My 5DMkII Mini Review

I’ve had the chance to get used to my 5DMkII now and here are my thoughts.

The Body

The camera is nicely built and is very solid, It’s bigger then my previous cameras, And has a nice hand grip. From the back, To me it looks allot like a 40D/50D. I like the lack of a inbuilt flash, Because it makes the camera look a bit better, And the overhang doesn’t get in the way, However, I do miss the built in flash, And have gone to press the flash release button only to remember that I don’t have a built in flash, Which does come in handy when I need a quick bit of flash, Or for a bit of fill flash. It’s a shame that Canon doesn’t release a small compact sized flash like Nikons SB-400 (I know there is the 220EX, But that’s still big and not as useful as the SB-400) But I don’t use flash in my type of photography, So the lack of the inbuilt isn’t a big deal to me and my shooting style. The compact flash door latch is nice and solid and feels better built then my previous cameras, Which felt a bit cheap and flimsy, You can feel the difference with the door on the 5DMkII. The On/Off switch still feels flimsy though, It’s been this way since the 40D, And the 50D also uses the same switch. It’s easy to leave the camera on without you knowing, And then returning the next day to find your batteries are flat. The 20D’s On/Off switch was much better and was smoother to operate.

Weather Sealing

I had the unfortunate and unexpected chance to test out the cameras water resistance when I went down to my local beach on my first shoot with the 5DMkII, I had been shooting in the sand and surf and thought I would wash off the sand from my tripod at the beach shower, Well someone had messed around with the shower head, And instead of it spraying down, It sprayed sideways and directly onto my 5DMkII And 24-105 IS that was hanging over my shoulder! >.<
But even though it got wet, The camera still works fine, I shot for another 2 hours after that with no problems. The camera is rated to be water resistant to the equivalent of 10mm of rain in 3 minutes, Which is the equivalent to a good downpour. So you don’t really need to be afraid of a bit of rain when using the 5DMkII.

Anti Dust Sensor Cleaner

The anti dust sensor cleaner does seem to work so far, When I first got the camera I noticed a few specs of dust, But they were gone after switching the camera On/Off (The camera cleans the sensor when you turn it on). You can turn the feature off via the menus if you prefer, But I don’t see why you would.
You can also take a reference image and create Dust delete data which you can use to get rid of those stubborn dust spots and hot pixels from your photos via Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) Software when converting RAW images.

The Sensor

Being a Fullframed camera, You now don’t have a crop factor to deal with on the 5DMkII, All your lenses work at the marked focal lengths, This can be seen as an advantage or a disadvantage depending if you shoot at the wide angle or telephoto end of your lenses.

The new sensor isn’t as demanding on your lenses as the 50D, My 24-105 IS is perfectly sharp on the 5DMkII, And when I tested my other 24-105 IS (Which was sharp on my 40D) On the 50D, I found it to be soft. I also found that my other lenses were soft on the 50D, Even though they were nice and sharp when I was using them on my 40D.

The colours are nice on the 5DMkII, And I find that very little to no post processing is really needed to get the best from the 5DMkII Files, I was amazed at the results right out of the camera!

The file sizes can get really big when shooting at higher ISO settings, But I will cover that later. So far my computer seems to be able to handle batch processing of the 21mp files.

The Autofocus

The Autofocus is typical of most Canon consumer model since around 2004 when the 9pt AF was released in the 20D.

The 5DMkII, Like it’s predecessor has an additional 6 invisible AF points to help with tracking moving objects in AI AF mode. It does seem to help a little, But it’s still not as good as a 1 series or Nikon D300/D700/D3/D3x Pro AF systems.

I had the chance to test out the AF in low light while out doing a dusk and night shoot, And unfortunately it’s not that great, The camera hunts allot in low light, And I find that the 40D with it’s cross type AF points done a better job then the 5D/5DMkII AF system when shooting at night and in low light.

The Viewfinder

The Viewfinder is big and bright, And the AF lock confirmation is very bright. The viewfinder is good if you like to manually focus your lenses.

However, If you wear glasses it is hard to read the viewfinder info and is a little annoying, This can be overcome with the use of the Canon EP-EX15 Eyepiece extender, However it will make the viewfinder appear smaller.

The actual size of the viewfinder is only slightly larger then the one found on a 40D/50D which I was surprised, I was expecting a bigger difference.

Reading the viewfinder info in strong light can also be difficult, I have a aftermarket rubber eyecap and It’s was still hard to read the info in strong light.

The LCD

The 5DMkII Uses the same 920,000 dot pixel LCD screen found on the 50D, And it’s a fantastic LCD, It’s very sharp and easy to read. Canon has included anti reflection layers in the cover which does help you to see the screen, Even under strong light. The 5DMkII Has a sensor built into the back that can automatically adjust the screens brightness according to lighting conditions your shooting under, Or you can manually adjust the brightness.

