Picture Style Test

October 17, 2010



  • 5D Mark II Picture Style Test
  • The Importance of Picture Styles



We found this very interesting test and decided it is well worth sharing it with all HDSLR users, for better understanding of the importance of selecting a proper “Picture Style” when filming.

Full credits of test and quoted comments below: Tyler J. Clements

From the author:

This is simply a test showing the default Picture Styles along with additional styles created by others.

Picture styles are all based on preference but there are factors contributing to the quality of each style; they all have advantages or disadvantages.

In this example you can see that in some styles the orange WWII book seems almost the same color as the red Cinematic Motion book. Also, the blue on the bottom of the Pepsi logo appears to be black. Some styles are better at representing the true colors. Also note how the red book can sometimes bleed a little more with different styles.

The “latitude” seems greater in some styles such as the AdvancedFlat or the SuperFlat. These styles will give you more flexibility in post because you have more information or data that is there. For instance, at the edge of the newspaper you can see the thin lines of the crossword squares on some styles very clearly, while on others the edge is completely blown out. In the shadows there is also more information. Look at the table right below the table top and you can see how worn the paint is, you will never see that on the Standard picture style. However, if you don’t plan on doing any work in post then you might not want to shoot so flat and shoot something that looks good right off the bat.

My favorite style is setting the camera to 3,-4,-4,0. It seemed to give the most accurate colors, while sharp enough to read the words clearly on the books, and also give a decent amount of “latitude” in the shadows and highlights. However, if I want to shoot something where I plan on doing a lot of post work then I might choose AdvancedFlat or SuperFlat. But that’s just me.


Picture Styles are extremely important when recording video with any current Canon EOS HDSLR.

They will make a very big impact on your footage, giving you either more flexibility in post production or preventing you from lot of possible corrections, color gradings and thus the results you may want.

One of the main reasons of this is because the selected picture style is applied before the camera encodes and compress the data from the sensor to deliver the final .MOV file.

Since we can’t get RAW video files from current Canon EOS DSLRs, the importance of choosing the right picture style becomes obviously even higher.

As previously thoroughly discussed at Cinema5D, and after many long tests, lot of users have found that the following settings seem to be a very good picture style that extends a bit the dynamic range when compared to other picture styles, giving you more flexibility in post production:

  • Select “Neutral” picture style and set Sharpness and Contrast to the lowest value, Saturation to -2 (or to the lowest value too) and Tone to default. The picture style in this case would be: “Neutral 0,-4,-2,0” or “Neutral 0,-4,-4,0” if you set Saturation to the lowest.

Remember that you can save this as a Custom Picture Style, and also under any Custom Mode (C1/C2/C3) for handy use whenever you need it.

Note that this picture style delivers similar results to the “AdvancedFlat” or the “SuperFlat”.

Regarding the importance of proper contrast setting, an experienced editor has already mentioned: “Contrast is the biggest determinant of dynamic range – turn it up and the blacks and whites get pushed off the ends of the histogram.”

So keep all these factors in mind when you shoot video! If you still didn’t, you will find very useful to test them before shooting.

Since we don’t get a RAW video file from the camera, after shooting the possibilities of color grading and all corrections in post production are limited.

The final tip is: If you are not completely sure about the final “look” that you want for your footage, then a “flat” picture style (like the mentioned above) will give you more freedom in the post production process.

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