5D Generation – The DSLR Revolution has Only Just Begun

by planetMitch8 Comments

This is a guest post from Rubidium Wu.

The 5D Generation from a filmmaker's perspective

From Rubidium Wu:

When the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was first released, and subsequently discovered as a filmmaking tool, it took the world by storm. TV shows used them, films where shot with them, millions of units flew of the shelves. 5 years later, a lot people are wondering why they are not the default filmmaking camera, given their price and popularity.

The capture medium of feature films has changed over the last few years, from overwhelming film to almost totally digital. Looking at this year’s Oscar nominees, it's the Arri Alexa that has taken over though, not the DSLRs. The reason behind this is pretty straightforward economics.Actual shooting takes up a small part of a films production budget, and camera hire is a small fraction of that. If you're spending millions on actors, sets, locations, explosions, promotion and everything else, the difference between $2k to hire an Alexa for a week and $200 to hire a 5d for a week isn't significant. On a six-week shoot the difference is only $10,800, or 0.18% of a ten million dollar film's budget and probably even less if you cut a deal with the camera house.

For films this size and larger, the cost of the camera simply isn't a big factor. Several features have shot with the 5d, notable Act of Valor or Silent House, but the use of the camera has been to give the production a documentary ‘lo-fi' feel rather than because it was the best tool for the job.

I believe the real DSLR revolution is still on its way. Independent filmmakers who would never had access to the resources to make a traditional film, and couldn't get their hands on a million dollars, and been quietly making films in this $50k and below range. For years now, Hollywood has been suffering from sequelitis and has been becoming more and more risk adverse, the result of which has been safer and less entertaining faire.

planet5d pics

New, wonderful and strange films are beginning to emerge from the DLSR generation that break the conventions of pop culture character tropes and storytelling. Lena Dunham's ‘Tiny Furniture', shot on the 7d, paved the way for her HBO show ‘Girls'. Shane Carruth's ‘Upstream Color', shot for pennies on the Panasonic GH2, and told an entrancing tale that few studio executives would understand, let alone green-light.

These new filmmakers are just the first in what will be a long line of new and emerging voices that can afford to take chances to make films that can be what that author Robert McKee said all stories should aspire to: Tools for living.

As the pace of change accelerates and continues to transform our world, I believe that a new generation of filmmakers from all backgrounds and walks of life will continue to influence and inspire the world in which we live in.

About Rubidium Wu

Rubidium Wu is a writer/director based in Brooklyn. His latest protect, the cyber thriller Crow Hill, is currently raising funds on Kickstarter.

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(cover photo credit: snap from Rubidium Wu)


chief astronomer at planet5D LLC
Mitch "planetMitch" Aunger is the creator and mastermind behind planet5D.com

He's incredibly happy running planet5D and sharing so much joy of photography and filmmaking with his readers.


  1. Perhaps it’s video revolution on its way, while the DSLR is on the way out. We haven’t seen any major breakthrough in DSLR’s video tech with half hearted Canon and the clearly video-hating Nikon. Panasonic is in the game, but still not the mainstream. The revolution, I think, would be when there are video-centric tools available and affordable for the masses, beyond DSLR. Look at Blackmagic for example. That’s the direction. Better video tool, designed for video, at a more affordable price. So it’s the video revolution we’re waiting for. Not necessarily DSLR.

    1. Author

      Raya, I beg to differ…

      DSLR video is NOT on its way out

      they’re being used for video more than ever and I don’t see any decline for quite a while. While you’re right that cameras like the Blackmagic Cinema Camera are challenging the Canons and Nikons of the world, they’re not making any significant dent in sales or usage of DSLR video. The numbers just aren’t there.

  2. Budgets aside, would the author choose to use an Arri or 5d ? It doesn’t seem that the two are comparable if the 5d was used to give a “lo-fi” feel?

    1. Hey MD – I have shot with the Arri Alexa and it is a superior camera system to the 5d in pretty much every way except size. But it costs almost as much to hire for a day than 5d costs to buy.

      What I was trying to express above is that you don’t need a Stienway to compose or record a great piece of music. We need to get away from a fixation with raw specs and start making great films.


  3. I think the surprise is over but the question is now how long will people continue to turn to the DSLR as their number one option. For now it’s still uniquely positioned in the market. It’s affordable with high quality and doubles as a professional photography camera. As long those things stay true it’s going to be a popular choice for years to come.

  4. I’m still waiting for a Canon made GH4 with a APS-C sensor that shoots ProRes and produces an image like an Alexa. All for under $2000 lol
    I think that’s what most of us were hoping this HDSLR revolution would lead to eventually. But we’re all realizing it’s not going to happen. So the hype is dying even though the cameras are still being used by those of us on shoestring budgets that don’t want to give up the video and stills two-for-one functionality we’ve gotten used to.

    Sadly though, these cameras are still playing catchup in terms of functionality with traditional video cameras we had 10 years ago. Something else we’re all now realizing as we’ve used them for years. The GH series is the only camera that comes close. But it’s smaller sensor and limited market share still keeps a lot of people away. The same is true with the Blackmagic cameras, but they also lack photo capability and seem like ergonomic hell.

    My fear is that going forward we’re not going to see those other missing features arrive on the HDSLR. That we’re going to spend the next five years continuing to play this ‘game” with HDSLRs where one model comes with one thing we want (a flip out screen) but not another (a heapdhone jack). So these cameras will never be ideal production cameras.They will just continue to be this strange hybrid mix up design that we only use because they are cheap and dual purpose.

    It kind of reminds me of the asian tuning craze that went around in the late 90’s early 00’s. Where younger people were buying Honda Civics and pimping them out and tuning them with all kinds of after market parts. Then after a whiile people started realizing how ridiculous this all was and how much of a hassle is was and that if they wanted a sports car they should just buy a bigger engine sports car rather than an economy car with add-on parts.
    There are still people that tune civics. But they aren’t really making movies about it anymore, it’s not a fashionable craze anymore. Its gone back to being a niche thing. Yeah people still buy civics, but mostly just to use them as intended. The same is probably true for DSLR video going forward.

  5. The future is going to be fast and brutal. There is going to be an influx of videos like we have never seen before, be that movies, vlogs, advetizments, etc. People are going to need a fast and easy way to pump out videos. Yes major motion pictures will be shooting 4k/UHD/Raw/super high bitrates, but honestly that is not what these cameras were meant for. These are cameras for the masses to produce mass quantities of content. People aren’t going to want to color grade everything they make. Yes you could take your black magic footage, throw a lut on all of your footage for a decent turn around but why not just have the baked in color of a DSLR then? The BBC is shooting news with an iphone now and that is the direction we are going. I’m seeing professional video adds show up on my instagram feed now that it has videos. There are going to be a lot of new mediums for people fill with videos and those who adapt will survive (and could probably make a decent living out of it).

    1. I think you’re right, Zach. There is no point treating every single moment you shoot like its a major motion picture that requires extensive post production, especially if its going to end up compressed on youtube and loose that latitude anyway. There are some great picture styles for the Eos range that give a awesome look without post-processing – I shoot my web stuff in h264 and it belongs there.

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