Canon EOS 5D Mark II

      Photo Review 9.5

      In summary

      Serious photo enthusiasts have been well catered for in the latest releases from Canon, Nikon and Sony but Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II is probably the most eagerly-awaited of the new models, largely because its predecessor was so successful. Interestingly, the body design of the new model has changed very little from the original 5D. This will please many users, since most controls are in familiar locations and the general look and feel of the new camera is essentially unchanged.

      Full Review

      Serious photo enthusiasts have been well catered for in the latest releases from Canon, Nikon and Sony but Canon’s EOS 5D Mark II is probably the most eagerly-awaited of the new models, largely because its predecessor was so successful. Interestingly, the body design of the new model has changed very little from the original 5D. This will please many users, since most controls are in familiar locations and the general look and feel of the new camera is essentially unchanged. 
      The review camera was supplied with the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens, which will be offered in the Premium Kit. We reviewed this lens in January 2007 when we reviewed the original EOS 5D and its specifications haven’t changed since then. It’s equally at home on the new model and makes an ideal choice for photographers who want a general-purpose lens for this camera. Click HERE to access our EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM lens review.

      There can be no doubt that the 5D II is a significant upgrade to the EOS 5D, offering both substantially higher resolution and a worthwhile range of new features. The most newsworthy of the latter are Live View movies in Full High Definition (HD) and increased ISO sensitivity.
      Like its predecessor, the new model has a stainless steel internal chassis, reinforced by magnesium alloy. Dust- and moisture-resistant seals surround the openings for the battery compartment, memory card slot and button controls. Additional protection is provided by precise machining of seams on the chassis and rubber grips and accurate construction and positioning of dial controls. It’s what you’d expect for a camera at this price point.


      Front view of the EOS 5D Mark II with the 24-105mm lens that will be offered in the Premium kit.


      Rear view showing the larger, higher-resolution LCD monitor.

      The mode dial on the 5D II carries a wider range of settings than the 5D offered, with three Custom memory banks (instead of just one) plus a new “Creative Auto” (CA) mode that sets shooting functions automatically but enables users to adjust exposure levels, depth-of-field and Picture Style settings. (We suspect both this and the full auto mode will be of minimal interest to most potential purchasers and see the CA mode as a kind of compromise for buyers who simply want the high resolution the 5D II offers.)


      Cutaway view showing the internal components and mirror box.
      Refinements have also been made to the menu system. Not only does the new model offer more control options than its predecessor, it also presents them in a more readily-accessible format. Two examples are shown below.


      EOS 5D


      EOS 5D Mark II
      A comparison of Custom Function menus. The top screen is from the EOS 5D, where all Custom Functions are lumped together in a single sub-menu. The lower screen shows the division of the Custom Function sub-menu into four sections, each dealing with a different feature in the camera’s controls.




      Auto exposure bracketing is easier in the new model. The top screen is from the EOS 5D, where adjustments are made on the menu item. The lower screen shows the larger and more readily understood display that is revealed when Exposure compensation/AEB setting is selected.  

      What’s New?
      1. The Sensor: Although both models have single-plate, 24 x 36mm CMOS imagers, the original EOS 5D only provided 12.8-megapixel effective resolution. In contrast, the EOS 5D Mark II’s sensor now offers the same 21.1-megapixel resolution as the $11,999 EOS 1Ds Mark III.
      This second-generation sensor has been designed and manufactured by Canon and features Canon’s gapless microlens technology, which is also provided in the sensors on Canon’s EOS 50D and several HD camcorders. 
      By enabling more light to enter each photosite, this technology allows sensitivity to be increased without excessively increasing image noise. 
      According to Canon, even though the original EOS 5D had larger 8.2 µm photosites compared to 6.4 µm photosites on the 5D II, these introductions, along with the use of new colour filter materials that increase light transmission without compromising colour reproduction, plus improvements to the on-board noise suppression system, allow the new camera to offer higher ISO speeds and an improved dynamic range at low ISOs. 
      Consequently, sensitivity settings on the 5D II extend from ISO 50 to ISO 25,600 with ISO expansion enabled. Even the auto ISO setting has an above-average range of ISO 100 to 3200.
      Another improvement to the sensor has been the addition of individual signal amplifiers at each photosite with the aim of reducing both noise and power consumption. With 4-channel data readout, the output  signal amplifier is approximately 2.2 times faster than on the EOS 5D and supports a faster burst speed of 3.9 fps.
      The new model’s imager is protected by a double low-pass filter with a phase plate that separates the subject image into horizontal and vertical directions. The front of the first low pass filter is coated with a fluorine compound to help prevent dust from sticking to its surface, while a dichroic mirror vapor deposit on the rear surface reflects infrared rays.
      To complete the upgrade, the 5D II’s sensor has been fitted with Canon’s sensor-shift Integrated Cleaning System, which uses a piezoelectric element to ultrasonically shake off dust. It’s activated automatically on startup and shutdown and can be manually engaged via the camera’s menu. When this happens, the shutter blades also cycle to ensure no residual dust can reach the sensor. Absorbent materials inside the mirror box trap dislodged dust to prevent it from being re-deposited.
      The final component of the system is software-based and allows the camera to ‘map’ the location of particles on the sensor with the Dust Delete Data function. This data can be used to remove the spots when the images are processed in the supplied Digital Photo Professional (DPP) software. The inclusion of dust removal alone could give existing 5D owners a strong motivation to upgrade to the new model.

