The CANON EOS 5D Mark II vs the Mark III
Canon's much awaited EOS 5D Mark II came into the shops towards the end of November 2008. Recently in March 2012 Canon released the EOS 5D MkIII which supersedes the MkII. But is the MkIII significantly better and has it taken the title of the best quality for money SLR - or does the MkII still hold it's own? Or has perhaps the title gone to Nikon for their incredible 36 megapixel D800? Much of this website was originally written about the MkII - and still contains a lot of information about the MkII - however, we will explore some of these issues on the "vs The MkIII" page which you can access from the menu above. If you wish to read the older information about the MkII please continue as we take a look at some of it's key features.
NOTE: This text was written when the MkII first emerged and so now is dated. If you are
more interested in the MkIII please read "vs The MkIII" which may be accessed from the
menu above. Otherwise read on for all about the MkII.
The CANON EOS 5D Mark II could be said to be the ultimate digital SLR for several reasons. For some years the original EOS 5D has been a favourite among professional photographers. It's 12 megapixel resolution was well complimented by superb lens quality and it was also among the first wave of professional digital SLR's to boast a full frame sensor. Now the EOS 5D Mark II builds on this to add astonishing 21 megapixel resolution, HD video recording and a whole host of new technologies CANON have developed to make what could surely become the ULTIMATE in digital SLR's. Read on to explore some of the amazing new features this camera offers.
Perhaps you can never have enough megapixels but there are some questions to be raised here. The original EOS 5D offered 12.3 megapixel resolution (4368 x 2912 pixels) - this has been massively increased to 21 megapixels in the EOS 5D Mark II giving an astonishing 5616 x 3744 pixel image size (and that at a shooting speed of 3.9 fps!). Until this new range of camera sensors were developed by Canon the only way you could get that kind of resolution was to buy a medium format camera body and a digital back. Up until a couple of years ago that would've cost you about the same amount of money as a luxury car (typically £20-30k). It is incredible that in so short a space of time Canon has brought this technology to Digital SLR's. The question it begs though is how many more pixels can be squeezed out of camera bodies which were originally designed for 35mm film? 21 Megapixels way exceeds the resolution of 35mm film (which is generally thought to be somewhere around the 10 megapixel mark). It could be that at 21 megapixels we are achieving the limits of what can sensibly be resolved by lenses designed for camera bodies this size. If so it could well be that this is in fact the last digital SLR camera you will have to buy for some time to ensure you are at the cutting edge of image quality!
The 21 megapixel sensor in the EOS 5D Mark II is similar to the one used in their
flagship top of the range EOS 1D Mark III - however some small changes have been made and the rumour
is that despite the EOS 5D Mark II being a cheaper camera than the 1D Mark III the changes have
actually given the EOS 5D Mark II an edge against the pricier model! Time will tell (at the time
of writing real world use of the EOS 5D Mark II is limited to a few priviliged testers). Either way
the fact that it is a full frame sensor remains the same. If you don't know what the implications
of this are - briefly:
· Lenses made for working with 35mm film are the same focal length as they would be for working with film rather then having their focal length magnified. This means that you can have super wide angle lenses just like with film (if landscape or architectural photography is your passion)
· Depth of field (some call it depth of focus) looks more like it used to with film then a typical digital camera. Typically in a digital camera the bits that are out of focus in your shot are just a bit out of focus rather then fully out of focus as with film. This is annoying and is one of the main things that makes pictures 'look' digital. With a full frame sensor the depth of field is the same as with a film camera. When the aperture is open what you are focused on is pin sharp - while other stuff is WAY out of focus - not just a little bit indistinct.
· Due to the pixel size on full frame sensors being larger then on smaller sensors they exhibit greater light gathering power which means less noise in your pictures when light is low or in the shadows!
As you might have worked out full frame is a very good thing and most camera manufacturers are heading this way if not already there. If you have a Canon EOS 5D you are already there!
Enabling the EOS 5D Mark II to shift around 82 megapixels a second (3.9 21 megapixel pictures a second) is the job of Canon's proprietary image processor and 14 bit ADC - the DIGIC 4. It also plays a key role in making HD video recording possible on the camera.
Canon have surprised many with this feature. We have perhaps grown used to seeing video recording on small consumer compact digital cameras and mobile phones - but this is the first time it has appeared on a Digital SLR - AND with a vengence! The EOS 5D Mark II can record in HD at 1920 x 1080 pixels (16:9) for up to 12 mins. The container format used is Quicktime and the encoded output is 1080p using H264 at 38.6 Mbits/sec. For those who don't know about such things most high end modern TV is recorded at this resolution (for example "Doctor Who" and the like). The incredible thing about this is not just that it can do it at all but the fact that the results are actually better then those produced with many of Canon's own high end video cameras! Why bother buying an expensive video camera anymore if all you need it for is short presentations? It seems the EOS 5D Mark II blows them away and all included in the basic still camera price. Our expectation is that this will prove a killer feature for those producing short but high end multimedia clips. With this one device you have both still and video covered! The camera has a built in microphone and loudspeaker to facilitate recording and playback of clips as well as a connector for an external microphone should you need a higher level of audio quality. Output of video is possible via the cameras HDMI output port - so you can playback your astounding cinema quality video clips direct to your plasma or LCD screen.
One might ask if the EOS 5D Mark II is so great why isn't it Canon's flagship product - i.e. the EOS 1Ds Mark III. This is a difficult question to answer. The EOS 1Ds Mark III is certainly a higher priced model (more than twice as expensive) aimed at the professional market. But the advantages it has over the EOS 5D Mark II are minimal and in some cases the EOS 5D Mark II trumps it outright. For example the ISO senstitivity range of the EOS 5D Mark II is much greater offering 100 to 6400 ASA with 50, 12800 and 25600 (in case you want to take photographs in the pitch dark) as special options. By contrast the 1Ds Mark III is stuck with a somewhat stingy 100-1600 ASA with 3200 as a special option. One area the EOS 5D Mark II doesn't do so well on is in metering having only a 35 evaluation areas and only three types of metering. The EOS 1Ds Mark III has 63 evaluation areas and more modes for determining exposure. But then again the EOS 1Ds Mark III doesn't offer any video options. Overall we feel this is a no brainer. You would buy the EOS 1Ds Mark III if you are a professional who always buys the most expensive or if you really need the fancy metering modes. In all other cases save yourself more than half the price and get a bundle of features and a better sensor (it's rumoured) by going for an EOS 5D Mark II. Or spend the money on buying two so you can have a spare one for emergencies!
This camera is a truly remarkable achievement and we believe that it will indeed be the last camera that those who purchase it will need for some time to come. We can't see more than 21 megapixels making much sense on 35mm camera bodies due to the limitations of the glass in lenses made to function at that size. The features the camera offers are simply jaw dropping. From personal experience we have worked with many images produced from the original EOS 5D which was in our opinion simply one of the best Digital SLR's around over the last few years. With the Mark II Canon seem to be continuing this trend.
All things considered it really does seem like the EOS 5D Mark II does deserve the title of the ULTIMATE Digital SLR. After you have this camera what more could you possibly need from a Digital SLR?
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