Canon 5D Mark II
Never Ever: Rent, borrow or use the Canon 5D Mark II, if you do, you will have to own it. It's that good!
Crazy high ISO performance
Fantastic amazing image quality you have to see to believe!
Great menus, sharper, brighter, easier to read then 40D
Video, did someone say video? I love it! You will need a tripod!
Fantastic rear LCD that you can check actual photo sharpness
Super low light high ISO photographic tool with 25,600 ISO!!!
Feels great in your hands, the grip texture is easy to hold and is well balanced
Low 50 ISO allows photos at F/1.2 aperture out in bright sunlight for shallow DOF
No Built in popup Flash
A little slower shooting then the 40D
Very demanding of lenses, high end L lenses are a must have
Huge files: you will need larger memory cards and a larger hard drive
Ultra large bright sharp viewfinder makes my 40D finder seem dim and tiny
Hum... I'm thinking..
I have had my Canon 5D Mark II for a little over two weeks now. And I'm having a hard time putting it down.
I tried switching back to my Canon 40D and the very first thing you notice is how small, dim and fuzzy the viewfinder on the 40D is compared to the 5D Mark II. Especially if you are older you will really appreciate being able to easy see and read information in the viewfinder not to mention you can actually manually focus with it. It reminds me of my switch from the Canon Rebel XTi to the 40D. It's that big a difference.
The Images are huge and quite simply stunning. Plus I find that I can get away with very low noise all the way up to 3200 ISO on the 5D Mark II where the 40D was very noisy. In fact I would not hesitate to say the 5D Mark II photos has less noise at 9,600 ISO then the 40D does at 1600 ISO.
I have never had the pleasure of owning a Camera that is this demanding of the lens you use. It's like an instant lens test. I haven't seen much in-depth lens as used on 5D Mark II information on the other reviews and decided this would be good to be included in my review.
All of these lenses are brighter in the viewfinder and focus much better on my 5D Mark II then on my 40D.
So, with that said after several hundred photos I can give you a rundown of my most used, most favorite, best performing and least used lenses that I have used on the 5D Mark II and a few un-expected surprises along the way.
1. Canon 200mm F/2 IS L lens. This lens is my new master of resolving power. Even wide open at F/2 it is sharper then any other lens I have ever used. I could go on and on but here's a few highlights: Lightening fast auto focus, F/2 speed at 200mm, unbelievable perfect 10 Images, public attention hog, otherworldly image stabilization, great build quality, weather sealed, fantastic perfect buttery smooth Bokeh and what a lens case! If you crave attention and demand the absolute best there is the do what ever it takes to get this lens on your Canon 5D Mark II. If you do not like public attention you may want to skip to number 2 in this list as I have never been asked so many questions about a lens as this one. But it's all worth it as the clarity, sharpness, Bokeh and colors are: otherworldly, insane, impossible, rare, perfect, out of sight, crazy!!
2. Canon 85mm F/1.2 II L lens. Without a doubt at F/4 (after the Canon 200mm F/2 of course) this lens delivers the clearest sharpest and most resolving power onto any photograph you care to take with the Canon 5D Mark II. The clarity has to be seen to be believed. At F/1.2 the Depth of Field (DOF) is scary thin and the edges are super soft which is great for female portraiture. The super soft creamy dreamy Bokeh at F/1.2 is much smoother on the 5D Mark II over my 40D. But stop this lens down to F/1.8 and it gets scary sharp and clear. Step it down to F/4.0 and it's at its sharpest and the only lens I have that gives you 100% pixel peeping razor blade edge to edge top to bottom perfect clarity in every single area of the photo. For some reason this lens is even sharper on my 5D Mark II then my 40D or Rebel, don't know why but it is. Guess it's getting the full resolving power to the 21 megapixel sensor.
Looking at a photo on my iMac taken with a 5D Mark II with this lens stopped down to F/4 is like standing there looking through an open window at the actual scene! You feel like you could actually open up the computer screen like opening a window and climb in!!!
The 85mm F/1.2 is your low light monster on the 5D Mark II, I don't have to harp too much on what an F/1.2 aperture and an ISO 25,600 can do for you at night. Let's just say you can go out into what appears to be a dark night and do hand held photos.
Not all is perfect as it's: expensive, heavy, and hard to focus wide open, focus lock does not work and it eats camera batteries at twice the rate of my other lenses. Also it doesn't focus as close on the 5D Mark II as it did on my 40D so you can't get head filling close ups. This isn't really a problem, as with 21 Mega Pixels I can crop no problem. However, all this is forgiven when I get back to my iMac and view the results. This is the very first lens I will reach for when using the 5D Mark II and the one that's on it 90% of the time. If I could have just one lens for a Canon 5D Mark II this would be the one! [...]
2. Tie! Canon 135mm F/2 L. It's small light and stealthy and has fastest and best auto-focus of any lens I have ever owned (after the Canon 200mm F/2 IS L). It even focuses pretty close on the 5D Mark II. This lens is amazing, the Bokeh looks like sweet candy and it's sharper wide open then the Canon 85mm F/1.2 II L lens is wide open and stop it down to F/2.2 and it's as sharp as any lens I have. It's not a zoom so it's not as versatile but it's a great waist up portrait lens out in public and in larger studios. It's one of my most used lens at outdoor public events along with the 85mm F/1.2 II L (renaissance festivals etc.) where I'm photographing people. For some reason this lens is a little sharper on my Canon Rebel and 40D I guess because I'm using the center of the lens and it's sharper on these cropped sensor cameras.
3. Canon 100-400 F/4.5 - F/5.6 IS L lens. This is the second most used lens in my 5D Mark II arsenal. This lens was my biggest surprise of the group. Its Ok wide open but it's a monster of clarity at F/7.1 like it never was on my Canon 40D. It also becomes useable on the 5D Mark II in wider shot situations where on the 40D it was only usable as a longer lens. Sporting the longest zoom range of any Canon zoom this lens has to be without doubt the finest Zoo lens ever made, [...] You can frame almost any animal in almost any exhibit perfectly. This is also my lens of choice for taking photos of people at events with the 5D Mark II and is the King of versatility on a full-framed sensor camera. This is my sharpest and clearest zoom lens by a long shot (no pun intended. It's as close to the you are there feeling of the 85mm F/1.2 lI lens as any zoom lens I have. It's only drawbacks are it's a little heavy, is slow aperture wise (that's Ok with the 5D Mark II high ISO capability) and it gets a huge amount of attention out in public. I don't care it's all worth it this is a must have lens with the 5D Mark II. Again, for some reason this lens is even sharper on my 5D Mark II then my 40D or Rebel, don't know why but it is.
5-26-2009 100-400 update: So I came back from the Riparian Bird Preserve yesterday where it was rather dusty and I noticed that my sensor and mirror box were full of dust. I decided to do a test on my 100-400 lens and sure enough it does pump dust into the camera body.
If you turn the zoom friction ring all the way loose and zoom in and out with the bottom end cap off there is no resistance. If you put the bottom end cap on tightly and zoom you can feel resistance. Then if you loosen the end cap just a little you can actually feel air being sucked in and out around the end cap as you zoom in and out.
Thank God for my FIrefly digital sensor cleaning system! And be forewarned if you own this lens.
