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Canon EOS 5D Mark II In-depth Review


Review based on a production EOS 5D Mark II with firmware 1.0.7

August 2009 - Updated to reflect the additional manual control over video exposure introduced with firmware 1.10.

Back in August 2005 Canon 'defined a new DSLR category' (their words) with the EOS 5D. Unlike any previous 'full frame' sensor camera, the 5D was the first with a compact body (i.e. not having an integral vertical grip) and has since then proved to be very popular, perhaps because if you wanted a full frame DSLR to use with your Canon lenses and you didn't want the chunky EOS-1D style body then the EOS 5D has been your only choice. Three years on and two competitors have turned up in the shape of the Nikon D700 and Sony DSLR-A900, and Canon clearly believes it's time for a refresh.

So here is the 5D Mark II, which punches high in terms of both resolution and features, headlining: 21 megapixels, 1080p video, 3.0" VGA LCD, Live view, higher capacity battery. In other words, a camera that aims to leapfrog both its direct rivals, either in terms of resolution (in the case of the D700) or features (in the case of the DSLR-A900). Full detail below.

Key features / improvements

  • 21 megapixel CMOS sensor (very similar to the sensor in the EOS-1Ds Mark III)
  • Sensor dust reduction by vibration of filter
  • ISO 100 - 6400 calibrated range, ISO 50 - 25600 expansion (1Ds Mark III & 5D max ISO 3200)
  • Auto ISO (100 - 3200) in all modes except manual
  • 3.9 frames per second continuous shooting
  • DIGIC 4 processor, new menus / interface as per the EOS 50D
  • Image processing features:
    • Highlight tone priority
    • Auto lighting optimizer (4 levels)
    • High ISO noise reduction (4 levels)
    • Lens peripheral illumination correction (vignetting correction)
  • RAW and SRAW1 (10 MP) / SRAW2 (5 MP)
  • RAW / JPEG selection made separately
  • Permanent display of ISO on both top plate and viewfinder displays
  • AF micro adjustment (up to 20 lenses individually)
  • Three custom modes on command dial, Creative Auto mode
  • Image copyright metadata support
  • 98% coverage viewfinder (0.71x magnification)
  • 3.0" 920,000 dot LCD monitor with 'Clear View' cover / coatings, 170° viewing angle
  • Automatic LCD brightness adjustment (ambient light sensor)
  • Live view with three mode auto-focus (including face detection)
  • No mirror-flip for exposures in Live View if contrast detect AF selected
  • Movie recording in live view (1080p H.264 up to 12 minutes, VGA H.264 up to 24 mins per clip)
  • Two mode silent shooting (in live view)
  • New jump options in play mode
  • HDMI and standard composite (AV) video out
  • Full audio support: built-in mic and speaker, mic-in socket, audio-out over AV (although not HDMI)
  • IrPort (supports IR remote shutter release using optional RC1 / RC5 controllers)
  • UDMA CompactFlash support
  • New 1800 mAh battery with improved battery information / logging
  • New optional WFT-E4 WiFi / LAN / USB vertical grip
  • Water resistance: 10 mm rain in 3 minutes

Foreword / notes

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / recommendation / ratings are based on the opinion of the author, we recommend that you read the entire review before making any decision. Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of them, click to display a larger image in a new window.

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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally also A, B and C.

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