January 21, 2010

10 Examples of Stunning DSLR Cinematography

They don't look all that different from the still cameras of yesteryear, but recent DSLRs from Canon, Nikon and Panasonic do more than shoot still photos: they shoot a bunch of still photos in rapid succession and string them together into fantastic movies. Sure, compact point-and-shoot cameras also have a movie mode these days, but the large sensors inside DSLRs make them capable of producing eye-popping movies for mind-blowingly cheap... provided they're in right hands. Here are ten sets of the right hands.

Solitude by Robin Risser

An incredibly painterly short reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samourai. Shot on a Canon 5D Mark II:

Nocturne by Vincent Laforet

The first video shot on the new 1D Mark IV, with no lighting other than street lights and the nighttime glow of LA. Shot on a Canon 1D Mark IV:

Hecq Vs Exillion - Spheres Of Fury by Tim.Chris.Film

A wonderfully low-contrast, bleached seventies aesthetic, along with great editing and titling. Shot on a Canon 7D:

Re-enacting the making of Mao's China by Dan Chung

Great job of shooting in a documentary setting by Dan; also a good example of jellocam during handheld work. Shot on a Canon 5D Mark II:

Year in my backpack by Guy Jackson

Guy traveled with a DSLR in his backpack for a year. Nuff said: you can't do that with full-size video camera. Shot on a Canon 5D Mark II:

The Second Vision by Martin Lang

Another very nice low-contrast look, via a custom curve. Classic hairstyling near the end. Shot on a Nikon D90:

Near Sighted by Renaud Duval

A solid collection of macro shots taking full advantage of the DSLR's large sensor size. Shot on a Panasonic Lumix GH1:

Egypt / Lebanon Montage by Khalid Mohtaseb

Khalid gets terrific textures out of his images and employs a dolly to great effect. [via Filmmaker Magazine] Shot on a Canon 5D Mark II:


Perya by Bob Nicolas

Very nice short doc on carnival workers in the Philippines; makes good use of DSLRs low-light capabilities. Shot on a Canon 7D:


Satuday Night Live intro by DP Alex Buono

Typically NBC uses broadcast HD cams that cost six figures, but for the intro sequence of Satruday Night Live DP Alex Buono went with two cameras costing less than $3k each. Yes, DSLRs have arrived. Shot on a Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 7D:

And there you have it! Ten examples of great DSLR cinematography; expect millions more to follow, until we all grow tired of shallow depth-of-field videos and 1/3" sensors start being employed for creative differentiation ala the deep focus of Citizen Kane.

To see more DSLR videos, check out the DSLR Cinema group on vimeo. Or, if you know of some great videos that I didn't spotlight here, please share them in the comments! And if you want to get started with DSLR cinematography, check out The DSLR Cinematography Guide.

Your Comment


Browsing amazon for these cameras, it seems that most have a guaranteed shutter life span, in the hundreds of thousands of cycles. Even at moderate frame rates, this converts to a surprisingly small amount of footage. Do the DSLRs cycle the shutter differently, or will using one for video quickly result in a short lifespan?

January 21, 2010 at 9:08PM, Edited September 4, 10:14AM


That was my first instinct, too -- but in video mode the mechanical shutter stays open and the DSLR uses an electronic shutter instead. So in fact a three-minute shot would be no worse for the shutter than a single 1/200th still shot; basically, in either still or movie mode, a shot is a shot.

January 21, 2010 at 10:03PM, Edited September 4, 10:14AM

Ryan Koo

excellent. full speed ahead!

January 22, 2010 at 1:05PM, Edited September 4, 10:14AM


I can't see HD video properly. What can you tell me about its quality on full screen?

February 10, 2010 at 10:24AM, Edited September 4, 10:14AM


One more.

This film won the Maverick Movie Award 2009 for best cinematography.

February 13, 2010 at 12:21AM, Edited September 4, 10:26AM

Guga Millet

Makes me realize how im really not using my canon 5d mkii to its full potential. Really enjoyed 'Hecq Vs Exillion – Spheres Of Fury by Tim.Chris.Film'

Doing my research (on sites like this) and plan on getting a few add ons to help make something over the summer.


abaca photography

February 17, 2010 at 10:57AM, Edited September 4, 10:26AM


A video made for Greenpeace on climate change. Shot on the 5d and it looks amazing!


June 18, 2010 at 8:45PM, Edited September 4, 10:26AM


Good stuff Koo!
Seen some of them, and they're amazing, although I don't personally like some because of the story, but that's an opinion, not affected by the quality of the video.
I should hope to achieve such quality one day with my videos. Trial and error I suppose.
Thanks for the share! :)

December 3, 2010 at 8:40PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The low contrast 'Hecq Vs Exillion' footage is a delight. Im getting myself the nikon 3100d. Can one of us plz tell me something about the video formats that i should expect from dslr videos. Also, should these formats be universal and editable on all editing softwares?

