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Top of camera controls (left) - Exposure Mode Dial

Situated on the top of the camera on the left hand side is the exposure mode dial. The 5D Mark II distinguishes itself from less expensive models by eschewing the 'Basic mode' automated scene modes. The closest the 5D Mark II gets is a fully automatic 'green' mode and the Creative Auto (CA) mode first seen on the 50D. This offers a simplified interface that allows the user to set the exposure in terms of the image results they want, rather than in terms of exposure parameters. Other than this, the 5D Mark II offers the traditional program, semi-automatic and completely manual P, Tv, Av and M modes. It also trebles the Mk I's number of custom set modes, now offering three.

Automated modes

Icon Basic zone mode AF
Picture Style
Fully Automatic Exposure

Camera has complete control over exposure, point-and-shoot operation.
AI Focus • Single
• Self-Timer
• Auto
• Red-eye
Creative Auto mode

Camera allows adjustment of aperture and exposure compensation, via a simplified graphic.
AI Focus • Single
• Self-Timer
• Auto
• Red-eye

Full Auto allows only the use of certain settings, but unlike previous Canon cameras, it does now allow RAW images to be recorded if desired.

Fixed settings

Fixed or limited settings

Unavailable settings
Metering mode (Evaluative) AF mode Custom functions
Color space (sRGB) Drive mode AE lock
Flash compensation (0 EV) Picture Style Bracketing
Exposure compensation (0 EV)    
ISO sensitivity (Auto)    
White balance (Auto)    
Focus point selection (Auto)    

In the automated modes, the camera will indicate that blur may occur because of slow shutter speeds, it does so by blinking the shutter speed on the LCD panel and viewfinder status bar.

Creative zone exposure modes

The five exposure modes that include the ones most familiar to the camera's prosumer / professional audience. All menu functions and camera settings are available in these modes and can be used in any combination. In manual exposure modes (Tv, Av, M) you control the shutter speed with the main dial (top) and aperture with the quick control dial (rear), you can reverse the operational direction of these dials with C.Fn IV-4.


Program Auto Exposure (Flexible)

Very similar to AUTO exposure but you have access to all the normal manual controls, can set the ISO, exposure compensation, use AE lock, bracketing etc. Program AE is flexible which means that you can select one of a variety of equal exposures (in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps depending on C.Fn I-1) by turning the main dial. Example:
 • 1/30 F2.8 (metered)
 • 1/20 F3.2 (turn left one click)
 • 1/15 F4.0 (turn left another click) etc.

Shutter Priority Auto Exposure

In this mode you select the shutter speed and the camera will calculate the correct aperture for the exposure (depending on metered value; metering mode, ISO). Shutter speed is displayed on the viewfinder status bar and on the top LCD, turn the main dial to select different shutter speeds. A half-press of the shutter release causes the camera's exposure system to calculate the aperture, if it's outside of the camera's exposure range the aperture will blink. You can select shutter speeds from 30 to 1/8000 sec in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps depending on C.Fn I-1.

Aperture Priority Auto Exposure

In this mode you select the aperture and the camera will calculate the correct shutter speed for the exposure (depending on metered value; metering mode, ISO). Aperture is displayed on the viewfinder status bar and on the top LCD, turn the main dial to select different apertures. A half-press of the shutter release causes the camera's exposure system to calculate the shutter speed, if it's outside of the camera's exposure range the shutter speed will blink. The range of apertures available will depend on the lens used but 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps can be selected via C.Fn I-1.

Full Manual Exposure

In this mode you select the aperture and the shutter speed from any combination of the above. Top dial selects shutter speed, rear dial selects aperture. Half-press the shutter release and the meter on the viewfinder status bar and top LCD will reflect the exposure level compared to the calculated ideal exposure, if it's outside of +/- 2EV the indicator bar will blink either + or -.
Bulb exposure

In this mode the shutter stays open for as long as you hold the shutter release button, use either dial to select aperture. (Note that this is different from the EOS 50D, which implements Bulb in manual mode, but identical to the 5D).

Top of camera controls (right)

Top of the camera on the right side is the status panel LCD, directly above this are four buttons; LCD back light and three control buttons (see below). In front of these is the main dial and shutter release button. Along the rear 'under your thumb' you can see the (new) AF-ON, AE-Lock and focus point selection buttons. Press once and turn a dial to change settings, then half-press the shutter release to return to shooting mode (or press another button).