      2. The DiG!C 4 Processor: Replacing the DiG!C III chip on the 5D, the new processor claims to be roughly 30% faster and offers 14-bit raw file processing (up from 12-bit on the 5D). This equates to 16,384 bits per channel of RGB data compared to 4,096 bits per channel for 12-bit processors. Benefits are realised in improved highlight and shadow details, extended dynamic range and more accurate, richer colours in images.
      The new processor is also essential to the 5D II’s video recording capabilities. Signals from the built-in ambient light detector are used to control LCD brightness as well as counteract any white balance shifts during video recording. It also supports new functions like face and motion detection, continuous subject tracking and Intelligent Contrast Correction as well as adding the ability to provide live view shooting and support for movie capture (more on these functions in point 7 below). 
      High ISO noise reduction is also improved with the new processor, enabling the camera to maintain fast continuous shooting speeds with two out of the three noise reduction settings.  Continuous shooting speeds have also been increased from three frames/second (fps) on the 5D to 3.9 fps. When a UDMA card is used in the new model, it offers ‘unlimited’ JPEG recording plus a buffer capacity of 14 full-sized raw files, compared with 60 JPEGs and 17 raw files for the original 5D.

      3.  HD Video Recording: The feature that has garnered the most press coverage for the 5D II is its ability to record Full HD video at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels in 16:9 aspect ratio with a frame rate of 30 frames/second. There’s also an SD mode that records VGA movie clips at 30 fps.
      The 5D II isn’t the first DSLR capable of recording video clips; that honour went to Nikon’s D90. However, the D90 offers a maximum resolution of 1,280 x 720 pixels with a 24 fps frame rate. It may appear more film-like but video from the 5D II looks a lot better. It also sounds better than the D90’s monaural audio and Nikon puts a 2GB limit on video recording, whereas the 5D II has a limit of 4GB or just under 30 minutes. (The Nikon camera doesn’t have an external microphone input.) 
      Unfortunately, the SLR format doesn’t lend itself particularly well to shooting video. It’s certainly doable; but not as easily as shooting with a camcorder. The main problem is the reliance on the LCD for framing shots and the shape of the camera body plus lens makes it more difficult to hold steady than a camcorder body.
      Video can only be recorded in Live View mode because you can’t use the viewfinder for shooting video because the mirror is up. You have to enable the facility in the camera’s Setup menu before you can start shooting. The camera automatically ‘crops’ the LCD inot a 16:9 format by graying out the top and bottom of the screen. Reliance on the LCD makes it more difficult to keep the camera steady while you’re shooting and means you really need to use stabilised lenses – or, preferably, put the camera on a tripod.
      All shooting modes can be used for video capture – and most ISO settings. Picture Style settings can also be used for recording video and users can take advantage of image stabilised lenses. However, when shooting video, the camera sets most exposure controls automatically. 
      Sensitivity is standardised at ISO 100 and only increased when light levels are low enough to make shooting impractical. (It can go as high as ISO 6400 (or ISO 12,800 if expansion is enabled) in near darkness.) Shutter speed is also set automatically, with a maximum of 1/125 second. Face detection can be activated during video recording by pressing the AF-ON button.
      Depending on the shooting mode selected, the camera may set the lens aperture. This could place some restrictions on differential focusing, particularly in bright conditions, although you can over-ride the camera settings via the exposure compensation controls, which provide +/- 2EV of adjustment in 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps. AE lock is also available when you’re shooting video.
      Autofocusing is possible when shooting video but not in Quick mode. In the Live and Face Detect modes it’s a bit unpredictable and focus can change abruptly when you’re following a subject, particularly if the lighting changes. Overall it’s best to focus before you start shooting and Canon recommends using manual focusing during video recording, particularly when using the camera’s internal microphone, to minimise the risk of recording AF motor noises. Zooming while you shoot could also interfere with the soundtrack in quiet surroundings.
      You can shoot stills while recording video clips but at the expense of approximately one second of video (and sound) recording. In playback mode, a freeze frame of the photo is displayed on-screen while the still image is recorded (at the resolution and quality selected for still shot) and audio playback is temporarily suspended.
      The on-board microphone is pretty small but it’s sensibly positioned on the front panel, just below the ‘5D’ name plate, where it’s unlikely to be covered by your finger. If you’d like to record stereo sound, a mini-jack socket for connecting an external microphone is located under a lift-up rubber flap on the left side panel. Sound levels are adjusted automatically. No provision appears to be made for adjusting sound levels manually.
      Video clips are recorded in the new H.264 format (which means they’re encoded with the H.264 codec but appear as a *.mov file in an editor) with monaural Linear PCM soundtracks. Canon doesn’t provide movie editing software with the camera in Australia but clips should be editable in most popular video editors.
      The 5D II’s instruction manual advises photographers to use fast cards when shooting video – and the faster the better. Going on our experience, we’d agree. We opted to use a SanDisk Extreme IV 4.0GB card and encountered no problems. 
      However, even with a fast card, the maximum clip length is roughly 12 minutes, which is probably enough for most photographers. With slow cards, a five-level indicator is displayed on the screen indicating how much data is in the buffer memory. No video can be recorded when the buffer memory is full.
      Although an HDMI port is provided for connecting the camera to compatible HD TV sets for playing back video (and still images), no HDMI cable is supplied with the camera. Budget for at between $60 and $85 extra if you want to add this cable to your kit.

