Canon 5DmkII First Impressions – Mini Review

I got my hands on a Canon 5DmkII yesterday and shot with it for a couple of hours, on and off with my friend Ben.

My impressions vs the original 5D (after having shot with an original 5D for more than a year):

1) The build quality and the ergonomics are a little bit better. The quality of the plastic and rubber grips just feels better for some reason. I really like that the AF button on the back of the camera has moved further in so that it’s much easier to support the camera and use the AF button on the back at the same time

2) Layout has changed a little bit, will take some slight getting used to… the back light button for the camera settings has moved to the opposite side, there are now 3 custom functions, the on and off switch feels a lot stiffer.

3) AF works better! The outside AF points are actually useful on the 5dmkII, while on the old model, I avoided using them completely. I think the focus is a bit faster as well, with less “hunting” for the right focus.

4) Shutter is a bit quieter… it has a slightly more machine-like noise though.

5) High ISO performance is awesome! I would feel confident using ISO6400 quite often. The first portrait posted below of my friend Ben was shot at f2.8 and a shutter speed of 1/15th in street light in a dark alley. The photo (with a little bit of camera shake) is posted below. The noise characteristics are decent – the D700 has less color noise but the luminance noise on the 5D is relatively low. If the image is well lit, then noise is not bad, however if the image is underexposed, you will see color noise in the shadows above ISO 6400 (in the extended ISOs). I would only use the extended ISOs if I was going to shoot black and white or if I wanted to stylistically degrade an image.

Also, because the camera resolves in 21mp… when viewed at 100% any imperfections are going to be magnified b/c they are twice as obvious as usual. Translation, pixel peepers might be disappointed w/ this camera but prints will come out just fine.

6) I’m not a video guy, but the video mode is pretty awesome, simply because you can use existing lenses and a single system for both stills and relatively short videos. The control over depth of field is impressive, especially when using my 70-200 2.8 IS or 100mm macro lens.

7) Metering seems to be better than on the original 5D.

8) Live view is awesome! You can set white balance real time using live view – very useful… Also the screen resolution on the newer, larger LCD really helps out. Being able to focus in live view is a plus too.

9) The new battery seems to last a long time.

Conclusion – The extra low light performance and video is the real draw for me here – everything else is just icing on the cake. Canon made a ton of improvements on this model. While it’s still not the perfect camera, I am definitely going to get one. A camera to me is a tool, and this new tool allows me to change my shooting style a lot and take previously unattainable photos and videos! ISO 6400 is the new ISO 1600!

I think this camera is worth the money and I can’t wait to try new, creative things with it.

Sample images.

ISO 6400 @ f2.8, 1/15th – some camera shake on this photo

ISO 2000 @ f2.8, 1/160th sec w/ flash – For a full sized photo, click here:

ISO 6400 @ f2.8, 1/60th sec w/ flash – some movement on this photo – For a full sized photo, click here:

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