A Backyard Garden Video Shoot with the Canon 5D Mark II

This past Sunday afternoon I took the opportunity to experiment with shooting video on my Canon 5D Mark II with my old Nikkor lens collection. To use my old Nikon lenses, I recently purchased a Fotodiox Nikon to EOS lens mount adapter.

The Fotodiox adapter is easy to attach - but not so much getting it off your Nikon lens. An alignment dot matches up with the mounting dot on the Nikon lens. Twist the Fotodiox counter-clockwise and it snaps into place. Then take the Nikon lens with the Fotodiox adapter securely in place and mount that on the Canon body as you would any other Canon lens. There seems to be ever so slightly a bit of play in the mount. It's a $30 adapter, so my expectations aren't too high. It proved adequately secure during my Sunday afternoon testing in the garden. Removing the adapter from the Nikon lens takes a little more dexterity. After you the lens is unmounted from the Canon body, there's a little metal tab that you ever so slightly bend down to release it from the Nikon lens. Perhaps the ideal thing to do is to purchase an adapter for each Nikon lens you plan to use regularly with the 5D Mark II.

Of course mounting a Nikon lens to a Canon body disables automatic aperture control and autofocus. Shooting video with the 5D Mark II - that isn't a bad thing. I want shallow depth of field, so I complete control over the aperture. Focusing would be easier with a larger external monitor such as the Marshall V-LCD651ST-HDMI (a mouthful of a name!). Philip Bloom has a nice writeup on the Marshall LCD monitor on his blog. The Marshall is expensive, though!Fortunately, sharp focusing can be done easily enough in Live View on the 5D Mark II. Just hit the magnify button to see more detail as needed to bring your subject into sharp focus.

Happily, the Nikon lenses performed superbly on the 5D Mark II. I mounted a very old and beat up Nikor 300mm f4.5 lens and attempted to video hummingbirds in my garden. The hummingbirds pretty much outsmarted me! You can see the results from yesterday's video clips on Vimeo.

I used a Rocketfish compact flash card reader to transfer the video clips from the 5D Mark II to my Mac. I transcoded the clips to ProRes 422. And then imported the folder containing the transcoded clips to a new Final Cut Pro 7 project. This gave me the opportunity to run FCP through it's paces just after having upgraded to Snow Leopard (OS X 10.6). Happily no problems to report there. Some are disappointed in Quicktime X versus the previous Quicktime 7 Pro. I haven't done sufficient testing comparing the two. I do like the newer Quicktime X interface... it just gets out of the way during video playback. Others may disagree. I imagine Apple will quickly refine Quicktime X.

Oh, I almost forgot... I also installed the Magic Lantern firmware update. Magic Lantern worked well. What you get are on-screen audio meters, manual gain control, disabled automatic gain control (that's a good thing!), zebra stripes, more control of focus and exposure bracketing, and various crop marks (16:9, 2:35:1, and 4:3). Canon should hire Trammell Hudson - the creator of the Magic Lantern Firmware - or at least fund his efforts.

The video produced by the Canon 5D Mark II (OK, there was a camera operator behind it - me!) produces stunningly beautiful video. I really look forward to using this camera - not only as a still camera - but also extensively for video. I had beautiful lighting which helped tremendously with producing rich saturated colors. Everything was wet from morning rains. The results - very, very minor exposure and color tweaks on just a couple of the clips. The hummingbird sequence was cranked down with FCP 7's new and improved Modify > Change Speed function. OK, that was a bit of a cop-out since better retiming results could have been had using Motion's Optical Flow for retiming a clip.

All in all, a beautiful day in the garden.

VideoCarl Olson