Canon 70D DSLR for filmmakers

Although I switched to Canon from Nikon before the DSLR video revolution, I’ve generally been well served by Canon’s offerings as I moved more and more into documentary films. I currently use 5D II cameras with Mosaic video aliasing filters, a 1D IV, and now a 70D (also with a Mosaic filter). Although the 5D II has slightly better video quality than the 70D, the 70D has a killer app with the new dual pixel auto focus, which is coupled with an articulated LCD with touch screen functionality. The Mosaic filter, in my view, is a necessity since moiré in video is really unattractive.

What is exciting about this new technology is that, in general, you can forget about needing any kind of follow focus device. The focusing is accurate, smooth, and most importantly, doesn’t hunt. There are 3 focusing modes. The first two, face recognition+tracking and FlexiZone AF [ ] (Canon’s terms), are great for shooting movies where you let the camera keep the main subjects in focus. You would choose one or the other depending on whether faces or whether objects are the most important. The really interesting mode, in my opinion, is the third one, which Canon labels FlexiZone☐.  The little box represents the focus point and the best thing about it is that you can touch the articulated screen to change that focus point. If you are shooting video, this results in a smooth rack focus effect from one focus point to another. This same feature can be use in the face detection + tracking mode if for instance you wanted to rack (and then track) focus from someone in the foreground to someone in the background, or vice versa.

One instance where this auto focus ability is really key is when I have the camera mounted on a Jib. Instead of having to rely on depth of field, or even having to climb up on a ladder to check focus, I can now move the Jib all over the place with no focus worries.

Another instance is when I want to run two (or more) cameras by myself. I can manage focus pulling on one camera and I can let the 70D track focus on its own. So far, it has done a great job of that.

The only wish I have now is for Magic Lantern to create firmware for this model so I can get all those ML functions I use on the 5D II back. As a side issue, it kind of boggles (my mind at least) that Canon hasn’t opened some line of communication with the Magic Lantern folks, or even licensed the technology. It’s great that they have done the innovations that they have done, but the slow pace of innovation over at Canon hints at a corporate culture that isn’t particularly clever about certain things. And while they’re at it, maybe they should speak with the Mosaic Engineering folks as well…