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Canon 5D Mark II First Impressions

Photo & Video

Finally, close to 6 months after I places my order (when they were presented) and 3 and a half months after they started shipping I got my Canon 5D mark II yesterday. Sweden is often seen as a high-tech IT country with a hunger for new technology, something Canon must have missed when they decided the allotments of the new camera. Reports from all over the world have said that it’s been available over the counter in stores for quite a while now both in Tokyo (not so surprising) and Teheran (a bit more surprising).


One of the very first photos taken with my 5D mark II, I just took a snapshot of my desktop... A 35mm lens at F1.4 leads to a fairly wide standard view and ISO 100 an a room only using ambient lighting at night.

When gripping the 5D it feels very similar to the 40D, only a little heavier and meatier around the right hand grip. The shutter release is more springy (the 40D clicks when pressed fully, the 5D doesn’t) and the buttons below the screen is on the left hand side instead. The rest of the controls are virtually identical except for a couple fewer “creative” shooting modes on the mode-selector.

I felt right at home in the menus from the first powerup, I started by entering Av mode (F4.0 and Auto ISO) and changing file type to RAW (any combination of RAW- and JPEG-modes can be chosen), turning of the beeps, enabling Live view with Stills+movie and Stills display and finally enabling ISO Expansion. Now it’s set up for general outdoor usage for me and the first thing that strikes me is that the these settings also work very well indoor at night. Thank the Automatic ISO range up to 3200 for that.

When the first photo I take pops up on the review display I’m struck by the clarity and colors, it’s a very good step up from the 40D’s display that allows me to really feel the photo and also check for exact focus. Next is the background, I’ve almost forgot just how beautiful a full-size sensor throws the background out of focus when using large apertures. The 40D does it as well, but it can’t really be compared to the 5D in this regard. I’m also thrilled by the color rendition, even if the Auto WB mode is till a bit warm for incandescent indoor lighting (just use the proper Incandescent mode instead) the colors, resolution and dynamic range make images that are just spectacular with smooth color gradients and amazing detail.

My 35mm lens is fair bit wider on the full-frame sensor than the 1.6x crop of the 40D but I still think that it’ll work very well for general use, maybe it’ll even be better to scope in more of the surroundings when using it, time will tell. What I’m really thrilled about is to use the F1.4 capability of this lens and the ISO3200-6400 range of the camera to get pristine color photographs in situations where there’s very little light. ISO1600 on the 40D (which I’ll use without hesitation) has roughly the same amount of noise as ISO5000 on the 5D, that’s close to a two stop advantage in noise reduction where the 40D works almost anywhere, anytime!

Filming is as easy as pressing the Live view button (the print button) and then the Set button in the middle of the dial. There’s going to be some shake at the beginning and end of every clip that needs to be edited away due to the way grip has to change when reaching for those buttons and then to hold the camera steady, but it’s a small price to pay. I can’t wait to see some footage on the 46” 1080p tv upstairs. The next buy for me have to be some multi-stop ND filters so that the camera can be used at large apertures in the middle of the day as well as when it’s dark.

There’s the old saying that the one who waits for something good never waits too long, I’m even more thrilled now that I have the camera than when it was first announced and the first tests started to show up. I just can’t wait to take photos and film with it!

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