Know Your Camera: Canon 5D MK II – Turning Your Still Camera Into a Movie Making Machine

In 2011, we made a series of six educational videos with B&H to cover everything from the settings we use on the Canon 5D Mark II to the kind of lenses and equipment I recommend. Whether you are just starting out with HDSLR, or want to see the details of my setup and workflow, I think you will find a lot of value in watching. The lessons apply to other cameras as well, not just the 5D. Enjoy.

Here is episode one, followed by a transcript.

Know Your Camera:
Episode 1 shows you the settings to get the most out of shooting with your HDSLR camera.

Hi. I’m Shane Hurlbut, ASC. Welcome to Episode 1 of the B&H HDSLR Education Series.

Let’s get right to it. We’re going to start with Menus. But before we even go into Menus, we want to go to right here on the top of your camera and scroll to M. This has to be on Manual for you to be able to access all the inner workings of this camera to be able to turn it into that movie-making machine.

We’re going to start with the first one, Peripheral Illumination Correct. This is a still photography function. What it does is it corrects the illumination around the peripheral of your lenses, specifically wide lenses. We want to disable that.

We’re going to deal with White Balance. I never Auto White Balance. I always go straight to Kelvin, and I dial it in from there. I like to do this to I on the fly. I don’t get set into “okay, daylight exteriors, 5200 degrees.” Maybe I want to warm that up a little bit, or maybe I want to cool that down. I do it to I. It’s what inspires me on the day. A shortcut is on top of the camera. There is this white balance queue. You can push this and you can scroll on the small little wheel here, and you can watch your color change on the back LCD screen. You can literally dial your color temperature in perfectly.

Now we go down to Color Space. You have two color spaces. You have sRGB or you have Adobe RGB. I’ve found that Adobe RGB gives you the best skin tones out of this camera.

Now let’s go to Picture Style. Picture Style usually comes loaded at Standard. When I’m doing my picture style editor, I start at Neutral. Let’s click on that. That’s our Picture Style.

We’re rolling on to the next one. Highlight Alert – you want to disable that. Image Jump, I always do to 1. That way when you say, “I’d love to see take 3″ –by going with the image jump at 1, you can scroll from take 6, take 5, take 4, bang, right on take 3, lock on it and play it back.

Now we’re going to scroll down to the Wrench. Auto Power Off – a lot of people go to the setting and they turn it to off. Basically, what that’s going to do is keep your camera on as long as you have it in live view. That’s a recipe for overheating the sensor and you seeing a lot of fixed pattern noise. What I do is I make it 8 minutes. If you get distracted and you wander off, if you’re lighting or you’re talking to an actor or an actress, the camera times out.

Now we’re going to go the Wrench with 2 dots. Go up to LCD Brightness. I always have that on Manual, and I always have it either around 4 or 5. The LCD screen is not milky at 4 and 5. It gives you the best contrast and dynamic range that you can see that you’re camera’s actually capturing.

We’re going to go down to Sensor cleaning. The Sensor cleaning, I always set to Auto, so Enable. Every time you turn on the camera or turn it off, it cleans the sensor automatically.

We’re going to go into Live View/Movie Function Set. This is a still camera. We have to turn it into a digital film camera. We’re going to click on Live View Function and it comes up Stills only. We’re going to go to Stills+movie. Now you’ve turned this into a digital film capture device.

Now you go down to Movie Recording Size, usually it comes loaded 30 or shooting 24 frames today. When I use this camera, I use it as a double system. I don’t actually use this record sound. I always have Sound Recording to Auto. It’s a wonderful scratch track to help you sync sound.

If you’re using Canon lenses, I always like to make sure your exposure levels are set to a third of a stop increment. With Canon glass and on the Zeiss ZE glass, you can use the back wheel to scroll. With video, you definitely want to be in third stop increments. A third of a stop, that difference between a half and a third, is sometimes you being able to hold that cloud in the sky and the detail in the shadow areas.

Now we’re going to go down to the Image. Image highlight tone priority. If it’s enabled, then you will always see D+ next to your ISO in the bottom info bar. You want to take it off highlight tone priority. What it does is it tries to suppress and hold highlights. In video, I like to know if it’s blowing out. I don’t want the computer system within the camera controlling my highlights.

We’re going to go to Image Auto Lighting Optimizer. This is a recipe for disaster, this thing. It always comes in low or standard. You want to get rid of this thing. You want to disable it.

Now we’re going to go to High ISO Speed Noise Reduction. I always set it to disable. I’d rather be doing my noise reduction in the post process than having this small little computer inside the camera doing it for me. Basically, what it does is it softens the image to be able to blend the noise.

Now we’re done with all the menus. Now we want to set shutter speed and your ISO. I’ve found that a 50th is the best shutter speed for capturing commercials, music videos, and feature films. You adjust that shutter by scrolling the small little wheel right here. I shoot a 50th because it’s a 200 degree shutter, and it kind of takes the edge off of the sharpness of HD.

Now I’m going to change the ISO. You want to be either on 160, 320, 640, 1250, or 1600. I don’t go above 1600. Shooting in those increments of 160 will give you the least amount of noise.

So we’ve adjusted our shutter, we’ve dealt with our menus, we dialed in our ISO. Stay tuned for episode 2, where I go into the challenges of this HDSLR platform.


Julien Lasseur – Director
Karlyn Michelson – Producer
Shane Hurlbut, ASC, Lydia Hurlbut, and Brad Bitton – Executive Producers
Clint Milby – Associate Producer
Bodie Orman – Director of Photography
Edited by Karlyn Michelson
Sponsored by B&H

Shane Hurlbut, ASC – Instructor
Eli Jane – Model in Introduction

Production Coordinator – Anne Gaither
Camera Operator – Kevin Anderson
Camera Operator – Eric Wolfinger
Camera Operator – Valentin Vignet
Steadicam Operator – Hayden Houser
Key Grip – Fabio Newman
Hair/Makeup – Teddie Bergman
Sound – Vincent Fatato

Production Assistants – Brian Touhy, Lucas Petri

Special Thanks to Mole-Richardson

Buy the Canon 5D Mk II

Watch episode 2 – Canon 5D MK II: Challenges and Solutions
Watch episode 3 – HDSLR Challenges: Working With a Still Lens
Watch episode 4 – HDSLR Cinematographer Starter Kit
Watch episode 5 – HDSLR Workflow and Etiquette
Watch episode 6 – HDSLR: A New Digital Film Language

  1. Marcus Wolschon 4 years ago

    “Know Your Camera” and that it starts right off assuming you have a specific Canon camera?
    The title didn’t say this was some posting specific for the 5D.
    Ever given it a thought that there’s lots of people with Nikon, Panasonic, Sony, Leica,..

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Marcus Wolschon. This was something I did for free to give back to the community. There are pearls of wisdom in it whether you are shooting a Nikon, Panasonic, Sony, or any camera.

    • Angelo 4 years ago

      Correction on grammar: There ARE lots of people.
      Correction on attitude: Be thankful that you received this information that is very useful with any camera.
      Have a great day and wish you good luck in your future endeavors.

  2. Daniel 4 years ago

    Thanks for going to the trouble of making this video and sharing your settings. It’s so nice to have an accomplished professional like yourself taking the time to share information like this.

    A couple technical comments.

    ISO steps: 160, 320, 640, 1250. I’m afraid there is widespread mis-information about these so-called native/true ISOs.

    Except for the 1D series (and possibly the 5D line), Canon DSLRs have hardware amplification solely for whole, even ISO stops (e.g., 100, 200, 400, etc.), which means they must digitally push or pull from the nearest whole, even ISO to reach fractional ISOs such as 160, 320 etc.