      4. A Bigger, Better LCD and improved viewfinder: A major change on the rear panel has been the replacement of the 5D’s 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD monitor with a larger, multi-coated, 3.0-inch display with 920,000 dots (VGA resolution). This puts it on a par with competing models from Nikon and Sony and provides a much better viewing platform for checking menus and reviewing shots.
      A new automatic brightness adjustment sets the display’s brightness in accordance with ambient lighting. Some users will appreciate this but if you’re working in variable lighting it can be inconvenient – particularly when using the histogram to evaluate image brightness – as the scene can fluctuate as you view it. (Fortunately, manual brightness adjustment is provided.)
      The new LCD also claims to be more resistant to grime and grease and its surface is less reflective to improve readability. It displays 100% of the area ‘seen’ by the sensor. Pressing in the joystick displays a new Quick Control screen that shows current camera settings and enables users to adjust frequently-used functions with the two control dials. This interface can also be used to change settings in the Creative Auto shooting mode.
      The viewfinder’s frame coverage has also been increased from 96% to 98%, making it slightly easier to frame shots precisely – although it’s no substitute for full frame coverage when high precision is required for technical shots. Its 20mm eyepoint is the same as the 5D’s and the same -3.0 to +1.0 diopter adjustment is provided. Like the 5D, the new model’s focusing screens are interchangeable and users can choose from a range of new Eg-series screens that includes Precision Matte, Precision Matte with grid and Super Precision Matte.

      5. Live View shooting: Support for Live View shooting appears to be mandatory in the latest DSLRs and the 5D II offers Canon’s standard suite of options. These include a Silent shooting mode plus three AF-enabled modes. Quick AF uses the camera’s full array of AF points but causes a momentary interruption of live viewing while the lens is focused. Live AF mode is slower through use of contrast detection AF. It includes an ‘AF box’ that can be moved around the image area and positioned over the section you wish to be sharp. Face Detection AF locks in on the closest face (up to 35 faces are detectable) and can be set to follow a selected face.

      6. More Raw Capture Options: In line with Canon’s other professional and ‘pro-sumer’ DSLRs, the 5D II supports more than one raw file size option. But while the other models only offer one alternative, the 5D II has two. It makes sense for a camera with a 21.1-megapixel sensor that produces a 25.8MB file to offer smaller alternatives. sRAW1 equates to 10 megapixel resolution and produces a 14.8MB raw file while sRAW2, which is equivalent to 5.2 megapixels, produces a 10.8MB raw file.


      A comparison of image Quality options: the top screen is from the menu on the EOS 5D, while the lower screen shows the increased options – and refined selection system – on the EOS 5D Mark II.

      7. Image Optimisation Functions: Canon has added a suite of in-camera adjustments to counteract common imaging problems. One of the more useful is the Auto Lighting Optimiser (ALO), which is a bit like Nikon’s D-Lighting function and is faster in the new camera. ALO has traditionally been used to improve dynamic range in JPEG shots, where it also enhances the impact and quality of shots such as backlit portraits and flat, low-contrast scenes. 
      Engaged by default with the Standard setting in the full auto shooting mode, it can be switched on and off via C.Fn II-4 in the other shooting modes. Three processing levels are provided:  Standard, Low and Strong. The function can also be disabled.  As a new addition, ALO can now be activated in RAW and RAW+JPEG instead of being limited to JPEG.
      A related Custom Function (C.Fn II-3) is Highlight Tone Priority, which originated in the EOS 40D but is completely new to the 5D II. The main aim of this setting is to record more highlight detail and it claims to provide roughly one stop of advantage over the EOS 5D. When it’s in use, a new Highlight Tone Priority status indicator (D+) is displayed on the LCD screen and in the viewfinder.
      The system works by smoothing the gradation between 18% grey and bright highlights without affecting mid-tones and shadows. Only two settings are provided (enable and disable) and when Highlight Tone Priority is active the ISO range is limited to ISO 200-6400. A close examination of some (but not all) of our test shots revealed a marginal increase in shadow noise when this function was enabled.
      Peripheral Illumination Correction is a new, in-camera vignetting control that was formerly only found in Digital Photo Professional software.  When engaged via the menu, it automatically corrects rim darkening in JPEG shots. (For raw files, the correction remains software-based.) Note: the system only works with Canon lenses and should be disabled for third-party optics.
      The camera is supplied with peripheral light correction data for 26 Canon lenses (including the kit lens) stored in its internal memory and there is room for 14 additional profiles. (Canon has already profiled 82 of the 125 Canon EF and EF-S lenses to date and the supplied EOS Utility software enables users to check which lenses have been registered in the camera.) 

