Canon has released an important firmware upgrade for the EOS 5D Mark III that will undoubtedly benefit DSLR cinematographers and still shooters alike. The 1.2.1 update enables the camera to record clean, uncompressed digital video data (YCbCr 4:2:2 8 bit) with encoded time code over the HDMI output, while simultaneously displaying video on the rear LCD and recording internally to CF or SD cards. This adds an enormous amount of flexibility to what is already one of the world’s top DSLR camera choices.
The 22-megapixel EOS 5D Mark III is a totally reengineered DSLR that offers many improved photo and video features over its revolutionary predecessor, the EOS 5D Mark II, and it continues to address the demanding needs of professionals from still shooters to cinema and television production pros. Adding to an already long list of quality DSLR improvements, this firmware upgrade enabling uncompressed HDMI Output support undoubtedly offers greater efficiency to video editing, improved color grading options and greatly enhances on-set monitoring.
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Capturing images with an external recorder allows for the recording of a video signal devoid of compression artifacts to large media storage drives and improves the post-production workflow with enhanced editing options, such as recording to preferred edit ready codecs available with external recorders. Color correction will especially benefit from the improved 4:2:2 color space available over the HDMI that effectively produces color information for twice as many pixels than does 4:2:0. Also, external recorders offer improved distribution of the recorder’s video input to a variety of on-set monitoring solutions — facilitating real-time viewing of the EOS 5D Mark III video on the set with the Rec. ITU-R BT. 709 color matrix.
Filmmakers will surely see the immediate benefits from an improved color sampling of YCbCr 4:2:2 8-bit video data via the HDMI, but the firmware also adds increased shooting flexibility. The new “HDMI Output+LCD” sub menu gives the shooter control over how the 5D Mark III LCD display and HDMI output are configured. Using display “mirroring,” like that found in the EOS-1D C, users can assign the LCD and HDMI output individual functions. When mirroring is enabled through the firmware added sub menu setting, video can be displayed on the rear LCD while it is displayed and/or recorded via the HDMI. You can still add layers of camera information on the rear LCD panel with the “INFO.” or “Q” buttons, while simultaneously outputting a clean video signal to an external monitor or recorder via the HDMI. When “No mirroring” is selected, the rear LCD goes black in a battery-saving mode, and the video output over the HDMI can then be configured as clean HDMI or with camera information displayed — just like you can with the LCD panel — by repeatedly pressing the “INFO” button on the back of the camera. Just keep in mind that whenever camera shooting data is overlaid and output over the HDMI when “No Mirroring” is selected, it will be recorded on an external recorder exactly as you see it. Unless you are using the HDMI output with shooting data for monitoring purposes only, be sure and reset it to a “clean” feed prior to recording.
Time code output can be configured in either “Free Run” or “Record Run” modes and embedded in the HDMI signal. The ability to synchronize start and stop of internal video capture with the start and stop of recording to a compatibly equipped external recorder has been added with the “Rec Command” option. Additionally, the HDMI frame rate output signal is selectable among AUTO, 24p and 50i/60i options – allowing for camera or user control.
External recorders have become affordable and readily available, making the recording of uncompressed video a viable option to most every professional shooter. Many recorders offer on-board monitors and the ability shoot in a variety of frame rates, codecs and bit rates as well as offering longer record times. It will now be possible to synchronize the start and stop of EOS 5D Mark III video capture with the start and stop of recording to the external recorder. Besides the advantages of clean pristine footage, external recorders will simplify the way video is viewed, recorded and played back on the set as footage can be quickly accessed and reviewed from the external recorders’ controls and pushed out to on-set monitors. Once recorded and offloaded, footage can be easily integrated into the user’s preferred workflow for a fast and clean finish.
As most everyone that has ever used one knows, recording to external recorders adds additional layers of complexity to a shoot. The clean HDMI signal from the 5D Mark III does not carry a sound signal, and if reference sound from the camera mic is required on the external recorder, you will need a cable that adapts from the 3.5mm headphone output jack on the camera body to the audio input of the external recorder. Consideration needs to be given regarding how to mount and support the recorder securely to the camera or camera support. Also, offloading time and data storage needs to be addressed, as file sizes will increase substantially.
Firmware v. 1.2.1 for the EOS 5D Mark III also updates the camera’s AF system, allowing AF with lenses (or lens + extender combinations) with effective maximum apertures as slow as f/8. Previously, AF was completely disabled with any lens or lens and extender combo with a maximum aperture slower than an effective f/5.6. This meant, for example, that a sports or wildlife shooter using a lens like the Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II could autofocus with the EF 1.4x III extender attached (f/5.6 effective maximum aperture), but not with the EF 2x III (f/8 effective max. aperture).
With this update, still-image shooters using the camera’s 61-point AF system with lens and extender combinations between f/5.6 and f/8 will now have AF for still and moving subjects at the center AF point — with cross-type AF coverage at that point. And, this AF point can be expanded, adding four surrounding AF points to the center AF point, for a broader area of AF coverage. As with the previous EOS-1D Mark IV model, AF is only possible at the center AF point (and four surrounding points, if the photographer has turned on AF Point Expansion) when lenses slower than f/5.6 are used. Full availability of all 61 AF points returns when lenses f/5.6 or faster are attached.
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