    The reason fractional ISOs appear to have less noise than whole, even ISOs is because when you select a fractional ISO like 640 the camera is exposing at a higher ISO and pulling the resulting exposure. For example, when ISO 640 is selected the camera actually captures the image using hardware amplified ISO 800 and then digitally pulls the exposure to reduce the brightness of the captured image, which helps hide the noise in the shadows.

    However, since the camera is exposing your image 1/3 stop hotter than the ISO you selected you are losing 1/3 stop worth of highlight room.

    See the following links for more information:

    Highlight tone priority (HTP): When this is on, the camera exposes at one stop less than the selected ISO, then applies gain to boost the brightness of the captured image back up to the equivalent of the selected ISO. Obviously this involves the use of a gamma curve which preserves the extra stop’s worth of highlight information gained by shooting at the lower stop.

    See examples of the difference HTP can make at the following links (roll a mouse pointer on and off the images to see the effect of HTP):

    In the first example note the detail preserved in the cloud highlights when HTP is turned on.

    In the second example the highlights on the floor are noticeably kept from blowing out by HTP. Also note the sky out the window. With HTP turned on the sky’s blue tone is completely preserved. With HTP turned off the sky is completely blown out except for a blue fringe around the trees.

    That said, HTP can increase the noise in the image somewhat, at least in darker environments.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Daniel. Thank you for the detailed information and sharing. I will have my team look into this.

      • Ziutek 3 years ago

        Hi Shane and team. Any further investigation on this? Especially auto lighting optimiser and iso. Thanks

  3. Ted Ramasola 4 years ago

    Thanks for posting this again Shane. I was trying to look for this at the B&H website but it seems they took it down.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Ted Ramasola. You’re welcome, and thanks for the support.

  4. Flain 4 years ago

    Some people say that Canon 5D mark 2 is better than Canon 5D mark 3.
    Canon 5D mark 2 is sharper than Mark 3?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Flain. I like the light sensitivity, sensor, and new features of the 5DMkIII. However, the image is sharper on the 5DMkII because it does not have the low pass filter like the 5DMkIII. This helps with line skipping and moire, but does soften the image.

    • Keidrych Wasley 4 years ago

      Removing the low pass filter on the MKIII has shown itself to make no difference, as seen in the tests on eos hd.
      Personally i think the MKIII can appear softer due to it’s lack of aliasing. Edges are now smoother. Whether this is really due to the OLPF who knows, but removing it didn’t change performance.
      You can gently sharpen the MKIII which you couldn’t with the MKII.

    • Paul 3 years ago

      Shane, any other thoughts on the mk iii in action? Are you using it much?

      • Author
        Shane 3 years ago

        Paul, I am using it as a great still camera the most.

  5. Joseph 4 years ago

    I watched this show last year and I loved it, good job Shane. I went back to see the show again a couple of months ago and I to had a problem finding it. It is on the B&H site but you have to do some digging to find it, I remeber it was in a wierd location. You can also find it on You Tube.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Joseph. Thanks for the kind words and support.

  6. Steve Lampen 4 years ago

    Hope you know about the ETS PA-911 and PA-912 baluns for HDSLR cameras. Helps turn that audio track from just an unbalanced guide track into a fully professional audio track.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Steven Lampen. Thanks for the info.

  7. Baron 4 years ago

    Hi Shane, I saw the video the first time and this is great for a refresher. Some features like Peripheral Illumination I leave on but have disabled since. The ISO 160 increments are also a good tip.

    Do you personally use Neutral picture style or Cinestyle?

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Baron. Thanks for the comment and support. I have my own cocktail of custom picture profiles for different types of lenses I use. Other than that neutral is the best way to go, and save cinestyle for extreme lighting conditions.

