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Never Ever: Rent, borrow or use this Camera, if you do, you will have to own it!
on November 12, 2008
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 [...]