The Canon EOS 5D Mark II – The Real Game Changer!!! By Michael Artsis

by planetMitch2 Comments

planetMitch note: This is a guest post from Michael Artsis – good friend of mine – the guy I'm always on stage with live from NAB in the teradek booth. You can find him daily on his live show @

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II is probably the most game changing camera ever created in the professional realm.

It’s also a camera many people credit with ruining the video production business. It’s a fair argument.

Cheaper cameras that shot better and more cinematic certainly leveled the playing field and allowed employees to become employers when they never could have afforded the infrastructure before to start their own operations and were tied to working for “the man” before. That created a situation that was ultra competitive- where people would work for next to nothing just to shoot a project and create amazing productions putting the squeeze on more well established and bigger production companies.

While all of that is true, I am ok with that, because I would tell a different story. First lets not forget that Nikon was the first company to put HD (albeit 720p) video in a DSLR, so if you want to blame someone for the negative I guess you can blame them – though I thank them too for their foresight and innovation and I love both Nikon and Canon.

While Nikon got it going it was Canon that took things to the next level with a full frame full HD video option on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II (the next level meaning 50 work arounds and a lot of labor of love work mixed with a lot of faith and man it shoots sooooo beautifully the drawbacks don’t out weigh the negative) and it was really the shooters who moved the chains.

Canon’s initial vision was to create the 5D mark II as a double duty photo/video journalist shooter for breaking news especially in war torn areas. Thanks to guys like Vincent Laforet, the single minded vision of that was changed forever overnight, and we all grew up and got better because of it. also played a huge role in the evolution and revolution and pushed for/advocated a lot of necessary changes that finally got pushed through (thanks in part to Magic Lantern as well) .

I still vividly remember the first day I laid eyes and got my hands on the beautiful machine that would change so many careers including mine. It made me fall in love with shooting and production. I was always on camera talent who also produced and directed and loved tech and gear. But I loved being on air. Now I loved it all. I liked it and did it before but never loved it quite like this.

My business partner Adam dragged me to Abel Cine Tech in NYC to see it. When Steve Cohen and Jon Epner showed us footage a client brought back from a trip to Iraq we were blown away. Adam took the leap of faith that day and a week later we used it for the first time professionally in Miami on our Super Bowl shoots for our client, the NFL Alumni, we were amazed by the results as were they.


A month later I put $10,000 worth of 5D2 and accessories on my credit card and prayed I would one day pay it off. 3 months later we had paid it off and had three 5D2s, two 7Ds many lenses and accessories all were paid off and business was booming. Huge clients who never ever asked about the gear were requesting it by name and demanding it and we owned all our gear. No more renting for big jobs.

To put it completely in perspective it was the first that allowed film students like Cody Milch, a then film student, to come up with a great idea, shoot it beautifully and not only submit it to Frito Lays for their Super Bowl TV commercial contest but have a commercial that was good enough quality to actually proudly air on National TV on the Super Bowl when he won the contest. Which launched his career and also launched the career and company of SmallHD when Wes and the team won the same contest twice in a few years.

That’s because this camera secondly, I would say this better quality, more cinematic, more affordable little camera put the power in the hands of the more creative and innovative who worked with less bloat and helped spark a video hungry generation. I mean you could walk into your camera store on Sunday throw $2500-$7,000 on a credit card and on Monday hang a shingle and call yourself a professional now, and many did.

This matched up well with the Youtube growth as every company needed and could now afford video. Then of course where else can we stick video, every lobby, elevator, restaurant and for good measure lets shoot every corporate breakfast, meeting, HR gathering, breakout session and newsletter and edit it into a nice beautiful video with a slide shot every other half minute and a crane shot and then a time lapse, or was it timelapse first?

Well it pays the bills as reality of an artist life and a filmmakers life settles in and the production company formed on Monday needs to pay the rent on Thursday. ButI digress, this is still all good in my mind. Everywhere you go there is stunning video and I love that! What DSLRs did, the 5D2 did, really, is create new businesses and jobs and a new industry and segment and roles at companies and opportunity, plus better video.

Think about these companies for instance, SmallHD, Atomos, IDC Photo, Think Tank Photo, Kessler Crane, Zacuto, IKAN, Rode, Teradek, Paralinx, Litepanels, Digital Bolex, Wooden Camera, Redrock Micro, The Xtender, Convergent Design, Cineo, Inovativ Carts, Black Rapid Straps, MoVI, Defy, DJI, Aviator Camera Gear, News Shooter, BeTerrific!!, planet5D, Blackmagic (especially Cameras) AJA (Especially Cameras), edelkrone, Creative Cow, Manhattan Edit Workshop, and B&H Photo Video, Adorama and Able Cine Tech video tutorials, reviews and learning departments, etc… (some existed and exploded, others were created out of need for this new industry segment). It also served to push manufacturers to be better, Sony and Panasonic mostly but a lot of others too.

But what the 5D Mark II really really did is it made anything possible. The 5D2 pushed filmmakers to be better and more creative and it allowed creatives to be able to afford to create in a stunning new way. It put the emphasis on quality footage and the shot and lighting and it also freed us from constraints. It allowed us to go places we couldn’t go before like the building collapse in the Episode of House on the scenes my friend Eric Fletcher, SOC shot for Dexert (even though that was my fav a Nikon D800). It also allowed us to be more personal and intimate with subjects and characters. It disarmed people.

In turn we focused on more and better movement, better audio (sometimes duel recorded and later synced audio). The 5D2 made us pay attention more. It’s made us all better filmmakers and more creative. It won us awards and made us better at our art and our jobs. It definitely is the best thing to happen to the industry in my lifetime and career.

It was great for my Career. I would however be remiss if I didn't mention that while the 5D also spawned Canon’s cinema line that Canon has been committed to and had the vision to create groundbreaking disruptive camera that makes video more cinematic. The first step was not the 5D mark II, it was the first interchangeable affordable camera for SD/mini DV, The XL1S which really started the movement of better more cinematic video for all. It debuted even befor the famous 24p Panasonic DVX 100 and it had the industry buzzing.

So while it may have cost people some money or forced them to take inventory or re organize their lives or companies, which maybe they should have done anyway, it made everything better and everyone better and all projects better. It elevated quality and the experience and made everything better for the viewer (end user/customer), which makes it all more then worth it. It also created more jobs and companies and wealth in my mind then it cost.

All I can say for that is, Thank you! I appreciate it. I really do and I love it. For what it’s worth, I vote the 5D mark II into the camera hall of fame first ballot. It created opportunity for all of us. That's what it did more then anything. Thank you Canon! Thank you Vincent and Thank you planet5D. Thank you all, especially you creators and sharers. So Happy Birthday!!

It also brought about the next two revolutions – Mobile Filmmaking and Live everything.


(cover photo credit: snap from Wikipedia)


  1. The 5D Mark II is the reason we’re doing video now. At the time, we were doing commercial (stills) shoots with the original 5D, and when we upgraded to the 5D Mark II, I suddenly also had a video camera and good lenses… Little did I know videography was vastly more challenging than photography, and the 5D Mark II wasn’t all that good at being a video camera, but that one new feature changed my career path.

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