      8.  AF Microadjustment: Another Custom Function (C.Fn III-8), this feature, which was first introduced with the EOS-1D Mark III, enables users to fine-tune the AF focusing position. Micro-adjustments of +/- 20 steps can be made in front of (-) or behind (+) the point of focus. Such adjustments are normally unnecessary and photographers must be sure to check the effect of any adjustments.
      Three settings are provided: 0: Disable (the default), 1: Adjust all by the same amount and 2: Adjust by lens. Adjustments can be cleared by selecting the 1 or 2 position and pressing the Erase button.
      A new AF Start function has been added to engage the AF system with minimal delay but without taking a shot. Pressing the AF-ON button focuses the lens and displays the exposure setting in the viewfinder and on the LCD – but only in the P, Tv, Av, M and B shooting modes.

      9. Noise Reduction processing:  Whereas the original EOS 5D only provided noise reduction processing for  long exposures, the 5D II has two Custom Functions for noise reduction processing. C.Fn II-1 covers long exposures and offers three settings: Off, Auto and On. Dark-frame subtraction appears to be the method used and in the Auto and On modes it’s applied to all exposures of one second or longer. 
      C.Fn II-2 covers high ISO noise reduction and provides four settings: Standard, Low, Strong and Disable. Although some degree of noise-reduction processing is applied at all ISO speeds, at low ISO settings, processing is mainly applied to shadowed areas. Selecting Strong processing reduces the maximum burst length for continuous shooting.

      10. A more robust shutter mechanism:  Whereas the EOS 5D’s shutter was rated for 100,000 cycles, which was formerly standard for a high-end enthusiast model (entry- and mid-level consumer DSLR shutter mechanisms are seldom rated in this way), the 5D II goes one better with a shutter that’s rated for 150,000 cycles. This puts it on a par with its main competitor, the Nikon D700 and a step above Sony’s DSLR-A900 (which is rated for over 100,000 cycles but Sony doesn’t say by how much).

      11. A different battery: Although both 5Ds are powered by rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the 5D II has a new, LP-E6 battery pack that boasts a CIPA rating of approximately 850 shots/charge with viewfinder shooting and approximately 200 shots when Live View is used. It’s not a huge improvement on the 800 shots/charge rating for the 5D but better nonetheless. 
      However, the battery can now communicate the remaining capacity in one of six levels via the battery-check icon and in 1% increments using the Battery Info menu. The number of shutter releases since the battery was last recharged is also displayed, and stored in the battery in case it is removed. Battery recharge performance is also captured and displayed to provide a better indication of when it should be replaced.
      Each battery has a unique serial number, which can be registered in the camera, allowing users to track usage and select replacement batteries based on their charge capacity. The optional BG-E6 battery grip takes up to two of the same series of battery packs, effectively doubling these shooting times, or six AA-size batteries.

      12. Structural improvements: Dust- and moisture-proof seals around battery compartment, memory card compartment and control buttons have also been improved to provide better protection for the camera’s internal components. Manual control of the sensor-cleaning unit is also provided. 

      Unchanged Features
      As noted above, the 5D II’s body is essentially the same as its predecessor, although it’s one millimeter taller and 45 grams lighter. It has the same standard hoe-shoe for add-on flash units and the same single slot for CompactFlash cards (Microdrives are also supported). Only EF lenses can be used on the camera body; EF-S lenses will suffer from severe vignetting.
      The autofocusing system is essentially unchanged, with nine sensors arranged in a diamond shape. Eight of them are horizontal line sensitive with lenses at maximum apertures of f/5.6 or brighter, while the central point is a cross type sensor with vertical line sensitivity extending to f/2.8. The system also includes six invisible supplementary AF Assist Points that can combine with the centre point to increase its effective size when the camera is tracking fast moving subjects.
      In the auto and CA modes, the AF system is set automatically; for the other modes, three AF modes are available: one-shot, AI focus and AI servo. These modes also let you manually select any of the nine points via either of the control dials. AF point selection is not supported in the auto and CA modes. 
      The 5D’s 35-area metering system is essentially unchanged and you can choose from evaluative and centre-weighted average patterns (which use all 35 sensors) of select partial (which uses 8% of the centre of the viewfinder frame) or 3.5% spot metering The same white balance settings are provided in both cameras – including a colour temperature option. White balance correction (fine-tuning) and bracketing are identical in both models.
      Canon’s Picture Style settings, which were introduced with the original EOS 5D, are also offered in the 5D II and the supplied software bundle includes the Picture Style Editor  software that was introduced with the EOS 40D and EOS-1Ds Mark III. Note: this processing is only applied to JPEG images and once applied, it becomes a permanent part of the file. For raw files, Picture Style adjustments can be applied and adjusted as part of the raw file conversion process and applied as the file is output to JPEG or TIFF format.
      Shutter speeds are identical in both cameras and range from 30 seconds to 1/8000 second and the self-timer provides both 10- and 2-second delays. Manual focusing remains unchanged and both cameras offer P, Av, Tv and M shooting modes. Both cameras provide remote triggering facilities and can be triggered by the RC-1 or RC-5 wireless remote controllers, which also work with the EOS 400D, 450D, 350D and 300D models. The tethered TC-80N3 timer remote controller and RS-80N3 remote switch can also be used with both cameras.


