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Review of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II with EF 24-105mm F/4.0 IS Lens

Written by Ron Risman
December, 2008

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Canon digital SLR owners have enjoyed a pretty good ride at the top. For many years Canon DSLR's were king of the hill offering the best image quality, speed, and features that money could buy. Something happened earlier this year that took everybody by surprise, well everybody except Nikon. Nikon introduced new digital SLR's that not only matched the features and speed of the low and mid-range Canon DSLR's, but surpassed them in many ways. In under 6 months, Nikon introduced three digital SLR's that instantly become favorites among reviewers and professional photographers. The new Nikon D3 and D300 were praised for their high image quality and extremely low noise even at very high ISO settings. These new models also introduced large 3.0" LCD screens that were head and shoulders above their competitors - offering 920k pixels and effectively tripling the normal display resolution of other camera models. Nikon didn't stop there. Soon after their initial assault on Canon the DSLR category they then hit another home run with the introduction of the D700, a full-frame version of the D300. Same great high-ISO capability but in a full-frame sensor.

For the first time in long time, Canon owners were drooling and trying to take stock of inventory to see if they could afford to switch. Some did, I wanted too - but figured I would wait to see what Canon would have up their sleeve in the coming months. Then, before Canon has the chance to tease us with anything new - Nikon hit again with the D90. This time at a price just under $1000, with features that were very similar to their own $1700 D300. Same resolution, same LCD screen with Live View capability, same great high-ISO capabilities, and with one added feature - HD video recording! This was the first DSLR ever to offer video recording, not to mention 720p HD video. Nikon had effectively beat Canon to the punch once again.

Then Canon started to tease photographers with shadows and curves of what looked like a replacement for the now 3-year old EOS 5D. The original EOS 5D was a class leader with a full-frame sensor, 12-megapixel resolution, and very good high-ISO capabilities - and even today, the EOS 5D is still a very capable model with exceptional image quality. Unfortunately, 3 years in this industry and you're already a grandfather, so it was definitely time for Canon to introduce a successor and that they did.

Just in time for the Photokina trade show in Germany, Canon announced the new EOS 5D Mark II, a camera that was designed to put Canon back in the running as the leader of the DSLR. On paper, the camera was 'exceptional,' but it remained to be seen whether there was any substance behind all the hype. The Canon EOS 5D Mark II upped the ante in every area - offering a 21.1-megapixel full-frame sensor, high-ISO capabilities up to 25,600, a new image processor (DIGIC 4) designed to offer superior low noise and faster performance despite the doubling of resolution, and the world's first Full HD video recording mode in a DSLR - that's 1080p (1920x1080) resolution with sound and external mic input jack.

As soon as Canon officially unveiled the 5D Mark II they posted a short video by the Vincent Laforet called "Reverie," which became so popular that Canon could no longer serve up the video and ultimately partnered with SmugMug to host and serve the video. You can watch the complete video in HD by clicking here.

Canon started shipping the EOS 5D Mark II in limited quantity just before Thanksgiving, so it is time to see whether the Canon EOS 5D Mark II can live up to the hype. I was one of the lucky few to receive a camera from the first shipment and would like to thank the guys over at Hunt's Photo & Video for not letting it out of their sight until I got down there to pick it up. Over the past few weeks I have shot five test video clips, a few of which I have uploaded to Vimeo and have shot well over 200 photographs under virtually every lighting condition and can tell you without hesitation that the Canon EOS 5D Mark II truly does live up to its hype.
Page 1 (Intro) Page 2 (High ISO) Page 3 (ISO Test Images) Page 4 (Sensor)
Page 5 (Features) Page 6 (HD Video) Page 7 (Conclusion) Page 8 (Sample Gallery)

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