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Box Photo
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II body (with body cap)
  • LP-E6 lithium-ion battery (with cover)
  • LC-E6 battery charger
  • neck strap
  • USB cable
  • video cable with stereo audio
  • Instruction Manual, English
  • Instruction Manual, Spanish
  • Pocket Guides (English and Spanish)
  • Registration card, additional documentation
  • EOS Digital Solutions Disk 19.1 (utilities)
  • EOS Digital Software Instruction Manual CD (utility documentation)
  • Canon Essential Products and Solutions CD (product and accessory info)

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II uses a full-frame CMOS sensor with a gross pixel count of approximately 22.0 megapixels and an effective resolution of approximately 21.10 megapixels. An automatic dust removal system, which vibrates the low-pass filter over the sensor, is triggered by default every time the camera is turned on or off (the automatic cleaning can be turned off, and the system can also be triggered manually). The filter is also coated with fluorine, which helps reduce dust adhesion, according to Canon. In addition, for stubborn dust problems, dust delete data can be recorded and used in conjunction with the provided Digital Photo Professional software to remove those stubborn stains.

The 5D Mark II sensor measures approximately 36 x 24mm—in other words, it matches the size of a 35mm film frame. And the resulting compatibility with lenses designed for 35mm cameras is a key advantage of shooting with a full-frame camera. Ordinarily, only the central portion of the light coming through the lens actually hits the image sensor at all in a typical digital camera, with its smaller sensor size. This leads to an apparent magnification of the image—it's not that it's actually been magnified, but only the middle portion is being captured and turned into the final photo, creating the magnification effect. As shown in the diagram below, the typical APS-C digital camera sensor effectively multiplies the apparent lens size by a factor of 1.6. If you mounted the 24-105mm kit lens we used for our 5D Mark II testing on a Canon Rebel XSi, for example, it would shoot roughly like a 38-168mm lens. You're getting more telephoto zoom power, but sacrificing the important wide-angle characteristics that let you shoot panoramic images and shoot close up in tight spaces (like an indoor group portrait).

The pentaprism viewfinder provides 98% coverage at 0.71x magnification. The diopter adjustment is conveniently located at the right side of the viewfinder, small enough to be unobtrusive but clicky enough to allow precise fine-tuning in the -3.0- +1.0m-1 range.

The eyecup can be removed by pushing upward, but it's a fairly clumsy operation. Why bother? You might buy optional replacement eyecups from Canon, but the more frequent reason is blocking the open viewfinder while shooting with the camera mounted on a tripod—left open, light can stream in from behind and throw off the exposure setting. Both the Nikon D700 and Sony A900 solve this problem elegantly with a built-in shutter that opens or closes with a button push. Given the price of the camera, Canon should do the same.

Interchangeable focus screens are supported. Three compatible Eg-series screens are currently available: Precision Matte (provided with the camera), Precision Matte with grid and Super Precision Matte. They sell for about $45 each.

Like the Canon EOS 50D, the 5D boasts a handsome 3-inch LCD with 920,000 resolution, with a 170-degree viewing angle. Screen brightness can be manually adjusted in seven steps, or set to one of three Auto levels, with the camera relying on a sensor to keep the screen at that setting.

Secondary Display

The monochrome LCD screen on the camera's top right side conveniently displays much of the viewfinder data without the need to squint. The button at the far right illuminates the screen for a few seconds.

Secondary Display Photo

The monochrome LCD provides a wealth of information at a glance.

In line with the pro photographer image of the camera, the 5D Mark II doesn't have a built-in flash. We're not sure what harm there'd be in providing a pop-up flash for those occasions when you've left your external strobe back at the studio, but less-is-more is apparently the rule when it comes to stroking photo egos. Nikon is more accommodating in this regard, including a pop-up flash on the D700, though Sony also shuns pop-top convenience with the A900. Adding insult to injury, there's no autofocus assist lamp on the camera body either: if you want this very valuable low-light focusing tool, you'll have to affix a Speedlite to your camera.

The camera is fully compatible with Canon's EX-series Speedlites. This includes the ability to take a spot flash exposure meter reading and flash exposure compensation. Maximum X-sync speed is 1/200 second.

Speedlites that aren't part of the EX series will fire, but only at full output power. Non-Canon flash units and studio lights can be connected using the PC terminal.

One feature notably missing from the 5D Mark II is the built-in ability to control wireless off-camera flash units, which is provided in the Nikon D700 and Sony A900.

Flash Photo

With no built-in flash, 5D Mark II owners are likely to make good use of the hot shoe.

There are six I/O ports in all, arrayed in two banks of three, each with its own tight-fitting rubber cover. In the left group is (from top to bottom) the PC terminal for flash unit sync cords, the N3-format remote control terminal and a standard microphone input jack. On the right are three industry standard jacks for stereo AV and mini-USB cables (both included) and mini HDMI for high-def TV output (cable not supplied). On the bottom of the camera is a an extension system terminal to be used for connecting the optional Wireless File Transmitter. There is also an infrared receiver port built into the front of the camera for use with Canon's optional RC-1 and RC-5 remote controls.

A new battery, the LP-E6, is introduced with the 5D Mark II, with capacity rated at 1800 mAh. Canon promises approximately 830 shots per charge when shooting with the viewfinder, or 200 shots using Live View. Extensive battery status information is available via the third setup menu, including remaining power capacity, shutter count (shots taken with the current battery) and recharge performance. For those who are seriously power-hungry for battery info, you can register up to six batteries within the camera memory (every battery has its own serial number) and keep track of when each was last used, and the remaining charge at the time.

Battery Photo

The battery is held in place with a small white clip.

The camera is compatible with Type I and Type II CompactFlash cards, including hard drive versions and the latest high-speed UDMA (Ultra Direct Memory Access) format.

Memory Photo

There's no latch on the memory card door, but it snaps in place firmly.

When testing for sharpness, Imatest factors out raw megapixel count and instead measures line widths per picture height, a reading of the camera's ability to resolve minute details in a defined area. With this system, a lower-megapixel camera will often outperform a higher-megapixel model, since the larger light receptors of the lower-megapixel sensor can gather light more efficiently and suffer from less interference across cells.

We found the 24-105mm kit lens produced its sharpest results at the widest-angle setting, right in the middle of the lens, with 1482 lw/ph measured horizontally and 1780 lw/ph measured vertically. Moving out from the center of the lens, sharpness drops significantly around the midway point, then picks up again as we reach the outer edges. More on how we test sharpness.

The in-lens optical image stabilization that the Canon 5D Mark II uses did a decent job of compensating for hand shake, but it is far from perfect; at faster shutter speeds and with particularly bad hand shake, we found that it actually made things worse

In our extensive lab tests of five current digital SLRs, the Canon 5D Mark II produced the most accurate color results, with the Sony A900 trailing the rest of the field by a wide margin. The 5D Mark II did exceptionally well capturing the light skin color, orange and the greyscale patches from the chart, but struggled a bit with pure yellow, magenta and cyan. More on how we test color.

Canon uses Picture Styles to adjust several image parameters including color values, with Landscape mode enhancing blues and greens, for example, and Portrait favoring flesh tones.

As expected (assuming the folks who name Picture Styles at Canon think rationally), the Neutral Picture Style produced the most accurate results, with a very modest color shift of 4.85, and a slight undersaturation at 96.1. In the charts below we can see the relative color accuracy results for the Canon 5D Mark II and four other digital SLRs we tested, each at their most accurate color mode settings.

NOTE: Because of the way computer monitors reproduce colors, the images above do not exactly match the originals found on the chart or in the captured images. The chart should be used to judge the relative color shift, not the absolute captured colors.

Here we compare actual pixel-size crops of the 18 colored squares of the X-Rite color chart, taken by each camera in its most accurate mode. The ideal color value is shown in the leftmost column, the cameras' best recreations of that color are arrayed to the right.

Below you can see our final score for color performance compared across the five camera test group. Higher scores indicate superior performance.

Canon's Picture Styles system combines settings for sharpness, contrast, saturation and color tone in six presets and three user-definable groupings. In a nutshell, think of Picture Styles as different film types, with distinctive image reproduction characteristics. For a full discussion of this feature, read the Picture Effects section below.

The 5D Mark II supports both the default sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces. Most users will stick with sRGB, but for those shooting for commercial printing and industrial uses, the Adobe option is important.

In the following chart we explore the effect of five different Picture Styles on the color captured by the Canon 5D Mark II, with actual-pixel-size crops of each color in the X-Rite chart. The sixth Picture Style, Monochrome, isn't included.

For our white balance testing, we compare images shot under different lighting conditions against the actual color values of the X-Rite ColorChecker chart. We use a Macbeth Judge II lighting box to maintain precise color temperature control, shooting under daylight, tungsten and compact fluorescent illumination. We test both the performance of the automatic white balance and custom white balance systems.

Automatic White Balance ()

When set to automatic white balance, the Canon 5D Mark II handled daylight and fluorescent illumination with great skill and dexterity, but faltered when faced with incandescent illumination (the kind produced by common household bulbs).

