At last Canon has upgraded the camera that first made full-frame digital photography possible for many enthusiasts. Will it enable the company to regain the top spot in the DSLR market? We review the Canon EOS 5D Mark II
Though the Canon EOS 5D Mark II has a full-frame sensor with the same 21.1 million effective pixel count and 6.4 micron pixelpitch as the company’s own flagship EOS-1Ds Mark III, the two cameras do not use the same CMOS device. Instead, the EOS 5D Mark II has a new sensor, which is optimised to work with its Digic 4 processor. This has caused speculation that the new, lower-priced camera may produce better results than the £6,000 (SRP) model.
The EOS 5D is the last camera in Canon’s DSLR line-up to be upgraded and so many of the new features in its replacement, the EOS 5D Mark II, were expected. The arrival of an integrated sensor-cleaning system, 14-bit A/D conversion and the rearrangement of the menu are obvious examples, along with the introduction of the Highlight Tone Priority and Auto Lighting Optimiser dynamic range optimising modes.
There has also been an upward trend in sensitivity values and it was uncertain whether Canon would match the ISO 25,600 setting seen in Nikon’s high-end DSLRs. It has: the EOS 5D Mark II has a native sensitivity range of ISO 100-6400, which may be expanded to include the equivalent of ISO 50, 12,800 and 25,600 – an impressive span.
Live view and video
Live View technology was also an anticipated feature of the EOS 5D Mark II, but it has enabled an unexpected extra: full HD video recording. This is likely to appeal to photojournalists, which is a key market for the camera. And, unlike Nikon with its D90, Canon has managed to make autofocus possible, albeit using a contrast-detection system, while movies are being recorded.
Unsurprisingly, there are several areas where Canon has decided to stick with the existing successful technology, and so the EOS 5D Mark II has the same metering, white balance and AF systems as its predecessor.
However, the new Digic 4 processor has boosted the maximum continuous shooting rate to 3.9fps for approximately 78 large fine-quality JPEGs or 13 raw files. If a UDMA card is used, these burst depths can be extended to 314 JPEGs or 14 raw files. This will make the Canon EOS 5D Mark II even more attractive as a general-purpose camera for photojournalists and enthusiast photographers who want to shoot unfolding action.