Transformative DSLR discontinued. Changed the way we shoot independent film
By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
This week, Canon Japan listed the 5D Mark II DSLR in its “old products” section, quietly signaling that the revolutionary DSLR was being discontinued. The Mk. II, also affectionately known as the 5D2, turned the independent filmmaking world upside down with its ability to affordably shoot high definition 1080p video at 24p, with a cinematic look that enabled filmmakers to add depth of field and rack focus to its quiver of filmmaking tools. It also leveled the playing field for low budget indie filmmakers looking to add high production value to their projects, without breaking the bank. But it also attracted some A-list shooters as well, showing that this camera was more than a low budget video platform, but a legitimate contender in mainstream filmmaking.
It all started with a photographer named Vince LaForet. With connections he had mined over his career, Vince managed to get a preproduction prototype of a new Canon DSLR that could shoot 1080p video. He used it to create a stunning short film called “Reverie,” which showed impressive dynamic range, stunning color, and offered videographers the ability to use rack focus and depth of field to their advantage. This was a key feature that wasn’t available on consumer grade video cameras. The result was suddenly videos had a cinematic quality to them, and low budget films could get a lot of bang for the buck. Then, producers of the hit Fox drama “House,” decided to use the 5D2 to shoot their season finale.
Suddenly, photographers were now filmmakers. And filmmakers had options. This became abundantly clear when cinematographer Shane Hurlbut used a platoon of 5D2’s to shoot the independent feature film “Act of Valor” (listen to Hurlbut talk about his experience with the 5D2 on doddle Talks Tech here). The film, which chronicled the brave deeds of the Navy SEALS (before Seal Team 6 took out Bin Laden) and started actual on duty SEALS. The film not only shot with the 5D2 as its primary camera platform, but also with live ammunition, which hadn’t been done in over 50 years. And the film wasn’t easy either, as scenes ranged from darkened hallways to desert days with bright, ambient light. From shadows to sunshine, the 5D2 took every lighting condition Hurlbut threw at it, and with some help from a plugin called Dark Energy, it pulled off some stunning visuals, cementing its place in the quiver of any competent filmmaker. And for around $3,000, it could easily be replaced and used by budding Spielbergs as well. Even animation was quick to pick up on the capability of the 5D2, as we saw with Paranorman, which used over 50 to shoot their stop motion feature.
And the 5D2 set off a wave of digital filmmaking tools that has included the Panasonic GH2, the Nikon D800, and also the 5D2’s followup the 5D Mk. III. Canon has also introduced a 4K DSLR, which is the Canon 1D-C, which will take the baton and move digital filmmaking into ultra high resolution. And Canon has also introduced a new entry level full frame DSLR called the Canon 6D, and with recent price cuts by nearly 40%, it makes the 5D2 not long for this world. So now, it’s time to say goodbye, as the 5D Mk. II gets discontinued. And while there’s still plenty of stock available for this epic DSLR, the 5D Mk. II takes its rightful place in the pantheon of cinema tools that have changed the way we tell stories.