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Tip of the Month

The Movie Mode with a DSLR

July 2010

Recently, at a red-winged blackbird nest in our front pond, I tried the movie mode with my Canon EOS 1D Mark IV. The results were disappointing, with the image appearing jerky, as if I was missing frames or that the subject moved in fits and starts, creating the jerky look.

Later, I spoke with my friend and Photoshop Instructor, Rick Holt, who also writes for Canon instructional videos, about the problem, and his first response was a question -- what was my shutter speed?

As Rick pointed out, the best results for the video are at shutter speeds of 1/30th to 1/60th of a second, the same frame rate that a video camera captures frames. At faster shutter speeds the resulting images are jerky, and I discovered.

Sadly, Canon promotes the erroneous idea that one can shoot stills while in the movie mode, and while this is technically true the results could be very disappointing. Yes, you can fire a shot off while in movie mode, and the movie mode stops at that point. However, it does so at the shutter speed you were using for the movie mode, and if that's the ideal 1/30th of a second you can see how inappropriate and useless that shutter speed would be for action. For example, 1/30th would have been completely useless on the red-wing blackbirds as both the adult female and the nodding, bobbing, gaping baby were moving far too fast. In fact, when I was shooting stills I was using shutter speeds of at least 1/800th of a second, and these faster speeds were what I was using for the movie mode.

A suggestion to Canon:

Wouldn't it be great to have a CF setting where one could set the exposure for stills, and another for the movie mode, where, at the push of a button, one could immediately toggle to these settings? Ideally, simply firing the camera for a still image should default to the correct, or preset, exposure for a still, which might require a far faster shutter speed than what you're using for the movie mode.

Until Canon get's this right, remember to set your shutter speed to 1/30th for the movie mode, and unless you're shooting static subjects, forget about trying to capture a quality still image during the movie-making sequence.


Previous Tips, July 2009 onward


Batch Renaming in Bridge and CS5
Alternate Uses of some Bogen Products

Hoodman Products

Using High ISO and Live View for Focusing in Dim Light

Art Print Scams for Hungry Photographers

Hungry Vultures ruin vehicles in the Everglades

Use a Short Lens for Depth of Field

Get Professional Help!

Mini-Molar Bag
Access America Trip Insurance
Bogen Base for Macro Work

Archived Tips of the Month
prior to July 2009
Most of my original Tips of the Month for the last several
years are available through this link. The 'look' is from my
original web site, although if I ever have enough time I might redo these pages to match the new web site But that's not a high priority.