Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Canon's EOS 5D Mark II has a 21-megapixel full-format sensor that's perfect for capturing and printing huge images.

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Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Canon EOS 5D Mark II
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5


  • Full-format sensor, can capture Full HD video, captures neutral colours, works well with high ISO speeds


  • No dedicated dial for aperture, LCD screen doesn't flip out, awkward focusing in Live View mode

Bottom Line

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II is well suited to photographers who want to crop in to fine details in their photos, or who just want to shoot and print very large landscapes and portraits. We do wish some of its controls were better implemented, but it's not hard to use once you get used to it.

Would you buy this?

Canon's EOS 5D Mark II is a digital SLR camera that's designed primarily for serious enthusiasts, yet it also has plenty to entice new D-SLR users. It's a cut above mid-range D-SLR digital cameras, so it's expensive, but you do get a lot for your money.

It has a 21-megapixel CMOS sensor that's 35x24mm. This is a full-frame sensor, and it is bigger than the sensors in mid-range D-SLRs such as the Canon EOS 50D (which has a 22.3x14.9mm 15-megapixel sensor). It is the same size as the sensor in the professional Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. The field of view of the sensor makes it a joy to frame wide-angle shots, as well as close-ups, because you get to see so much more than you would with a mid-range camera at the same focal point. Its viewfinder is comfortable to use, and it also has Live View on its 3in LCD screen.

The implementation of Live View on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is not altogether useful, as the screen does not pop out to allow you to frame shots low to the ground or high above your head. However, it can be used in a studio setting where quick framing of a subject is useful, and focusing can be done either manually or by pressing the AF-On button on the rear of the unit.

Live View also forms part of another feature: video mode. Using the LCD screen, you can shoot videos at a Full HD resolution. Depending on the lens you use, you'll be able to manually zoom in on your subject or create depth of field effects. You will have to manually focus; autofocus functions won't work while shooting video. Videos are captured in the MOV format and they looked great during our tests.

We used a Canon EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens for our tests, and it produced clear and natural-looking images. Exposure was accurate and focusing was fast. We used manual mode to expose our shots, but aperture priority and shutter priority are available, too. You'll have to play with the metering modes when using shutter or aperture priority to ensure that highlights are not overexposed.

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II has nine focus points that can be selected by using the navigation stick on the back of the camera. It can be a little hard to use, as you have to actually press diagonally on the stick to select the points that are located diagonally from the points on the x and y axes.

It's not the only miscue in the camera's design: there is no dedicated dial for changing the aperture like there is on Nikon cameras, for example. There is a main dial that can be used to change the shutter speed, but the cumbersome rotational control on the back of the camera needs to be used to change the aperture (the power button needs to be set to its third position for this). Using this method it's awkward to change aperture and shutter while still looking through the viewfinder.

For low-light shooting, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II has an effective ISO speed up to 6400. Images taken at up to ISO 1600 look very clean and are usable even after cropping the pictures close, but slight noise is introduced above this speed. Nevertheless, coupled with the image stabilisation in the lens, a slow shutter, a high ISO, and a monopod, great night-time shots can be achieved.

Handheld images with a shutter speed as slow as 1/25th of a second looked clear and free of any shaking-induced blurriness. There's no flash on the body of the camera, but a hot shoe is present.

The colours in all of our test shots were neutral, whether they were taken indoors or out. More vivid modes can be selected if you wish. Of course, if you shoot in RAW mode, you'll be able to play with the colours on a PC as well. For users who aren't experienced with either software or D-SLR cameras, the Camera EOS 5D Mark II has a creative auto mode. You tell the camera what sort of photo you want, be it one with a shallow depth of field, or one with vibrant colours. A fully automatic mode is also available, which selects all exposure values without you having to move a dial.

Burst mode can take up 4 frames per second; it will allow you to take approximately 12 shots in quick succession before the buffer starts slowing down in order to write the data to the CompactFlash card. We used a Lexar Professional UDMA 4GB 300x card, which has a rated speed of 45 megabytes per second. A fast card such as this is desirable for this camera, as its 21-megapixel shots will require up to 21MB of data being recorded per shot when shooting in RAW mode.

Enthusiast and semi-professional users looking to step up to a full-format camera should consider the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, especially as it has the ability to capture Full HD video in addition to massive still shots. It's well suited to photographers who want to crop in to fine details in their photos, or who just want to shoot and print very large landscapes and portraits. We do wish some of its controls were better implemented, but it's not hard to use once you get used to it.

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