EOS-5D Mark II Quick Evaluation « Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

EOS-5D Mark II Quick Evaluation

These Macaroni Penguins were photographed with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, the Canon 1.4X III TC, (handheld at 145mm) and the EOS-5D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering at zero: 1/800 sec. at f/7.1 in Manual mode.

Central Sensor Rear Focus AI Servo AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Note: the central AF sensor just caught the edge of the right wing of the penguin in the front and held focus accurately while tracking the subject. I was impressed.

EOS-5D Mark II Quick Evaluation

As described in BAA Bulletin #395, I was forced to depend on the Canon EOS-5D MII that I borrowed from CPS for my Southern Ocean trip far more than I planned on. (See the HOW TO RUIN TWO PROFESSIONAL DIGITAL CAMERA BODIES feature here.)

I quickly fell in love the the 5D MII. The files are beautiful. While it is hard to quantify a statement like that I do love the color. And it is the first full frame camera where I really love the small pixels. The amount of detail is phenomenal. As I am rarely a hold-the-hammerdown type of guy, the 3.9 frames per second advance is not usually a big handicap. I love to be able to use the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye USM Fisheye Ultra-Wide Zoom lens as either a circle lens or a full fish eye. And there are similar advantages when using this body with the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8L lens.

This image of Chinstrap Penguins headed for dinner and a swim was created at Bailey Head, Antarctica with the tripod-mounted Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens, the Canon 1.4X III TC (at 165mm) and the EOS-5D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering -1/3 stop: 1/400 sec. at f/8 in Manual mode; confirmed by blinkies/histogram check.

Central Sensor Rear Focus AI Servo AF and recompose. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. I love the clean WHITEs and the incredible detail.

With 21.1 megapixels, a sharp 5D MII image can stand up to lots of cropping. Jeez; I almost forgot the camera’s super light weight. It did fabulously well on my shoulder with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. I had opportunities to use the 5D MII for flight but did get some great results; I used it from the ship and always used the full 9-point array in order to keep a sensor on the birds as the ship was rocking. Ergonomically, the camera felt very nice in my hands. And I made some great video footage easily on Bailey Head in Antarctica. If I can ever figure out how to edit it, I will post some here.

This Northern Giant Petrel image was created in Drygalski Fjiord, South Georgia, with the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens and the the Canon 1.4X III TC, (handheld at 280mm) and the EOS-5D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering +3 stops off the white sky: 1/1600 sec. at f/4 in Manual mode.

9-Point Rear Focus AI Servo AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial. Note: the full nine point AF array was ideal from the ship as it would have been difficult or impossible in the relatively rough seas to keep the central sensor on the bird.

I ran into double bad luck here with the misplaced primary feather on the lower wing and the bird’s head turned slightly away….

I am not at all a technical person. If you are and would like to read about the impressive stuff inside the camera, you can click here. After 28 1/2 years of photography including the last 11 doing digital I do know when I like a camera and when I don’t.

There were a few minor things that I did not like about the 5D MII. As with all Canon digital cameras, it is very difficult to see where the histogram ends when working outdoors. I have been begging for a thin white or yellow box around the histogram since I got the original EOS-1D in 2001. Or was that 2002? The 5D MII focuses only to f/5.6; that means that it will not autofocus when a 1.4X TC is added to an f/5.6 lens like my beloved 800mm f/5.6K IS. The 9-point array is hard to get used to for those coming from a MIV with AF sensors available almost everywhere; the good news is that the 9-Point array worked very nicely with walking, running, and flying subjects. When when I used the lens with a teleconverter and manually selected an AF sensor I noticed that all the AF sensors but the central sensor had some difficulty holding focus. My biggest gripe is with the Command Dial; it rotated inadvertently while I was carrying the lens on my shoulder with the Black Rapid RS-7 strap. I would put it in Manual mode but when I grabbed the rig to make a flight or action it would be set to Bulb or Program or something equally ridiculous. I considered putting a piece of tape on it. If you use one as your primary body this would be a non-issue.

I should be getting lots more experience with this great camera over the next few months as I ordered one on Friday….

This image was created from the ship somewhere southwest of the South Orkney Islands with the hand held Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS II lens, the Canon 1.4X III TC, and the EOS-5D Mark II. ISO 400. Evaluative metering + 1/3 stop off the blue sky was somewhat of an underexposure–the light was changing quickly: 1/2000 sec. at f/8.

9-Point Rear Focus AI Servo AF active at the moment of exposure. Click here if you missed the Rear Focus Tutorial.

This is surely not the world’s greatest image of a Pintado (Cape) Petrel but it is presented here for a reason. The image above represents a huge crop from the original (see below). The size of the converted 5D MII RAW file here was 120.3 mbs. The size of the optimized TIFF was only 16.8 mbs. That means that the image above represents only 14% of the original capture; 86% of the pixels were cropped (or thrown) away.

Below is a screen capture of the BreezeBrowser Main View page for the image above.

