Hi-def video seems to be the in thing with DSLR cameras these days. The Nikon D90 can capture 720p, while Panasonic’s soon to be launched sort-of-DSLR, the GH1, is fully specced up to snaffle 1080p footage. As is this monster of a camera – the second coming of the Canon EOS 5D.
Canon has updated 2005’s 5D in a number of ways, but the ones it’s shouting the loudest about are the ability to capture 1080p via Live View and the new 21.1megapixel CMOS sensor.
Photography purists might dismiss the Mark II’s video skills as a mere marketing gimmick, but in the flesh they’re very impressive indeed.
Image quality is sharp as a tack, the 30fps speed is perfectly acceptable and just think: you can use any one of Canon’s full frame lenses when capturing video, allowing you to achieve the sort of high aperture, low depth of field effects for which you’d normally need a frighteningly expensive movie camera.
The video isn’t perfect by any means, mind you. DSLR bodies aren’t really designed for handheld video shooting, which leads to lots of movement, and the mono microphone picks up all sorts of unwanted sounds – we could even hear the internals of the lens swishing when zooming in and out.
All about the stills
While the video is certainly a nice touch, the EOS 5D Mark II is clearly a stills camera first and foremost, and in this respect it’s brilliant. The new full frame 21.1MP sensor can capture a stunning amount of detail (the maximum resolution is 5616x3744 pixels) and excels even at higher ISO settings. Boost the ISO up to 800 or even 1600 for some low-light or flash-less indoor work and the amount of noise is reasonably acceptable.
The dynamic range at lower ISO settings is fine, but we think the Sony A900 (a similarly priced full frame DSLR) is slightly superior at delivering high-impact, high-contrast images straight out of the camera. The A900’s viewfinder is also larger and clearer than the Canon’s, and the menu system slightly more user-friendly, but these are pretty minor points.
Design-wise, the 5D Mark II is a tough cookie, with some measure of weatherproofing and a hard-as-nails magnesium alloy body. Its 3in LCD screen is brilliantly sharp when viewing photos, and the Live View image is almost as clear.