Custom White Balance ()

In our overall white balance scoring, combining the results for both automatic and custom white balance testing, the Canon 5D Mark II comes up in the middle of the pack, trailing its brandmate 50D and the Nikon D700 due in large part to their superior results when using the automatic setting.

Shooting in daylight with all five of our test cameras set to auto white balance mode, all produced slightly cool images, though the 5D Mark II was the furthest off the mark.Shooting in daylight with all five of our test cameras set to auto white balance mode, all produced slightly cool images, though the 5D Mark II was the furthest off the mark.Shooting in daylight with all five of our test cameras set to auto white balance mode, all produced slightly cool images, though the 5D Mark II was the furthest off the mark.

Shooting in daylight with all five of our test cameras set to auto white balance mode, all produced slightly cool images, though the 5D Mark II was the furthest off the mark.

Incandescent lighting produced problems for the auto white balance systems of all five cameras across the board, with the 5D Mark II slightly less red-tinged than the Nikon D700 and Canon 50D.

The 5D white balance system includes automatic white balance, custom white balance (set by shooting a neutral card under current lighting conditions), direct entry in degrees Kelvin and the following six manual presets: Daylight, Shade, Cloudy/Twilight/Sunset, Tungsten Light, White Fluorescent.

Canon chose to maintain its clumsy two-step custom white balance shooting procedure with the 5D Mark II. First you shoot a photo of a white or grey card, then you bring up the Custom White Balance utility from the menu system, then you select the reference photo you've just shot, then you press the custom white balance button on top of the camera and select it. Are we having fun yet?

Manual white balance correction, with fine adjustments along the blue-amber and green-magenta axes, is available, though there is no image preview to interactively indicate the effect of changes made. White balance bracketing is also available, along the same two axes. Rather than taking multiple exposures, the same shot is saved with three different white balance settings applied.

In this test combining color accuracy and image noise performance over long exposure times, the 5D Mark II trailed the other cameras in the comparison group. Interestingly, the primary component in the comparatively weak performance of the 5D Mark II was its color accuracy under low light conditions, which consistently trailed the other cameras. Low-light image noise performance, on the other hand, was roughly equivalent to the other cameras, and clearly superior to the Canon 50D. More on how we test long exposure.

Under low light conditions shutter speeds slow down, image noise inevitably increases and often color accuracy is affected. Above you see the results of our long exposure testing as it affects color accuracy. Below are the results for the same exposure times, detailing the impact on noise performance.

And finally you see the Canon 5D Mark II's final score for this section versus the competition. Higher scores indicate superior performance.

We found that, even with the noise reduction system turned off, the 5D Mark II was able to maintain a noise level below 1% up to ISO 800, a very good result. With noise reduction on at the two highest settings, this sub-1 percent performance stretched out to ISO 3200, and even at ISO 6400, the top official setting, never became truly objectionable.

The individual color channels followed the same trend. More on how we test noise.

The 5D Mark II offers an official ISO range from 100-6400, and an expanded range from L (roughly ISO 50) through H1 (12800) and H2 (25,600), all at full resolution.

The Canon 5D Mark II proved the top performer in our dynamic range testing, including over a half stop expansion possible by shooting RAW. While dynamic range inevitably falls off as ISO increased, the 5D Mark II starts off quite high at well over seven stops for ISO 100 and 200, and falls off smoothly from there, maintaining over 4 and a half stops all the way to ISO 3200.

At low ISO settings, the Canon 5D Mark II manages a dynamic range of over 7 stops, and maintains over 6 stops through ISO 800. More on how we test dynamic range.

While the 5D Mark II lead the pack overall, at ISO 200 all the cameras performed similarly, and the Nikon D90 was slightly superior. The chart below visualizes the 5D Mark II's dynamic range score across all ISOs against the competition. Higher scores indicate superior performance.

We found that, even with the noise reduction system turned off, the 5D Mark II was able to maintain a noise level below 1% up to ISO 800, a very good result. With noise reduction on at the two highest settings, this sub-1 percent performance stretched out to ISO 3200, and even at ISO 6400, the top official setting, never became truly objectionable.

The individual color channels followed the same trend. More on how we test noise.

The 5D Mark II offers an official ISO range from 100-6400, and an expanded range from L (roughly ISO 50) through H1 (12800) and H2 (25,600), all at full resolution.

The autofocus system relies on nine primary focus points, including one cross-type point in the center. An additional six focus assist points near the center of the scene are available to help track moving subjects, though the points aren't displayed on-screen.