4. Canon 17-40 F/4 L lens. This is my sleeper lens. A so so walk around lens on my 40D becomes a wide angle monster on my Canon 5D Mark II. This lens is soft wide open at F/4 but sharpens up noticeably at F/4.5 and becomes a super wide angle take it all in landscape and interior monster when stopped down to F/9 on a Canon 5D Mark II. This is a lens I always carry with me now since I never know when I might see a wide angle opportunity. Doesn't have the you are there feeling when viewing the photos on my iMac as much as the above three lenses but it's closer to perfection then you will ever see on a cropped sensor camera. I keep hoping that Canon will make a wide angle zoom that matches the performance of my Canon 100-400 IS L zoom lens. This lens has a similar sharpness on both the Canon 5D Mark II and cropped sensor cameras like my 40D.
5. Canon 70-200 F/2.8 L lens. This lens is actually about even with my Canon 100-400 IS L Lens in the zoom sharpness and clarity department but it's no where near as versatile on my 5D Mark II as the 100-400. Still it's a must have lens when shooting weddings when you need the super Bokeh background melting power of an F/2.8 aperture and lower light power of an F/2.8 aperture. The sharpness and clarity at F/2.8 that was Ok on the 40D is much improved for some strange reason on the 5D Mark II. And the Bokeh is much smoother creamier and richer on the 5D Mark II.
Just have to mention a great alternative lens the Canon 70-200 F/4 I/S L lens which I think is a sharper and better lens then the 70-200 F/2.8 as not only does it have a fluorite element but I did some back to back testing with my friends F/4 and my F/2.8 and the 70-200 F/4 was indeed better and at a great price. Additionally it's much lighter in weight and smaller physically. However keep in mind at F/4 it is a slower lens.
6. Canon 24-70 F/2.8 L lens. This is the lens I reach for when I'm shooting closer photos at a wedding and I need the versatility of a zoom. It's also the lens I reach for when shooting videos with the 5D Mark II. If I could shoot all day with the Canon 85mm F/1.2 II L I would. But at a wedding where you can't always zoom with your feet I reach for the Canon 24-70 F/2.8 L. Its good on the 5D Mark II but not as good as the 17-40 L but has better reach then the 17-40. But it does not have that uncanny you are there feel of the first three lenses on my list. The Canon 5D Mark II clearly out resolves this lens and that is very disappointing for an L lens that costs over a thousand dollars. Thank GOD for the auto peripheral as this lens is a Vignetting monster when shot wide open on a 5D Mark II, it was not on the 40D. With the Vignetting control built into Digital Photo Professional (DPP) and the on-board 5D Mark II auto control it's perfect and Vignetting is not a problem. This lens is also very fragile and has required sending back to Canon for recalibration but is a must have in my arsenal only because I do weddings. I'm hoping Canon will come out with an Image Stabilized improved version that has that you are there feel of the 100-400 zoom. Once again it seems like this lens may be losing it's calibration and I am starting to lose my patience. If you need this lens then get it just beware of possible maintenance problems.
7. Canon 50mm F/1.8 II lens. This lens which was pretty decent on the 40D and Rebel XTi comes completely apart on the 5D Mark II. No surprise since it's only $89. I guess the surprise was how well it had worked on a Canon 40D and Rebel XTi. If you own a 5D Mark II then don't bother. If you own a cropped sensor camera its a great little lens.
8. Canon 17-50mm F/2.8 EF-S L lens. Why am I mentioning this lens here? It's a shame this cropped sensor only lens can't be used on the 5D Mark II. It's one of my most used and sharpest lenses on my Canon 40D and Canon Rebel XTi. In fact it's my daughter's favorite lens on those two cameras. Because it's such a great sharp low light monster because of the Image Stabilization (IS) it would be fantastic on the 5D Mark II. Canon please make us a wide angle L lens with IS. It's been very reliable un-like my 24-70, I highly recommend if you have a cropped sensor camera!
9. Canon 15mm Fisheye! This lens is a hoot on the 5D Mark II. A full 180 degrees of wide angle fun! Put it on and shoot the inside of a small car, or airplane, or take it to your local baseball diamond or anywhere you would love to see a 180 degree shot. And the curved effect on a full frame camera makes everyone who sees one of these photos go oooohhhhhh yeah cool shot. I listed this lens last because its one of those lenses you don't want to over use but one that you just have to just have to have. It's pretty sharp wide open but gets sharper at F/4 and reaches maximum sharpness at F/8. It has the old style focus system that's a little noisy and slow but it really doesn't matter as there isn't much focus range anyway everything is close to infocus at 15mm.
Three old 5D complaints answered:
1. Vignetting or peripheral lighting issue
2. Dust on the sensor
3. The rear LCD
You can either have the 5D Mark II auto-correct peripheral illumination on board for JPEGs or adjust images using Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software that came with your Mark II. I have noticed on the full framed 5D Mark II my Canon 24-70 F/2.8 L lens with the peripheral illumination correction turned OFF the 5D Mark II images will severely vignette or be dark in the corners when shot wide open (F/2.8). It's almost like looking through a dark tunnel. It's especially noticeable shot wide open with the sky as a background. Auto-correct to the rescue!! With the peripheral illumination correction turned ON it's almost magical the darkening in the corners is gone! If you want you can even shoot in Raw mode and adjust the amount of Vignetting or darkness in the corners for effects such as when shooting portraits and you want to emphasis the person in the middle of the photo. Just open the Raw photo in DPP and click on the NR/Lens / ALO tab and select Lens Aberration Correction Tune and adjust the peripheral illumination to suite by dragging the slider or entering and amount. Or select all the photos in a directory and you can correct all your photos at once.
2. Dust on the Sensor:
The old 5D was a dust hog, no-one ever said it was not. The new one though now as a new fluorite coating and ant-dust shake. I did get some dust on my sensor after going out and switching lens in the field shooting birds but un-like my 40D I successfully blew off all the dust using my Firefly Digital Dust sensor cleaner. This new fluorite coating must make it much harder for the dust to stick to the 5D Mark II sensor then the sensor on my 40D.
3. Rear LCD
This has to be seen to be believed. The rear LCD is so sharp and so bright its shocking. The one on the 40D is now just OK. And I could never be sure if I got the shot or not. On the 5D Mark II you can zoom in an check fine focus. The only thing you may want to turn off is the auto light level adjuster so when walking in and out of shaded areas the brightness level does not change when the ambient light levels change. Some people may like it some may hate it. I like it myself as I can now see the image out in the sunlight unlike on the 40D where it's totally washed out. Thing is Canon lets you decide and you can turn it on or off. When off it stays the same no matter the ambient light.
Holy cow 6400 ISO I can shoot at F/4.5 in a dark room!!!! Took some night shots in and outside of the house and downloaded. Booted up DPP and WOW!
Photos are great at 3200 ISO even in Raw mode with standard noise reduction. Once you apply the correct amount of noise reduction and converted to 17inch JPEG's the 3200 ISO photos are AWESOME!!! The night shots of my Christmas tree at 3200 ISO on my 40D are almost unusable. But with the 5D Mark II they are fantastic. But my 24inch iMac seems a little slower looking through the photos... In fact it seems to be crawling! I ended up having to upgrade to a Firewire 800 external hard drive to fix the problem.