  8. Matthew Myers 4 years ago

    Hi Shane,

    Thanks so much for providing great educational videos — for free! I’m currently putting together an open source (read free) e-book on the basics of cinematography for the students in my Introduction to Cinematography class. May I provide a link to your videos in the section on DSLR photography? We currently use DSLR, Panasonic 200 & 570 and Arri SR2 cameras in the beginning class and RED in the advanced class so good, specific information is greatly appreciated.

    Best regards,

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Matthew Myers. Thanks for the kind words and support. Sure, love it. I made the video to give back to the community.

      • Matthew Myers 4 years ago

        Thanks a bunch. I’ll make sure to credit you on the e-book.

        Thanks for all of your good work.


  9. saeed 4 years ago

    such a good chance to have pro cinematographer like you that share your information about DSLR camera.

    good luck

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      saeed, thank you so much for your kind words.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      saeed, thank you so much for your kind words

  10. Mike 4 years ago

    Will the mark II shoot in 1:85.1 or is it 1:77.1?

    Thanks for giving out all the info you do. We all appreciate it.

    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Mike, it shoots 1:78 or 16:9. But you can put a 1:85 crop or a 2:35 crop on it. That is what I did on Act of Valor.

  11. Earl Nottingham 4 years ago

    I noticed that you recommend disabling the Peripheral Illumination Correct in the menu but you don’t mention why. This would seem to be a useful feature.

    Thanks for going above and beyond to help us guys out here in the trenches.


    • Author
      Shane 4 years ago

      Earl Nottingham, First off thank you so much for your kind words. The reason I turn it off is because this is a still photography function. I have found that these all effect the video in bizarre ways, either adding noise, more aliasing, etc. I just stay away from it and do that little added correction in post.

  12. Oshilaja Stephen 3 years ago

    Thanks Shane for the tips. I use a Canon 600D I’ll try to apply these tips wherever I can. Much appreciation.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Oshilaja Stephen, you are very welcome. Thank you for your support

  13. Jeremy woods 3 years ago

    Hi Shane!!
    I am a huge fan of your support to the community and the wealth of knowledge you give us access to out here..
    I’ve often wondered this, as i have a hacked Gh2 that seems to resolve better than a 5D2, what your thoughts on a hacked
    Gh2 were.. I’m sure you’ve had to have been asked this question before, but i searched high and low for it and couldn’t find anything. You’re the guy to ask also, since i’ve been seriously considering the 5D2 since they’ve went down under $2000 and you can get a Mosaic Filter that removes moire/aliasing for $385… Magic Lantern is no chump on my T2i & i imagine it rocks on the 5D2.. Any thoughts on Magic Lantern? Out of all the Canon announcements this year, i have to say my favorite image they ever produced was the 5D2 image… That even includes the new Cinema EOS line. I think they all look very, very digital to me.. And despite the Dynamic Range quirks of pixel peepers, i’ve seen plenty of movies shot on celluloid that blow out windows..

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Jeremy woods, thank you for your wonderful words and support. The GH2 hack looks a little digital to me. I am a big fan of the 1DC right now. The 4K resolution is what the DSLR world needed. It has amazing range. Yes, I agree with you about the windows blowing, I do it in all of my films, shot on film but it is the video clipping that I find looks digital if it goes too much.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Jeremy woods,Thank you for your kind words, I have not used the hack on the Gh2. Not a big fan of Panasonic’s color space and science. Blowing out windows is where it is at with film, though many of these digital cameras blow out very clippy and look like video, the 5D blows nicely because of the compression smoothing the edges. The Canon 1DC looks absolutely stunning. The dark horse, the sleeper car in Canon’s 4K arsenal