When using one of the two automated shooting modes (Full Auto and Creative Auto), the camera chooses a focus point, which can't be overridden. In any other mode you're on your own, moving the focus point selection with the joystick or by rotating one of the two dials. Instinct would say that using the joystick would be the right call here, since you can point directly to the spot you want instead of running through the focus point range until you land on the right one. In practice, we found that joystick tough to use accurately. With just nine available focus points, the Quick Control Dial was much faster.

Whether you use the automated system or choose your focus point yourself, it lights up bright red in the viewfinder. We found this bold display very useful but, if you disagree, the light can be suppressed through a custom control.

There are three autofocus modes: One Shot, Servo, and Focus (which switch between Servo and One Shot depending on subject movement.

In this test combining color accuracy and image noise performance over long exposure times, the 5D Mark II trailed the other cameras in the comparison group. Interestingly, the primary component in the comparatively weak performance of the 5D Mark II was its color accuracy under low light conditions, which consistently trailed the other cameras. Low-light image noise performance, on the other hand, was roughly equivalent to the other cameras, and clearly superior to the Canon 50D. More on how we test long exposure.

Under low light conditions shutter speeds slow down, image noise inevitably increases and often color accuracy is affected. Above you see the results of our long exposure testing as it affects color accuracy. Below are the results for the same exposure times, detailing the impact on noise performance.

And finally you see the Canon 5D Mark II's final score for this section versus the competition. Higher scores indicate superior performance.

Compared to the competition, the Canon 5D Mark II performed quite well in our low light sensitivity test. The camera needed 13 lux of light to reach 50 IRE on our waveform monitor. This is better than both the Canon T1i and Panasonic GH1, which needed 26 lux and 17 lux respectively. It is also slightly better than the Canon HF S100 camcorder did with this test (needed 16 lux). Note: All our video testing on the 5D Mark II was done using a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens.

While the chromatic aberration testing for the 5D Mark II produced an acceptable result, the Nikons were significantly superior. By and large this color anomaly in the 5D Mark II was well controlled at the center and midrange of the lens, but significant problems occurred as we approached the four corners.

Next up is the 60mm zoom setting, right in the middle of the zoom range. There is much less chromatic aberration at this zoom point.

Shooting with the kit 24-105mm kit lens at three focal lengths, we found significant barrel distortion at the widest setting and roughly the same degree of pincushioning in the midrange and maximum telephoto. By way of comparison, our 28mm shots using the 28-95mm zoom on the Nikon D700 produced a much smaller degree of barrel distortion (-0.31% versus -3.60% for the Canon), with smaller differences between cameras on the telephoto side.

The Canon 5D Mark II records all HD video using a 30p frame rate. There are no alternate frame rate modes or options on the camera. There is a 640 x 480 setting for recording standard definition video, however. We found the motion on the 5D Mark II to be very good. It was smooth, fluid, and had minimal artifacting throughout. Just as we saw on the previous video-DSLRs we've tested, the 5D Mark II produces a significant rolling shutter effect whenever a quick pan is performed with the camera. Of the video-capable DSLRs we've tested, only the Panasonic GH1 didn't have this problem. Keep in mind the YouTube videos below have been heavily compressed during the upload process. Check out the HD links for higher resolution versions. Note: All our video testing on the 5D Mark II was done using a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens.

Out of the DSLRs we've tested, the 5D Mark II had the best motion rendering overall. Its image had less artifacting than the Canon T1i and its recorded motion looked a bit smoother as well. The only big issue we noticed on the 5D Mark II was some choppiness, blur and image-doubling on the train as it passed around the front of the track during our testing. We tested the camera using a variety of shutter speed settings (the video above was taken with a 1/100 shutter speed) and noticed a similar effect even at faster shutter speeds. There was also a bit of streaking between the colors on the RGB pinwheel and a slight halo effect on the black and white pinwheel. Additionally, we were a bit disappointed the camera didn't offer any alternate frame rates (like a 24p or 60p mode). Overall, however, the 5D Mark II captured motion very well. More on how CamcorderInfo tests motion.

The big problem with the Canon T1i is its use of an abnormal 20p frame rate. Most cameras and camcorders capture video at 24p, 30p, or 60i/60p frame rates, which means 20p is significantly lower than the rest of these rates. The resultant footage is quite choppy and isn't very smooth. We can't imagine anyone preferring the look of the T1i's 20p frame rate, and the fact that the rate is so uncommon doesn't bode well for editing software compatibility. The T1i does have a 30p option, but only when recording at 1280 x 720 resolution.

