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Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera Review


Digital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker 


Canon’s original 5D (released back in 2005) was arguably the best digital SLR ever produced by the well-known industry powerhouse. It was quickly and lovingly embraced by the photography community and has no doubt paved the way for its successor, the 5D Mark II, which has rapidly asserted itself as the even more capable and advanced big brother.

For those currently shooting with the original 5D, you'll be glad to know the Mark II's biggest changes and upgrades are almost entirely internal, which alone is a good indication that this new release means business: it isn’t merely a fluffy aesthetic upgrade.

Cosmetically, she's essentially the same beast with only some minor adjustments in button placement, LCD, body finish (smooth on the 5D, lightly textured on the Mark II), a few additions to the mode dial, a silver hot shoe mount (as opposed to black on the 5D), speaker and microphone holes and a new AF-ON button.

Especially attentive users will also notice the inclusion of an infrared remote control sensor below the self-timer lamp on the front of the Mark II that can be utilised with the purchase of an RC-1 or RC-5 remote control.

Don't be fooled however by the seemingly minimal changes in appearance. If you currently own a 5D and are thinking so far you've read no reason to encourage you to upgrade, read on.

Electronically and certainly in terms of its capabilities, the Mark II has taken some impressive leaps and is highly unlikely to disappoint either 5D faithfuls or anyone else who chooses to invest their coin in this worthy DSLR.

Take for example the inclusion of full HD movie mode (30 frames per second) with stereo audio, silent liveview for stills, microphone and HDMI outputs and a significant jump from a 12.8 to 21.1-megapixel full frame CMOS sensor.

The LCD is half an inch larger than that on the original 5D and it has significantly higher resolution (920K compared with 230K). There are six additional focus points (now 15 as opposed to 9) and an additional 50,000 cycles of shutter durability.

And, just as the 5D proved to be, the Mark II is an excellent multi-tasking unit for those who don't necessarily specialise in a single specific area of photography. Indeed, the Mark II can do it all and with relative ease.

The greatest difficulty encountered in fact was simply figuring out how to get into movie mode and start recording. Once determined it was, of course, very easy but certainly not an obvious process upon first approaching the unit!

The Dig!c 4 image processor has advanced significantly since the Dig!c II in the 5D to ensure that start-up time is minimal (just 0.1 of a sec), image quality is both superb and true-to-life, quick auto focusing is possible and a smooth 3.9 frames per second of continuous shooting can be achieved.

It also enables the large 14-bit RAW files to process in a jiffy and features such as live face detection AF mode to operate with great success.

In hand, the Mark II feels both comfortable and safe with the meaty hand grip providing quite a secure hold overall. The body alone (excluding battery) weighs some 810g making it relatively lightweight when in comparison to equivalent units from other manufacturers e.g. Nikon D700 and Sony A900 etc.

The newly introduced Creative Auto (CA) mode is an intuitive, predominantly automated mode that aims to act as an intermediary between full automatic and manual modes for those users whose ability and knowledge rests between the two.

When selected via the mode dial, CA remains in automatic mode with the exception of image quality, exposure compensation, flash settings and picture style (standard, portrait, landscape and monochrome), which remain customisable.

Instead of having to determine and select a shutter speed and aperture appropriate for the shooting situation, users instead need to pick a point on two separate sliding scales: one to determine how blurred or sharp they'd like they're image and the other, how dark or bright they'd like it to be.

So, instead of having to understand shutter speed and aperture and the relationship between the two, users can easily play with their effects, learn as they go and eventually advance to full manual mode instead.

Most users who can afford to invest in the Mark II are probably unlikely to utilise CA mode all that often as their grasp of photography will be great enough to deem it an unnecessary option. That being said, those amateurs with more money to burn than photography sense will find it a very useful and user-friendly addition.

In that sense, the Mark II is attempting to appeal to multiple markets and could be accused of having somewhat of a split focus but, so what if they do? Good for them if they’re able to appeal to both enthusiasts and professionals alike. No harm done.

Canon possibly could have considered including a pop-up flash on the Mark II, the presence of which would prove useful even for professionals from time to time. Given the inclusion of CA mode suggests Canon are marketing to amateurs as much as they are to prosumers and professionals, this – in our opinion - is a minor oversight.

As with the 5D, the Mark II has a stainless steel internal chassis (that's reinforced by magnesium alloy) and the weather resistant dust and water seals around the buttons, memory card slot and battery compartment have been further improved.

A new ridge type seal has been built around the hot shoe mount to ensure water etc. cannot penetrate when an external flash unit is connected and in a similar vein, the 3-inch LCD screen is triple coated in order to reduce as many scratches, smudges and glare as physically possible.