The function of the three buttons immediately above the status LCD changes from the 5D, bringing it into line with the XXD Canons. The ISO/Flash comp button is the most accessible when the camera is to your eye, which makes sense since these settings, unlike those accessed by the other buttons, are shown in the viewfinder. Overall this makes changing ISO with the camera to your eye a bit easier than on the original 5D, on which there was always a risk of spinning the front dial and setting the self-timer by mistake. The LCD back light button has moved from the first button on the left to the last button on the right.

Notice also the slightly redesigned top lip above the LCD where the three main control buttons are now accented with a round bump.

Top panel buttons

The table below shows the relationship between each of the top panel settings buttons and the parameters changed by either turning the main dial (top) or quick control dial (rear).

Button Main dial
Quick control dial

Metering mode

 • Evaluative (35 zone)
 • Partial (8% of frame)
 • Spot (3.5% of frame)
 • Center Weighted Average

White balance

 • Auto
 • Daylight
 • Shade
 • Cloudy
 • Tungsten
 • Fluorescent
 • Flash
 • Custom
 • Kelvin temperature (2500 - 10000 K)

Auto focus mode

 • One Shot (focus lock on half-press)
 • AI Focus (locks but monitors movement)
 • AI Servo (continuous predictive focus)

AI Focus mode initially locks just like One Shot mode but monitors the focused subject, if the subject moves it will automatically switch to an AI Servo operation.

Drive mode

 • Single shot
 • Continuous
 • Self-Timer 10 sec (IR mode)
 • Self-Timer 2 sec (IR mode)

You can optionally combine self-timer with mirror lockup (to reduce mirror induced vibration) via C.Fn III-6.

ISO sensitivity *

 • Auto
 • L1 (50) (enabled via C.Fn I-3)
 • 100
 • 200
 • 400
 • 800
 • 1600
 • 3200
 • 6400
 • H1 (12800) (enabled via C.Fn I-3)
 • H2 (25600) (enabled via C.Fn I-3)
Flash compensation

 • +/-2 EV
 • 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps (C.Fn I-1)

* Shown in 1-stop steps, 1/3-stop ISO steps can be selected via C.Fn I-2.

Under your thumb buttons (Shooting mode)

Auto focus start

The AF-ON button allows you to trigger auto focus independently of the shutter release 'half-press'. Note that you can re-program the exact function of the AF-ON button via C.Fn IV-1 or you can switch the AF-ON button and AE/AF lock button via C.Fn IV-2 (all custom functions detailed in the menus section of this review).
AE / FE Lock

Press to trigger automatic exposure and lock the exposure for the next shot; hold the button to lock the exposure for more than one shot. When an external flash is mounted, press to trigger flash exposure lock (via a pre-flash).
AF point selection button

Press to choose a single AF point, turn the main dial or the quick control dial to scroll around the available AF points. Alternatively you can also use the new multi-controller to select a point directly (press the selector for the center point). The exact function of this button can be programmed via C.Fn III-3.

Under your thumb buttons (Play mode)

Thumbnail index / reduce

If in single view play mode, pressing this button will switch to a 2x2 thumbnail index, press again for a 3x3 index. If already magnified pressing this button reduces magnification level.

Press to magnify the current image, there are fifteen steps up to a maximum magnification of 10x. Once magnified you can use the multi-controller to move around the image.
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Total comments: 6

Great Camera. Its "just work".


It has shown its great value over money.


I work in Nyc as a fashion photographer and I have to say the the 5d series are the most used cameras out side of medium format cameras .Ive been shooting with the mark 3 for over a year after shooting with the mark 2 for 2 years great both great cameras. You can see the shots I've taken with it for my work on my website hope it helps!! also note I only shoot RAW format.

1 upvote

Was it really 2009? I'm still in the first flush of my love affair with this camera. And I'm still fathoming the depths of its capability. Okay, she's got a lot of paint missing these days, but the images are still magic. Whenever I use another camera, I sigh and wonder why I didn't use the 5D2.
A brief history of photography:

silver chemistry

flexible roll film



5D Mark 2...


As I know when the original 5D debuted three years ago, it wasn't clear why most enthusiasts would want such a camera. Though it captured excellent, high resolution images, it was slower and bigger and more expensive. Today the market has changed significantly, and it's clear that the market is ready for full-frame digital SLRs that can turn out high image quality. High quality is one thing, but being a camera that can deliver high quality over a wide range of lighting conditions and different ISO settings is what makes the Canon 5D Mark II such a compelling choice, and a clear Dave's Picks.
It's really very very good.

1 upvote

6D or the 5D Mark II?

Total comments: 6