The Panasonic GH1 captured motion very well in some modes, while the camera had trouble in others. In its 1920 x 1080 Full HD mode, the GH1 uses a 24p frame rate (captured at 60i with the sensor output at 24p) to record video. The resultant footage wasn't very smooth and there was plenty of image blur. In its lower resolution settings the camera can either record using a 60p frame rate (using AVCHD compression) or 30p (using MJPEG compression). The video recorded with these modes looked much smoother and there was far less blur and motion trails. There was, however, more artifacting when using some of the GH1's lower resolution modes.

Canon offers three frame rates on its consumer HD camcorders: 60i, 30p, and 24p. The 30p and 24p modes are recorded at 60i and converted to the alternate rates inside the camcorder for output. It's the HF S100's 60i frame rate that sets it apart from the video-capable DSLRs however. None of the DSLRs offer 60i rates at Full HD (1920 x 1080), which mean none of them can capture the smooth, natural motion that is commonly captured by consumer HD camcorders (most HD camcorders record with a 60i frame rate). This is one of the biggest differences between camcorders and DSLRs that record video.

The 5D Mark II captured decently sharp video. In our testing, the camera measured 700 line widths per picture height (lw/ph) horizontal and 650 lw/ph vertical. This is very close to the results we measured on both the Canon T1i and Panasonic GH1. The Canon HF S100 had the best sharpness of this bunch, coming in with 800 lw/ph horizontal and 650 lw/ph vertical. When testing the vertical sharpness on the 5D Mark II we noticed its image had similar aliasing and blur to the Canon HF S100. All this data is taken from testing the cameras and camcorder in their Full HD (1920 x 1080) modes. More on how CamcorderInfo tests video sharpness.

Compared to the competition, the Canon 5D Mark II performed quite well in our low light sensitivity test. The camera needed 13 lux of light to reach 50 IRE on our waveform monitor. This is better than both the Canon T1i and Panasonic GH1, which needed 26 lux and 17 lux respectively. It is also slightly better than the Canon HF S100 camcorder did with this test (needed 16 lux). Note: All our video testing on the 5D Mark II was done using a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens.

The dual-dial control strategy employed here is a mixed blessing. There are two separate dials, the top-mounted semi-circular Main Dial and the round Quick Control Dial on the back. Sometimes turning either dial will have the same effect: moving the sliders in Creative Auto mode, for example, or choosing a menu language. At other times the division of labor between the two is clear and easy to learn. While navigating the menu system, for example, turning the Main Dial moves from menu tab to menu tab, while turning the Quick Control Dial moves the cursor up and down through the individual menu. Elsewhere, though, there's no rhyme or reason to the control division. For example, after pressing the leftmost button on top of the camera, the Main Control Dial changes metering mode, the Quick Control Dial adjusts ISO setting—you get used to it, but there's no underlying logic to it. And while the use of a rear dial can speed movement through a long menu, it also robs us of the dual-purpose function of a traditional four-way controller, which not only navigates through the menu system but also allows quick access to four key settings functions.

The menu system is well designed for navigation purposes. Unlike so many cameras with lengthy lists that scroll off the bottom of the page, requiring lengthy maneuvering and a good memory to reach unseen options, the 5D Mark II menu system is broken up into 9 tabs, each of which fits entirely on a single screen.

Given the complexity of the camera, the instruction manual provided with the 5D Mark II does a nice job both in the initial learning phase and as a continuing reference resource. The show-and-tell balance between text and graphics works well, and the visuals themselves are nicely executed, with clean line drawings, clear screen shots and tables where appropriate. Even the size makes sense: at 5 7/8 x 4 1/8, the manual is easily portable, even in a jacket pocket, yet still large enough to read without squinting at mouse type.

There is also a fold-out 8-panel Pocket Guide which might have some value as a carry-along reference, with its listing of custom functions and menu organization, if it were laminated to take some abuse. As it stands, you can toss it in your camera bag, but it will likely to be crumpled and torn beyond recognition quickly.

Documentation for the software applications provided comes on a single CD, separate from the programs themselves, though there is some mystery involved between installation and utilization of some programs. There are seven programs provided for Windows and six for Macintosh, but only four are apparently documented for each. That's because several applications, including the Photo Stitch panorama-building program, are accessed from within the four documented software apps. A little cheat sheet explaining that fact would have been appreciated.

