with such a fatal error – Im talking both D3s and 5d

            My point was that the D3s has manual sound as well as the 5d – meaning you can do some limited but valuable sound work with it

            Important for those who dont want to be weighed down with extra claptrap around their camera say someone on a foreign trip

            unmonitorable but controllable sound levels can be of use – basically if you practice getting your levels off the screen by testing

            I shot lots by taking my subject to a quiet room with the 5d and a RVM


            note how we never see speech on camera – because the quiet broom where I did the interview cupboard looked terrible : )


  103. In your review of the Nikon D3100, you say that it is “24p only” and
    “the lack of 1080p 25p is a downer.” On a more expensive (prosumer or
    professional) camera, do you consider 1080p/25 and 1080p/30 to be an
    absolute requirement, or simply nice to have?

    I’m asking because the rumored D7000 (D90 replacement) may have
    1080p/24 as the maximum resolution/frame rate.

    My first DSLR was a D90, which I absolutely love for stills, but it
    really stinks for video. I also own a T2i which I enjoy for video, but
    not as much for stills. I would love to get the D7000 when it comes
    out, but I was wondering if you find the lack of the higher frame
    rates to be limiting.

    Also, I was wondering what your opinion is of articulating screens: if
    you had two cameras which were identical, spec-for-spec, but one had
    an articulating screen, which one would you buy, personally?

  104. hey philip,

    just wanted to say thx a lot for the incredible info & inspiration. i started using the 7D in may 2010 and am now (daring to) head off to film my first feature documentary. it’s a kind of quest for the grail road movie where i shoot it (mostly) all myself…

    i spent a small fortune on a kit with a variety of canon and sigma lenses to cover most needs, and very good audio recording gear. (sigh) there’s always more you can buy! i just hope i capture it all in the best possible way…

    that’s it. just wanted to chime in. nothing important 🙂


    ps- oh yeah i guess one question: if one wants to leave open the door for a theatrical release is is wise to film in 24p? or does it really not matter?

  105. Philip,

    I am forced to buy the iPhone 4 as my 3GS was stolen. I suppose that’s both the good and bad news. I was wondering what capacity you went with — 16GB or 32GB? Perhaps you can explain your choice. Thanks.


    Steven C.

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