DSLR shooting video of a long event

Video Recording Limits in Mirrorless and DSLR Cameras

For years, DSLR and mirrorless cameras have been bogged down by video recording limits that prevent users from recording for too long. But why? What are these limits? Today, we’ll look at the recording limits of various cameras and discuss some ways to overcome these issues.

Brief History of Video Recording Limits

One of the first DSLR cameras to break into video recording was the Canon 5D Mark II. The camera came with a 12-minute recording limit. There was a very good reason: a 4GB size limit on files in the FAT32 file system the camera used. Because of the way the camera stored files on cards, the files needed to have a cap. If there was no cap, the camera would overheat.

As time went on, the cameras got better at this. Canon released the 5D Mark III in 2012 and recording limits started to change. This big brother to the 5D Mark II had a newly designed interior, overcoming the overheating issue. Seamless file spanning also fixed the 12 minute cap. Suddenly, 30 minutes became the new video recording limit.

Instruction Manual from 5D Mark III Demonstrating Video Recording Limits

More companies began to add video features to their DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Consistently, they met this 30-minute recording cap. Nikon, Sony, and more – all capped at 30 minutes. It seemed you needed a true video camera in order to record any long-form interviews or shoot without having to stop and start your recording. The problem is, most of these video cameras come at an extreme cost.

In 2006, the European Union created a law that added an import duty of 5-12% to any video camera. What determined whether a camera was a video camera? In short, the ability to record longer than 30 minutes. Thus, companies like Canon and Nikon decided to cap their video clip lengths, preventing their enthusiast and prosumer cameras from being considered video cameras.

For years, companies have been able  to avoid this tax because the EU considers photography cameras “information technology products”. Video cameras/camcorders, however, took on the tax because of their ability to record things like television shows and movies, theoretically causing competition for cable companies. This is all supposedly going to get phased out starting in July of 2019 (only about a month from the time of this writing). Keep an eye out here for more news on that front.

Overcoming Current Limits

The reason why this is being questioned is the 30 minute video recording limit is just not necessary. It has nothing to do with file systems and overheating cameras anymore. Nowadays, it is just a way of avoiding the 5-12% tax on cameras in Europe. Were these companies to allow their cameras to record longer, they’d need to increase the cost of the cameras. Because many DSLR users don’t wholly focus on the video aspect of their cameras, this would be an undesirable cost increase for these companies to incur.

Shooting video with an external recorder at a live event

If you need video clips longer than 30 minutes, there are ways to do it:

• You can use an HDMI-connection external recorder, such as the Ninja Flame, to easily capture longer content out of your DSLR. Learn more about how to use external recorders in Crash Course on External Recording Monitors.

• You can use only certain models of cameras, such as the Panasonic GH5S, which don’t have recording limits. The GH5S is one of the first digital cameras of this class and form factor to break away from the video recording limit. Panasonic is putting a lot of effort into video capabilities for its users.

• Used a firmware hack, such as Magic Lantern, that can remove the 30 minute limit on Canon DSLRS. However this will void your warranty.

The Future of Recording Limits and the Information Technology Agreement

It’s hard to know what the future holds in terms of video recording limits in digital cameras. One thing is clear, video is here to stay. These cameras has seen a huge uptick in sales due to their video capabilities. If people are willing to spend a little more to overcome these recording limits, camera companies may decide it’s worth doing. Only time will tell.

Kellan Reck is a video editor and cinematographer for the Boston Red Sox, producing and building content for the team's social media platforms and Fenway Park's video boards. This work with the team has awarded Kellan four New England Emmy Awards. Additionally, Kellan runs a YouTube channel where he shares tutorials, tricks, and more that help other filmmakers develop their skills. Enjoy a new video every Wednesday at 10 AM!


  • PD

    From my understanding, you can connect the HDMI of your Canon DSLR to a PC via a video card (hdmi to usb) and record using obs. The auto shut off option needs to be turned off so the camera doesn’t shut down. Since the camera doesn’t know the video is being recorded, there should not be any time limit. I am getting ready to try this out today. Will update once I have to confirm my theory.

  • Kevin Corcorran

    If I am shooting a wedding video will the time limit reset if I stop at 5 or 10 minutes to recompose? Or will it just go to the remainder of the 30 minutes and shut off requiring me to restart it?

