I have now spent nearly four years in possession of two of the world’s best video cameras: the Canon 5D Mark II and the Mark III. These have a 24x36mm sensor and I have a whole closet full of high performance lenses to stick front of them. Yet I have never become comfortable using either body as a video camera. The first problem is that the $3500 camera won’t autofocus while filming. You’re supposed to “follow focus” like a Hollywood cinematographer, but my 49-year-old eyes aren’t so good at perceiving sharp focus on the rear LCD. The second problem is that high quality video starts with high quality audio and I don’t think the on-camera microphone in the 5D Mark III is especially good. Even if it were, it is in the wrong place for a lot of subjects. I would want a Bluetooth microphone that I could clip onto a subject’s lapel and/or shotgun mic mounted farther away from the noise of the autofocus motor.
These photos show the 5D Mark III mounted inside an IDC System Zero. It seems to solve a lot of the problems described above. With the eyepiece over the rear LCD it becomes possible to evaluate focus more easily. With the big knurled knob it becomes easier to follow focus smoothly. With the big accessory cage it would be theoretically possible to plug in a shotgun microphone and run a cable down to the camera. Does it work? Maybe for a professional movie maker it would, especially if mounted on a tripod. I found the rig too difficult to hand-hold and also too cumbersome to mount and unmount. It would be perfect for a full-day video capture project but it doesn’t work for a parent interested in using one device for both still and moving images of a child.
My most-used video camera right now is the Sony NEX-6. The sensor is smaller than on the big Canon, though the dynamic range is better according to DxOMark. The high quality lenses that I ordered are out of stock so I’m using a $150 kit lens on this camera instead of the $2000 Canon L zoom that I might be using on the 5D Mark III. But the camera will autofocus while capturing video, the microphone seems pretty good, and flip-up LCD screen makes for an awesome 49-year-old parent camera (I would rather hold the camera at waist/child level and look down than stoop to waist/child level.)
Is anyone out there having good luck using a digital SLR such as the 5D Mark II/III as a video camera? If so, what accessories do you find essential? (And I guess it would be interesting to hear from folks who are having good luck with just the raw camera; I know that it can be done.)