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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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Capture with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Settings: ISO 100, f/8.0, 1/160th shutter, 90mm focal length, aperture priority, pattern metering
Whereas most new camera introductions are evolutionary, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is truly a revolutionary camera for Canon as well as for photography in general. After using the EOS 5D Mark II for a few days you cannot help but to feel that you're holding the future of photography right in your hand - even if it is just an infant. The ability to shoot at virtually any ISO without much concern for image noise is creating a remarkable shift in the way photographer's shoot. Combine the low noise / high ISO capability with image stabilized lenses and all of a sudden photographers are free to move and capture without having to wait for a 'still' moment, without having to worry about light levels or ruining the mood with external flash, without having to waste time worrying about how they're going to balance aperture, shutter, and ISO when lighting conditions get challenging. This is photography the way it should be - just pick up the camera and start shooting! Yes, that's a bit simplistic, but you really could put the Canon EOS 5D Mark II into Creative Auto (CA) mode and leave it there - and for most situations it really would be that simple. Want more control? How about using the new Auto ISO feature, where the camera with automatically select the most appropriate ISO based on the aperture and shutter values chosen.

It's not any one particular feature or capability that makes the EOS 5D Mark II revolutionary, rather it's the combination of them in one body. It's the 21-megapixel resolution combined with the full-frame sensor, the high ISO sensitivity with low noise, the Live View mode with exposure simulation, the full HD 1080p video mode with its ability to capture video using any one of the hundreds of EOS and EOS compatible lenses including macro, ultra-wide, tilt-shift, Lensbabies, telephoto, and super telephoto. It's the large 35mm image sensor and availability of fast lenses, allowing videographer's to record with very shallow depth of field, helping them to control where the viewer looks by using shift-focus techniques. And finally, it's the price. While $2699 is not inexpensive, the camera is a bargain for those that can afford to spend that kind of money. Canon could have probably priced it at $4499 and still had a winner, especially considering where Nikon priced their new D3x.

New Battery Intelligence:
The new LP-E6 (1800mAh) Li-ion battery is no ordinary battery. Not only does it outlast the Energizer® Bunny, but its packed with intelligence that allows it to remember remaining shot capacity, shutter count, and recharge performance. According to Canon the battery will communicate the remaining capacity in one of six levels via the battery-check icon and in 1% increments using the Battery Info menu. All this information is stored in the battery, so that this information won't be lost when the battery is removed. A unique serial number within each Battery Pack allows you to register multiple batteries within the camera and display information about those batteries, including the last time each was used and its most recent level of charge at that time. This technology will also help to insure that you don't install a nearly depleted battery at the wrong time.

3.9 fps Continuous Shooting
While the EOS 5D Mark II isn't a machine gun when it comes to capture rates, it is an improvement over the original 5D (3fps) and plenty fast enough for most shooting situations. To increase resolution from 12-megapixel (original 5D) to 21-megapixel while also improving the speed of capture is quite impressive. It would have been even better if Canon had provided a faster frame-rate at lower resolution settings.

UDMA Memory Card Support
While the camera can shoot at 3.9 frames-per-second, the amount of frames it can capture before the buffer gets filled up is really dependent on the speed of the memory card. The EOS 5D Mark II supports "UDMA," which stands for Ultra Direct Memory Access. When using UDMA compliant memory cards the camera can transfer data to the card at up to 133MB/sec. This rate exceeds the current crop of UDMA cards that currently top out at 45MB/Sec.

I don't want to misrepresent things by making you believe the camera is flawless, it isn't and nothing is. There are a few areas where improvements could have been made and most likely will be made in future models, but like I mentioned earlier, this is just the beginning of a whole new world of photography.

Below is a list of some of the changes or additions I would make in future models:
  • A fast, continuous auto focus system for video mode
  • Audio levels adjustment (VU meters) for video mode
  • Full manual control while in vide mode
  • Allow 5x and 10x Live View magnification during video recording
  • Let's upgrade the auto focus system so that it is as forward thinking as the rest of the camera. Admittingly it has worked very well for me so far, so I really shouldn't complain, but I feel as if I should at least speak for those that have had issue's or those that have used higher-end camera's with faster AF systems.
  • A new navigation / menu system may be needed as the current one is definitely showing bulges with all the new features being added (live view options, video options, AF micro adjustments, folders, CA mode, among others)
  • Would love to see an increased frame rate at lower resolution settings
  • Video mode begs for an articulating LCD - let's pivot and angle the next version

I won't bother listing all of the features that I love about the camera because I have already mentioned them in the review and there are quite a few. I will mention the ones that really stand out in my mind as I finish this review.
  • Superb noise reduction allows for usable ISO 50-3200 and even 6400.
  • The clean, high-ISO settings, allow you to shoot indoor sports with decent shutter speeds
  • Perfect balance and feel when mated with the EF 24-105mm IS 'Kit' Lens
  • Full Frame Sensor combined with 21-megapixel resolution
  • Manual settings display on the rear LCD - great when used on a tripod or when shooting at night
  • HD video quality at 1080P is outstanding - at any price
  • Live View with Simulation Mode selected (see your picture's exposure before you take it - a great learning tool as well)
  • Remote Live View - Control the camera from your PC with the included software
Ultimately, if spending $2699 (body) or $3499 (Kit with EF 24-105mm F/4L IS USM Lens), is way out of your budget then you'll be happy to know that this is only the beginning. Many of the new features that are standard in the EOS 5D Mark II will surely trickle down into the Rebel series and other EOS models starting as early as next year. For those who can afford the price of entry, you won't be disappointed. While I can definitely find area's to improve upon, the end result is that no other camera on the market, regardless of brand, can match the overall price/ performance ratio that the EOS 5D Mark II offers, at least not as of this writing. 2009 will surely be interesting!.

For additional in-depth information, download or view the EOS 5D Mark II white paper, published by Canon.

Purchase the Canon EOS 5D Mark II Body Outfit from:

Purchase the Canon EOS 5D Mark II with 24-105mm F/4.0L IS USM Lens
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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