Canon's new 21 megapixel full frame digital SLR offers the same resolution as its EOS 1Ds Mk.III but for less than half the price. With the Nikon D700 and Sony Alpha a900 snapping at its heels what does the 5D Mark II have to say for itself?

Product Overview

Overall rating:


Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Image Quality:95%
Overall score:92%


  • Excellent image quality, good noise control, colour rendition, great LCD screen, usable video


  • ISO 25,600 unusable, banding at high ISO's, chromatic aberrations fail to be removed, users may have preferred faster burst rate and/or more advanced focusing system to the inclusion of video mode


Canon EOS 5D Mark II Review


Price as reviewed:


Features Page 2

Movie magic

The 5D Mark II is the first EOS DSLR to allow for movie recording, only just beaten to the post by Nikon’s D90. How each system operates is very similar, though the 5D Mark II does – on paper at least – offer an advantage in several areas. The larger sensor enables a shallower depth of field (and much more so in comparison to that of a video camera), while its resolution is 1920 x 1080 pixels (‘full’ HD) in comparison to the D90‘s 1080 x 720 pixels. The frame rate is also slightly greater at 30fps, and files may be recorded for up 12 minutes at its optimum setting, while a reduced resolution records up to 29 minutes and 59 seconds, or 4GB in size, whichever comes soonest. A further difference is in the 5D Mark II’s support for autofocusing while recording, via the sensor-based contrast detection method. Movies are also said to benefit from Canon’s Image Stabilisation technology (when such a lens is used), while the EOS Utility program that comes bundled with the camera offers support for tethering movies to a computer.

In terms of audio, a small mono-recording microphone sits underneath the camera’s name badge, though stereo sound may be obtained with the use of an external microphone, for which a socket has been provided around the camera’s side. A small speaker has been located next to the eyecup around the rear, with playback options including slow motion, volume control and jumping through individual frames.

Live view too

Naturally the camera also supports live view, which, in addition to the contrast method offers phase detection AF for more speedy focusing, as well as a plethora of information regarding exposure (including a histogram) and the same tethering options as with movies. The new processor has also allowed the system to support Face Detection for up to 35 faces, though given the contempt with which most photographers still treat live view, I doubt this will be a feature much called upon.

Both live view and movies are displayed on the rear’s 3in LCD screen, which now sees its resolution match that of many recent models. With 920,000 dots to play with, it displays images with far greater clarity and contrast than on previous offerings, and is an immediate wow factor to anyone using such a screen for the first time. It provides a viewing angle of 170 degrees for more accurate viewing off axis, and incorporates a number of coatings to combat reflections, moisture and scratches, as well as a fluorine coating for the prevention of dirt build up.

Same as before

Not everything is new, though, and some features have remained the same. The camera’s metering pattern still features a 35-zone cell, with the full set of evaluative, centre-weighted, partial and spot options, while Canon’s Highlight Tone Priority option may be enabled via the Custom Functions. The focusing system is also largely unchanged, with the same 9-point configuration of its predecessor, and six invisible AF assist points at its centre. All points are sensitive at f/5.6 or brighter, with the exception of two vertically-sensitive assist points, which increase this to f/2.8. The new processor also claims to improve AF precision and speed up AF processing, while the ability to fine tune AF for up to 20 lenses is offered via the AF Microadjustment function.

There’s no built-in flash, though the market at which the camera is aimed is likely to require the flexibility that a built-in flash can’t provide, not to mention the greater power offered by external units and lighting set-ups. The E-TTL-II flash algorithm supports external Speedlite units and wireless multi-flash set ups are also possible, while a PC sync port around the side allows the camera to be used in the studio with other lighting sources. The sync speed is unchanged from the 5D, at 1/200sec.

The camera’s lithium ion battery promises a maximum 850 shots on a full charge, though live view, video recording and flash use will limit this. Although the battery is similar to the one used in the 5D the two can’t be used interchangeably, though you can now register up to six batteries with the camera, with their shutter count and percentage charge displayed, as well as the last time and date of use. A single card slot is provided for the recording of images and movies to either CompactFlash or UDMA media, and the addition of an infrared sensor below the camera’s self-timer lamp allows for infrared triggering via wireless remotes.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Features Page 2
  4. 4. Design
  5. 5. Performance Page 1
  6. 6. Performance Page 2
  7. 7. Image Quality
  8. 8. Verdict
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