  • Kateri

    you probably need to change your settings to record movie in shutter

  • WhatHoSnorkers

    Thanks for this! I have a little digital camera, and with HD720 I can record 8 minutes. I can put more on the card, but only 8 minutes. If I go down to 320 it’s something like 25 minutes. As it’s rather old it’s probably a combination of the file size and the tax…

    And proper video cameras are bloody expensive.

  • JC

    I have an intervalometer for my canon but it only takes photos not start my video recording. Is there something I’m not adjusting in my camera settings?

  • Tanmay

    You can use an hdmi capture card which costs anywhere from 10 to 100 usd depending on what you need.
    It’s designed specifically for this purpose.
    OBS can be used to use the video as your webcam.

  • Alexandria Huff

    Ha! I agree. Not how he intended it. We should reword. 😀

  • kickstand

    “video is going nowhere”? I think that sentence can read the opposite of what you intended. Video is certainly going lots of places! Video is going gangbusters! Video is taking over the world! It’s hardly “going nowhere.”

  • Ray

    I do fine art time lapse most of the time for my YouTube channel. Sound doesn’t matter. So, I just hook-up an intervalometer, and go to town. It’ll go and go until the batteries die. So, if you’re recording film and sound separately, which many filmmakers do, an intervalometer will work for you too. Set it at your desired frame rate and you’re set.

  • AJ

    Has anyone tried to use HDMI out to PC as a 2and monitor (so to speak) and using a screen recorder on their PC make a video?
    I think there would be no record limits that way.
    I think I’m explaining this the way I’m attempting to.
    I’ll try this next month just to see (after my camera gets here)
    Was just curious if anyone had tried it.

  • AJ

    You can try Has anyone tried to use HDMI out to PC as a 2and monitor (so to speak) and using a screen recorder on their PC make a video?
    I think there would be no record limits that way.
    I think I’m explaining this the way I’m attempting to.
    I’ll try this next month just to see (after my camera gets here)
    Was just curious if anyone had tried it.

  • Zach

    Yes, recording time limits are in effect for any video recording, including streaming through a cam link

  • Reginald Nobles Jr.

    Christian, On all Canon Rebel T series cameras, as of today, if you use the HDMI out, to either OBS or an HDMI input, the shutter will close after 30min. Also, please note, the HDMI output is not not true HD res. Works fine in OBS if you are Ok with the resulting crop. Also. you will need a camera that supports Magic Lantern to get 1. Clean HDMI output and 2. Bypass 30min recording. Magic Lantern on its own works great and there is a mode that hits 4GB file size and keeps recording. You can also program a start/stop at the 30min mark so you don’t have to reset camera to record. The version of Magic Lantern that eliminates the recording limit is an experimental module and only recommended if you are Ok if your camera bricks. I recommend getting a used t2i for this type of use. These bodies are cheap now. Keep in mind HDMI is not true HDMI but you can still record excellent quality 1080p footage to card.

  • Video production east midlands

    Thanks a lot to you for sharing video-recording-limits-in-mirrorless and dslr cameras here, these kind of ideas are were much needed. I really appreciate that you have provided the data too, really appreciative and useful blog for us. Looking for more!!

  • no30minlimit

    would be lovely if camera makers can release new firmware to remove the 30-min limit

  • Christian

    In re: to the HDMi question, does that mean if I link HDMI out from my Canon Rebel T5 to my computer, and use something like OBS to record, then I will not have the 30 minute limit? I’m having a hard time finding out if I will be able to use my T5 as a webcam.

  • Ondra

    Eric, HDMI just exports whatever the camera sees. It doesnt even need to be recording. Its like if you record on a PC from a webcam – the webcam also doesnt record anything.

  • Eric

    I’m a bit confused and concerned on 30 min video limits for dslrs. I think nikons have 30 min limits that can’t be extended beyond that. If you record to video card, I think you have a 30 minute hard stop. If you output hdmi through an elgato cam link device, say, for recording to computer or livestream ING, do you have the same 30 minute limit?

  • Henrik Nordberg

    Do you have an update on this recording limit? I don’t seem to be able to find anything on the WTO website about it.
    The Canon R5 still seems to have the 30 min limit. 🙁

Comments are closed.

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