Best DSLRs for video: 15 cameras from £400 to £2,400

Cameras for video canon eos 5d mkii

Canon's 5D MkII is deemed by many as the ultimate stills camera for shooting pro-spec videos - so much so it's even been used in Hollywood movies such as Iron Man 2.

It's clear to see why the industry in the know is keen on the Canon's technology too. The 5D mkII's 1080p capture can record at the cinematic 24fps frame rate or native PAL (25fps) and NTSC (30fps) settings. Although we're not talking about true Digital Cinema 4K capture (or indeed higher; but that's outside of any still camera's reach at the moment), the final quality of the Canon's clips is fantastic.

Full-frame sensor

There's a twofold reason for this: as per the 7D, the 5D MkII squeezes some 375MB/min into its MOV files; but it's the full-frame sensor's extra physical size that adds pronounced shallow depth of field (blurred background) that's out of reach of smaller-sensor cameras. Pair the 5D mkII up with some stunning wide aperture lenses and its clips will exude professional quality.

Of course such extra physical size can cause some constraints. For example, a 50mm lens on the 5D mkII equates to roughly peripheral vision, whereas the same lens on a Canon 7D would equate to 80mm. If you want long-reaching shots from telephoto lenses on the 5D mkII then be prepared to surrender not only your wallet due to the sheer expense, but also your spine thanks to the potential weight burden (depending on how much kit you intend to carry).


Shooting modes

Control-wise and the 5D mkII has exposure provisions as good as any other model we've seen. Manual, Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority modes each provide full control over settings that can be manipulated live during capture. Do note that stopping the aperture up or down while recording can result in a very brief 'flash' of overexposure however.

Programme mode can be used much like an 'Auto' option, though it's still possible to adjust exposure compensation or fix the exposure to a specific subject using AEL (exposure lock) while recording.

Autofocus is akin to the 7D's control, where the 'AF-ON' button on the rear of the camera is used to adjust the single autofocus. However it's less accurate than its sister model and can sometimes miss focus completely - certainly not the way the Hollywood movie buffs will be using the camera.

Lens advice

Lens focusing noises can also be picked up by the onboard microphone (depending upon what's mounted and whether it has silent focusing or not - always worth checking for Canon's USM, aka Ultrasonic Motor, for silent focusing), although a 3.5mm mic jack is available to connect third party microphones for more professional off-camera audio recording. Although autofocus is one noise of concern, image stabilisation may also produce a continual whirring/clicking sound - something else to keep an ear out for, but that's dependent on the lens in use.

The 5D MkII's white balance isn't a problem, as such, though leave the camera on AWB (Auto White Balance) and you may find changes in light being overcompensated for or stronger colours appearing more muted then they ought to. Setting the WB manually overcomes this issue easily.

This camera isn't one for casual point-and-shoot users, largely down to the so-so single autofocus mode and lack of any other camcorder-like features. But aspiring moviemakers will be pleased by the 5D mkII's immense final quality and provision for full manual control. The large sensor delivers quality not matched by any other (the Nikon D3s is the only other current full-frame, movie-capable stills camera), though adding extra kit to hone your steady hold and manual focusing abilities may be an essential in order to deliver true pro-looking shots.

Canon EOS 5D MK II Key Video specs

Approx price: £1,700 body only
Sensor: Full-frame 35mm (1x magnification)
Maximum resolution:1080p capture (1920x1080px)
Frame rate: 24, 25 and 30fps
Compression: H.264 compression for video and Linear PCM audio
Audio support: 3.5mm audio jack for external microphones
File format: MOV
Exposure mode:
Programme mode with exposure compensation & AEL; Manual mode with live aperture and shutter control; Aperture Priority with live control; Shutter Priority with live control
Focus modes: Single autofocus or manual focus
Connectivity: HDMI-C out, A/V out