With the new screen, Manually focusing lenses when shooting in live view mode is made easier then trying to do it previously on the 40D’s LCD which was soft and not that useful. Reviewing images to check for sharpness is also possible now, Unlike on the 40D’s screen because it was to soft and didn’t have a high enough resolution to be that useful.

The screen does get smudged very easily, So some sort of screen protector would be recommended, I got one for my 5DMkII after my experience with the 50D.

Live View Mode

The 5DMkII Has 3 Live view modes, You can choose to have the camera drop the mirror to get AF, Or you can set it to use contrast detection to AF, And you hold down the AF button on the back of the camera. There is also a face detect mode which uses the contrast AF to focus.

The contrast detect AF is slow and it’s really only useful for static scenes, Or very slow moving subjects.

When shooting in live view mode and using contrast detection, The AF points are displayed on the back of the LCD, And you can choose which area you want the camera to use to get focus.

There are also 2 grids that can be switched on to help with composition via the LCD in live view mode.

In Live view mode you can set the camera to give you a constant readout, Or you can set the camera to simulate your exposure settings. I use the exposure simulation mode, And I also use it as a preview/mirror lockup mode, Allot of people have complained that Canon doesn’t offer a mirror lockup button, But I find that using live view mode just before taking the shot where you would traditionally use mirror lockup is just as good since the mirror is locked up when shooting in live view mode anyway, And the mirror doesn’t drop back down after the exposure, So you can take another shot without the vibrations from the mirror dropping down and then up again, And you don’t have to press the shutter button twice like you do when your using the mirror lockup mode.

Video mode

Video mode is a handy feature, But it offers very limited controls or user input. You really only have the option of changing the exposure compensation, And the camera sets the Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO automatically. The AF is very slow at best, Since it uses the contrast detect mode. Your better off manually focusing.

Trying to handhold the camera and shoot video is very hard, So a tripod/monopod is definitely recommended! There is a microphone port that you can plug a external microphone into, If your serious about shooting video I would definitely recommend you get a external microphone.

The built in microphone picks up everything, It picks up the lens AF motor, IS, And your hands. Again It would be best to have the camera mounted on a tripod, Use a shutter release cable or the Infrared remote and lock focus before shooting a video clip. There is little to no exposure control when shooting videos. To shoot a clip, You press the live view button, And then the Set button in the middle of the scroll wheel.

If you shoot video in portrait position, The camera will not auto rotate the clip and you will end up with a sideways clip and a sore neck! Video mode is really limited to the landscape orientation, Unless you have the time and patience to edit it via video post production software.

I done a test using a Ultra II memory card, And I managed to shoot a 14 minute clip till the card filled up with no problems, A UDMA card is useful, But not essential, A Extreme III card should be fine.

The Shutter

The shutter sound is quieter then my previous cameras, The blackout time is a bit longer then with my previous cameras, But I’m guessing this is due to the fact that the 5D/5D2 mirror is larger then the crop sensored cameras.

The Menu System

The menu system is the same as the 40D/50D which all use a page system, I still preferred the scroll down single paged system on my 20D where I could use the rear scroll wheel to navigate from page to page, Rather then having to press the navigation pad to select the page, Then use the scroll wheel to select the settings I want, But this is only a minor thing, It’s still easy to navigate your way though the menus and find the settings, And you have 3 custom user settings to access the essential menu settings.

Bulb mode

The 5DMkII Will not do bulb exposures in the normal M AV TV modes! It will only go down to 30 secs, If you want to shoot bulb exposures, You now have to select the B Bulb mode via the control wheel. I find this to be a bit annoying, Because now if I want to shoot a bulb exposure, I now have to change the settings to B mode and then back again when I’m done. I usually shoot in manual mode nearly everything, And now I can’t select a Bulb exposure until I switch over to B mode.

User Custom modes

You can select your most used menu modes and functions and save them to one of three User modes for quick access to essential menu functions without having to go through the whole menu system to find them. The 3 modes are located on the top control wheel, And this feature is also available on the 40D And 50D.

The Battery

The new battery has a higher capacity then the old BP-511/BP-511a that it replaces, And now the camera gives you better information about battery life, And you can also access the battery information via the menu system, And it gives you info about how much charge is left, The serial numbers of the batteries, And also charge performance so you know when it’s time to buy a replacement battery. This information was also available on my D300, And is also available on the D700.
The 5DMkII Also displays the battery voltage information in the viewfinder.

ISO Performance

Under controlled conditions the 5DMkII produces usable images up to ISO 12800, But in real world shooting, I found ISO 6400 was around the limit with the standard in camera noise reduction setting, You could set the noise reduction to strong, But you will loose detail in your images. Another option would be to run the photos through some noise reduction software if you really needed to shoot at the extreme high ISO settings.

The 5DMkII produces noiseless images up to ISO 3200, And you start to notice noise from ISO 6400 and up, And at ISO 25,600 There is some banding, But that is at the extreme end of things, And is to be expected.

