Berkley White of Backscatter has posted a few tips for underwater photographers taking the video plunge with the Canon 5D Mk II. Berk says that Backscatter will eventually write up a comprehensive shooting guide for the groundbreaking new camera, and that these tips should be considered to be a “starting point”.
Berk also confirmed that the Aquatica 5D Mk II underwater housing will have a solution to access both AF-ON and the star button, both of which are useful when shooting video.
I spoke with Aquatica this weekend and they will have a solution to access both AF-ON and the star button. This final production model has been greatly improved over the last 3 weeks thanks to Aquatica’s willingness to implement user feedback. Hat’s off to Aquatica!
As previously mentioned in this thread… the 5DmkII is a great still camera with an exciting video option. Photographers looking to shoot a little video will be very happy with housing designs such as the new Aquatica. Users looking to run this camera primarily for video will likely find the need to jump through a few hoops in technique and customization.
The topside video crowd is very excited with the 5DmkII as it gives them exceptional image quality, lens selection, and the ability to shoot very low depth of field and thus achieve more of a film look. However, underwater optics in the 35mm format require us to shoot f8 or higher to maintain reasonable sharpness in the corners in wide angle. Our macro lenses will want f16 or higher for tight shots. Most serious video shooters will likely use some of the popular topside mods to run manual aperture and focus such as adapting Nikon F mount lenses (manual aperture, but also limited to manual focus). Backscatter is currently working on customization geared specifically to these hardcore video folks.
However, one doesn’t have to be a hardcore user to get good video from the 5DmkII. In the right conditions it can be point and shoot, but a few tweaks will help.
Here’s some tips and thoughts for photographers looking maximize the video feature. Please consider these shooting techniques as starting points. As we all get more time with this camera, and share notes, we’ll certainly come up with more successful techniques.
Live view is very functional, but has limitations that are compounded underwater:
- Auto focus in live view is slow at best and can be downright impossible on moving subjects
- Auto focus while recording can cause radical exposure shifts even with exposure locked
- Auto exposure while recording is jumpy and will drop frames if aperture is changed (EOS lenses)
- Manual exposure can be simulated, but limited auto exposure lock and ISO compensation (thus interest in Nikon F lenses)
Here’s an example of a wide angle shooting technique:
- Perform manual white balance in photo mode
- Capture and lock focus in photo mode when possible (faster, more accurate, allows viewfinder use)
- Switch to live view mode
- Half press shutter to see exposure info
- Point camera at different light sources to vary auto aperture value (f value choice will vary with conditions, below f8 will produce increasingly fuzzy corners)
- Press exposure lock
- Adjust exposure compensation to dial in the background blue. (Exposure compensation will adjust ISO and/or shutter speed to brighten or darken the exposure)
- Adjust video lights (or your focus light) brightness to balance fill the foreground subject
- Press record
We’ll eventually post a detailed article on our test results with gear and techniques. Despite the 5DmkII’s lack of full video control, I believe we’re about to see some amazing video shot this summer…. especially by photographers. The limited controls and lens selection will shape a whole new look in video, and that’s exciting.