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As the replacement to the ailing, but still popular EOS 5D, the MkII has a higher resolution, the newest processor from Canon, higher ISO sensitivities, larger resolution screen, live view and full HD video recording.
Canon EOS 5D MkII: Specification
- Resolution: 21.1Mp
- Sensor size: 36x24mm full frame
- Sensor type: CMOS
- Image size: 5616x3744
- Aspect ratio: 3:2
- Focus system: TTL-CT-SIR
- Focus points: 9 point AF plus 6 assist AF points
- Crop factor: 1.0x
- Lens mount: EF (excludes EF-S lenses)
- File type: JPEG, RAW, sRAW1, sRAW2
- Sensitivity: ISO100-6400 (expandable toISO50, ISO12,800 and ISO25,600)
- Storage: Compactflash
- Focus types: One-shot, AI servo, AI focus
- Metering system: TTL full aperture
- Metering types: Evaluative (selective AF point), Partial (approx 8% of centre), spot (approx 3.5% of centre), centre-weighted
- Exposure compensation: /-2 EV in 1/2 or 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 30sec-1/8000sec
- Frames per second: 3.9fps (max 78 images in JPEG or 310 with UDMA card, max 13 images in RAW)
- Flash: Hotshoe for external EX speedlite
- Flash metering: E-TTL auto flash
- Flash sync speed: 1/200sec
- Image stabilisation: Lens based
- Integrated cleaning: EOS integrated cleaning system with fluorine coating
- Live view: Yes, 100% coverage
- Viewfinder: Optical, pentaprism type with approx 98% coverage
- Monitor: 3in TFT LCD 920,000dot (307,000px)
- Interface: USB 2.0
- Power: LP-E6 Li-Ion battery
- Size: 152x113.5x75mm
- Weight: 810g
The command dial still has a full auto mode for if you get too baffled by it all.
Everything on the top is the same with the exception of the rearranged screen illumination button.
Canon EOS 5D MkII: Features
It's fair to say that the Canon EOS 5D has been one of the most successful DSLRs which left Canon with a problem when designing its replacement. Maybe this is why it's taken so long to come along.
As of July 2008, the EOS 5D held 66% of the semi-pro DSLR market meaning that to continue that success, the designers had to pull out a certain fluffy white object out of the proverbial hat. The result is the EOS 5D MkII which has been talked about in length not only here on ePHOTOzine but all over the interweb with everyone speculating on the specifications.
Most were very close but essentially wrong. Namely on the resolution and frames per second. All that's in the past now and the new model has stomped into the foreground and diverted everyone's attention away from the recently released Nikon D700.
The resolution is the same as the top of the line EOS 1Ds MkIII but isn't the same sensor. I spoke to Richard Shepherd, European Product Specialist for Digital DSLRs and EF lenses and he told me that the new CMOS sensor has improved photodiodes which are more efficient meaning a lower power consumption. The photosites on the pixels are larger which they've enabled by reducing the size of the circuitry that surrounds the photosite.
This is all to do with noise and I asked if a larger photosite would create more heat increasing the chance of noise on surrounding pixels. Richard confirmed in normal circumstances this would be an issue, but as it's predictable noise, they can compensate for it. Interestingly, the microlenses aren't gapless on the 5D MkII but are on the EOS 50D.
I then spoke to Mike Burnhill, European CCI Product specialist for Digital SLR and EF lenses and I mentioned in my discussion with him that although the EOS 5D MkII has the same resolution as the EOS 1Ds MkIII, it only has one processor whereas the pro spec camera has two. I asked if this was an issue with speed and Mike said that the new Digic IV processor is faster and leaner than the previous third generation version (the 5D has DiG!C II processor). He confirmed that although it's not twice as fast to keep it in line with the EOS 1Ds MkIII speed, it works out at around 1.3x faster. He added that this meant that when using a UDMA enabled card in continuous shooting, JPEGs would be leaving the buffer as the next one entered.
This suggests that it's limitless but the full specification states that with UDMA, continuous is actually limited to 310 images. It does make me wonder whether it's much of an issue as I can't think of any scenario where you might take over 300 images in quick succession.
Finally I asked Mike if he could point out one defining difference in the EOS 5D MkII that he thinks will give it that extra oomph over the other full frame DSLRs. Unusually he mentioned the battery. I didn't want a typical reply such as resolution or sensor but I didn't expect to hear about the battery. He explained that it's a new battery (oh, surprise) and works in a similar way to Sony's InfoLithium where it gives a more precise countdown to when it needs recharging. He continued that the performance is also increased at zero degrees. Normally at such a cold temperature, the capacity halves from the normal 750 shots but the new battery only loses around 100 shots.
The ports for everything are located on the side. The left is for incoming, the right for outgoing. HDMI is seen on bottom right.