Start out with a hefty camera body, add a 24-105mm zoom that weighs nearly as much as the body does and before you know it you're carrying around three and a quarter pounds of camera. On a practical level, that means one-handed shooting is a dicey proposition; just keeping the camera level with the weight of the lens tugging the left side down is a challenge for more than a shot or two. On the other hand (literally), cradle the lens in your left, thumb and forefinger holding the zoom ring, the other three fingers curled to create a platform for the camera bottom, and you have a secure, solid hold. It's still a substantial handful, but particularly with the 24-105mm kit lens, the weight is perfectly balanced. The righthand camera grip is particularly well designed. The rubber textured covering provides a reliable non-slip hold. There's plenty of depth between the front of the grip and the camera body to curl your fingers around. And the sculptured indent just below the shutter helps maintain a good vertical hold while positioning the hand with the index finger right over the shutter.

Handling Photo 1

The sculpted non-slip grip provides a secure grip in any shooting position.

Handling Photo 2

The dual-dial control strategy employed here is a mixed blessing. There are two separate dials, the top-mounted semi-circular Main Dial and the round Quick Control Dial on the back. Sometimes turning either dial will have the same effect: moving the sliders in Creative Auto mode, for example, or choosing a menu language. At other times the division of labor between the two is clear and easy to learn. While navigating the menu system, for example, turning the Main Dial moves from menu tab to menu tab, while turning the Quick Control Dial moves the cursor up and down through the individual menu. Elsewhere, though, there's no rhyme or reason to the control division. For example, after pressing the leftmost button on top of the camera, the Main Control Dial changes metering mode, the Quick Control Dial adjusts ISO setting—you get used to it, but there's no underlying logic to it. And while the use of a rear dial can speed movement through a long menu, it also robs us of the dual-purpose function of a traditional four-way controller, which not only navigates through the menu system but also allows quick access to four key settings functions.

Buttons Photo 1
Buttons Photo 2

Like the Canon EOS 50D, the 5D boasts a handsome 3-inch LCD with 920,000 resolution, with a 170-degree viewing angle. Screen brightness can be manually adjusted in seven steps, or set to one of three Auto levels, with the camera relying on a sensor to keep the screen at that setting.

Secondary Display

The monochrome LCD screen on the camera's top right side conveniently displays much of the viewfinder data without the need to squint. The button at the far right illuminates the screen for a few seconds.

Secondary Display Photo

The monochrome LCD provides a wealth of information at a glance.

The pentaprism viewfinder provides 98% coverage at 0.71x magnification. The diopter adjustment is conveniently located at the right side of the viewfinder, small enough to be unobtrusive but clicky enough to allow precise fine-tuning in the -3.0- +1.0m-1 range.

The eyecup can be removed by pushing upward, but it's a fairly clumsy operation. Why bother? You might buy optional replacement eyecups from Canon, but the more frequent reason is blocking the open viewfinder while shooting with the camera mounted on a tripod—left open, light can stream in from behind and throw off the exposure setting. Both the Nikon D700 and Sony A900 solve this problem elegantly with a built-in shutter that opens or closes with a button push. Given the price of the camera, Canon should do the same.

Interchangeable focus screens are supported. Three compatible Eg-series screens are currently available: Precision Matte (provided with the camera), Precision Matte with grid and Super Precision Matte. They sell for about $45 each.

The in-lens optical image stabilization that the Canon 5D Mark II uses did a decent job of compensating for hand shake, but it is far from perfect; at faster shutter speeds and with particularly bad hand shake, we found that it actually made things worse

You get the basics you'd expect in a high-end SLR, including a let-the-camera-do-the-thinking full auto mode for those occasions when you want to hand the 5D to your mom and get a picture of yourself for a change. The Creative Auto mode seems like a potentially good idea poorly executed, since it's too confusing for absolute novices and worthless for veterans. The headline feature here is three Camera User settings on the mode dial, a very valuable way to tailor settings to three of your favorite configurations without even a sidetrip through the menu system.

The autofocus system relies on nine primary focus points, including one cross-type point in the center. An additional six focus assist points near the center of the scene are available to help track moving subjects, though the points aren't displayed on-screen.

When using one of the two automated shooting modes (Full Auto and Creative Auto), the camera chooses a focus point, which can't be overridden. In any other mode you're on your own, moving the focus point selection with the joystick or by rotating one of the two dials. Instinct would say that using the joystick would be the right call here, since you can point directly to the spot you want instead of running through the focus point range until you land on the right one. In practice, we found that joystick tough to use accurately. With just nine available focus points, the Quick Control Dial was much faster.

Whether you use the automated system or choose your focus point yourself, it lights up bright red in the viewfinder. We found this bold display very useful but, if you disagree, the light can be suppressed through a custom control.

There are three autofocus modes: One Shot, Servo, and Focus (which switch between Servo and One Shot depending on subject movement.

Manual focus is straightforward: flip the AF/M switch on the lens to M and turn the focus ring. There is no focus assist indicator in the viewfinder, as found on the Nikon D700.

