Canon EOS 5D Mark II

A Landmark, GROUND BREAKING Camera That Changes the Rules!

Canon EOS 5D Mark II - Overview - September 2008

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Overview


Well, the wait is over and Canon has done it again. Whilst some of their upgrades to already popular camera models in the past leave much to be desired, the EOS 5D mark II has all the hallmarks of becoming Canon’s most popular DSLR ever. A bold statement but one that I think will hold.

I use the original EOS 5D for weddings and always rave about the quality of the full frame sensor coupled with the Digic II processor with regards to dynamic range and low light shooting. The EOS 5D mark II is now two "evolutions" ahead with the new Digic IV processor and whopping 21.1 megapixel, full frame sensor.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II - Video

As a follow up to Nikon announcing high definition 720p video functions with their D90, Canon have surpassed them once more with full frame 1080 high definition video. Not only that, it can also shoot standard definition video too.

Now many professional photographers will undoubtedly complain that adding video to a DSLR is almost sacrilege but I for one am all for it and the most amazing thing about the EOS 5D mark II is that you can shoot normal high resolution, full frame still images whilst shooting video…think about that for a moment.

I made predictions about this over a year ago…mixing video with still photography. In my "future of photography" article back in 2007, I asked if I should start to think about video because like it or not, technology stops for no-one.

Wedding Photography

Let's say I am shooting a wedding. I want to make the most of certain special moments during the day such as the throwing of the bouquet. I can video this (for the slideshow later on) whilst capturing my normal still shots. The same with:

  • The cake cutting
  • Walking the aisle
  • Ring going on
  • First dance etc

The possibilities are endless and opens the path for a whole new evolution of wedding photography. Videographers should also take heed and start to re-think their marketing.

If you have a creative mindset and are a professional photographer, this new feature should be embraced rather than ignored. This is because I can guarantee that your creative competitors will be making the most of it. Even if it is a sales pitch to get more wedding business.

I can see a possible merger/creation of many solo photography/videography businesses in the not so distant future as the two worlds collide…

Canon EOS 5D Mark II Rear

Anyway, back to the camera! Let’s look at the main specs…

  • New 21.1 Megapixel Full Frame CMOS sensor with improved EOS Integrated Cleaning System (E.I.C.S.). The low pass filter now has a Fluorine coating to prevent dust sticking to the surface
  • New Full HD 1080 resolution, 30fps progressive movie recording with standard definition also (1080p H.264 up to 12 minutes, VGA H.264 up to 24 mins per clip)
  • Full audio support: built-in mic and speaker, mic-in socket, audio-out over AV (although not through HDMI)
  • 3.9 frames per second continuous shooting
  • High performance DIGIC 4 providing superb image quality and better performance
  • Maximum 310 large JPEG images in a single burst with a UDMA card
  • Larger 3.0" VGA (920k dots) Clear View LCD with a 170º angle of view and anti-reflective coatings
  • ISO 100-6400 (expansion from 50 up to 25,600). The largest DSLR ISO range at the time of writing
  • 9 AF points + 6 Assist AF points
  • Improved menu system including Quick Control Screen for more direct access to common settings
  • Automatic peripheral illumination correction, utilising detailed EF lens information to optimise JPEG images straight out of the camera
  • Additional environmental protection with new magnesium alloy construction
  • UDMA memory card compatibility
  • Permanent display of ISO on both top plate and viewfinder displays (Finally)!
  • AF micro adjustment (up to 20 lenses individually)
  • Three custom modes on command dial, (Creative Auto mode)
  • Automatic LCD brightness adjustment (ambient light sensor). I assume this is for saving battery power
  • Live view with three mode auto-focus (with face detection)
  • Two mode silent shooting (in live view). Great for weddings and nature
  • HDMI and standard composite (AV) video out
  • IrPort (supports IR remote shutter release using optional RC1 / RC5 controllers)
  • New optional WFT-E4 WiFi / LAN / USB vertical grip
  • Water resistance: Tested to 10 mm rain in 3 minutes

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II Gets a New CMOS Sensor

This is what attracts me to upgrade from the EOS 5D. I was surprised at the huge 21.1 megapixel resolution that Canon have given this upgrade as it may deter potential customers from looking at the 1Ds Mark III. I know they are different beasts. However, I for one would prefer the size and weight of the EOS 5D Mark II to that of another 1 Series Canon to compliment my 1D Mark III.