I finally got a single photo with black dots by shooting at 25,600 ISO at night around some Christmas lights. You have to zoom in to 200% and pixel peep to see them. That's one shot out of several hundred night shots! Still haven't found any dots in day time photos.
I'm going to have to buy larger Compact Flash Cards my 8GB card only holds about 267 shots when the 5D Mark II is set to Raw only. But it's worth it especially for high ISO shots. At times I'm hard pressed on-screen to tell 1600 ISO from the 5D Mark II to the 100 ISO out of my 40D. It's that GOOD!
I for one never thought I would be in this love for video. But this camera is awesome, low natural light great Bokeh low depth of field video. Just in time for the holidays. The only thing is after viewing the videos back on my iMac computer no matter how steady you hands are you will need a tripod. The tiniest movements when playing back on a computer or TV seem to be magnified no matter how steady I try and hand hold the camera.
40D to 5D Mark II transition:
Well, it looks a lot like my Canon 40D but the controls on the back are on the left instead of the bottom.
Has a similar feel and weight to me at least maybe just a touch bigger and heavier then a 40D. Focus is better in low light for sure. Looks great with a Canon 17-40 F/4 L lens mounted. Maybe a little more rubbery grip on the grip.
This will be a much easier transition coming from the Canon 40D to the Canon 5D Mark II then my transition from the Rebel XTi to the 40D as the control placement and use are very similar unlike when I switched from the Rebel to the 40D and everything was in a different location.
Put the strap on while I'm waiting for the dead battery to charge.
Ok battery is charged now, put it in, turn it on and set the time and date.
Then plug into the Mac and set my preferences under the styles and choose my lenses under the peripheral illumination correction. Very nice and very easy.
Put in the owners Information and copyright info. Gotta love that it's automatically on every photo now!
Menus are a little different, but hey they are much sharper, this LCD is really sharp and bright!!!
Who the heck put 10 images as the default for skipping on review!!! That's another one of the first changes to go!
Bottom line is if you own a big L lens collection and do any shooting at all in the dark without flash and don't have a full framed camera the 5D Mark II is a must have addition!
I installed firmware update 1.0.7 which is supposed to correct the black dot problem and now I can't get it to make a black dot photo at all. So hopefully this was the fix we were all seeking.
This full framed sensor camera continues to impress me and the sensor continues to be dust free!
This full framed sensor camera continues to impress. Just got back from shooting the 2009 Arizona Renaissance festival where I shot both the 40D and 5D Mark II and looking at the photos the 5D Mark II just walks all over the 40D in image quality. So much so that I don't reach for the 40D much any more the 5D Mark II is that much better. Got one spec of dust from lens changing at the Renaissance but it was easily blow off with my FireFly sensor cleaner.
4-27-2009 I just got back from photographing the World Premiere of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and once again the 5D Mark II was awesome. I ended up mainly using two lenses the Canon 24-70 F/2.8 L zoom and Canon 100-400 IS L zoom lens. When you have only one chance to get Hugh Jackman riding by on his Harley you want to make sure you have reliable quick focusing equipment.
Still very in love with my Canon 5D Mark II. See photos and videos I have taken with this camera at [...]
on December 31, 2009
I shot 35mm film ages ago, but stopped when the cost of purchasing film and processing fees became prohibitive. I have been a photographer in one form or another for nearly 20 years. I decided that I definitely wanted to go digital, but was not happy with any of the cropped sensor bodies available at the time (early 2000's). When the 1Ds and 5D models first became available, I drooled, but couldn't justify the amount of money. So I waited. Along came the 5D Mark II (or as we say in the software industry, version 2.0) The price was lower than the original 5D and the quality and speed were even better then the now-three year old model. I saved my pennies and nickels for a while and finally purchased one!
From the moment I picked up the demonstrator model in the store, I knew this was the camera for me. Well balanced, large view-finder, and *gasp* video! I'm not much of a videographer, but seriously, taking HD clips with a prime lens on a full-frame sensor is just insane!
- Low-light performance has to be seen to be believed. I'm sure you have heard the hype, but it's not hype. You really can take reasonable pictures in much darker rooms than you ever thought possible.
- Well balanced in your hands
- Simple menu system that does not require an engineering degree to use.
- Image quality (IQ) that simply blows away everything else in its class.
- Price is actually reasonable for what you get; hundreds less than the competition.
- The IQ is _too_ good. You can actually tell the difference between pictures taken with "L" glass and those that were not.
- Frame rate isn't great for sports. If this is your intended use, look at the 7D or 1D.
- Video limited in odd ways. Then again, this is a DSLR, not a camcorder.
In spite of what I just said about taking pictures with "L" glass, this camera is perfectly serviceable with regular lenses. Just realize that they are "consumer" grade and will have issues when shot wide open or when at the minimum or maximum of the zoom range. That said, the "nifty fifty" (50mm f/1.8) that sells for around $100 takes astonishingly good pictures.
If you're just starting out, the lenses that I would recommend buying with this body are:
17-40mm f/4 L - Eye-popping landscapes. The 16-35mm f/2.8 L is a stop faster, but neither lens will see much indoor use as you would have to be mere inches away from your subject to fill the frame. The extra stop also doubles the price with little benefit in the scenarios that it is likely to be used. At 2.8 the faster lens is quite soft, and the image quality in general is not quite as good. Save your money and get the 17-40. You won't be sorry!
24-70mm f/2.8 L - Fantastic walk-around lens. The 24-105mm f/4 that comes in the 5DMkII kit has more reach and is image stabilized, but I still prefer the speed of the 24-70. You can do more with it in lower light sitations.
70-200mm f/2.8 L - The IS version of this lens is silly expensive, but the standard version shares the same glass with its brother. For portraits and weddings, you cannot have a finer lens. The f/4 cousins are smaller and lighter. If you plan to shoot outdoors most of the time where there is sufficient light, then you should be fine with it. Indoors you will find yourself using a flash more often, even with the IS version of the f/4. The bokeh from the f/2.8 is noticeably better too.
50mm f/1.8 or f/1.4 - The "L" version of this lens is f/1.2 and about $1k more. It's soft at f/1.2 and shoots its best at f/1.4 and higher. The "L" glass _is_ better than its cheaper cousins, but is it really worth it? This is one of the rare cases where there is little need to buy the "L" version. Buy the f/1.4 for $350 or the f/1.8 for $100 and enjoy it.
on December 27, 2008
This was my first full frame camera. Prior to it I had owned and operated a 40D, 30D and Rebel XTi. I am a wedding and sports photographer primarily, so I have been able to test the 5D Mark II out under both of these conditions.
For basketball I used it with AI Servo, Center Point focus, but went into custom settings and enabled the AF assist dots. It worked like a dream, focusing faster and more accurately than my 40D ever had. While no, the FPS aren't ideal for sports, if you can lock on focus like this from the start, you can still achieve amazing sports photographs. Plus the fact that I was able to shoot at ISO 4,000 and not have noticeable noise was just incredible. The shots auto-white balanced correctly too which normally in the arena I shoot at is not what happens on my 40D.