Live View mode offers both the standard focus system used during viewfinder shooting and contrast-detection auto focus using the image sensor. The system is detailed in the Live View section above.

The EOS 5D Mark II offers an unusual variety of picture size options, with three RAW sizes in addition to three JPEG formats. Each JPEG file size is available at two compression settings. Each of the RAW settings can be shot as RAW + JPEG, with any of the six available JPEG size/compression combinations attached.

Copyright Embedding

In a welcome pro-level feature, it's possible to create a copyright notice using the provided EOS Utility software, transfer it to the computer via USB and have the information embedded in the EXIF data of every photo taken. Unlike the Nikon D700, you can't create the copyright message within the camera itself, but since you're only likely to tackle this chore once, this is a minor inconvenience.

The Canon 5D Mark II gets off to a jackrabbit start from power-up to taking your first shot, but its burst mode performance lags the competition across the board.

There is only one burst mode speed, which Canon clocks at approximately 3.9 frames per second at full resolution. Their figure for maximum burst rate duration differs substantially based on the type of CompactFlash card you're using. With a standard CF card, they figure approximately 78 JPEGs, 13 RAW files or 8 RAW+JPEG shots in a row. Move up to a high-speed UDMA card, though, and the JPEG burst capacity is limited only by the capacity of the card, though the switch to UDMA only increases RAW burst capacity to 14 consecutive frames and doesn't change the RAW+JPEG spec.

The Nikon D700 and Sony A900 both offer significantly faster burst modes. The D700 runs at 5 frames per second, which can be boosted to 8 frames per second with an optional battery grip attached, but that's handling 12.1-megapixel images versus the 21.1-megapixel 5D Mark II output. The Sony A900, on the other hand, delivers 24.6-megapixel resolution and still manages a maximum 5 frame per second burst rate.

Canon claims the maximum burst mode speed shooting full-resolution JPEGs with the 5D Mark II is 3.9 frames per second. In our lab testing we clocked the camera at 3.81 frames per second, well within the margin of error.

The self-timer is accessed through the drive mode controls. Several forms of remote-controlled shooting are also possible. The optional Remote Switch RS-803N3 or Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 can be connected to the terminal plug on the side of the camera. There are also two wireless remote controls available, the RC-1 and the RC-5. Most intriguing, though, is the option to connect to your computer with a standard USB cable and shoot stills or video remotely using the included EOS Utility software.

The autofocus system relies on nine primary focus points, including one cross-type point in the center. An additional six focus assist points near the center of the scene are available to help track moving subjects, though the points aren't displayed on-screen.

When using one of the two automated shooting modes (Full Auto and Creative Auto), the camera chooses a focus point, which can't be overridden. In any other mode you're on your own, moving the focus point selection with the joystick or by rotating one of the two dials. Instinct would say that using the joystick would be the right call here, since you can point directly to the spot you want instead of running through the focus point range until you land on the right one. In practice, we found that joystick tough to use accurately. With just nine available focus points, the Quick Control Dial was much faster.

Whether you use the automated system or choose your focus point yourself, it lights up bright red in the viewfinder. We found this bold display very useful but, if you disagree, the light can be suppressed through a custom control.

There are three autofocus modes: One Shot, Servo, and Focus (which switch between Servo and One Shot depending on subject movement.

Manual focus is straightforward: flip the AF/M switch on the lens to M and turn the focus ring. There is no focus assist indicator in the viewfinder, as found on the Nikon D700.

Live View mode offers both the standard focus system used during viewfinder shooting and contrast-detection auto focus using the image sensor. The system is detailed in the Live View section above.

The Canon 5D Mark II uses the H.264 codec to compress video, which is the same system used on the Canon T1i. Files are saved in the MOV format so they're compatible with most editing programs and media players. The H.264 compression used by the camera is similar to AVCHD, although it is not exactly the same and the camera doesn't carry the AVCHD branding that is featured on Canon's HD camcorders. The camcorder uses a 30p frame rate to capture video in both its 1920 x 1080 HD mode and its 640 x 480 standard definition setting. Video will stop recording if a single file size reaches 4GB or if the movie time goes over 29 minutes and 59 seconds. Find out how the performed in our video image quality test./r:link_to_content

When the Canon 5D Mark II was first released, the camera offered no manual controls when shooting video. Canon has since released a firmware upgrade to fix this problem. With the new firmware (which was installed on the model we tested), the 5D Mark II offers a decent range of manual controls and using them was quite simple and pleasant.