The 5DMkII has a Auto ISO setting which can be selected when choosing your ISO settings rather then having to set it via the menus.

ISO Can be set to be changed in 1/3 increments, Or 1 stop increments.

The ISO speed does affect the file sizes the higher you go, Here are the file sizes from my tests, Shot at the full 21.1 mp setting:

ISO 50 – RAW – 23.6 MB Large Fine Jpeg – 4.30 MB

ISO 100 – RAW – 22.4 MB Large Fine Jpeg – 4.18 MB

ISO 200 – RAW – 22.9 MB – Large Fine Jpeg – 4.8 MB

ISO 400 – RAW – 23.8 MB – Large Fine Jpeg – 5.58 MB

ISO 800 – RAW – 24.9 MB – Large Fine Jpeg – 5.97 MB

ISO 1600 – RAW – 26.1 MB – Large Fine Jpeg – 5.84 MB

ISO 3200 – RAW – 27.7 MB – Large Fine Jpeg – 5.75 MB

ISO 6400 – RAW – 30.2 MB – Large Fine Jpeg – 7.44 MB

ISO 12800 – RAW – 33.2 MB – Large Fine Jpeg – 9.32 MB

ISO 25600 – RAW – 37.4 MB – Large Fine Jpeg – 12.0 MB

Dynamic range

The dynamic range seems better then what I’ve been shooting previously. The 5DMkII also has Highlight Tone Priority mode for those times when your shooting high contrast and bright scenes, And there is also the new Auto light optimiser setting which was fist introduced on the 50D, Which brings out shadow detail and is useful for shooting dark scenes. There are 4 settings, These are: Low, Standard, High, And disabled. The Auto light optimiser works just like the Nikon Active D lighting setting, And it does work just as well as Nikons implementation of this feature.

UDMA Memory cards

Despite all the hype about “Needing” To use UDMA cards in the 5DMkII I found that it’s not really the case unless you plan on shooting allot of video or shoot in burst mode, And shoot RAW because you get more frames when using A UDMA Card compared to A Non-UDMA Card. I done a video test using A Slower Sandisk Ultra II Card, And the camera managed to record video with no problems as I discussed before. The Extreme III Memory cards seem fast enough, But if you are looking at buying more memory, Then look into investing into the UDMA cards, But if you’ve got a large collection of cards, You should be alright.

The 5DMkII Also keeps writing to the memory card, Even if you switch off the camera, Or open the card door while it’s still writing to the card. A message appears on the rear LCD to tell you that it’s still writing to the card, This feature was first introduced in the 40D, And it means that if you accidentally open the memory card door, You won’t loose all the photos that hadn’t been written to the memory card.

Memory Card Capacities

8GB

RAW = 165 Images
RAW+Large Fine Jpeg = 220 Images

4GB

RAW = 134 Images
RAW+Large Fine Jpeg = 110 Images

2GB

RAW = 65 Images
RAW+Large Fine Jpeg = 54 Images

1GB

RAW = 31 Images
RAW+Large Fine Jpeg = 26 Images

Conclusion

The 5DMkII is a good camera, With picture quality as good, If not better then the current flagship model, The EOS 1DsMkIII Which costs more then twice as much as the 5DMkII.

The 5DMkII is the ideal camera for landscapes, Studio, Portraits, And wedding photography. If you shoot sports and wildlife, Or anything that moves fast or if you need maximum frames per second, Then maybe the 5DMkII isn’t the camera for you, As I said earlier in my review, The AF isn’t the best, Especially in low light. Canon should have updated the AF system and should have made all 9 points cross type like the AF found in the 40D/50D With a double precession centre point when using f/2.8 And faster lenses. If you’ve ever used a 5D, You will know what the AF Performance is like, I see little to no improvement over the original 5D’s AF. This might be a issue for those who need the best AF performance from their camera, But for people like me who don’t shoot things that require tracking or quick AF response, Then the 5DMkII’s AF should be fine.

If you wear glasses it would be best to invest in the Canon EP-EX15 eyepiece extender because as I said, It can be difficult to read the viewfinder information. (This was the same with the original 5D).

Other then those issues, The 5DMkII Is a fantastic camera for those looking for maximum resolution at a good price, And it makes a great upgrade for those who want to move up from a crop sensored camera to full frame.

The picture quality is good right out of the camera, And the 5DMkII Appears to have a weaker Anti Aliasing filter then what you would find on a crop sensored camera. Colours are good even at the default settings, And there is a increase in dynamic range, And high ISO performance seems to be better then my 40D, And much better then the 50D at ISO 800 and above.

Overall it’s been a nice upgrade from my 40D and the D300 (Picture quality wise as the D300 seemed to handle better, Especially when it comes to AF performance) But for me I think the 5DMkII is the perfect camera for me since I mainly shoot landscapes, And I don’t see the need for a upgrade anytime soon. Highly Recommended!

Journal Comments

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