      The EOS 5D Mark II can also accept an optional battery grip.
      The software bundle is also unchanged, although the applications are the latest versions of each program. The following Canon Utilities are provided: Digital Photo Professional, ZoomBrowser (Windows), ImageBrowser (Mac), EOS Utility, PhotoStitch, Picture Style Editor, WTF Utility and Original Data Security Tools (Windows only). A separate CD contains instruction manuals for the software in PDF format.  

      Image Sizes
      Like its predecessor, the 5D II offers three JPEG file sizes and two compression levels and supports RAW+JPEG capture for all sizes and compression levels. Typical file sizes and buffer memory capacities are provided in the table below.

      File format

      Image size

      Image quality

      File size

      Max. burst  on standard/UDMA card


      5616 x 3744




      5616 x 3744




      4080 x 2720




      4080 x 2720




      2784 x 1856




      2784 x 1856





      5616 x 3744




      3861 x 2574

      sRAW 1



      2784 x 1856

      sRAW 2




      5616 x 3744

      RAW+ Large/Fine



      3861 x 2574

      sRAW 1+ Large/Fine



      2784 x 1856

      sRAW 2+ Large/Fine



      Precise file sizes and recording times for shooting video are not provided in the 5D II’s user manual, However, according to information posted on Canon’s website, a 4GB card should be able to accommodate about 12 minutes of video recorded in Full HD  (1920 x 1080 pixel) format or about 24 minutes of VGA video. Roughly 90 minutes of video recording is available with a fully-charged LP-E6 Battery Pack. In our tests, recording rates ranged from 4.74MB/second to 4.85MB/second for 1920 x 1080 pixel clips. 

      In the two and a half weeks we had the review camera and lens, Photo Review was able to conduct an extensive range of tests under different shooting conditions. We were also able to test the camera body with an interesting variety of lenses – and will produce reports on some of these tests in the near future.
      Existing EOS 5D owners will find the new body’s handling to be comfortably familiar. The camera rests solidly in the hands and, once you know where the various controls are, operation quickly becomes intuitive. The small improvements to the user interface are generally positive and the shift to a larger, higher-resolution monitor makes menus easier to read and provides photographers with a much better platform for checking shots and making small adjustments to exposures.
      We’ve never been over-enthusiastic about the need for live view shooting on DSLRs designed for serious photographers but, on the 5D II the integration has been largely successful. Although the viewfinder provides almost full coverage of the sensor area, when you require pin-point accuracy in frame coverage (e.g. for our Imatest test shots), live view shooting is valuable.
      Using the live view mode for shooting video worked well in the main, although it was difficult to keep the camera steady enough to prevent some camera shake when shooting hand-held, despite using a stabilised lens. We fared much better when the camera was tripod mounted. 
      Video footage was generally impressive – particularly clips recorded at our local Carols in the Park event, where we were able to shoot with a sensitivity setting of ISO 25,600 in near darkness. Noise was quite visible with such a high sensitivity but clips of fireworks, shot at ISO 6400 were almost noise-free. Audio quality was as good as we’ve found with most camcorders we’ve reviewed and significantly better than the audio from video clips shot with the Nikon D90. 
      Autofocusing was spot on for more than 95% of the shots we took, regardless of the drive mode selected. The AF system locked onto subjects instantly and accurately and we found no evidence of hunting in low-light conditions. Manual focusing was relatively easy, thanks to the bright viewfinder.
      Subjective assessment of test shots showed them to be detailed and colour accurate, although with a slight warmish colour bias (which was easily removed when raw files were converted into TIFF format). These assessments were confirmed by Imatest testing, which showed a slight increase in saturation in the red band that translates to richer, more vibrant reds in test shots. Skin tones were very close to spot-on. 
      Imatest evaluation showed the test camera’s performance with the kit lens to be in line with our expectations. However, it revealed consistent minor edge softening throughout the test lens’s range. The graph below shows the results of our tests.


      Lateral chromatic aberration varied between insignificant and low in the Imatest tests with the EF 24-105mm kit lens. Only the 24mm and 105mm focal lengths showed any significant CA and each was well within the ‘low’ category. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests. (Note: the red line denotes the border between insiginficant and low lateral chromatic aberration.)


      However, we did find noticeable coloured fringing at the edges of some shots taken in bright outdoor lighting at the 24mm and 105mm focal length settings. An example from a 24mm shot enlarged to 100% is reproduced below.