Auto Controls

As far as auto controls go, the 5D Mark II suffers from not having a live autofocus feature. This is a problem with all video-capable DSLRs, with the notable exception of the Panasonic GH1. The GH1 gets around this issue, however, because it isn't really a true DSLR (it uses the Micro Four Thirds lens system) and it offers an electronic viewfinder instead of an optical one.

So, the 5D Mark II cannot keep a consistent autofocus while shooting video like a camcorder can. You must press the autofocus button to change focus, or you can do so manually by rotating the focus ring on the lens. Its probably not a good idea to press the autofocus button while you're shooting video anyway—the autofocus motor is very noisy (the sound will definitely be picked up by the built-in mic) and the exposure levels are altered for a moment while the camera attempts to focus (something you'll probably want to edit out later).

Auto exposure was okay on the camera, but the light levels shifted in a step-like manner as we moved from bright to dark scenes. Again, as with the autofocus motor, this exposure adjustment was quite noisy.

Zoom

Zoom is controlled via the zoom ring on the camera's lens. The amount of optical zoom available depends on what lens is attached to the camera.

Focus

Focus can be set manually using the focus ring on the camera's lens. There's also a 5x and 10x digital zoom option that act as a focus assist. Pressing the digital zoom button blows up the image to help you focus. This digital enhancement cannot be used while shooting video (only before you've started recording).

Exposure Controls

Exposure, aperture, and shutter speed can all be controlled manually on the 5D Mark II (thanks to the firmware upgrade). Exposure can be adjusted in any mode (except the auto modes) and it is done by rotating the large dial on the back of the camera. Exposure control ranges from -2 to +2 and can be set in 1/3 or 1/2 EV increments (the increments can be changed in the camera's menu). The AF/AE lock feature also works with video and you can use it to lock a certain exposure or focus for the duration of a shot.

Aperture and shutter speed can only be set for video when the camera is in Manual mode (M on the mode dial). Shutter-priority and Aperture-priority modes do not work for shooting video. In Manual mode you can, however, adjust both aperture and shutter speed before or while you are recording video. This means you can actually change aperture during a shot if you want to alter depth of field or adjust exposure levels. Changing both shutter speed and aperture is somewhat noisy—the dials make noise, as do the camera's internal components—so it may be irritating to do so while recording (if the recorded audio is important to you, that is).

Other Controls

ISO can be set manually on the 5D Mark II and the camera offers a generous range of ISO settings for video recording. ISO can be set from 100 - 6400 (expandable to 12800 in the menu) in video mode. Like aperture, exposure, and shutter speed, ISO settings can even be altered while you are recording. ISO can also be set to automatic even when you're in Manual mode on the camera. This allows you to make adjustments to shutter speed and aperture, while keeping ISO in automated control.

There are also the color modes, which we talked about earlier in the Video: Color section of our review. In addition to the preset color options on the camera, you can make custom settings by manually setting sharpness, contrast, saturation, and color tone.

The 5D Mark II has a switch in its menu to go between NTSC and PAL output. While this won't change the way the camera captures video, it is a handy feature to have if you're traveling overseas and you want to connect the camera to a PAL television.

DSLRs definitely aren't known for their audio capabilities, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the 5D Mark II is limited in that category. The camera does have one audio feature that sets it apart from the crowd, however—a 3.5mm external mic jack. Connecting a mic via the jack allows you to record stereo audio, as well as place an external microphone farther away from the 5D Mark II's noisy components.

The camera's built-in mic is awful. It's on the front side of the body, right in the way of where you might place your fingers when you hold the camera. It picks up noise when you focus, zoom, or change any of the camera's settings. It also only records monaural audio using the Linear PCM codec. It's basically the same setup featured on the Canon T1i. Other than the Panasonic GH1—which features a built-in, top-mounted, stereo mic—most DSLRs only have the bare bones of built-in audio features. This is an area where camcorders clearly have an edge over the video-capable DSLRs.

Mic Photo

The tiny built-in microphone.

Box Photo
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II body (with body cap)
  • LP-E6 lithium-ion battery (with cover)
  • LC-E6 battery charger
  • neck strap
  • USB cable
  • video cable with stereo audio
  • Instruction Manual, English
  • Instruction Manual, Spanish
  • Pocket Guides (English and Spanish)
  • Registration card, additional documentation
  • EOS Digital Solutions Disk 19.1 (utilities)
  • EOS Digital Software Instruction Manual CD (utility documentation)
  • Canon Essential Products and Solutions CD (product and accessory info)

Meet the testers

Digitalcamerainfo.com Staff

Digitalcamerainfo.com Staff

Editor

@digicamerainfo

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