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Canon 5D Mark II
What's New over the old 5D
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Canon 5D Mark II

Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 50mm f/1.4 (32 oz./900g with battery and card, but no lens). enlarge.


May 2010      More Canon Reviews


What's really new over the old 5D


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Quick Control Screen

Quick Control Panel

Canon 5D Mark II Quicl Control Screen.

You can control everything from one tap of the SET button, if you turn on this feature by pressing:

MENU > C.Fn IV operation/Others > 3: Assign SET Button > 5: Quick Control Screen.

Now when you tap SET, it wakes up a control screen on the rear LCD from which we can control everything with the dial, joystick and SET button.

This is a far more valuable upgrade from the old 5D than the pixel count.


Excellent LCD

Nice LCD with auto-adjusting backlight.

This alone is reason enough for me to dump my old 5D in favor of the new 5D Mark II.

The auto-adjusting backlight really works. It looks great in daylight, and doesn't burn out your eyes at night. This means, for the first time I can use my LCD at night to evaluate exposure, and not have to add a stop as I do on Nikons with their fixed brightness levels.Yay!

You can fix the level of the backlight if you prefer. It can be weird having the LCD get brighter and darker as you try to shade it to see it better from daylight!

The LCD is covered with anti-reflection coated glass, but sadly, it picks up fingerprints like a magnet. By comparison, the screen coating of the SD880 point-and-shoot seems to repel fingerprints.


Faster Response

As of version 2 firmware, everything about the handling and reaction of the 5D MArk II is much faster. Menus and finder displays respond instantly as they should.


Auto ISO

This new feature alone is also enough to make me love the new 5D Mark II over my old 5D.

Auto ISO is on by default, and not hidden deep inside menus as it is on Nikon.

Canon's Auto ISO is far smarter than any Nikon Auto ISO.

Canon is making use of my invention disclosure, and Canon's Auto ISO automatically takes focal length into effect. On my Nikons I need to reset the lowest shutter speed in the Auto ISO menu as I change lenses, while Canon just knows at what focal length I'm shooting and adjusts accordingly.

The bad news is that although Canon's Auto ISO is way smarter than Nikons, Canon's Auto ISO cannot be adjusted. You either shoot it as Canon has it set, or choose your ISOs manually. Tough.

Again in Canon's favor, Auto ISO is smarter than Nikon's because it also has a "smart soft landing."

With Nikon, ISO bumps up as soon as the shutter speed hits a preset lowest speed, which is after the lens hits its maximum aperture in Pro exposure mode (P, previously called Program). As it gets darker, Nikons open up the lens, then slow the shutter to the set speed, and only then does Nikon start to increase the ISO. Nikons keep increasing the ISO to the preset maximum, and only then do they lengthen the shutter speed after running out of ISOs.

In the 5D Mark II, as it gets darker, the 5D Mark II starts increasing the ISO before you get to the slow limit, and before you wind up at full aperture. It does even closer to what I want than Nikon does, so long as it's choosing the slow limit I prefer.

Canon's inviolate slow speed limits in Auto ISO are those you'd pick for still subjects. They counter hand motion, but not subject motion.

With a 50mm lens, Canon's Auto ISO tries to keep you at 1/40 or faster.

At 70mm, it's 1/80, and at 200mm, it's 1/160.

At 35mm it's 1/30, and at 16mm, it's 1/15.

Canon's Auto ISO is brilliant for shooting still subjects, as I usually do with a 5D Mark II, but since Canon's Auto ISO can't be altered, it's useless for shooting motion with wide and normal lenses. unless you shoot in Tv mode.

Canon's Auto ISO still isn't smart enough to know if you have Image Stabilization switched ON or OFF. Canon's point-and-shoots are smart enough. Drats!

Auto ISO works even with Highlight Tone Priority ON, although of course it starts at ISO 200 instead of ISO 100.


Shooting Control

Another huge improvement is the new rear info panel. It's the best way to make changes to settings. You can still use the crappy old way, which is to press the illegible little row of buttons along the top of the top LCD, or just set C.Fn. IV: 3 (assign SET button) to 5: Quick COntrol Screen. Now tap the SET button, and you can set everything with it.

You use the little rear thumb nubbin to select what to set, then just spin the big rear knob and you're done. There's no need to hit OK or SET again as on Nikon; when you've changed something, you're done.

This is way better than menus, because the thumb nubbin lets you move in four directions instead of just up and down in menus.

There are three total recall settings, C1, C1 and C3. You set any of them to recall everything about the camera any time you turn to them. This is far better than Nikon's dorky Setting Bank, which only store some of the camera parameters, and require too much menu jerking to set.

In the 5D Mark II, save a camera state into C1, C2 or C3, and when an airliner bursts unexpectedly into flame above you while you're in the middle of a swimsuit shoot, spin the dial to C3 and point the camera at the falling wreckage, and you just bagged the front page shot worldwide with exactly the contrast, WB, AF and every setting you saved months ago.

In all seriousness, I save C1 for landscapes (high rez, high saturation, AWB, etc.) and save C3 for kid shots indoors: low rez, tungsten WB, rational saturation, etc. Everything, including WB trim settings, is saved in each of these three settings.

I'd gladly trade the toy-store settings, [AUTO] and [CA] to be C4 and C5.


Battery Gauge in the Finder

There is a five-segment gauge in the finder. Nice!



Now also reads Picture contrast, saturation, AF offset and etc. settings.


More Pixels

Yes, more pixels, but you had better have some real Perkin-Elmer spy-satelite grade optics to make good use of them. For most people, all the more pixels of the 5D Mark II is going to show you are the limits of your Canon L-series lenses and your technique.


Chrome Hot Shoe

Silly but true: the old 5D had a black hot shoe whose finish quickly wore off with light use.

The new silver hot shoe will look good much longer.


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