      Image noise was barely visible in test shots taken at ISO settings up to 3200, regardless of whether they were short or long exposures. Beyond that point, the visibility of noise increased steadily, although colour accuracy and sharpness were retained right up to ISO 25,600. The graph below plots the results from our Imatest resolution tests in line widths per pixel height against the ISO settings used for the test shots.


      Considering the size of the sensor’s photosites, we consider the high ISO performance of the 5D II to be remarkable. Night shots were particularly impressive, even without noise-reduction processing. Details were retained in test shots right up to ISO 6400, producing images that were printable at A3 size with little obvious noise. Higher ISO settings produced images that were good enough for making prints up to A4 size as well as for using online. 
      Noise could be seen in most A4 prints at normal viewing distances but when compared with similar shots from the Nikon D3, where the noise looked more like film grain, noise in shots taken with the 5D II at ISO 25,600 was clearly electronic in character. With high ISO noise reduction processing at the Standard setting we found only a slight reduction in image sharpness. Applying Strong processing softened the image noticeably.
      The test camera’s auto white balance delivered neutral colours with fluorescent lighting but failed to totally remove the inherent orange cast of incandescent lights. Both manual pre-sets over-corrected slightly but it was easy to tune out colour casts with the in-camera controls before taking shots – as it was to correct colour casts with editing software. Consequently, we feel this issue little practical relevance for normal photography.
      The test camera powered-up ready for shooting in about 0.1 seconds and the delay between when the shutter was pressed and shots were taken averaged 0.1 seconds. This delay was eliminated by pre-focusing the lens. It took an average of just under three seconds to process a single JPEG file and 3.2 seconds for a raw file. For a RAW+JPEG pair, processing time extended to 4.5 seconds.
      In continuous shooting mode, the test camera recorded 10 Large/Fine JPEGs in 2.8 seconds. It took 7.3 seconds to process this burst. For raw file capture, the camera recorded seven shots in 1.7 seconds. It took 6.2 seconds to process this burst. When shooting RAW+JPEG files, we recorded nine image pairs in 2.3 seconds. It took 26.7 seconds to complete the processing sequence. 

      ‘Black Dots’
      While Photo Review was working on this review, many of the on-line photo news websites were abuzz with reports of ‘black dots’ in 5D II images.  When we checked our test shots, sure enough, we found them – but only associated with pin-point areas of gross over-exposure. Large areas of blown highlights showed no evidence of the problem and the dots could only be seen with a magnifying glass in an A3-sized print. At the normal viewing distance for the print, they were effectively invisible. 
      The illustrations below show a sample of the phenomenon that caused the excitement; the top image showing the full frame and the lower image a 200% enlargement of an area in which they can be seen (we’ve circled the dots so you can identify them). Note that the large areas of over-exposure are not affected; only tiny pin-points of brightness.


      The full-frame shot of fireworks contains areas of blown highlights in varying sizes.


      A 200% enlargement cropped to show the ‘black dots’  on the right hand edges of pinpoint highlights(circled) that have generated so much interest.
      At the same time as the ‘black dots’ kerfuffle arose, there were reports of vertical banding noise in shots when the Quality is set to sRAW1. We found no evidence of this problem in our shots taken with the test camera. 
      Canon is working on a fix for the problems and has released the following statement:
      Black dot phenomenon and Vertical banding noise
      Posted on: December 17, 2008
      To Owners of the EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR Camera :
      Thank you for using Canon products. 
      We have learned that some users of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital SLR camera have indicated two types of image quality phenomena that appear under certain shooting conditions.
      1. “Black dot” phenomenon (the right side of point light sources becomes black) 
      2. Vertical banding noise 
      We are currently investigating ways to improve and/or mitigate these phenomena. An announcement will be made on the Canon Website when measures to address these phenomena have been decided.
      The phenomena are likely to occur under the following shooting conditions.
      1. “Black dot” phenomenon (the right side of point light sources becomes black) When shooting night scenes, the right side of point light sources (such as lights from building windows) may become black. The phenomenon may become visible if the images are enlarged to 100% or above on a monitor or if large prints of the images are made. 
      2. Vertical banding noise If the recording format is set to sRAW1, vertical banding noise may become visible depending on the camera settings, subject, and background. The following camera settings can reduce the phenomenon.

      • Set the recording format to RAW or JPEG.
      • Set C.Fn II-3: Highlight tone priority to 0: Disable if the recording format is set to sRAW1.
      • The vertical banding noise is not noticeable if the recording format is set to sRAW2, but please set C.Fn II-3: Highlight tone priority to 0: Disable if you are concerned about noise.

      Canon always strives to provide the highest quality products to our customers. We apologize for any inconvenience these phenomena may have caused. We appreciate your kind patronage and support.
      Photo Review will post updates on this website when fixes for these problems are released. 