My first wedding all I could say all day was wow. I was getting available light photographs I never would have dreamed of before. The new screen also made it incredibly easy to determine if something was in focus or not. When I would switch between my 40D and 5D2 I found out just how spoiled that screen had made me, since the 40D screen looked terrible to me now when previously I thought that had a great screen. I sure was wrong! 920,000 pixels is definitely the way to go on this LCD. I primarily shot with center point (one shot) for my focus and it nailed focus every time. I did a mix up of manual, aperture priority and some program (Program mostly for the formals)
What else do I love about it? The 98% view finder is awesome. I like being able to use UDMA cards in it...
Video! Although I'm not a video / motion person by nature, I prefer stills, I've been testing out the video quite a bit. At Christmas I took a few short clips of my nephew and was really happy with how they look. It's very neat to be able to take high definition video of a little kid and have that awesome affect of a wide aperture blurring out the background. The only downside is that the files are huge. My 1 minute clip was over 300MB, but that's what I get for shooting in 1080!
The batteries this camera use really do hold a charge for a while. I used mine with the battery grip at the wedding, and the two batteries after going for over 500 shots (maybe close to 600 shots that day?) still had about 72% charge each left on them. I could easily have shot 3 times that much and still have had left over charge on the batteries. Also the new battery info screen is really nifty since you can see what serial number battery has what charge, making it a lot easier to keep track of.
So far I've used a 35 1.4/L, 135 2/L, 70-200 f2.8/L, 50 1.4, and 100 2.8 Macro on this camera body and all have performed wonderfully. I don't miss the pop up flash that my 40D has since I never used it anyway, I always throw my 580 EX II on top when I need flash.
This camera really is a gem and I highly recommend it if it fits in your budget!
If your livelihood doesn't depend on the capture of fast objects, this will give you 95% of the image quality of the 5D III or 1D X. It's a major upgrade to the original 5D, though marginally inferior to the new 6D.
I bought a 5D II to replace a 50D and a 40D. I've also used a 7D professionally. The latter three bodies have higher framerates, superior AF tracking, and a higher pixel density that benefits distant subjects. The 5D II is preferable for any other purpose if you can swing the cost of lenses that'll do justice across the frame to such enormous resolution.
This is a 50D-generation camera, so the learning curve from that one (and the 40D) is essentially nil. A handful of custom functions differ. The original 5D is a bigger jump; button placement is about the same on the new model, but the menu system has been completely revised (for the better). The 40D/50D have marginally lower weight, smaller size, and a superior grip. Buttons have a positive click. The 5D II has mushy buttons that activate at some indeterminate point.
In use, the 5D II's viewfinder is massively larger than the tunnel-like crop bodies. This pulls you into the scene, though framing is actually easier with the smaller finders. Balancing that is comparatively lethargic shutter and mirror response. The 40D/50D are 40% quicker on this front; the difference between 220ms and 160ms. You can't afford a lazy reaction time with this body.
I've also detected a rare playback hesitation. I tend to a snap a shot and immediately press play if it doesn't appear on the screen. For perhaps 1 shot in 40, my 5D II has been unresponsive to that button for seconds at a time after the shot. The image appears eventually. The 40D/50D are impossible to trip up like this. This smacks of a software glitch, though I may query Canon at some point to verify.
Exposure seems less reliable in difficult lighting. Set to evaluative metering, the 5D II tends to overexpose dark scenes and underexpose backlit people. It's not that clever. I've had to rely on EC and spot metering modes more than with the 40D.
Like the 40D/50D, Auto-ISO is next to useless, so you end up fiddling with settings more than with, say, the 5D III, 7D, or 1D X. In aperture priority, Auto-ISO will set a shutter to the lens focal length or 20% less. Prone to hand-shake? Too bad. In shutter priority, it'll start dropping your chosen shutter when it reaches ISO 3200. That's the maximum ISO it'll use in any mode. And in manual mode, Auto-ISO isn't; it just fixes itself to ISO 400. So if you want to control your depth of field and shutter and the let the ISO dynamically adjust, you're SOL on this body. Major oversight.
Note that this body doesn't have a popup flash. I'm not lamenting the absence, it's always been a bone to casual shooters more than a serious tool. Max sync speed for most Canon bodies is 1/250, so it only worked for outdoor fill with narrow apertures. Indoors as a main light source, the tiny size and close proximity to the lens led to red eyes and a flat, unflattering high-contrast look. A much preferable setup for event photography pairs a 430EX or 580EX, ideally diffused or aimed to bounce off a nearby surface.
Nitpicking aside, the 5D II handles as well as any recent Canon DSLR. It's much quicker if you take the time to configure it to your preferences.
Better than expected. The 40D/50D have 9 cross-points. The 5D II has one center cross-point, 8 outer single-axis points, and 6 invisible AF assist points near the center point. In practice, the 5D II is a center-point camera unless you're shooting at wide apertures (f/2 or lower).
Center-point AF is very accurate and hits in almost any lighting. Better than the 40D/50D (and even the 1D IV, I've heard) when the lights dim. The only environment where I've had trouble grabbing focus had an exposure of ISO 25600, f/2, 1/50.
Surround-point accuracy is questionable. This is the major weakness of the 5D II. You'll want to use wide-aperture lenses like the 85/1.8 and 50/1.4 to take advantage of the thinner depth-of-field and superior foreground/background blur that full-frame offers. These apertures punish focus-recompose, so you need to use the outer points for off-center compositions. They're fast enough, but not consistent or accurate. If your results are critical, take a lot of refocused safety shots.
Focus tracking is surprisingly decent with a high-contrast subject that you can hold exactly in the center of the viewfinder, provided you've enabled the invisible assist points with CF III.7. Once your object starts straying to the outer points, all bets are off; the 40D/50D excel here. Still, contrary to expectation, the 5D II can follow moving objects. The outer point accuracy was a greater letdown.
STILLS IMAGE QUALITY:
Excellent. Per-pixel sharpness is much higher than the crop bodies with the same lens. Combined with superior resolution, you can expect perhaps 30% more detail relative to a 7D and 50% more than a 50D. It's not a subtle difference. Load the comparison tool at The Digital Picture for this body and any crop body on the same lens. Pixel for pixel, the crop bodies always look blurry by comparison.
Noise is better with some caveats. The 5D II is not a magical darkness camera. You're not going to be able to shoot by candlelight with high fidelity. My 40D went to ISO 3200. This camera goes to ISO 25600, but the actual difference in raw is more like 1.5 stops on the outside. Unlike the 40D, boosting the shadows multiple stops reveals color banding that's difficult to remove in post. Blue channel noise is also more severe than expected. Still, I don't have qualms about running it to ISO 6400 for professional gigs. The 40D and 50D, I wouldn't push past 1600. The 5D III gets you an extra stop in raw and less shadow banding for a usable ISO 12800.
Dynamic range is somewhat better on the 40D than the others, interestingly. The 5D II's performance is typical for most DSLRs. You'll be blending exposures or pulling the shadows way up in scenes with high contrast.
I want to segue into this section because it's entwined with image quality. Comparing full-frame and crop isn't quite apples to apples. It's much easier to find crop lenses with good edge performance. This 5D II makes hash of almost all the mid-range variable-aperture zooms Canon has released over the years. I was pleased with my 28-135/3.5-5.6 IS on my 40D. Very consistent sharpness across the frame, even wide open. On a 5D II, the same lens falls down. Poor edge performance, lots of aberrations.
