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Technology always advances. And so it is with still cameras. No longer are they limited to shooting still images. Instead they can now also shoot full high definition (HD) movie files.

The EOS 5D Mark II introduced the ability to shoot in full HD movie mode at 1920x1080p resolution. This is the current highest standard that’s available for movies and it ensures crisp details. The images are captured using the full-frame CMOS sensor that is used for still images. The resolution is then scaled down. Using the full sensor provides the advantage of a shallow depth-of-field to help to isolate the subject from the background, unlike compact video cameras that use small sensors and have correspondingly larger depth-of-field.

The camera shoots movies to H.264 MPEG 4 movie standard and captures sound at 48KHz in 16bit. The internal microphone is a mono unit that captures only one channel, however the 3.5mm jack plug provided is a stereo connection that allows the use of an external microphone.

Movies can be captured at 24, 25 and 30fps allowing for both PAL and NTSC usage. The exposure can be set both automatically, and with all firmware versions since 1.1.0, they can be set manually providing control of the shutter speed and aperture during recording. If the camera is in Manual shooting mode with "Movie display" enabled in the Live View function settings, then the shutter speed, aperture and ISO will be enabled and can be changed to alter the exposure of the movie recording.


The EOS 5D Mark II is the first Canon DSLR to offer HD movie recording options.

Applicable products:
EOS 5D Mark III, EOS-1D X, EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 500D, EOS 7D, EOS-1D Mark IV, EOS 550D, EOS 60D, EOS 600D, EOS 1100D.

With the Manual exposure settings, all apertures are available and shutter speeds from 1/30sec to 1/4000sec can be selected.

ISO speeds from 100 to 6400 as well as the H1 setting of 12,800 can also be made. Auto ISO can be used too, if you need a particular combination of shutter speed and aperture.

Like the EOS 5D Mark II, the consumer level EOS 500D also includes HD Movie recording, however it does not include the manual exposure video controls found on the EOS 5D Mark II. It records in the same format, H.264 .MOV, but there are three choices of resolution. Recordings can be made at 1080p at 20fps, 720p at 30fps or the VGA resolution of 640x480 at 30fps.

The EOS 7D has added HD movie recording to the APS-C sensor, mid-range price bracket cameras. Like the EOS 500D, it features the ability to record at 1920x1080, 1280x720 and 640x480 resolutions, but now adds the ability to select from different frame rate settings for more creative control. The options available are 1920x1080 at 24, 25 and 30fps, and 1280x720 and 640x480 at 50 or 60fps. The options available will depend on whether PAL or NTSC is selected for the video system.

The EOS 7D features full manual control of exposure like the EOS 5D Mark II, as well as a semi-automatic mode where the shutter speed and aperture can be locked but the ISO allowed to adjust automatically to keep the exposure correct. Sound recording on the EOS 7D is sampled, like the EOS 5D Mark II, at 48KHz.

The EOS-1D Mark IV has brought HD movie shooting to the EOS-1 series of DSLRs. The specification and function of movies are the same as in the EOS 7D however, unlike the EOS 7D, there is no dedicated movie switch to move between movies and Live View. Instead, the EOS-1D Mark IV’s FEL button can be programmed to enter and begin movie recording immediately.


The EOS 7D was the first Canon SLR to offer in-camera selectable frame rates.

The EOS 550D was the first EOS camera to feature a ‘Movie Crop’ function that records with the central 640x480 pixel area of the sensor, creating an effective magnification of approximately seven times. The ‘Movie Crop’ feature gives extra flexibility for capturing subjects that would otherwise be too far away.

The EOS 550D records full 1920x1080p HD video resolution with selectable frame rates of 24fps, 25fps and 30fps, as well as 720p video at 60fps and 50fps. The EOS 600D takes the movie crop function a stage further than the EOS 550D by using Movie Digital Zoom to magnify the centre of the sensor by between 3-10x while still retaining full HD movie quality.

In February 2010 Canon announced ‘EOS MOVIE Plugin-E1 for Final Cut Pro’ to provide a smoother workflow for EOS MOVIE filmmakers editing in the Final Cut Pro software suite. The plug-in enables the ‘log and transfer’ of video footage from the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 7D and EOS-1D Mark IV DSLRs and converts EOS MOVIE footage to Apple’s high quality ProRes 4:2:2 codec at approximately twice the speed of Apple’s standard conversion. Additionally, users can add timecode, reel names and metadata to footage quickly and easily when editing footage.

The movie functions of the EOS 5D Mark II were added to via Firmware Version 2.0.3 that was available from March 2010. The enhancements in the firmware added or changed the following movie frame rates:

  • NTSC: 1920x1080: 30fps (changed), 1920x1080: 24fps (added), 640x480: 30fps (changed).
  • PAL: 1920x1080: 25fps (added), 1920x1080: 24 fps (added), 640x480: 25fps (added).

The firmware also added a function for manual adjustment of the sound recording levels (64 levels); added a histogram display (brightness or RGB) for shooting movies in manual exposure; added shutter-priority AE mode (Tv) and aperture-priority AE (Av) mode to the exposure modes for shooting movies; and changed the audio sampling frequency from 44.1 KHz to 48 KHz.

Firmware 2.0.3 also fixed a phenomenon where communication between the camera and the attached lens is sometimes interrupted after manual sensor cleaning. This phenomenon only affects 5D Mark II DSLRs with Firmware Version 1.2.4.

The EOS 600D added a new feature to movie shooting – Video Snapshot. This makes it possible to capture short clips of two, four or eight seconds in length, which are then stitched together into one single file called a ‘Video Snapshot Album’. This helps new users make dynamic and fast-paced sequences of clips. After selecting the length of the Video Snapshot clip, each time a movie is recorded it will be that length.

The EOS 1100D brought HD movie shooting to the entry level range of Canon DSLR cameras. It provides 1280x720p HD Movie shooting at both 30 and 25fps to allow new users to capture high quality footage.

Audio recording

Audio recording is very important for movie shooting – good quality audio really helps improve the footage. To aid this, the EOS 5D Mark II, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS-1D X and EOS 60D all offer Manual Audio level setting within the camera menu system. This ensures the audio levels are recorded correctly without excessive peaking where sound distorts. With the EOS 5D Mark III and EOS-1D X, the audio levels can be viewed with level meters on the rear LCD screen and adjusted during filming using the silent control touch sensor built into the quick command dial on the rear of the camera. The EOS 5D Mark III also features a 3.5mm headphone port to allow audio monitoring during filming.

Maximum recording times

With the release of the EOS-1D X and EOS 5D Mark III, the maximum recording time for a single clip has been increased from approximately 12 minutes (depending on content) to 29mins 59secs. This has been made possible because when a file reaches the FAT32 file limit of 4GB, the camera simply creates a new file and continues recording. While the full run of 29mins 59secs will be saved in several separate files, playing them back on the camera, or joining them together in editing software will create a complete run with no breaks.