Not Having A G’Day

Q Hi, guys—e-greetings from Down Under! Hey, I’ve had an ongoing issue with my magnificent Canon EOS 5D Mark II. The majority of my work is in model and corporate photography, now that I’m a semiretired television broadcast cameraman. However, I do use the 5D Mark II from time to time to shoot TVCs and corporate video for the Australian market. I set up the video at 1920×1080 at 25 fps PAL with shutter speeds of 50/100 and so on, and shoot, with IS turned off on the lens, onto a SanDisk 32 GB 60 Mb/s UDMA 6 CF card (firmware 2.0.8). When I pan, even slow, or have vehicles moving through frame, I continually get this image stutter/strobe effect in images with the vehicle—it staggers through frame as if there are dropped frames. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Via email

A Thanks for the question. Glad to see that the magazine makes it to the Southern Hemisphere.

There could be a problem with your setup. With any type of equipment configuration, it’s easier to break it down into its separate parts and look at each one individually. In assessing your stuttering issue, I’d break down your rig into three main parts: the memory card, the camera and you.

First, let’s look at the memory card. HD requires a lot of data to be transferred. Yes, compression is involved in recording video with the 5D Mark II, but a great deal of image data is still written to that little card.

Using a memory card with the speed needed is important, and you’ve addressed that with the SanDisk card. The Canon EOS 5D Mark II needs a card with at least an 8 Mb/s writing speed. Your card exceeds that, though speed specs measured in a laboratory often differ from real-world speeds. That’s why it’s always a good idea to use a card with enough speed headroom—as you’re doing.

You should make sure that you format the card in your camera rather than formatting it in a computer. Also, I recommend that you format the card rather than just erase files. For me, this offers the most trouble-free performance.

There’s a possibility that the card has a problem. Try swapping it out with another card of similar speed to see if you still notice the problem.

Assuming that the card isn’t the issue, let’s move on to the camera. Early versions of the 5D Mark II had an issue with dropped frames, which was addressed through a firmware update. In most cases, it’s a good idea to make sure that you have the latest firmware installed in the camera. I say "in most cases" because I’d hesitate upgrading firmware in the middle of a project. I know some people who ran into problems when Canon fixed a frame-rate issue.

When the 5D Mark II was first introduced, it shot at 30 fps, not the usual 29.97 frames per second. Nor did it have 25, 24 or 23.976 frame rates. If you were in the middle of a long shooting schedule, like a documentary, and installed the firmware "fix," you’d have clips at both 30 and 29.97 during postproduction. This isn’t a good situation to overcome easily.