Expect to pay 30-50% more on glass to feed this camera relative to EF-S lenses. Full-frame L glass costs a mint, but most of the third-party wide to mid-focal lenses don't emphasize edge performance. I've used a 14/2.8, 24-105/4, 100/2, and 200/2.8 among others. The latter two are stellar across the frame, as is the Samyang ultrawide. The 24-105/4 and a 17-40/4L I once had are merely adequate. Neither perform that well in the corners at f/4. Even older L zooms like the 17-35/2.8 are subpar on the 5D II.
What should your kit be? Some considerations:
* Primes are lighter, smaller, cheaper, often available in wider apertures, often optically better, and have less manufacturing variation. They're less convenient, less versatile, updated with new technologies (e.g., stabilization, better lens coatings, weight reductions, faster or more accurate AF) less often, and can cause you to miss shots in fast-paced shooting environments.
* There are different requirements for movie lenses and still lenses. No Canon full-frame zooms are optimal for movies. Some are more optimal than others (e.g., less focus breathing, more parfocal, less distortion, smoother operation, distance scale). Primes often fare better.
* An f/2.8 lens on this body is just fast enough for most indoor use without flash. You'll want a flash for anything slower. A flash can provide more even, pleasing pictures, at the expense of a bulkier, attention-attracting rig.
* Kits with more than three primary lenses can become unwieldy in use. Two is preferable. My walkaround kit is a 16-35/2.8 and a 100/2, or a 24-105/4 alone if I expect to shoot movies. Professional event shooters tend to rely on the 16-35/2.8, 24-70/2.8, 70-200/2.8, and faster primes like the 85/1.2 as necessary.
* Third-party lenses tend to have less upfront cost, better warranties, and more aggressive designs. AF and optical performance is often (but not always) inferior to OEM lenses, quality control is less consistent, and resale values are lower. Value varies by lens model. Some are better than the OEM equivalents (e.g., Tamron 70-300 VC). Some fill holes in the OEM lineup (e.g., Sigma 120-300/2.8 OS). And some are near-substitutes for less cost (e.g., Sigma 70-200/2.8 OS). Where a third-party lens duplicates the OEM and has similar performance, I tend to choose a used copy of the OEM model.
Out of the box, 5D II video has four characteristics: lovely depth-of-field-control with the right lenses, clipped colors, high contrast, and about 720p worth of actual detail at the 1080p setting.
There's no autofocus worth using. It's possible to gauge focus from the bare LCD screen, though you're still liable to overshoot and undershoot constantly. Video here is very much a professional feature, despite the shortsighted exclusion of manual exposure and audio control in the original 5D II firmware. The latest firmware provides both, but if you're at all serious about video, install Magic Lantern. It's a third-party piggyback firmware with dozens of new controls. To do it justice would require a review larger than this one, but a key feature is focus peaking, which shows little noise outlines on the area of maximum sharpness. With wide-aperture lenses, you'll be dead-on with manual focus every time.
In terms of post-processing flexibility, Canon EOS video is like shooting JPEG, but worse because the H.264 video codec throws away even more unseen data. You have none of the lossless adjustability of raw, so it's pivotal to lower contrast to preserve detail in the highlights and shadows, dial back the colors to prevent clipping, and lower sharpening so you can add it back in post without causing nasty artifacts. You do that by setting the correct white balance in advance and by creating or downloading a custom tone curve with low contrast, color, and sharpening. The latter won't affect your stills if you shoot in raw, so you can cater it solely to video.
Camera shake is another issue. If you're going to shoot without a tripod, get a stabilized lens. In fact, just buy the 24-105/4L IS. No other lens has the combination of size, weight, edge performance, range, stabilization, consistent aperture, speed, and partial parfocal (holding focus through the zoom range) ability.
The next best choice might be something like the Tamron 24-70/2.8 VC. Anything over 50mm that isn't stabilized will challenge your ability to record smooth footage. You can fix that later by transcoding to an editable format and using the anti-shake facilities of Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, or Virtual Dub with Deshaker, but that's a pain and they all crop the frame. Start with stabilization from the outset and save yourself the bother.
Stabilized lenses cause a new problem: the IS system is audible on the audio track. It's obvious with the 70-200/4L IS, noticeable with the 24-105/4L IS, and a background hum with the 70-200/2.8L IS I/II. That's in addition to dial clicks, finger movement, and wind noise, which obscure what would be fairly mediocre sound quality in the best case. The 5D II records CD-quality 48 KHz 16-bit stereo tracks; the fault is with the internal mic and amplifier. The simplest, most portable solution is to attach an external battery-powered mic to the flash hotshoe. The two most popular are around $250 from Rode. Zoom's H1 stereo recorder is a cheaper, more versatile alternative that can also be camera-mounted.
For video, buy CF cards 32 GB or larger. 1080p/30 video is 350 MB/minute. My pair of 16 GB cards have been inadequate for even a one-day event. Choose SanDisk. I've never had a SanDisk card of any size fail, they maintain higher resale value than other brands, and they tend to write somewhat faster than competitors with the same speed rating.
Camera operation isn't much affected by card speed. The difference appears when you start leaning on the raw buffer with more than 15 continuous shots at 4 FPS. Faster cards clear the buffer faster. Raw write speed with a 200X Sandisk is about 22 MB/s. With 400X, it's 36 MB/s. With a 1000X Lexar, it reaches 50 MB/s. Video only needs about 6 MB/s; I couldn't make the video buffering icon appear until I tried a 512 MB PNY CF card from 2005. The choice is easy if you're opting for 32 GB; SanDisk doesn't sell the 200X Ultra in that size, so you're left with either the 400X Extreme or the 600X Pro. The latter is 15% quicker with raw for 80% more money. It only makes sense if you're time-limited on card-to-computer transfers.
If you buy protection filters for your lenses, choose Hoya's "DMC PRO1 Clear Protector Digital" line. They have 99.5% light transmission and don't cause flare. Digital sensors filter UV natively, there's no reason to pay more for that feature. I've written reviews on the relevant Hoya product pages with more details and why you might (or might not) want a filter.
Third-party LP-E6 batteries are hit or miss. Even the highly-rated models have their share of duds. I had an STK battery fail two weeks after purchase. I've never had, and have rarely heard of, a Canon OEM battery failure. They also tend to retain more charge capacity for a longer period. Your call whether that's worth five times the price.
