Canon releases 5D markII 2.03 Firmware

Update: Canon has updated the firmware to version 2.04 to fix a bug with audio recording levels using the C1 – C3 setting modes.

Get the 2.04 firmware here

The much anticipated 2.03 firmware for the Canon 5D was released today. As promised by canon it added the following new features…

1. Adds or changes the following movie frame rates.

1920×1080 : 30 fps (changed – actual 29.97 fps)
1920×1080 : 24 fps (added – actual 23.976 fps)
640×480 : 30 fps (changed – actual 29.97 fps)

1920×1080 : 25 fps (added – actual 25.0 fps)
1920×1080 : 24 fps (added – actual 23.976 fps)
640×480 : 25 fps (added – actual 25.0 fps)

2. Adds a function for manually adjusting the sound recording level (64 levels).
3. Adds a histogram display (brightness or RGB) for shooting movies in manual exposure.
4. Adds shutter-priority AE mode (Tv) and aperture-priority AE (Av) mode to the exposure modes for shooting movies.
5. Changes the audio sampling frequency from 44.1 KHz to 48 KHz.
6. Fixes a phenomenon where communication between the camera and the attached lens is sometimes interrupted after manual sensor cleaning. (This phenomenon only affects units with Firmware Version 1.2.4.)

Frame rates: Being able to choose frame rates compatible with other camcorders and broadcast / delivery systems is standard across professional video cameras so having these new frame rate choices is a big help. There’s not much more to say about the frame rates really, they are essential options for a video shooter and it’s great that the 5D is finally free from it’s 30 fps shackles.

Manual Gain Control: Like the new frame rates this is another control that most professional videographers cannot live without so it makes the 5D markII that little bit more usable. Automatic Gain Control (AGC) can be a useful tool in certain circumstances but most of the time I prefer to dial in my audio levels manually. The 5D’s AGC is particularly aggressive which often results in unusable sound if recording in an environment where there are sudden loud noises followed by periods of low noise because the camera will over compensate resulting in the recorded audio being almost muted for the first few seconds after a loud noise.

Setting the manual recording mode is done in the 5D’s Liveview menu option page. Once manual gain is selected a pair of audio meters are displayed and the recording level can be adjusted in 64 increments. Unfortunately this is the only screen where you can see the recording level meters, this is normally something you want to keep an eye on whilst shooting, it’s a shame the recording levels can’t be monitored during recording or on the standard liveview display.

Histogram: I love having a histogram visible whilst shooting, this is something that I became very used to on the EX1 and miss sorely when shooting on an HDSLR. The histogram allows to have an immediate understanding of the dynamic range being captured in your shot and is a big help in exposing correctly.

The histogram is displayed on the 5D by cycling through the info display options using the info button. Unfortunately Canon have put it on the same info page that displays all the menu settings on the left side, that page is extremely cluttered with information you don’t really need whilst composing a shot which makes it hard to leave the histogram displayed.

AV & TV Auto Exposure Modes: I can’t think of many times when I’ve set any video camera to adjust exposure automatically. I’m sure there are some shooters who rely on auto exposure in situations where they have little time to think, for me though seeing exposure change as the camera moves is a sure sign of a consumer camera in action so these new recording modes are not something I expect to make use of. If however a situation arrises where I need to let the camera adjust exposure itself it’s good to know that the Shutter speed and ISO can be locked down allowing the camera to only have control over the aperture.

Audio sampling frequency: I haven’t really noticed any difference in the sound quality but the numbers are higher so this has to be a good thing… doesn’t it?

So overal this is a really useful firmware update, Canon are definitely listening to their customers and allowing more control over the video features of their cameras. It would be nice to have the option to display the new tools when recording but at least we have them available.

Interestingly this new firmware only included video features, considering that the 5D markII is first and foremost a stills camera that just goes to show how dedicated Canon are to making their tools work well for us videographers.

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