“f2” is the “sweet spot” in low light…

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A quick note that I forgot to share:

In very low light – shooting at the aperture of f2 was the key with this prototype 5D MKII camera in my opinion.    Of the three clips that were released – only one of them was shot at f2 – the one with Jimmy (the model) splashing water on his face.   You’ll have a hard time seeing any issues of “noise” or other technical negatives from most of the footage shot at f2 (which is what the majority of the film was shot at.)    Understand that almost all of the light we shot in was the still camera equivalent of 1600ASA, f2, 1/15th.  That’s very low light – no matter how you cut it.

The clip of the helicopter was shot at f 2.8 (the brightest f stop available on the 16~35mm 2.8 II) – and you’ll notice some small issues in the sky at times when you look very carefully.

The clip of the tilt-shift kiss under the Brooklyn Bridge was shot at f 2.8 as well – (the brightest f stop available on the T/S 45mm 2.8) and that’s against a murky black sky at night – ergo – very very low light.

This was also shot with a prototype 5D MKII not up to final specs… who knows if they are addressing this “one stop” issue – and tweaking the way the camera handles the compression of the noise etc… it’s quite possible that “f2.8” may be the “sweet spot” by the time the production version of this camera is released…

Also – remember that I had no manual.   And I really left the camera set to factory defaults – with the following exceptions:  I turned the Contrast, Saturation and Sharpening – to the lowest settings possible.   I did not enable “highlight priority mode” which helps save highlights by a factor if 1x to 1.5x.  And I did not even know how to lock down the exposure…

So I think it’s fair to ask all of you to take that into consideration.   Go ahead and drop these clips into Final Cut Studio’s “Color” program – and de-saturate the colors a bit,  open up the blacks (very easily) and add the “film look” that includes a bit of “film grain” – and those small artifacts are gone in a millisecond… as you all know – you can see a lot on a 30″ LCD monitor… when you watch in on a television – that television’s internal circuitry does wonders… and makes all of these minor artifacts disappear immediately – something else to consider as well.  I edited the whole film on 30″ Cinema displays… when I down-sampled it to 720p and sent it to my AppleTV to watch on my large screen – my jaw dropped once again…. and this is after staring at the same footage for 3 days during the initial shoot and editing process.

Also – don’t forget that this is a pre-production camera… not tweaked to final specs.   What I can also share with you is that footage shot under 1600 ASA – is very close to flawless.  At 100-200 ASA – it is downright scary – every frame looks like a still.

Lastly – I don’t think this is a camera aimed at “killing” the motion picture business… far from it.   This is Canon’s first DSLR foreay into this arena… it’s flattering to seem many DPs talking about it quite a bit… often very defensively.  The fact that it’s even being discussed in those forums – let alone considered to be a potential threat – speaks volumes of how much of a leap this camera is making – specifically in low light.

Most of the film was shot with a 50mm f1.2, 85mm 1.2 and 200mm 1.8 – all set to f2.  The helicopter sequences were shot with a 16~35mm 2.8, and the 200mm 1.8.      The car scenes from the hood were shot with the 85mm 1.2 – and the 15mm 2.8 fisheye on the hood.   When we were in times square with a bit more light obviously – the 15mm 2.8 clips showed ZERO noise.   The Brooklyn Bridge car hood shot was also a 15mm 2.8 – and that’s a very low light scene.    The kiss scene was the T/S 45mm 2.8.  The DUMBO street scenes were a combination of the 200mm 1.8, the 50mm 1.2, and the 85mm 1.2.   The car wheel shot was a 14mm 2.8 II- and while you could see noise in very dark streets – but close to zero noise in Times Square.   If I had to chose 3 lenses to go “into battle with” – it would be the new 24mm 1.4 II (yet to be released – I have one on order) the 50mm 1.2,  and the new 200mm f2 (recently released.)    To get fancy – I’d then add the 85mm 1.2, 135mm 2 and the 16~35mm 2.8 II.   All other lenses would be “specialty lenses.”