Canon 5D Mark II Real life Experience Review

Wow, the Canon 5D Mark II (kit with Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM) is an unbelievable camera and I strongly encourage everyone to take a look at this camera. According to dxomark, http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/eng/DxOMark-Sensor the 5D2 is rank 4th among some very expensive cameras. Based on it score, I believe the 5D2 is a much better deal.

Now to be honest with you all, I don’t consider myself a professional photographer, but rather it just a hobby of mine. I have read many of the reviews and many of the comparisons between other cameras and I have to say my 3 weeks of experience with this camera certainly lines well with the reviews. I have no real way to compare the 5D2 with any of the more interesting camera such as the Canon 50D, 1D3, or the Nikon D3. There are plenty of other reviews available that covers this angle of the 5D2 story. I have not seen much real life reviews of the camera, so I figure I take this opportunity to write a review based on real life conditions. To put things in the proper context, I am upgrading from the Canon EOS Rebel XT. I had considered upgrading to the 40D, but I felt that it was not enough bang for me to upgrade. The Canon 5D Mark II offered the bang I was looking to achieve and I truly believe it was worth every penny.

I view myself as a generalist and do not focus on one area of photography. I have one camera (new 5D2) and a bunch of L lenses for the camera. If there is a picture to take, I take it and so far, I found the Canon 5D Mark II to be able to handle just about any thing. The camera is not just for weddings!

In this review, I will share some photo I have taken so far as well as cover my favorite features of the camera. Most of my sample photos will be JPEG right from the camera with the NR set to standard. In the past, I would shoot RAW and I would post process my RAW with Bibble Pro 4.10. But at this time, Bibble does not support the 5D2 as of yet and the DPP is frankly too slow for me. I have recently considered changing to Photoshop, but I have decided that I rather buy a new L lense then pay for PhotoShop. I have a license for Bibble and it a great product and will just have to wait until Bibble can support the 5D2. Certainly, I have RAW versions of all my photos and plan on experimenting with Cropping and evaluating its NR capabilities with the 5D2 once Bibble Pro 5 comes out with 5D2 support. Lucky for me, the 5D2 is producing awesome JPEG pictures right out of the camera which is allowing me to wait.

First up is Indoor Basketball shoots. I have hundreds of them so far. This one was taken in bad lighting conditions in an old gym. I used my Canon 24-70 F2.8 Lens with an Exposure Time of 1/250Sec, F-Stop 2.8, and ISO 3200. This photo came right out of the camera with no adjustments. The white balance is great and the colors are perfect. It has some noise, but certainly this can easily be clean up.

Here is another shot in a gym where the lighting conditions where much better. I used my Canon 24-70 F2.8 Lens again with an Exposure Time of 1/320Sec, F-Stop 3.2, and ISO 1600. This photo came right out of the camera with no adjustments. The white balance is great and the colors are perfect. Interesting in this gym, I have the camera set to Tv Priority set at 1/320 and auto ISO enabled. What I like about the 5D2 is that the F-stop will float between 3.2 and 2.8 (not sure why) but more importantly, the ISO will adjust down and low as possible (which I like a lot). For this lighting condition, the ISO seems to float between 1000 and 2500. The lighting changes slightly depending on where I am sitting in the gym and how far I have zoomed in or out the lens.

This next shot I had the camera set to full automatic. I don’t always use full automatic, but I wanted to see what the 5D2 would do in this condition. The 5D2 use ISO 100, F-stop of 8, and Exposure of 1/640 Sec. I used my Canon 70-200 F4 IS lenses for this shoot.

DIGIC 4 imaging processor

Comparing the 5D2 with my old Canon EOS Rebel XT (350D), one of the first things you will notice is the imaging processor capabilities in the 5D2. It seemed that just about every picture I had taken with the Rebel XT, needed some adjustments to the photo and why I always shot RAW. I had to adjust the White Balance, noise for ISO 800 or 1600, and at times, even the color was not quite right. However with the new DIGIC 4 image processor, I am seeing the colors and the white balance more under control and even more exciting, it has a built in Noise Reduction capability. Unscientifically of course, if you compare the JPEG coming right out of the camera, you notice a major difference in over all quality.