February 9, 2011 at 3:26AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Its one of the problems with DSLRS, the output format is h.264 a MOV File. these files are perfect for uploading
to youtube etc. cause they very hard compressed. You need a very very good Computer to edit that stuff. Its better to convert them into AVI or something, you can do that without losing the videoquality.
fom Canon 550d to Canon 2 D Mark 4, the Videos are Image porn :D
I love it

June 29, 2011 at 12:11PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


The Neoscene program from Cineform is what the pros use to convert the H.264 footage to .avi's. It's free to use for 30 days--fully featured---and then only 129.00 (US) after that to download. And you can batch encode. I was working on a documentary recently, dropped in the native footage files, let the software batch encode and went to bed. Perfect!

April 6, 2012 at 8:55AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Agree. Nicely shot.

May 16, 2011 at 10:10AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Here's a trailer for a film shot entirely on the Canon 5D; looks amazing!

May 18, 2011 at 8:51PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


May 18, 2011 at 8:51PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


another example here

August 10, 2011 at 12:44PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Nice work on the list Koo. Some good looking video. Although some of it is almost a little too good looking.

September 13, 2011 at 1:40AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM



A trailer for a short movie shot on a Canon T21 with a 50mm 1.8 lens. Edited on Pinnacle Studio 14. I used a Rode mic for all the sound.


October 4, 2011 at 5:52AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Richard van Sch...

More 7D cinematography

January 20, 2012 at 8:38AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


I'd like to share this one I made in the summer. All on 5D mark ii. I hope you enjoy

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAu8s5NGfP8?rel=0&w=560&h=315]

January 20, 2012 at 6:23PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


January 20, 2012 at 6:25PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM



Another fine example of the creative possibilities afforded by Canon's DSLRs, and a praiseworthy cause to boot.

January 22, 2012 at 2:01PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Cool article and interesting comments! Here's my short film shot totally with a Sony a55 and Canon t2i. You won't believe it when you see it though. Strangely not getting noticed like it should though. Anyway...Sony rules! :-)

Pt: 1 (Sony a55) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1IfhTyyhqg
Pt: 2 (Canon t2i & *Sony a55 - just the dude on the couch dialogue*) - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s79ue01YW0s

Watch in HD and BIG & LOUD!! Enjoy!

May 10, 2012 at 3:13AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


Lenses are just important, if not more important, that the camera body... so, where possible, could you indicate what lens was used as well as which body?


June 19, 2012 at 3:18PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM


i just want to add a preference as a cinematographer. i've done a lot of shooting and editing of footage shot on 5Ds, 7Ds, 60Ds, etc, (Nikon was pretty late to the game, i still have yet to see much of how their video is turning out) but my preference is for the Panasonic GH2. its much sharper, more contrasting (in a pleasing way) and the color is usually better than what i get out a Canon. and unlike the 5D at $3,000, a GH2 is closer to $800.

heres a video that was released this week, shot on a GH2. it's funny, so, ya know, its worth 3 minutes.

June 20, 2012 at 12:26AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

josh s

Awesome! More GH2 goodness!

August 8, 2012 at 3:21PM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Chris H

The House episode "Help Me", broadcast by Fox on 17 May 2010, was shot entirely on the Canon 5D Mark II, replacing the drama's usual 35mm film format.

September 25, 2012 at 11:52AM, Edited September 4, 10:54AM

Ryan Boudreau

Why do you call it CInematography if it´s shot on a digital DSLR?

We dslr shooters should be proud of the Video medium and the correct term would be Videography... (wikipedia the terms ;)

Cinematography implies the use of film... and Ißve been watching forum/facebook rants from purists about digital shooters making "film" and calling it cinematography... I usually don't listen to internet bashing but in a sence they're right... you'd even have to cal the Red Camera stuff Videography but I guess since those are used in a more cinematic environment it could pass...

I'm proud to get the most out of my dslr and be called a Videographer.. :)

March 30, 2013 at 6:11PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM


STEEL CHAMBER (Suspense/Thriller) - Was Shot With (Canon 300, C100, 5D Mark2, 5D Mark 3, 7D, 60D and The T3i)
Help us Get This Wonder Film To The BIG Screen! We need You!!!! To Support Our "KICKSTARTER" CAMPAIGN!!
A FEATURE FILM about how a state attorney can prosecute the guilty by day then have the audacity to kill the innocent by night.
Click Link To Help Back/Support And Bring This Awesome Film To Theaters Everywhere!

April 8, 2013 at 10:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM


Wow, these are great examples of what can be done on low/no budgets!
I currently have a Nikon D5100 which I initially got for stills but, have fallen in love with film making and cinematography in the last few months and am practising and learning constantly how to get better at shooting and how to get better results from the camera.
I'm looking to go for a 5DMKiii or a Blackmagic next, what do you guys reckon?

April 10, 2013 at 3:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM


I've been trying to learn more about cinematography using my DSLR camera. Its fun though. Those videos are really amazing.

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December 9, 2013 at 12:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM


July 5, 2014 at 2:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM