Magazine Article


Camera Review - Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR
21-megapixel DSLR and HD video

imaginginfo canon product shot
Diane Berkenfeld

Diane Berkenfeld

Diane Berkenfeld

Diane Berkenfeld

After waiting for three years, photographers shooting Canon DSLRs, particularly the EOS 5D, now have the option of upgrading to the EOS 5D Mark II. Building upon the popular 5D body, the 5D Mark II adds an exciting feature that hasn't been seen before in a pro DSLR--video capture.

Like its predecessor, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II offers 35mm full-frame capture using a CMOS image sensor in a relatively compact body. The camera features 21.1 megapixels of resolution and uses Canon's proprietary DIGIC 4 processor.

The ISO range of the 5D Mark II is wide-ranging (from 50 on the low end to 6400) with two high-speed settings: H1--ISO 12800 and H2--25600. The 5D Mark II offers an ISO range three stops higher than its predecessor, which was limited at ISO 3200.

The camera offers continuous shooting at 3.9 fps for an unlimited number of full-res JPEGs to the capacity of the memory card, or up to 14 RAW images in a single burst when using a UDMA CF card.

For those photographers moving up from the 5D to this new model, they'll appreciate the larger 3-inch Clear View LCD over the smaller 2.5-inch LCD of the original 5D. Also, the viewfinder provides 98% coverage. Canon has enhanced the camera's shutter durability to 150,000 cycles.

The camera captures photographs in RAW, JPEG, and RAW + JPEG file formats for still images, and the .MOV file format for HD video capture. Canon incorporated two new RAW file formats into the 5D Mark II: sRAW1 and sRAW2. Depending upon what your final images will be used for, you can choose which file format and compression to shoot. A large JPEG file of an image shot at the full resolution of the camera opens up to a whopping 60MB+ file.

The 5D Mark II features three Live View AF modes: Quick, Live, and Face Detection Live mode, for capturing either still photos or video.

Other features that Canon has incorporated into the EOS 5D Mark II include: Peripheral Illumination Correction, Auto Lighting Optimizer, Silent Shooting in Live View, and Creative Full Auto. Canon has also incorporated the EOS Integrated Cleaning System into the 5D Mark II.

An example of some video taken with the EOS 5D Mark II. The original footage is sharper, as the file was compressed for posting on the web.

Video in a Still Camera

The camera has the capability to capture full 16:9 HD video clips at 1920x1080 resolution at 30 frames per second (fps), as well as standard-quality (SD) video capture at 640x480 pixels and 30 fps. What this means is that you can now shoot video with your still DSLR.

Does that mean you'll become a videographer for your wedding customers, too? Or start shooting commercials with the camera for your commercial clients? Not likely. You'll still want a dedicated high-end video camera for that type of job. But what it does allow you to do is go beyond the still image. Just think of the creativity opened up to you, with both still and video capture capabilities in a DSLR body.

Many photographers create slideshows for their wedding/portrait customers, as well as for their websites and other presentations. Now you can add video to those slideshows, video that's captured utilizing any of the Canon lenses you own--be they fish-eye, macro, super telephoto, or zoom, including all of the large-aperture L-series professional lenses.

The camera has been designed so that the video capture is part of the camera's Live View function. You set the camera to use the Picture Style that's been set for the Live View still-image capture, allowing for adjustments to image sharpness, contrast, color saturation, and white balance to the moving image.

The EOS 5D Mark II can record video up to 4GB per clip or a maximum continuous movie capture time of 29 minutes and 59 seconds, whichever comes first. Before you wonder if this is enough shooting time, take a look at those numbers again. Even professional videographers usually won't be shooting a continuous take of almost 30 minutes. The EOS 5D Mark II offers an external stereo mic input, as well as a built-in mono mic. The camera also incorporates an HDMI port to output directly to an HDTV, as well as a USB 2.0 port.

On a personal note as a professional photographer, even when I go on vacation I usually bring a DSLR because I want the high-quality images that I know I'll get from such a camera. The images I normally capture on such trips are more akin to travel photography than they are to vacation snapshots. To be able to shoot video with the same high quality that I'm used to (and not have to bring extra equipment) means I'm more likely to utilize that feature, and get creative with it.

Real-Life Use

I was excited to get the opportunity to test out the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, because the EOS 5D had been one of my favorite DSLRs. I really appreciate having a DSLR with a full-frame sensor.

Although the magnification that a lens on a DSLR with a smaller image sensor can offer is sometimes helpful, I do miss the ability to have the full wide-angle view of wide-angle lenses. I'm sure that photographers who were Canon shooters in the days of film have lenses that they wished were the exact focal length as noted on the lens. With a full-frame image sensor, that's again the case.

The size of the camera is ideal for me. For all of the bells and whistles that a camera like the 1Ds Mark III offers, it also comes with a larger body that is heavier. I'd rather sacrifice some of the extra features that I wouldn't be using all that often anyway for a smaller body like the 5D Mark II.

Another feature that I find extremely helpful is the ISO range of the 5D Mark II. Depending upon what you shoot, the capability to shoot at an ISO of 25600 lets you practically shoot in the dark. While I wouldn't shoot everything at such a high ISO, knowing that I can (should the need arise) gives me the knowledge that the camera will be able to perform in the low-light situations I might find myself shooting in.

In addition to the histogram, the camera also offers a highlight warning, in which the highlight areas blink in the LCD to show where you've blown out the highlights. I like this feature because I can view the images at the full size of the LCD and see which areas might be clipped.

The 5D Mark II offers an array of white-balance options, including custom WB. However, I found the AWB setting to be spot-on when I used it.

Overall, the EOS 5D Mark II is a great digital still camera with the unique ability to capture HD video, too.

For more information, visit Canon's Digital Learning Center