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Canon EOS 5D Mark II First Impressions

by [tag]David Tong[/tag]

I was fortunate to try my friend’s brand spankin’ new [tag]Canon EOS 5D Mark II[/tag] with [tag]Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM[/tag] this afternoon, so here I’m am giving you a quick insight with the camera.

I have to mention right now that this is not a thorough [tag]review[/tag] (I’ll write one if I get the chance to try one for more than a day) but merely a hands-on experience and some test shots under usual indoor, low-light conditions. So don’t demand high-quality samples right now, I didn’t get the chance to capture any. All the sample images are shot in Program Mode, Evaluative metering, and Large + Normal quality.

The [tag]5D[/tag] Mark II is roughly the same size as the original 5D. If you’re coming from a Rebel series or an xxD series of EOS digital cameras, you’ll feel the size difference and probably welcome it as well. The camera fits well in your hands and former EOS users will feel right at home with the familiar EOS layout.

The 5D Mark II’s textured finish feels more robust than the usual, smoother grain on the camera’s body. The main LCD is bright and clear, enabling you to review your shots in greater speed and detail while the top LCD provides you all the information you’ll need in most shooting conditions. The viewfinder is good for a full-frame camera, but not as large as the [tag]Sony A900[/tag], but still a wonderful view compared an any crop-sensor viewfinder. If you’ve never used a film SLR or any full-frame viewfinder before, you’ll love the large, bright view.

The [tag]movie mode[/tag] is pretty easy to operate, just press the Live View button, set your usual parameters and exposure compensation, pre-focus, then press the Set button to start shooting videos. Personally, I feel that when you shoot video, you should use your lens’ manual-focus ring instead of relying on contrast-detect auto-focus anyway as it offers more precise controls and faster focus selection as well. WIth a 900k pixel LCD, it’s easy to accurately set your focus as you shoot. Here’s a sample video that I’ve resized for your viewing.


Hosted on Vimeo.

I don’t know much about video shooting, nor even understand the basics of editing videos or resizing them, so my apologies for the crappy video. What I did notice is that the “jello” effect is present in the 5D Mark II’s video system when you pan the camera a little to quickly. I’m sure a lot of people will find creative ways to shoot videos with all the lenses available for a DSLR body. If you want good samples of the cam’s video features, check out LaForet’s videos instead.

By the way, the guy in the video is my friend, Marco, the owner of the camera itself.

For those naysayers about video on a DSLR, go buy a Polaroid and stop yapping about technological advances.

Onto still photos. (HIGH-RES, Full Size JPEGs are available in my Flickr site).

The AF is capable even in low-light, it never failed to lock focus in low-light and AI-Servo tracking worked as it should, but I have to admit, I only tracked regular pedestrians walking towards the camera.

Let’s start with [tag]ISO comparisons[/tag] since that’s what a lot of people consider important. Again, images really suck, just compare the noise, OK?

Click on the images to show the 100% crops.

ISO 100

ISO 100

ISO 200

ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

ISO 6400

ISO 12800 (H1)

ISO 12800 (H1)

ISO 25600 (H2)

ISO 25600 (H2)

Banding at H2 is very visible, but I’m not sure if it’ll improve if it’s shot in RAW or JPEG Fine.

20081129-IMG_6104-2.jpg

ISO 25600 (H2) Banding

If you resize these for web purposes or small prints, noise isn’t very offending at any base ISO range (up to 6400), which is very, very useful for a lot of people. There still are a lot of details in these JPEG files, and frankly, 21MP is a lot of data and is a waste if you never print beyond A2 paper size. What’s nice, though, is that if you resize the high ISO shots at full resolution, the amount of detail and noise control is very good.

I will not comment on how the Canon EOS 5D Mark II compares to the Nikon D700/D3, and the Sony A900 as I haven’t had the chance to test those three cameras, but I’m sure they’re all mighty fine cameras and will produce extremely high quality digital images as well.

Here’s how an ISO 6400 looks straight from cam (cropped, of course)

ISO 6400 Original

ISO 6400 Original

ISO 6400 + LightRoom +20 Luminance NR

ISO 6400 + LightRoom +20 Luminance NR

ISO 2500

ISO 2500

ISO 2500

Large original file sizes allow you to crop ridiculously to simulate a much longer zoom lens. Here’s the original scene shot at ISO 3200.

Original Coverage

Original Coverage

Here’s what you can crop off and still yield approximately a 3MP image.

Cropped

Cropped

Last two images at ISO 25600 (H2)

ISO 25600 (H2)

ISO 25600 (H2) - Vignetting at 24mm

ISO 25600 (H2)

ISO 25600 (H2)

I do have to tell you the down side, though. At 21 megapixels, file sizes are HUGE. Even at Large + Normal, my Lightroom running on my laptop runs as fast as a turtle on molasses. If you invest in any camera with over 12 megapixels, you better start save up for a new computer, much larger storage, and probably a much larger monitor to stop you from scrolling all over the place.

There you have it, my 15-20 minute experience with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. I’m so drooling over what this camera can do, partly because I really miss shooting full 35mm even though I still get to shoot film quite a bit, but also because of all the flexibility and creative options you can have with all the technology crammed into a consumer camera body.

Now where’s that piggy bank…

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