Some settings only affect JPEG images. Turn them off if you shoot raw. These include:
* Peripheral illumination correction (reverses edge darkening from some lenses)
* High ISO speed noise reduction (affected raw on the 40D, doesn't here)
* Auto lighting optimizer (pulls up the shadows in high-dynamic-range scenes)
These affect raw:
* Highlight tone priority (an extra half-stop of highlight range, more shadow noise)
* Long exposure noise reduction (dark-frame subtraction and the like for long exposures)
Two major new features with the 5D II are the C1/C2/C3 custom dial settings and the personalized menu page. This is my menu page:
* Format (erase the CF card)
* Mirror lockup (flip the mirror before taking the shot; reduces blur from mirror vibration)
* Highlight tone priority (only enabled in bright, high-contrast conditions)
* Shutter button/AF-ON button (binds AF to the shutter button for handing the camera to someone else)
* Exp.Comp/AEB (exposure compensation and bracketing; useful for HDR)
* White balance (irrelevant for raw, important for video)
vs. 5D I - The old 5D ($700 used) has fine image quality. Per-pixel noise performance is only about a half-stop worse than the 5D II in raw. Dynamic range is about the same. In every other way, the 5D is archaic. Old-style menus, no AF-on button, no MFA, slow operation, a terrible low-contrast and low-resolution screen, and no facility to easily change settings on the fly. You basically shoot it like a film camera. If you have all the time in the world to set up a shot and you don't need video, the 5D is fine. Otherwise, the 5D II ($1500 used) is worth every additional penny.
vs. 5D III - The new 5D (~$3000) has a massively better AF system, a 50% faster 6fps framerate, and about a stop of extra noise performance. Image quality is otherwise very similar. Buy the new one if you need superlative tracking and shooting of fast or unpredictable objects. Otherwise, save the difference.
vs. 7D - Like a 5D III without full-frame or the noise performance. Choose it for AF speed and tracking (inferior to the 5D III but well above the 5D II), 8fps continuous shooting, and the telephoto reach that comes from a higher pixel density. Don't expect the same detail as the 5D II at wider focals. It's also about a full stop worse in noise.
vs. 6D - Compared at the same price, the 6D is a better body in most circumstances. Compared to a $1500 5D II, it may not presently be worth the cost difference. It'll be more interesting when prices drop in the $1800 range, probably before the new year. Here's a breakdown of the 6D vs. 5D II:
+ GPS (to tag photos)
+ Wifi (to share directly online and for easier tethering/remote storage)
+ 1 stop less noise in raw
+ 4.5 fps vs. 3.9 fps
+ 10% smaller by volume
+ Silent shutter capability
+ 30% less shutter lag
+- AF center point is better in low light, but missing the 5D II's assist points for tracking
+- SD instead of CF (only matters if you already have CF cards)
- 1/4000 max shutter vs. 1/8000 (matters for wide-aperture lenses shot in daylight)
- No sync port
- No joystick for direct AF selection; have to use a rocker panel inside the thumb wheel
- No Magic Lantern as yet
If you can pick up a 5D II for a song, don't feel like you're missing out.
WHERE TO BUY:
Canon often sells refurbished bodies at a 20% discount as part of their loyalty program (wherein you send back a broken Canon camera of any type), which puts them perhaps 10% below market rate. These bodies are vetted by Canon, in as-new condition with all accessories, and often have shutter counts under 1000. They're warranted for 90 days. This seems preferable to used bodies of unknown provenance.
If you intend to downvote, please leave a comment. I do try to be accurate, I'd much prefer to know the issue.
on January 1, 2009
First the good...
If you're looking for an excellent, full-frame DSLR, the 5D Mk2 is very, very good. It's at least 1 full F-stop more sensitive to light than my Canon 1DS Mk2. A setting of ASA 800 or 1000 yields about the same noise level as my older camera at ASA 400. It's autofocus system is very fast and accurate on single shot mode. (I don't think EF-L series lenses are capable of faster focus action.)
The new LCD screen is gorgeous. 3" diagonal with 900,000+ pixels. It's possibly the best quality LCD screen ever put on a DSLR. The menus are easier to understand and navigate than the 1DS Mk2's menus. "Live View" is an excellent way to do critical focusing. If you've never used a DSLR with live view, you'll love it. The only negative of live-view is that it really drains your battery and it can only be used for a certain length of time before the CMOS imager circuitry heats up, adding noise to the image. (In real-life typical shooting, overheating is not a problem and besides the camera will auto cancel live-view if it senses an over temperature condition.)
The huge 21 mega-pixel RAW images are excellent. The camera uses an updated variant on Canon's .CR2 RAW format so if you use an older version of Adobe's Lightroom or Photoshop for image processing, you'll need the latest Lightroom 2.2 or Photoshop CS4 to get the proper RAW converter. I've personally never liked the included software for RAW image processing, but many people are happy with it.
The auto-exposure system seems very accurate... more accurate than my 1DS Mk2.
I never experienced any "black dot" phenomenon. But I've only shot RAW images at less than 1200 ASA. The "black dot" sample images that I've seen on the internet look like simple, in-camera, over-enhancement of highlights. Besides, unless you're shooting sports at night or are part of a CSI team, who shoots at 3200+ ASA anyway? If you're doing a night shot of a city use a tripod, a longer exposure, and a lower ASA. This will yield rich, clean blacks and much higher detail in highlights. Also, although JPEG's are much smaller, every professional photographer that I know shoots only RAW images.
I ordered the camera with the optional BG-E6 battery grip. This grip makes the camera taller and easier to hold. It allows simultaneous use of 2 Canon lithium batteries or 6- AA alkaline or rechargeables. It's a very valuable accessory to consider.
Now the bad...
I primarily purchased the camera for its ability to shoot great looking 1080P HD video for commercial TV projects. I thought it would be a great source for "B-Roll" cutaways and inserts.
The biggest single problem in the video mode is that you have no control over iris, ISO setting, or shutter speed. There's an exposure lock button that will lock the exposure variables to whatever the LCD displays at the time you press the button. There are no on-screen indicators that show the settings that the camera has chosen for you. The only control you have is the color temperature setting. Basically, you pan the camera around in the scene and let the brightness float up and down. When you see what you think is a good exposure on the rear LCD screen, you press the lock button. Since the exposure lock resets after each scene or take, chances are you won't have consistent exposures over multiple takes of a particular scene.
Working with the auto exposure system can sometimes be difficult. I was shooting with my 85mm F1.2 lens. By looking at the iris, it appeared the camera had decided to only open the lens to about an F2.8 and use a much higher ISO setting than necessary to achieve proper exposure. By pointing the camera to some very dark shadows, the iris fully opened. I then panned back to my original scene which appeared to be much cleaner and free of noise. You really need to be able to manually set the ISO & F-stop when shooting video.
I adjusted the camera's custom settings to lower the detail enhancement and contrast. These controls effect the quality of jpeg stills but seem to have no effect on a video recording.
The camera only records at 30.00fps, not 29.97fps. This tiny .03fps difference means that you have to alter each file's header, using a program such as Apple Cinema Tools, before you can edit 5D footage into a normal, broadcast 1080P/1080i, 29.97fps timeline. Failure to do this header alteration requires setting up a 30.00fps timeline or rendering every 5D scene on your 29.97fps timeline which yields periodic skipped frames.
There is no 24P (23.98) setting. As far as I'm concerned, there is no logical reason that Canon chose 30.00fps instead of 29.97fps. No broadcast TV or film standard operates at 30.00fps. Maybe Canon will correct this with a future firmware update. Please note that if you're only shooting high quality videos for web release, the 30.00fps speed won't present a problem.
To simulate the film-like cadence of a movie camera's 180 degree shutter at 30.00fps, the 5D Mk2's shutter should be set to 1/60 of a second exposure time. There is no way to tell what shutter setting the camera is using during a scene. My gut feeling from looking at camera video is that the 5D Mk2 often uses 1/30 of a second.
The camera's LCD screen is blanked whenever an HDMI monitor is plugged in. If you're doing a commercial shoot with clients, this means that either the cameraman or the clients can see what's being shot, but not both at the same time... You could add an external HDMI active splitter, but this would also require adding and using an external monitor at the camera. If you only plan to shoot by yourself, this shouldn't present a problem.