      Summing Up
      Given the success of its predecessor, the arrival of the 5D II was bound to fuel competition in the high end of the ‘pro-sumer’ DSLR market and have the three leading manufacturers of large-sensor (36 x 24mm) models vying for top place. For photographers with between $4000 and $4500 to invest in a new camera body, deciding which model to choose will be difficult – unless you already have a suite of 35mm format lenses from a particular manufacturer.
      Each competing camera has at least one stand-out feature.  While the 5D II’s is the ability to capture Full HD video clips, for Nikon’s D700 it’s fast continuous shooting speeds, while for the Sony A900 it’s resolution (although the difference between the 21.1MP 5DII and the 24.6MP A900 is irrelevant for most practical purposes). The table below provides a comparison of key specifications to help potential buyers make an informed choice. 


      Canon EOS 5D Mark II

      Nikon D700

      Sony DSLR-A900

      Sensor type




      Effective resolution

      21.1 megapixels

      12.1 megapixels

      24.6 megapixels

      Pixel pitch (microns)




      A/D conversion

      14 bit

      14 bit


      Sensitivity range (expanded)

      ISO 50 – ISO 25,600

      ISO 100 – ISO 25,600

      ISO 100 – ISO 6400

      Maximum resolution

      5616 x 3744 pixels

      4256 x 2832 pixels (FX)
      2784 x 1848 (DX)

      6048 x 4032 pixels


      3-inch/920,000 dots

      3-inch/920,000 dots

      3-inch/920,000 dots

      Live View



      No (“intelligent” preview available)


      98% coverage,
      0.71x magnification,
      interchangeable focusing screen

      95% coverage,
      0.72x magnification,
      fixed matte focusing screen

      100% coverage,
      0.74x magnification,
      interchangeable focusing screen

      Autofocus pattern

      9-point (1 central high-precision cross-type, 8 line type) plus 6 line-type assist points

      51 point (15 cross-type plus 36 line-type)

      9-point (1 central dual-cross type, 8 line-type) plus 10 line-type  assist points

      AF working range

      -0.5 to ~18 EV

      -1 to ~19 EV

      0 to ~18 EV

      Video recording

      Yes; HD at 1920 x 1080 pixels (16:9)



      Shutter speeds

      1/8000 sec. to 30 sec. plus bulb

      1/8000 sec. to 30 sec. plus bulb

      1/8000 sec. to 30 sec. plus bulb

      File formats

      JPEG, RAW, sRAW 1, sRAW 2, RAW+JPEG

      JPEG, RAW in FX and DX formats; RAW+JPEG


      Continuous shooting
      frames Large/Fine JPEG/full-size raw

      3.9 fps
      78/13 (with UDMA card)

      5 fps

      5 fps

      Shutter durability

      150,000 cycles

      150,000 cycles

      >100,000 cycles

      Storage media

      CF (one slot); UDMA  compliant

      CF (one slot); UDMA  compliant

      CF plus Memory Stick Duo; UDMA  compliant

      Capacity of supplied battery (CIPA rating)

      850 shots/charge (viewfinder, no flash)

      1000 shots/charge (viewfinder, 50% flash)

      880 shots/charge (viewfinder, no flash)

      Dimensions (wxhxd)

      152 x 113.5 x 75 mm

      147 x 123 x 77 mm

      156.3 x 116.9 x 81.9 mm

      Weight (body only)

      810  grams

      995 grams

      850 grams

      RRP (body only)




      Although many stills photographers may consider video capture irrelevant on a DSLR, for some photographers (notably wedding and news shooters – and maybe also photographers who work for real estate agencies), the video capabilities of the 5D II will put the icing on an otherwise very capable cake. It’s significantly cheaper than a dedicated video camera that takes interchangeable lenses and has a much smaller sensor. In addition, the 5D II’s sensor with the appropriate lens will provide much better depth-of-field control than even most professional camcorders.
      For most serious photographers, however, the real strengths of the 5D II will be its versatility and ability to record high-quality still images and, in this field, it will match – or better – most rivals. 

      Buy this camera if:
      – You want a large-sensor DSLR that’s capable of professional performance but has a smaller, lighter form factor than the professional cameras.
      – You will take full advantage of the many user-adjustable controls this camera offers. 
      – You’re a wedding or news photographer or photojournalist who would find being able to capture short, high-quality video clips useful.  
      – You are looking for a second body to partner with an EOS-1Ds Mark III (both cameras’ sensors are almost identical).

      Don’t buy this camera if:
      – You only have EF-S lenses.
      – You’re a point-and-press photographer. (What a waste to ignore the array of functions provided by this camera!)
      – Shooting video is your main objective – unless you plan to take full advantage of the advantages the DSLR system provides and have an adequate collection of lenses to capitalise on these benefits. (A camcorder will provide a more comfortable user experience for most situations.)
      – You require faster continuous shooting speeds than 3.9 frames/second.
      – You don’t have (and use) a tripod. 

      Raw image files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Digital Photo Professional.


      JPEG image files




      Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.


      Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.


      24mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/15 second at f/11.


      105mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/10 second at f/11.


      A close-up shot with the kit lens; 35mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/49 second at f/4.


      45mm focal length, ISO 100, 30 seconds at f/4.


      45mm focal length, ISO 25,600, 5 seconds at f/18.