Other areas of the camera that Canon are proud of are their claim to releasing the worlds first HD DSLR. But didn't Nikon just do that with the D90? Well, yes and no. The D90 runs at 720p which is a lower quality but still recognised as HD. The EOS 5D MkII runs at the full 1080 HD setting. This mode is enabled from live view and runs at proper television running speed of 30fps.
Delay your inward groans while you think of what it may be able to do for you. Landscape photographers might find it a bit of a waste of programming but candid, wedding, street, sports photographers and even papps may find this feature useful. Being able to add a bit of video content will give you that extra edge that disbelievers have been ridiculing.
Noise has been intensively worked on from the sensor to the processor and this gives the same awesome noise performance capabilities as the Nikon full frame models. But Canon have gone one slightly better and increased the minimum true ISO100 with an expandable option of ISO50.
The cleaning system has also been worked on and as well as having the fluorine coating on the low pass filter and high frequency vibrations, the EOS 5D MkII also has an internal Dust Delete Data system which maps the position of visible dust on the sensor. The dust that the camera discovered can then be deleted automatically using Digital Photo Professional software.
The original 5D from the rear showing the layout. Dimensions for the cameras are identical.
Slight variances from the 5D MkII with button layout and live-view added and a microphone.
A quick scout around the body shows minor changes from the older model as most are internal or performance related. The command dial has had two new custom functions added and the CA mode found on the Canon EOS 50D. This mode is designed to make taking photographs easier by simplifying the options into examples. For instance, instead of selecting an aperture of f/4 to blur the background, you slide the slider on the rear monitor to the end that says blur background. I'm surprised to see this on a semi-pro camera as the vast majority of users will know exactly what to do while the other percentage will want to find out.
The functions of the buttons over the top plate LCD display have been rearranged slightly while the screen illumination button has been placed on the edge of the shoulder and not tucked into the prism head.
Moving onto the back and the direct print button has been given a double task of enabling live view. It has to be set up in the menu before it works and thanks to the new 921,000dot screen, it's now really bright and there's loads of information.
The buttons on the back, down the side of the screen have been rearranged with the addition of a new button to access picture styles. The jump button has been removed and delete brought in line with the others. Nothing else has changed apart from a small microphone just to the right of the viewfinder which is for the HD video capability.
Canon EOS 5D MkII: Build and handling
They've done a good job at modernising what was becoming a dated concept in the menu systems although to be fair to Canon, the 5D scrolling menu is pretty fast to get through. The MkII has a menu layout more in line with earlier models with its coloured tabs that can be rotated through using the navigation pad, joystick or e-dials. The new menu system retains its core principles of being easy to use but has a bang up to date layout with flashy graphics and pulsating icons in varying colours when you scroll through the lists.
The body is magnesium alloy and is weatherproof - With an asterisk. Looking at the footer of the specification table shows that the weatherproofing is environment protection. At first glance I would say that environmental protection and weatherproofing are one and the same but Canon have separated the two meanings for a reason.
Colours appear slightly more pale than I'm used to but means the processor is tampering less and gives more scope for editing.
Canon EOS 5D MkII: Performance
JPEG has boosted the usual primary blue and red but yellow looks paler than I'm used to seeing. Orange looks quite pale too but the earth brown and green are OK. I'm unsure of the skin tone tile, it's not bad but doesn't sit quite right. The mono tones look balanced but the pastel colours are too desaturated.
I used live-view for the landscape test and once the camera had focused, turning the thumb wheel zooms in on the image. I found that the focusing was slightly out which then allowed me to fine tune using the manual override. I intend to test this more to see if it's a problem of the camera. Canon have been plagued with focus problems and it would be a shame if they've not addressed the problem. Thanks to the bright screen, 10x magnification of the image and the ability to move around the image in all directions, I quickly found an area I could see the focus clearly on. Annoyingly, the zoom out button doesn't work. It works on a rotation basis and will go back to full view after zooming in to its maximum capability.
Focus was a little soft until I pulled it in with the manual focus ring. More tests on the focusing below.
Although the screen is a huge improvement from the 5D, it shows a more contrasting image than is recorded.
Portraits shouldn't be too much of a problem as it gives decent skin tones and good colour rendition, although I was annoyed that the screen showed the image a lot more contrasty on the back of the camera than it shows on the screen. If it was a true depiction, I'd be tempted to enter into the picture styles and add a bit of sharpening there.
There have been many reports on the Canon EOS 5D MkII regarding black dots found on highlight areas such as street lights when recorded on a long exposure image. I tested the camera on this phenomena and didn't find a problem which suggests that this could be pertaining to a few models.
I called Canon regarding black dot and a spokesperson confirmed that they're aware of "Black dot phenomenon" and are taking measures against it: "Black dot phenomenon is where the right point of source light becomes black. Canon are currently investigating ways to improve and/or mitigate the phenomenon. It can be solved with a firmware update which is available as soon as Canon have finished testing it."