Being a Full Frame camera, right off the bat, you will notice a 1 F-Stop advantage over a crop camera such as the Rebel XT in respect to controlling the Exposure Time. In addition, using DPP and reviewing RAW files and comparing old basketball photo I had at 1600 and comparing them with the new basketball photo I have with the 5D2, I can notice the difference right away. The 350D at 1600 was not always usable. It depended a lot on the lighting conditions. With the 5D2, I am finding that noise level to be very usable up through 6400. To be clear, I do not have formal comparisons (kinda hard to do that with low lighting indoor action sports), but certainly I have been able to clean up a few 6400 test shots I have taken that simply look great. Many times I struggled when using 1600 on the 350D.

The other problem I had with the 350D, is I would set Av priority to a F-Stop of 2.8 and set the ISO to 1600. Many times, I would get blurry pictures because at times, the Exposure Time would be under 1/160 Sec. I did experiment with the under exposing with result of even more noise to deal with. Hard to get a half way decent indoor basketball shoot with bad gym lighting conditions and getting undesirable Exposure Times. Trust me, been there, done that. The 5D2 now gives me the ability to take great shoots even when the lighting conditions are bad.

Wow, for me, one of the biggest things I noticed with the 5D2 is the battery life between charges. When I had my 350D, it had to always have a 2nd battery with me especially when I used AI SERVO. With the 5D2 and using AI SERVO, I am taking hundreds of shots and coming home with my battery still having 70% or 80% battery power remaining. I could not be any happier here. I almost bought a 2nd battery for the 5D2, but the sales guy was very honest and said that I may not need it based on why I had a second one for the 350D. He was correct. I appreciate the honesty I got from them at www.cameracompany.com.

In addition, the 5D2 offers the ability to give you Battery status information such as the percentage remaining and the number of shots remaining. The 350D did not have this ability. In respect to basketball photos I have been taking, I found the Auto Focus with AI SERVO enable to be really fast as compare to the 350D I am use too. Many times with the 350D, I would loose a shot because the Auto Focus was simply not ready and fast enough. For the 5D2, I have yet to miss a picture I wanted; always focused and ready to go.

For a guy like me who is over 40 now, the screen on the 350D was just becoming a problem for me. The 5D2 3” LCD Screen is not only much bigger, but it also very sharp. The two things you need when you’re over 40. So if your over 40, this screen is a must have. Similar to the 350D, it does offer the ability to zoom in and out when reviewing photos, but what different is that the photo remains sharp as you zoom in. Also, it has a very nice button that they call their multi-controller which allows mouse like ability to move your picture up and down or left to right, very easily.

Menu System

Bottom line, it is very easy and simple! Just the way I like it. In addition, I was able to customize my very own screen. The only negative I will say is when I took the Ski photo above, I discovered that the customize Screen is not available if you are in full auto mode. For me, I don’t use full Auto Mode very often, but I do think this is a ridiculous restriction that Canon should consider removing. In respect to the 350D, the menu system is a major improvement with the 5D2.

Continues Shooting

The 5D2 has the ability to take 3.9 Shots per second which is slightly faster then the 350D. The 50D can perform at 6.3 shots per second with the 40D slightly faster. Given that some of my pictures are indoor sports, I debated for some time if I should go with the 50D or the 5D2. At the end, I went with the 5D2 because of the much better sensor that can handle low lighting conditions much better then the 50D. Putting the sensor to the side, simply having the 1 stop advantage being a full frame camera means you can basically double your Exposure time which is important for indoor sports pictures. I have never tried using a 50D or a 40D, but so far, I have been able to get great actions shots without the 6.3 advantage.

Video

So far, it appears to be working very well. I felt it was important to mention it, but at this point in time, I have not spent a lot of time using it in some real world scene.

Black Dots

Given all of the buzz about black dots, I thought it was important to mention the situation. The 5D2 can produce black dots that can be seen when shooting in very low lighting and you are taking a picture of street lights or Christmas lights. Based on what I read, they can be seen when you crop the photo by 100%. If you look closely, you will see a black dot in the middle of the light. Good news is Canon has acknowledged the problem and plans a firmware upgrade at some point to address the problem. My personal view is I have never seen the issue with my camera but then again, I never had an opportunity to take pictures on the conditions required to see this problem.

Final Thoughts

I am sure you can tell that I am quite pleased with this camera. 5D2 is an awesome camera. I feel the 5D2 has a solid control of its noise performance up to ISO 6400. I now have the ability to take much improved indoor sport pictures. I am sure the Nikon D3 or 700 or the Canon 1D3 can take solid indoor sport pictures as well, but given the price point and where I am as a hobbyist today, the 5D2 is a create camera and great option for me.

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