      32mm focal length, ISO 1,600, 1/5 second at f/9.


      32mm focal length, ISO 25,600, 1/2 second at f/7.1.


      105mm focal length, ISO 25,600, 1/8 second at f/5.6.


      Image sensor: 36 x 24 mm CMOS sensor with 22 million photosites (21.1 megapixels effective)
      Lens mount: Canon EF (but not EF-S lenses)
      Focal length crop factor: 1x
      Image processor: DiG!C 4
      Image formats: Stills – JPEG, RAW (14-bit Canon original), RAW+JPEG supported; Video – MOV (Video: H.264, Audio: Linear PCM)
      Image Sizes: Stills ““ JPEG: 5616 x 3744, 4080 x 2720, 2784 x 1856; RAW: 5616 x 3744; sRAW1: 3861 x 2574; sRAW2: 2784 x 1856; Movies ““ HD: 1920 x 1080 (16:9), SD: 640 x 480 (4:3)  both at 30 fps
      Image Stabilisation: Lens-based only
      Dust removal: Canon Integrated Cleaning System
      Shutter speed range: 1/8000 sec. to 30 sec., bulb (Total shutter speed range. Available range varies by shooting mode.); X-sync at 1/200 sec.\
      Exposure Compensation: ±2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments; manual and AEB
      Self-timer: 2 or 10 second delay
      Focus system: TTL secondary image-registration, phase detection AF with 9 selectable AF points plus 6 Assist AF points; AF Microadjustment possible; AF-assist light requires EOS-dedicated external Speedlite
      Focus modes: One-Shot AF, AI Servo AF, AI Focus AF, Manual focusing (MF)
      Exposure metering: 35-zone TTL full-aperture metering with Evaluative (linkable to any AF point), centre-weighted average, partial (approx. 8% of viewfinder at centre) and spot (approx. 3.5% of viewfinder at centre) modes
      Shooting modes: Program AE (Full Auto, Creative Auto, Program), shutter-priority AE, aperture-priority AE, manual exposure, bulb exposure
      Picture Style/Control settings: Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, Monochrome, User Defined 1 – 3
      Colour space options: sRGB, Adobe RGB
      Custom functions: 25 plus three user memory banks
      ISO range: Full Auto, Creative Auto: ISO 100 – 3200 set automatically; P, Tv, Av, M, B: ISO 100 – 6400 (in 1/3-stop increments); settable, Auto, or expandable to ISO 50 (L), ISO 12800 (H1), or ISO 25600 (H2)
      White balance: Auto, Preset (Daylight, Shade, Cloudy, Tungsten light, White fluorescent light, Flash), Custom, Color temperature setting (2500-10000K); White balance correction and white balance bracketing features provided
      Flash: Hot-shoe for EX-series Speedlites
      Flash exposure adjustment: ±2 stops in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments
      Sequence shooting: Max. approx. 3.9 shots/sec.; JPEG Large/Fine: Approx. 78 shots,
      RAW: Approx. 13 shots, RAW+JPEG Large/Fine: Approx. 8 shots (higher buffer capacities available with UDMA cards)
      Storage Media: CompactFlash Types I & II (2GB or higher), UDMA-compatible
      Viewfinder:  Eye-level pentaprism with 98% frame coverage; Approx. 0.71x magnification (-1 m-1 with 50mm lens at infinity); Approx. 21 mm eyepoint; dioptric adjustment -3.0 – +1.0 m-1 (dpt); interchangeable focusing screens (Eg-A standard focusing screen provided)
      LCD monitor: 3.0-inch TFT colour LCD with  approx. 920,000 dots (VGA)
      Live View shooting: Available for still photo and movie shooting; Modes: Quick mode (Phase-difference detection); Live mode, Live face detection mode (Contrast detection)
      Manual focusing (5x/10x magnification possible)
      Data LCD: Yes
      Playback functions: Single, Single + Info (Image-recording quality, shooting information, histogram), 4-image index, 9-image index, image rotate possible; Playback zoom: 1.5x to 10x; jump by 10 or 100 images, jump by screen, by shooting date, by folder, by movie, by stills; highlight alert; histogram; movie playback enabled (LCD monitor, video/audio OUT, HDMI OUT)
      Interface terminals: USB 2.0 Hi-speed; 3.5mm dia. stereo mini jack (NTSC/PAL selectable); Type C HDMI mini OUT terminal, external microphone input (3.5mm stereo mini jack); remote control for N3 Type and wireless Remote Controller RC-1/RC-5; extension system terminal for connection to Wireless File Transmitter WFT-E4/E4A
      Power supply: Battery Pack LP-E6 ( CIPA rated for approx. 850 shots/charge with viewfinder shooting, approx 200 shots with live view)
      Dimensions (wxhxd): 152 x 113.5 x 75 mm (body only)
      Weight: 810  grams (body only without battery and card)


      RRP: $4299 (body only); $5799 (as reviewed with EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens) 

      Rating (out of 10):

      • Build: 9.5
      • Ease of use: 9.0
      • Image quality: 9.5
      • OVERALL: 9.5