Canon EOS 5D Mark II

The EOS 5D Mark II is the successor to the EOS 5D, which Canon released in 2005. The older camera made a name for itself by being the first, full-frame digital SLR camera that featured a standard body rather than a taller, professional style body

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Canon EOS 5D Mark II
By  Jason Saundalkar Published  January 3, 2009

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Key Specs

Connectors: USB / HDMI
Display: 3-inch
Lens included: N
Light sensitivity: 100-6400
Live View compatible: Y

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The EOS 5D Mark II is the long awaited successor to the EOS 5D, which Canon released in 2005. The older camera made a name for itself by being the first, full-frame digital SLR camera that featured a standard body rather than a taller, professional style body. The latter body style is seen on cameras such as the EOS 1D Mark III.

A full-frame camera offers an image sensor that is almost the same size as a frame of 35mm film (24 x 36mm). Thanks to the larger sensor size, full frame models are able to capture vastly more information than cameras using smaller sensors, which are generally equivalent in size to APS-C film (25.1 x 16.7mm). The downside is full frame image sensors are more expensive than cameras using the smaller sensors, which is why the majority of point-and-shoot and even SLR models sold on the market use the lower cost APS-C size sensor.

The 5D Mark II offers a 21.1-megapixel image sensor that can grab images at a resolution of 5616 x 3744 pixels and this dwarfs its predecessor comprehensively; the 5D offers a 12.8-megapixel sensor and could capture images at a maximum resolution of 4368 x 2912 pixels. The camera offers a base ISO range of 100 to 3200 and this is expandable from a low of 50 to a high 25,600. And, when it came to testing, the Mark II floored us with its performance.

Shooting at the camera's top resolution with the ISO set at 800 and then 1600, this new 5D produced brilliant photographs with little visible noise. Going beyond the base settings, the 6400 and 12,800 ISO settings have noticeable visible noise that becomes apparent when the pictures are blown up or when printed. That said, the photographs are still very much useable. Moving to the top 25,600 ISO, the camera still produces surprisingly sharp photographs though the amount of noise visible makes these photographs unsuitable for full sized prints or for close up viewing. (This is because noise becomes more apparent on images that are blown up.) Overall though, the Mark II is a staggering camera considering its excellent ISO performance when shooting at its top resolution setting (it is much harder for high resolution sensors to produce noise free images at high ISOs than it is for a lower resolution camera to shoot at the same high ISO settings).

Beyond its still image quality, this 5D is also the first model in Canon's EOS line to offer video capture capabilities. It is able to capture video at Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) and thanks to its excellent image sensor, video quality is brilliant. Colours are accurate and there's load of visual detail. The camera is equipped with a monaural microphone and this captures audio fairly well. As the 5D features a 3-inch LCD and speaker, you can also view and listen to video captures without needing a PC. The Mark II also features a HDMI video output port, so you can pump captures directly across to a Full HD LCD or Plasma screen.

Thanks to its standard-size body, the Mark II is easy to handle and this makes shooting photos much easier when you're not using a tripod. Aiding usability is the very well designed grip and excellent button placement; it won't take long for you to get used to working with this camera. The Canon also makes it easy to monitor battery performance and battery life because batteries compatible with the Mark II feature a microchip that will tell you the exact charge level, battery health and the number of photographs shot. The camera itself can track these histories for up to six batteries, so you can easily identify when a battery is performing poorly and giving you a lesser number of shots per charge. The camera's interface is also very easy to work with, as we expected, so whether you're a long time photographer or a newbie, you'll have no trouble getting accustomed to the 5D Mark II.

For: Excellent image quality, fantastic ISO performance, video captures are excellent, great to work with, easy-to-use interface, great price.

Against:
Kit lens is basic.

Verdict: An aggressively priced full-frame SLR camera that excels at producing high resolution images with little or no visible noise.

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