Shooting Fast-Moving Subjects With the 5D Mark II

I recently received a letter asking me an excellent question:

I recently invested in a Canon 5D. Now, what I keep hearing and reading about the 5D is that it does not capture motion very well because of its H264 compression. This is a bit of a concern for me, because I am planning to do my thesis project about cheetahs (and they sure move!). What is your advice for shooting moving objects with the 5D?

The problem with shooting fast-moving objects on the 5D has less to do with the H264 compression and more to do with the “rolling shutter,” which can give an unwanted, wobbly look to the footage. The best way to work around this is to keep the camera as stable as possible (always use a tripod!) and use slow camera moves (as opposed to a very fast “whip-pan”), whenever possible. An alternate strategy is to keep the moving object centered in your shot, and pan along with it. That works too, but it requires more practice.

Here’s a video I shot last summer to promote tennis at a South Carolina resort.

As you can see, the tennis players are moving quite quickly, and it looks perfectly fine to the casual viewer. If you looked at it frame by frame, you could find examples of the rolling shutter “jello” effect, but there’s nothing that distracts you from the viewing experience.

In reviewing my raw footage, the only shots that were unusably wobbly were ones in which I had been using a telephoto lens (the longer the lens, the worse the effect), and moving the camera too quickly.

I hope this helps!

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