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:


Image Quality

Exposure and Tone

With the exception of high contrast scenes, where the camera occasionally underexposes, the metering system is hard to fault. The Highlight Tone Priority does a slight but noticeable job at taming blown highlights, though this also has a marginal effect on the lighter tones elsewhere in the image. Otherwise, tonality is excellent, with smooth gradations and no visible artifacts.

White Balance and Colour

Canon DSLR have a tendency of producing slightly saturated reds, and this is visible in certain images from the 5D Mark II. Otherwise, colour is excellent, with vibrant tones at default. There’s a definite boost in saturation on the Landscape Picture Style, but when used in good weather its effects can verge on comical. In terms of white balance, Canon’s characteristic warmth is present in some images – outside this translates to a slight magenta cast, and results under tungsten light can look a little too warm, too. The camera handles fluorescent lighting much better, though again there is a slight warmth.


At lower sensitivities, it’s hard to find differences between images from the 5D Mark II and those from the Sony A900, but as you climb up the scale chroma noise is more visible in images from the A900, particularly around ISO 6400 where the A900 is a full-on noise fest. In comparison, images from the 5D Mark II remain detailed and colourful despite showing noise. If I’m being picky, I did see traces of noise at ISO 400 in overcast conditions, though I was surprised at how little noise is exhibited at ISO 1600 – it’s present, but very finely textured and not at all destructive, with a film-like appearance. Up to ISO 3200 colour fidelity is good, but noise becomes more apparent, though fine detail is still present in highlight and shadow detail at ISO 6400. ISO 12,800 has much less detail, though images still can be salvaged. ISO 25,600 is unusable, with a liberal helping of chroma noise – even if you do manage to reduce it successfully, more often then not there’s plenty of banding to contend with, which is much harder to process out. Slight banding also appears on lower sensitivities but nowhere near as much as on ISO 25,600.

Detail and Sharpness

As we may expect, the camera can capture an astonishing level of detail, and does this very well even on higher sensitivities. If I do have any complaints, it’s that the camera seems less willing to process out chromatic aberrations to the extent that the Nikon D700 manages, nor does it claim to have a particular function for doing so.

Raw and JPEG

The JPEG output is relatively soft; JPEGs still show good detail, but only when you sharpen their corresponding Raw file do you realise their full potential. Then again, if you’re spending £2000 on a camera, to say you should shoot Raw is stating the obvious.

  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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