There is lots to learn here if you study the fine print above. Do note the relatively small size of the subject in the original image. Click here to learn more about BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program. Every single person who has watched me edit a 1,000_ image folder in ten minutes is amazed. All of my MAC friends even find away to run BreezeBrowser…. I know that I could not live without it.

Your Favorite?

Please leave a comment and let us know which of the first three images above is your favorite (and why).

Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris

I traveled with Cheesemans’ Ecology Safaris; find out what I thought about them here. You can learn more about CES by clicking here. If you have any questions you can shoot them an e-mail or call them at 800.527.5330.

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B&H Specials

Act now; these Instant Rebates expire February 4, 2012.

If you are interested in an amazing deal on a 7D, a 5D MII (both packaged with various lenses) or a $400 rebate on a Canon PIXMA Pro 9000 Mark II printer (with the purchase of a Canon EOS SLR), click here.

To learn about even more amazing Instant Rebates on Canon lenses and Speedlites click here or on the image below.

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My Comments

With a bit more free time I had a chance to respond to comments posted to the December 28, 2011 blog post here: ISO 4000 at 1/6th of a second.

Support both the Bulletins and the Blog by making all your B & H purchases here.

Remember: you can earn free contest entries with your B & H purchases. Eleven great categories, 34 winning and honored images, and prize pools valued in excess of $20,000. Click here for details.

Shopper’s Guide

Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II lens. Man, I am loving this lens on my shoulder with the 2X III teleconverter. I also use it a lot–as I did for the image of the eagle with fish–with the 1.4X III TC.
Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS II lens. This lens proved to be ideal on a tripod for both birds and wildlife with both the 1.4X and 2X III TCs. All images were super-sharp and the lens was light enough for hand-holding both in the zodiacs and when doing flight photograph from the ship.
Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital Camera. Canon’s lightweight full frame body is perfect for serious landscape photography.

And from the BAA On-line Store:

LensCoats. I have a LensCoat on each of my big lenses to protect them from nicks and thus increase their re-sales value. All my big lens LensCoat stuff is in Hardwood Snow pattern.
LegCoat Tripod Leg Covers. I have four tripods active and each has a Hardwood Snow LegCoat on it to help prevent further damage to my tender shoulders 🙂
Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod. This one will last you a lifetime.
Mongoose M3.6 Tripod Head. Right now this is the best tripod head around for use with lenses that weigh less than 9 pounds. For heavier lenses, check out the Wimberley V2 head.
Double Bubble Level. You will find one in my camera’s hot shoe whenever I am not using flash.
Be sure to check out our camera body User’s Guides here.
The Lens Align Mark II. I use the Lens Align Mark II pretty much religiously to micro-adjust all of my gear an average of once a month and always before a major trip. Enjoy our free comprehensive tutorial here.
Canon EOS-1D Mark IV User’s Guide. Learn to use your Mark IV the way that I use mine. Also available for the 7D and the Mark III here.
BreezeBrowser. I do not see how any digital photographer can exist without this program.
Black Rapid RS-7 Strap: I have been using this strap for a year; it allows me to grab my intermediate telephoto rig almost instantly for flight and action photography.

61 comments to EOS-5D Mark II Quick Evaluation

  • Sasi

    Hi Artie,

    I have been following your blog for quite sometime and learned a lot. My interests is Nature photography (Landscapes, Macro & Wildlife/birding). I know one camera cannot fullfill all your needs. To start birding could you please suggest a good camera . May b 1DIV is best but i cannot afford such camera right now and i have below options

    1. Canon 40D (Second Hand)
    2. Canon EOS 7D (New)
    3. Canon 1D MARK III (Second Hand)

    I am looking for a camera which can produce printable images even at ISO 1600/3200.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Hi Sasi,

      All of those cameras would be great for bird photography. Best for high ISO control of noise would be the EOS-1D Mark III.

  • David Clark

    I’m so glad to see you have fallen in love w/ the 5DMII. I had assumed that since it is a full framer, it would not fit well with your shooting style. Now that you’ve been smitten, here’s hoping that you become inspired enough to write a 5DMII user guide, you know, during all that “free time” you have!

    As for the command dial problem, that went away for me when I switched from using a camera strap and started using one of Andy Cotton’s incredibly useful Cotton Carriers. The camera is carried in front of you on your chest which pretty much eliminates unexpected changes in the command dial’s setting. The system has saved my shoulders! http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=CcHf9xFQL1M#!

  • Artie, I am going back through the Blog to find the posting about blurring the background; I noticed you mentioned (on several occasions) the Black Rapid Strap. What is it about that strap that you like so much more than the Canon strap? Thanks,

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      They are completely different animals. A normal camera strap fall off you shoulder every minute or two. With the RS7, it never falls off and you can adjust it so that your intermediate telephoto rig can be brought up to your eye in a fraction of a second. You wear it bandolier style. (I spelled that correctly on the first try!) See “Too Stubborn Too Long” here and then purchase one here. 🙂

      • Jay Gould

        OK; will call Jim and ask him to ship it to my brother in San Diego. I will be in the USA for three months. If I can buy it from BAA; of course I will buy it from BAA.