The spokesperson confirmed that this information will be released on the Canon website and also apologised to any affected customers and thanked them for their patience.
Canon EOS 5D MkII: HD video
As a relatively new technology to DSLRs, the video recording system in the Canon EOS 5D MkII is the first full HD DSLR on the market. The Nikon D90 also has HD quality video recording but isn't full HD as it runs at the setting of 720p.
To enable the camera to record video, you have to enable it in the menu system by accessing the live view/video sub menu. You then change the LV function setting to stills movie mode with the display set to movie display. When you then enter live-view, you'll see the video crop as a semi-transparent shaded area around the frame.
To record video, press the set button on the back and a red recording dot will appear in the top right of the screen. Interestingly, you can't auto focus in video mode but you can manually focus if you need to. If you're not going to have to change it in the middle of the video, prefocus before recording.
The built-in microphone is by no means perfect as it picks up everything including when you move your hands on the camera body. I was concerned about the placement of the microphone at the back as it might pick up breathing if it's that sensitive, but this isn't a problem. An extra socket is available for external mic if necessary.
One thing that was picked up was a continuous clicking and whirring which I think was the workings of the camera most probably from the image stabiliser. It wouldn't be discernible if you're out in a louder area as I used it in a quiet studio testing for such noise.
I've filmed a part of the video review using the camera to see if you think it's any better than a camcorder. Of course it should be with a larger sensor and the benefit of interchangeable lenses. However, the lack of focusing is unfortunate and camcorder lenses have a near point blank close focus range which isn't available on the DSLRs.
The camera had trouble finding a lock on this statue, even on the edges.
Canon EOS 5D MkII: Focus and metering
Canon have come under a lot of fire because of focusing problems with other models even as high classed as the EOS 1Ds MkIII. I tested the focus system placing the focus spot on an area, focusing and using the magnification in live-view to see if it caught properly. In my tests I found that the camera had a tendency to hunt a lot and failed to find a lock on items such as this statue taken at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It looks like the focus system has problems with areas of lower contrast. While all cameras suffer from this problem, I felt that the Canon suffered more.
As for getting images in focus, I didn't have a problem with it. I thought I had a problem when shooting the landscape image but as I wasn't testing focus at that time, it's possible that the camera focused on another area from where I manually focused.
Metering is up to Canon's usual standards and had no problems with any of the settings.
Canon EOS 5D MkII: Noise test
Noise is controlled very well on the Canon EOS 5D MkII with none showing at all at the first four steps. By ISO800, a slight sharpening is forming on the grey area but this is lower than a lot of APS-C sensors will give at ISO200 so shouldn't be worried about. From this intial poking through of noise, it starts to increase through each step but doesn't begin to be a problem for me until ISO6400 when the detail in the petals starts to deteriorate.
I think what impresses me most about this is that noise reduction was turned off on these images and the purple colouring doesn't show until ISO12,800. By the final ISO25,600 rating most detail is lost in the flower while noise and artefacts scatter the main bulk of the image. Still for it to only be a problem at such a high rating is pretty good.
The results are much better than the Nikon D3 which was the first DSLR to be released with such a high sensitivity. Time will tell how it compares against the new D3x as the D3 is over a year old now.
Click the links below for the RAW downloads:
Canon EOS 5D MkII ISO50 RAW
DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.
Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Canon EOS 5D MkII.
Canon EOS 5D MkII: Verdict
Canon have come under a lot of fire recently regarding the focus system, so it's good to see that it can focus sharply enough. It did have trouble with locking on and tended to hunt more than I found comfortable. Noise performance is great and shows that even with a high resolution it doesn't cause a problem.
I've come round to the idea of video on DSLRs but I feel there should be more control. It doesn't allow any changes to be made other than manual ones of focus and zoom. I'm disappointed about the audible noise that the camera can pick up from the internal workings of the camera.
I don't think you'll have any problems with the camera if you decide to get to EOS 5D MkII, it's just as competent as the original MkI but with flashier graphics, faster processor and larger file sizes. If you use Save to Web, like I do, then you may run into problems as I was constantly running out of memory to save the files and had to resize on a number of occasions.
Canon EOS 5D MkII: Plus points
New DiG!C IV processor
Excellent noise control
Canon EOS 5D MkII: Minus points
Focus had trouble locking
Lack of control on videos
CA mode is present
Images are sharper on monitor than computer
See the video review of the Canon EOS 5D MkII here:
Canon EOS 5D MkII video review
The EOS 5D Mark II (body only) is available from Warehouse Express priced at £2251.99:
Canon EOS 5D MkII body only
The EOS 5D Mark II, EF 24-105mm f4.0L IS USM kit is available from Warehouse Express, at £2974.99:
Canon EOS 5D MkII kit