A lot of my thoughts and feelings about the 7D (read them here) apply to the 5D Mark II. To date I’ve shot commercials and documentary style work on the 7D and documentary work on the 5D.
My favourite? The 5D Mark 2.
The key reason – the sensor. At the heart of every digital camera is the sensor, every handling & operational issue usually falls away if you love the pictures. The 5D has a GREAT sensor. Low noise, good dynamic range, lovely fall-off with the highlights. Very similar to the 7D but with 2 key differences. The field of view and the depth of field characteristics (both of which come from the sensor size).
Don’t underestimate the differences in shooting full frame. In cinema terms this is like shooting 65mm! If you love big wide shots and wide dynamic close-ups you’ll love the 5D. Shooting a 14mm is like shooting on an Zeiss 9mm R lens. For scenic vistas you can’t beat it.
Also the dof is about a stop and a half shallower at any equivalent field of view to the 7D or Red One or 35mm. Again if you love shallow dof – the 5D is nirvana.
For me the 5D fits the same niche as the 7D, working at its best when its form factor works for it – run and gun work, considered one man band travelogue style or low budget filmmaking.
For me, if I can afford a full crew then I’d go Red One.
In fact that’s exactly how I see the 5D. It’s bringing to the table all the things the Red One is. Large sensors, photographic rather than ENG thinking and a revolutionary price point. It’s just doing it at the other end of the budget scale. The two are great bed fellows for maximising your budget on ANY job.
My top tips.
The look really suits a slow, considered shooting style. The pictures can be so photographic that swinging the camera around can just feel wrong.
Use as much stabilisation as possible. Tripod, monopod, shoulder rig, slider, I.S lenses.
Think before shooting wider than t2.8. The focus is punishing and the final look is stylised.
Responds well to post sharpening.
Shoot flat for the grade. The colour information is compromised so it won’t respond well to radical shifts in colour timing in post. What you see is pretty much what you’re gonna get.
For inspiration look at photographers as much as filmmakers. Some of the best 5D footage is coming from the photographic world not TV and film.