  14. jeremy woods 3 years ago

    Shane, thanks so much for your response. So many times the 5D2 and the GH2 have come into conflicting conversations as to which one looks better and almost always the GH2 is favored… After having shot with it for over a year now, I couldn’t agree more with you on the digital clipping. It may have a one up on the resolution factor, but in the end I absolutely hate how fast it clips, how digital it does it, and how the colorspace looks like it’s been dipped in milk the further up it goes. Every one of these DSLR’s has an 8 bit limitation, but it seems Canon is the only one that gets it right… and honestly, compared to the 5D3, I think the 2 looks better. I’d love to get a 1D-C, but that’s a money issue, lol. I love the form factor, and the fact that it really is the camera I want… A jailbroken 5D2, lol. I’m interested in what they have to bring to the table this year… Alas, I may just start saving for a 1D-C anyway. regardless of what may come out this year, it just seems like the kind of camera that will get out of the way and let you tell a story.. Without compromise

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      jeremy woods, one looks like video the other looks like film. I chose FILM and the 1DC looks the closest I have ever seen. WOW, its the dark horse, you should ride this baby. Just saying.

  15. des ohara 3 years ago

    Hi Shane,
    Great work you are doing. Really loved The Last 3 Minutes. Beautiful.
    I have just bought the Sekonic L-758 Cine light meter. I have the canon 5d mark ii shooting on the cine style. I have been testing the meter with the Exposure Profile Target ii but getting really strange results in the highlights.
    Can you tell me the best way to calibrate the Meter with the 5d, i.e. Is it best practice to use the meter with another picture profile with less a flat profile (neutral) or do I keep it Cine Style?
    If I calibrate with different picture profile styles, does it mean that my 5d and the light meter calibration readings vary?
    I read the book DSLR Cinema by Kurt Lancaster and it mentions that you find the style that you want the look of then dial in your exposure readings then switch over to the flatter style to get as much latitude in post production. Does this mean you then that the exposure readings in the camera are not affected with this switch to a flatter profile?
    I hope you can help.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      des ohara, thank you so much for your kind words. this is correct, light to the neutral picture style and then throw it over to cinestyle and shoot.

  16. Geoff 3 years ago


    Thanks for posting the video. They are very helpful. Do you prefer the Mark III over the Mark II given that the Mark III has better low light capabilities, but less sharpness due to the low pass filter. Would you recommend removing the low pass filter or have a video tutorial for that?


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Geoff, I like both in their unique ways. The MK III bugs me with the softness, especially when you blow it up to the big screen.

  17. Jimmy Doyle 3 years ago

    Thank you so much for posting this information! Great article, and very generous of you to take the time to help others get up and running with their cameras.

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Jimmy Doyle. Thank you for the kind words and support.

  18. RobG 3 years ago

    Hi, Shane

    I recently purchased the 5DMkIII and set it up to record Adobe RGB. However, when I look at the info after recording, it says sRGB. I tried different profiles thinking one of my custom picture settings might be the problem but, it always records in sRGB. I called Canon and the tech said it always records video in sRGB and always has even on the MkII. Do you have any knowledge on this?



  19. des ohara 3 years ago

    Hi Shane

    Brilliant work.
    Can you tell me if you had any exposure problems with the Canon 5d Mark 2? I have been trying to match the camera with the sekonic L-758Cine but I am out by a stop or so (always overexposed).

    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      des ohara, I could never use a light meter with that camera unfortunately. It was so counter intuitive. Because you have to underexpose the camera. Towards the end I started to understand it a little more associated with a light meter, but my Dreamcolor was my best bet.

      • des ohara 3 years ago

        Thanks Shane….thought I was loosing my mind.

        • Author
          Shane 3 years ago

          des ohara, ha ha, Nope

  20. Dana Nentjes 3 years ago


    Thanks for all this information! I own a canon 60d myself and was wondering if iso 640 and 1250 still look good on a cinema screen? Or will it look noticably less good than 320 and 160? I am working on a documentary and don’t have this experience yet. But when shooting moving people i need to know how high i can go, so that i can get more depth of field. If anyone has experience with this on cinemascreen, tips are very welcome!


    • Author
      Shane 3 years ago

      Dana Nentjes, You are very welcome. I think you comfortably go up to 1600 ISO on your doc. It is very clean

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