The sensitivity range has risen to a "Nikon D90 beating" (only slightly) 50-25,600 ISO. Now if the low light, high ISO image quality has improved over the already excellent 5D. If so, I will most certainly be getting my hands on one of these ready for next year's wedding season.

Digic 4 Processor

The EOS Mark II jumps from a Digic II processor on the EOS 5D to a Digic IV processor on the EOS 5D Mark II. Much of this power, combined with 14-bit analogue to digital conversion, goes towards the new HD movie shooting. It also helps with long uninterrupted continuous bursts of large JPEGs, near-instant start-up times and immediate and fast review after shooting.

The Digic 4 processor also assists in noise reduction to compliment the already excellent CMOS sensor. I am looking forward to seeing some low light, high ISO results from this camera!

1920 x 1080 HD video capture

As I have said before, love it or hate it, video within consumer (for now) DSLR’s is here to stay. Being a fan of video myself, I can already think of a multitude of applications that this will come in handy for. In both my personal life as well as my professional one. It’s all good!

Once filming is started from the camera’s Live View mode, photographers can fire off either single or continuous stills, with video capture continuing after the final frame is captured. What will they think of next?

Canon EOS Integrated Cleaning System

The new integrated cleaning system for the sensor in the EOS 5D Mark II works in three different ways;

  • Reduce - Firstly, the internal camera mechanisms are designed to minimise dust generation. The newly redesigned body cap prevents dust generation through wear on the cap itself
  • Repel - Canon’s anti-static technologies, including a special fluorine coating, are adhered to the low-pass filter which covers the front of the sensor so as not to attract dust
  • Remove - Hi frequency vibrations are used on the Self-Cleaning Sensor Unit to shake dust from the infrared filter for a period of about one second after each start up. For instant shooting after power up, this feature is disabled immediately once the shutter release is depressed

Canon EOS 5D Mark II - Two Small RAW Formats

Are you a photographer seeking the flexibility and creative possibilities of shooting RAW format images? Without the large file size of the 21.2 megapixel sensor? The Canon EOS 5D Mark II offers two more manageable file size options with sRAW1 and sRAW2 recording formats.

At the sRAW1 setting, resolution is 10.0-megapixels with a file size that is approximately 25 percent smaller than a standard 21.1-megapixel RAW image. With the sRAW2 setting, resolution is 5.2 megapixels. At less than half the file size of a standard RAW image, it retains all of the flexibility and creative possibilities associated with full-size, conventional RAW images.

Wedding and portrait photographers, in particular, will appreciate the options of variable resolution and file sizes. This will allow them to fine-tune the 5D Mark II’s operation for their specific needs. Great stuff Canon!

Direct Print Button

It is still there although now it incorporates the live view function so it now has a purpose!

My Conclusion

So without going into huge detail (which you can find elsewhere on the web), and to stick my head on the block, I think this camera is going to outsell anything else released in 2008 and maybe even 2009.

Canon held back the release of this upgrade possibly to see what Nikon came up with and then surpassed it. The functionality and potential image quality of this camera are impressive and one wonders how far it can go.

The resolution on the EOS 5D Mark II is suitable for professional stock libraries, glossy magazines, billboard advertising and pretty much any other form of photography. So my prediction for the next generation will include the continuation and improvement of dynamic range, low light and high ISO performance over a higher pixel count.

Plus possibly improving the video capabilities to include animation (stop motion), varying resolutions and recording/sound modes whilst creating more peripherals such as "hot shoe microphones", on camera lighting and maybe even a new form of solid state media?

The merging of photo/video is upon us and is something I for one will enjoy as I have always been a fan of anything "audio-visual". I am going to hold off buying the EOS 5D Mark II until the start of next year's wedding season but when I do get my hands on one I will be sure to add a full on user review to All Things Photography.

The EOS 5D MkII was released at a price of £2300 for the body only, or £3050 in a kit including an EF 24-105mm f/4.0L IS USM zoom lens.

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