To do manual follow-focusing using the rear LCD screen, consider purchasing Hoodman's 3" LCD viewer. It's available from B&H and other retailers and it works very well. Of course, you'll have to figure a custom way to attach it to the back of the 5D Mk2 using rubber bands or Velcro.
The 5D Mk2 records what I would call "memo quality" audio with it's internal, mono microphone. You really notice the AGC raising and lowering the recording volume. If someone claps their hands, coughs, or makes a loud sound, the audio level and background sound dives down, then very noticeably fades back up. There is no headphone output or on-screen audio display so there's no way to confirm the level of your audio. If you plug an external mic into the camera, there is no indication to confirm even the presence of an audio signal. The only thing you can do is record a scene, then playback and carefully listen to the recorded file. If you plan to use this camera on a professional sync-sound project, you'd really have to consider double system sound recording. Recoding the audio on a separate recorder adds a major level of increased hassle but it's the only way to insure excellent audio. The audio from the camera's recording can be used as a post-production sync reference.
Another audio question is why Canon chose to record audio at a sample rate of 44.1kz instead of the industry standard 48kz. Apple's Final Cut Pro can handle almost any sample rate but other NLE's can't. Once again, if you're only shooting video for web release, the CD sample rate of 44.1kz shouldn't present a problem.
In certain low light or low contrast scenes, the H.264 encoding block artifacts are noticeable. In my opinion, the 5D Mk2 artifacts are more noticeable than the H.264 encoding used in Canon's own HF10, 1080 video camera even though the 5D's recorded bit rate is higher.
The camera's signal-to-noise ratio is very good and very clean. It's a more noise-free video picture than my $80,000 Sony F900R HDCam... except for the color red. Red objects are noisy. Most colors in a scene seem noise free, except red. This is especially true with low brightness red objects such as those in shadow areas.
The 5D Mk2 exhibits no "rolling shutter" characteristics that are associated with Nikon's D90.
The 5D Mk2 has the characteristic of clipping to "flat-line" black very low-light or shadow details in an image. This yields a "gutsy" rich, excellent, "film-like" quality for many scenes, but you can't do any post-production recovery of lost low-light details. The camera does a pretty good job of rolling scene highlights off to a hard clip at 100 units of video.
Possibly, some of the problems I've detailed here are related to the specific 5D Mk2 that I purchased (serial#0320105XXX) but I don't think this is the case. Hopefully, Canon will issue a firmware update to address the camera's video problems. New firmware could possibly add manual control to the video capture functions and slightly lower the frame rate to the standard 29.97fps.
All cameras at any price level have positives and negatives. I've never found or used the "perfect" camera. The Canon 5d Mk2 is an excellent still camera and in my opinion, "a not quite ready for prime time" HDTV video camera. Possibly the camera was rushed to market to compete (or cancel out) the much hyped video features of Nikon's "rolling shutter" D90. It is an excellent glimpse into the future of "hybrid" still & video DSLR cameras.
on January 6, 2009
I took deliver in mid-December and now have around 2,000 pictures, mostly taken on a cruise.
The resolution is stunning, but only as good as the lens used. The 24-105 supplied in the kit is good, but a little soft compared to my very good EF-L 70-200 IS f4. I took 80% of my shots with the 24-105 but looked for opportunities to use the 70-200 instead, particularly for scenics. I'll probably buy a prime wide angle or wide angle zoom for the big, wide scencis, where the 24-105 gets particularly soft. As you'd expect, it's pretty solid through the middle of its range.
Shooting at ISO 1600 and 3200 was amazing, yielding lots of early morning and late evening scenics and hand held candids of the kids inside. When I put on the Speedlite for a big New Year's party, those results were also stunning. Yet, for a full room shoot with baloons dropping, I went to ISO 3200 and used available light with a great result.
I bought the 5D MkII for stills, so I haven't even tried the video yet. It's nice to have that on hand. I did use "live view" several times. That's quick and easy to use when you need it. I've used jpeg rather than RAW because I'd be taking so many photos. There are only four or five instances out of 2000 where I wish that I'd taken RAW. With the jpegs I cropped a dozen or so and altered contrast on just a couple. I generally shot the scenics at 1/3 stop under. I used the lens hoods 90+% of the time and kept a Hoya Pro UV filter on at all times.
Black dots have not been an issue, but I haven't taken any shots that would lead to them, according to the causes I've read about.
I'd rate the body-only as five-star and only give the 4-star overall for the kit, given the limitations of the 24-105 zoom in the kit. It's actually a very competitive zoom for this range, but I immediately saw a difference for the better with my EF 70-200. They're both L-series, but the wide angles are challenging for a super zoom. Given the low noise at 3200 ISO, I found the f4 lens speed to be plenty fast. The clarity at high ISO was the biggest positive surprise for me.
I've used and throughly enjoyed a 5D for a couple of years, and have found it to be a simply outstanding full-frame camera. Like a lot of people, I was eagerly looking forward to the 5D Mark II, and pre-ordered one. After using it for a few weeks, I am pleased to report that this is an excellent update to the 5D.
If you're researching this camera, you've probably heard about the "black dot" problem (basically, some dark pixels to the right of blown highlights). Unless you're printing photos in the several feet by several feet size, you'll never see them. Sure, I'll download a firmware fix when it's available, but in the meantime, I've never encountered even the slightest problem in real-world use.
Size and controls are very comparable to the 5D - you'll feel at ease very quickly. The viewfinder is fantastic -- bigger, brighter, and a very welcome addition. There are many "under the skin" upgrades, the biggest being 21.1 megapixels. So much more flexibility in shooting, but be prepared for some huge raw files! A processor upgrade (DIGIC 4) keeps things moving along at a good clip. I can't comment on the HD video capture since I'm just dabbling with it at the moment and have essentially no experience as a videographer. But, looking forward to learning. The video capture was just icing on the cake for me - bought it for still photos.
Disappointments are very few and far between, such as the fact that the battery pack is a different design, so it can't be interchanged with the 5D. Supposedly, it has a longer life, but model interchangeability would be nice to keep the add-on costs down. I also regularly shoot with my 40D and Rebel (with the latter converted to IR), so the greater the interchangeability, the better.
In short, this is an outstanding camera, and one that will be a welcome addition to anyone's kit. If you already have a 5D and use it a lot, the Mark II is well worth the cost. The kit is a good value versus the body -- the 24-105 f/4 L IS is one of the best walk around lens available. Should you not have a need for it, you can get a good price for it on the used market.
If you're presently working with a crop sensor camera, you will be amazed at what a full frame will do for you (although, be prepared to spend some coin on some good glass -- once you get the L lens fever, you'll never want to go back!). Keep in mind that the original 5D is still available, and going at a very nice price new (and some outright steals for used bodies). The original is still a fantastic camera, and well worth considering if budget is tight.
One final point -- the RAW files are not compatable with CS3. But, the recent update to Lightroom (2.2) solves that problem. No need to update to CS4 just for that.
on March 5, 2010
I've been looking at the Canon 5D Mark II for a long time - since before it came out in late 2008. It's taken a while but I finally pulled the trigger.
