By no means am I a professional reviewer for SLR cameras. However, I am a professional photographer and I seek out equipment that will give me the highest possible quality for the best price. In January 2009, I purchased the Canon 5D mark II, and have been thoroughly impressed with its performance.
The 5D mark II body retails for $2,700 and the kit with Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS USM AF Lens retails for $3,500. The 5D mk II is a professional-grade camera and boasts a full-frame 21.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, 50 – 25,600 ISO range, 3.9 fps burst speed, and 30 fps 1920×1080 HD video. These features make it an extremely competitive camera at the price.
As most of my photography is nature-based, I require a camera with a solid body that I can feel comfortable taking with me when hiking or biking rough terrain. This camera’s body is solid and has performed perfectly through all the obstacles Coeur d’Alene, Idaho’s outdoors lifestyle can throw at it. A friend of mine who is loyal to Nikon cameras consistently complains about the feel of Canons. To him, most Canon cameras don’t feel solid and don’t have enough weight in their bodies to feel like they can handle the sometimes massive lenses with which we equip them. His first comment when trying the 5D mk II was how solid the body is, and what a comfortable weight it has. The weight and solid body of this camera allow me to feel comfortable with capturing photos, even when in situations where I cannot use a tripod. The outdoors nature of my work means I require an LCD screen that will allow me to review photos in many lighting conditions from bright sunlight to total darkness. The 5D mk II’s 3″ screen is treated with an anti-glare coating that is a lifesaver when reviewing photos or menus in full daylight. The screen automatically adjusts its brightness based on ambient light, so no matter what the light conditions, it’s easy to see the screen’s display. The screen has 920,000 pixels, and the camera allows zooming and panning on stored photos, so I can review my shots in extremely high quality right there in the field. The camera fits comfortably in the hands, and controls are positioned to be easily accessible without having to reposition the hands. This is extremely important when taking photos on the go and needing to make instant corrections to the f-stop, ISO, or shutter speed.
No review of the 5D mk II would be complete without a note on its extended ISO. The camera allows ISO selection from 50 to 25,600 in 1/3 stop intervals. Combined with shutter speeds up to 1/8,000, the camera has impressive versatility. As a policy, I don’t take production photos at higher than 6400 ISO because of the noise. The 5D mk II also has a “banding” problem at the extended ISOs 12,800 and 25,600. I did a series of controlled comparison shots, demonstrating photos taken across the full ISO range of the 5D mk II. Those can be found at 29kproductions.com. While the banding issue is not as deal-breaking as many reviews make it sound, between that and the high noise level, I find it bad enough to make 12,800 and 25,600 ISO shots unusable for professional purposes. There is a firmware update available from Canon (version 1.0.7) that mitigates the banding problem.
I’ve used the 5D mark II in a variety of situations from landscapes to portraits to college athletics, and it has always met and surpassed my demands. This is an ideal camera for the serious amateur or the serious professional who needs maximum durability, quality, and versatility.
Additional notes: The full-resolution RAW photos from the 5D mark II have massive file sizes. It can take awhile for the camera to save these to your CF card. This usually isn’t a problem, but I did notice the issue when I was photographing the University of Idaho basketball games. I’d often take quick bursts of photos, and then find myself missing out on good photo opportunities, because the camera’s cache had filled up and it was still writing to the card. This isn’t an issue with the camera at all, it’s an issue with the CF card’s speed. I highly recommend purchasing the highest-speed CF cards you can if you anticipate taking lots of photos fast, or using the video function.