The internal menu system has been slightly refined to allow for even greater ease-of-use and additional control options allow, as the name suggests, further overall control.

As expected the 5D Mark II is compatible with all available EF lenses (not EF-S) and its viewfinder now offers a slightly more generous pentaprism that provides some 98% coverage.medal-platinum-r.jpg

An extensive ISO range of 100-6400 (expandable to 50-25,600) is on offer and the noise-to-detail ratio at higher ISOs is quite impressive in general and has certainly improved somewhat from the original 5D.

Image quality, as expected, is fantastic. Pin sharp when and where it’s required and a lovely softness and separation available throughout the range of apertures. Colour reproduction is accurate and as a result very natural and life-like.

For the genuinely fantastic punch the Mark II delivers in terms of image quality, ease of use and versatility, its current RRP of $3,999 (body only) would very quickly prove to be a worthy investment. Canon are known for their quality and indeed the Mark II, unsurprisingly, is no exception.

NB: The lens supplied to review this unit was an inexpensive 70-300mm. 



Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4.5 stars
Image quality
4.5 stars
Lens quality
3 stars
View finder / LCD screen 4.5 stars
Value for money 4.5 stars
RRP (AUD) $3,999
Effective Pixels 21.1 Megapixels
Image Sensor
High-sensitivity, high-resolution, large single-plate CMOS sensor
Image Sizes 3 Sizes
Lens - zoom wide [mm] -
Lens -zoom tele [mm] -
Resolution Settings (1) Large/Fine: Approx. 6.1MB (5616 x 3744 pixels)
(2) Large/Nomal: Approx. 3.0MB (5616 x 3744 pixels)
(3) Medium/Fine: Approx. 3.6MB (4080 x 2720 pixels)
(4) Medium/Normal: Approx. 1.9MB (4080 x 2720 pixels)
(5) Small/Fine: Approx. 2.1MB (2784 x 1856 pixels)
(6) Small/Normal: Approx. 1.0MB (2784 x 1856 pixels)
(7) RAW: Approx. 25.8MB (5616 x 3744 pixels)
(8) sRAW 1: Approx. 14.8MB (3861 x 2574 pixels)
(9) sRAW 2: Approx. 10.8MB (2784 x 1856 pixels)
Exact file sizes depend on the subject, ISO speed, Picture Style, etc.
Shooting Modes 7 standard modes
Face Detection Live face detection AF Modes
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Range -
Aperture Priority Yes
Exposure Metering System
35 Segments. Evaluative, Partial, Spot, Centre-weighted average
Exposure Bracketing
2 to 3 exposures in increments of 1/3, 1/2, 2/3, 1 or 2 steps to (+-) 1.0 EV
Exposure Metering Range Manual: ±2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments (can be combined with AEB)
Shutter Speeds Vertical-travel, mechanical, Electronically-controlled, focal-plane shutter 1/8000 to 1/60 sec., X-sync at 1/200 sec.
1/8000 to 30 sec., bulb (Total shutter speed range. Available range varies by shooting mode) Soft-touch electromagnetic release 10-sec. or 2-sec. delay Remote control with N3-type terminal. (Wireless remote controller RC-1/RC-5 can also be used.)
Shutter Priority Yes
ISO ISO 100-6400 (in 1/3-stop or 1-stop increments)
ISO 100-3200 set automatically
Extension settable (with C.Fn.I-3-1): ISO 50 (L), 12800 (H1), 25600 (H2)
High Tone Priority settable: ISO 200-6400
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 3" 920,000 (VGA) TFT color, liquid-crystal monitor, 100% (viewing angle: approx. 170°)
Viewfinder Yes
Flash Control
E-TTL II autoflash
Flash Sync Modes
±2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance 9 settings, Auto white balance with the image sensor
Self Timer Self-timer (10-sec. or 2-sec. delay)
Movie Options Yes. Limited only by memory card size.
Video Out Yes
Storage Type CF Card Type I and II, UDMA-compliant CF cards, via external media (USBv.2.0 hard drive, via optional Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E4A)
Image / Audio Formats JPEG, RAW (14-bit, Canon original), sRAW1, sRAW2, RAW+JPEG, MOV
Connectivity Hi-Speed USB/ HDMI mini/ Audio/Video OUT/ PC Terminal/ Remote control/External microphone input
Power Source AC Adapter Kit ACK-E6
Battery Options Lithium Ion LP-E6
Battery Life
Approx 800 shots
Dimensions (W) 152.0 x (H) 113.5 x (D) 75.0mm
Weight 810g




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