Saturday, January 10, 2009
Canon 5D mark II review
The other day I was talking with a photographer and she asked if she should look at getting the new 5D mark II. I had already planned on writing a review of the new camera, but responding to her help me focus my thoughts. So, if you're a photographer reading this, read on. Clients, this will probably be a little boring for you. Check back tomorrow and I'll try to have some photos up for you!
Talk to you soon,
Review of the Canon 5D Mark II
A week ago today, I shot my first wedding using Canon’s 5D mark II. Having received it only the day before, the fact that I could charge the battery and use it blindly (without continuing to stare at the camera body, searching for dials, buttons, and functions) was a good sign. But its similarity to the previous 5D is obviously not why I purchased the updated model.
There are two huge upgrades the mark II got: 1) its ability to shoot at higher ISOs without a huge increase in noise (more on this later) and 2) its ability to shoot high definition (HD) video. I will be able to comment on both from field tests.
However, I’m going to write the rest of this in chronological order in terms of when a photographer would experience/ have questions about a certain aspect of the camera.
In the box: Most of what was included was expected. Body, strap, charger, eos solutions disk, etc. If you’re currently unaware, the high capacity battery is not the same as used in the 5D mark I and 50D (series). That is obviously a bummer, as I have 6 or 7 great functioning BP-511s. On the plus side, the battery did last the duration of a 6 hour wedding in which I captured both photos and video.
More about the battery, I like the added battery information the camera’s menu has. Not only can I see the exact percent available (by the end of the wedding I had 39 percent left), I can also learn many other things about the battery.
Good-bye flash: One of the great things about this body is that with my favorite lens, Canon’s 85mm 1.2L, I may never have to use flash again. Now, that’s a slight exaggeration, but my style definitely incorporates the use of available light whenever possible. Even at a dark reception, I can now get away with minimal or no flash. By setting the ISO to 6400, I’m able to get some good low-noise results. I’ve also tested it in the extended H1 (12800 ISO) and H2. I noticed noise in the H1 and there is noticeably more in the H2. One more thing about ISO before I move on: when shooting a 1.2 lens outside, it is completely necessary to set the ISO to L (equivalent to 50) by changing the custom functions.
Bringing it in to focus: This camera focuses insanely better than the 5D. When shooting at f1.2 on the previous 5D, the depth of field was super shallow and the camera had a difficult time focusing on what I wanted it to focus on. Because of that, I shot and shot and shot some more so I could be certain the image would be tack sharp where I wanted it. That’s not a problem except it added time to my workflow and ate up card and disk space. The mark II handles this much better, and my life is happier for it.
And we’re live: Okay, okay... I know you wanna hear about how the video worked. Before I jump into it, I wanna talk briefly about Live View mode. First, I had to read the manual to learn that I needed to enable Live View, both for video or for picture snapping. It was easy to follow, but I would’ve thought there’d be an easier way. Anyway, I got it set, and pressed the Live View button, and sure enough, it was like I was using a PnS (point and shoot). I held the camera out from my face, positioned and pressed the shutter. Easy enough. Except, autofocus isn’t activated; you must manual focus, which is fine if I have a third hand, or a tripod. Video is shaky, but I didn’t use an image stabilization lens. If I wanted to become a videographer (I don’t) I’d buy some type of brace so I could be Steady-Eddie. Something that was a very good surprise is that while shooting video, I could also take a picture. I read this in the manual and had to try it out. In theory it’s a very cool function, and easy to do. There is no going back between video and photo necessary. All I had to do is press the shutter fully while shooting video to capture an image. However, flash doesn’t work (of course, with auto ISO going to 6400, it’s rarely needed). Furthermore, I didn’t like that it takes a full second for video to pull back up, even if my frame captured was at 1/8000 sec. Being paralyzed for 1 second might not be a big deal in most cases, but in others it definitely could be.
Back at the lab: After the wedding was over, as I do with every wedding, I went home and downloaded and backed up. A huge time saver from conventional video is that because everything is saved on compact flash cards, there was no video capture to conduct. Instead, I could just head directly to iMovie or Final Cut (I’ve used both now with the camera with success) and start the editing process. On a funny side note, I realized that some of the video I shot vertically, because I’m so used to framing things that way. My advice is to continue shooting like this if it’s your style. It’s an easy rotate in iMovie and crops out distractions.
Unfortunately, (and this is a big one for most of you) you have to have Adobe CS4 in order to process the RAW files. I needed to download a camera raw update 5.2 from Adobe that is not compatible with earlier versions of PS. Oh, and about RAW, this camera has various RAW modes: full RAW, sRAW1, and sRAW2 depending on how big you need your file size to be. This is a huge card saver.
Okay, long-winded enough for ya? I could probably go on and on about it, so if you have any more questions, I would love to answer them for you!
The Bottom Line: If you have the cash, the ability to shoot in higher ISOs is worth the money alone. Also, the video feature is an added bonus! But remember, you have to have the cash for not only the camera, but the Adobe upgrade.
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