My first Canon SLR was the EOS 650 - the autofocus SLR that "started it all". Then in early 2000's I got the Digital Rebel, then an XTi and quickly after that the Canon 40D.
I've liked all the digital SLR's I've used to date but only the 40D reminded me of the build quality and "heft" that my original 650 had. And although you get used to it, the 1.6 crop factor of the sensor size is really a big difference on the wide-angle side.
Over time I also upgraded my lenses to the 17-40 F4L, the 24-105 F4L, the 70-200 F2.8L and the 100-300 F4.5-5.6L - with IS in all but the 17-40.
I guess I'd call myself an "advanced amateur". My usual approach to photography is to compose a good shot and then crop later to a better composition to get my "keepers".
With the 40D and my outfit of lenses I can pretty much do it all - especially on the telephoto side. However, I noticed that when you crop significantly a 10.1MP image, the end result can have significantly reduced image quality.
So - I determined a little more megapixels to work with would be helpful.
Next, the 40D's max ISO is 1600 but at 800 the noise can be a bit of a distraction. The simple solution is to stay below 800 but that requires a flash or photos of stationary objects in darker settings.
So - I determined that something with better light sensitivity would be helpful.
I noticed that some of my lenses were sharper than others on the 40D. I sent the body to Canon with my 24-105 to get the focusing "matched" and the results were good. But it was a one-size fits all solution.
So - I determined that something that offered lens microadjustment would be helpful.
I watched and waited patiently for the "brouhaha" of enthusiam for the 5D MarkII to settle down as I'm not the sort of sucker that pays more than MSRP for anything. I knew my time would come, I'd get my 5DMarkII - even if my wife said no. Now the MSRP is $200 less!
Finally, along comes this blasted Canon 7D to totally ruin my plan. It solves my megapixel issue, it solves my ISO issue, it has lens microadjustment (as does the 50D) it even offers an advanced video capability and "new and improved" autofocusing system. And it's $800+ less expensive. What a quandary.... now what?
With much consternation and angst I debated over and over the 7D or 5DMII. On the one hand, on the other had - you know the drill. Is the 5DMII worth it?
I put my 17-40 lens on the 40D and then on my EOS650 and like I said - the difference is huge between a full frame and cropped sensor. I'm not a video-enthusiast and I'm not really sure what the big deal is about "24p" vs "30p" so that wasn't too important. I believe with autofocusing - "it's not the arrow, it's the indian" and unless something's out of wack your images should be focused or you're making a mistake.
So, I took the plunge and purchased the 5D Mark II.
The look and feel is very EOS-like. Not too different than my 40D - probably a little better in fact. I like the Creative Auto mode a lot and the menu on the LCD is great.
The ISO range is totally worth it. I take shots routinely at 3200 and they look like 400 on the 40D (very minimal noise / graininess). When I use a flash - the results are amazing.
I microadjusted the camera for all the lenses I own, and as expected the settings for each were slightly different. Now my images are spot-on, unless I screw up (again - it's not the arrow, it's the indian).
To top it all off - Canon is coming out with a firmware update to add 24p (et al) to the 5DMark II.
The Live-view mode is much simpler than on the 40D and focusing is very easy.
The 21 Megapixels is way more than I really need but when I crop my images I get great results so I'm delighted there. I delete images I don't like so my storage constraints are limited.
Finally - the full-frame sensor gives me all the image my considerable lens investment can provide and offers me opportunity on the wide angle side that the 7D couldn't. It's a big deal and not to be discounted (although you can get an EFS 10-22 to make up for it on a cropped body).
I'm sure the 7D is an awesome camera too and I bet the autofocus system is an improvement. However - if you're like me, you've got great lenses, you've been patiently waiting for the hysteria to calm down, and you're ready to change camera bodies then I totally recommend going full frame and getting the 5D Mark II.
on December 22, 2008
I just got my 5D mark II today from Amazon (not the cold-blooded 3rd party dealer). My order was Camera plus 24-105 lens kit at $3499 but somehow it came with body only. I need to work out with Amazon later. Anyway. My 1st DSLR is Canon 40D, which is my baseline for the comparison.
1. Full frame = Real wide angle. My 17-40 lens can now work as it's supposed to.
2. High ISO with amazing quality. The noise level at ISO 12800 (H1) in 5D ~= ISO 1250-1600 in 40D. Noise software (ex: Noiseware) can still produce an acceptable image with 12800. Poor quality in 25600 (H2) is expected, and it can be used just in case. So my upper limit boosts from 1250 in 40D to 6400 in 5D which is a 2-1/3 stop jump (Thanks for Johnny Chan's correction).
3. High quality LCD with a light sensor, so no need to adjust LCD brightness from time to time. It's neat.
4. Autofocus microadjustment by lens.
5. Others such as high pixel, HD video, HDMI port... etc, but those are not really a must to me. Still can get 30x20 printout with 10MP 40D by Photoshop.
1. Sync speed = 200ns in 5D while 250ns in 40D. I use Canon 580EX II a lot for portrait shots. So 1-stop shutter speed matters. (Even I can use high speed mode in 580Ex).
2. Frame-per-second = 3.9 in 5D but 6.5 in 40D
Overall, it's a great upgrade to me and worth every penny.
1. After calling/email to customer support, Amazon has refunded $800 price difference in 10 hours. I cannot satify more than this.
2. New RAW from 5D MK II is no longer supported by Photoshop CS3 and earlier versions. That means upgrading to Photoshop CS4 is a MUST if shooting with RAW. It's another "hidden" cost...
3. Just got the battery grip BG-E6 today from Adorama for ~$270. The pros is now it takes 6 AA batteries or 2 LP-E3 (which is also expensive ~$75 and also out-of-stock in most of places)... The cons is too heavy for me along with 24-70mm 2.8L lens.
on December 14, 2011
I have been a 5D owner since it came out about 5 years ago. It is still a wonderful camera today. I purchased the 5D MKII mainly for it's video capability. Before I even started using the video, I put it to work in my domain, architectural still photography. To my surprise even without a grip it felt better for some reason. The viewfinder is sooooo much better. I was aware of some other changes with the CMOS sensor. One of my first shots made me a believer. Deeper and richer dynamic range. I feel it's a step closer to a more film like rendition. The menu is a bit more of a curve than I anticipated.. All in all of the photo options and improved quality are a valid improvement. The price on Amazon was one of the best I could find for a reliable supplier after much research. The following is not a review but a warning! I was on DPReveiw and a list of vendors came up while reading the review of the 5D MKII with a note to support our sponsors. I clicked Best Price Photo Com. The price was offered in the $1,879, I checked Resellers Ratings Com and they had an excellent rating so I ordered the 5D MKII from them. 2 days later they called to "verify" my order and "skillfully" as in slickly offered some other add ons which I declined. Then he slickly asked why I ordered the import model. I said I didn't, he said I did. My screenshots confirmed that they DID advertise the USA model number. Heres that catch about Resellers Ratings. They don't post information about cancelled orders. Best Price Photo is aware of this and they know that anyone with a brain will cancel once they are aware of the scam and not be able to post a negative review about them on ResellerRatings. BTW, BPP did offer me a special price for a USA model that was less than what I paid for here at Amazon. So why did I pay more? I can answer it in one word "Trust", Amazon Yes, BestPricePhoto NO! My recommendation buy this camera from a reputable company.