        Now, please direct me to the recent Blog/Bulletin where you did a tutorial about blurring the sky. I think it was, again – good on ya Denise – a Denise lesson. I try and save the various blog tutorials in folders with the links; I missed saving this one.

        Thanks Mate for the explanation and the “search” assistance.

  • Artie,

    I was told that the new 1Dx will not focus above a 5.6 aperture. I was trying to decide to wait or buy one of the 1D that are out now. It was a Canon rep that told me this, so I take it as reliable.


    BTW, your photography is fantastic.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      As of this moment,that is correct. (We covered that topic in the blog a while back.) The 5D MII that fell in love with recently does not focus beyond f/5.6 either and it is pretty much guaranteed that the rumored5D MIII will not either.

  • Hi Artie,

    I’ve been using the 5D MK 2 since it first came out. If you don’t need a high frame rate and can live with only 9 auto-focus points, this is Canon’s best camera body in my view. The image quality is the best as is the high ISO IQ. Coupled with its light weight, price and for me, the full frame sensor (I shoot lots of wide-angle), it’s a fantastic body. As you point out, Canon continues to frustrate all serious users with the lack of a coloured box around the histogram. I just met someone who has intentionally made a deep, vertical scratch down the right hand side of his LCD screen where the right hand side vertical axis on the histogram ends! I now have a very thin piece of vertically orientated, coloured tape, lined up on the LCD over the right hand side axis of the histogram. Why is Canon not listening?

  • for an ameuture and someone that wants to shoot birds,wild animals, Bif , which would you recommend 7d, 5dmkii? Would you recommend a 100-400 or 4005.6 to go with it (i realize that a 1.4 won;t auto focus with these and image qaulity may degrade some) . or a third party lens like a sigma 150-500 to get a bit more reach? I tried them all in our camera store and , well to be honest it is hard to say which one would be better in a store. the salesman seemed to lean towards the sigma do to reach , but none of them were wildlife or bird shooters. to me it was hard to say how much you gain from 400- 500mm. Then i tried tripods as i want to try to make my technique more stable and allow me to get more keepers and possibily better images. but again they only offered one manfrotta tripod ( in 3 stlyes pro, carbon fiber, non pro alum but were all the same specs weight ,height etc as it was 3 versions of the same model) to test with a ball head. To be honest they didnt seem any better than the shots on the cheaper tripod they had a platinum plus or something like that . was i missing something or do you need to step further up the tripod chain . the manfrotto they had sold for $199. was the 3 leg ,model holds up to 12 pounds i think.

    anyhow i would like to get set up so i can improve my images and my technique and your site has been most helpful.
    i am excited to get set up . thanks Tom

  • If the as-yet-unannounced Canon DSLR spotted in the Mara is indeed the next 5D then it does have a locking mode dial.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      That only makes sense.

      • It’s only caught me out badly once in three years when I found myself shooting on the green rectangle at a wedding for a few shots. The jpegs were fine. But then I don’t hang it off my shoulder (I don’t like straps if I can avoid them I will).

  • My favorite are the 6 Macaroni’s. I can feel their rush to get down the rocks. The one that makes me chuckle is the 4th one from the front. He almost has an expression of like he’s almost off balance…maybe in too much of a hurry 🙂 We know that trying to get just two birds of the same species captured with their wings in the same position is a task, but to get 5 or 6? Remarkable!! Doug

  • Stacy Baird

    There is a $50 fix for the top dial of the 5D MkII. Canon will replace the top knob with a locking one just like the 7D.

  • Charles Scheffold

    I know they finally fixed the mode dial on the 60D (it locks) and made the same fix available for the 7D as an upgrade. Hopefully the 5D3 will have the same fix.

    As much as I love the 1D series, the 5D line of cameras is IMHO Canon’s best ever – versatile, affordable, and stunning IQ. I do hope the AF sees a significant upgrade in the next version.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I can’t wait to get my hands on a 5D MIII–if it really exists. CPS extended my loan of the 5D MII till after my return from Japan. I was very glad to hear that.

  • Melissa Groo

    It’s true, that chinstrap penguins image is nothing short of spectacular, an award winner for sure. I have a 5D Mark II and love it to bits, it’s just the best landscape camera out there (Canon anyway), and my 24-105 lives on it. I have done some bird photography with it, and have always been amazed by the richness of detail the 5DII gives. That mode dial thing has always driven me crazy though, and I’ve been wondering whether to get the $100 fix done.
    I know Roger Clark is a big fan of the 5DII for birds too.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for your comments and kind words Melissa. Do your friends call you Mel? If I were gonna work with a 5D MII on my shoulder, I would need to get the dial fixed. Otherwise no big deal. But it looks as if I will be waiting for a 5D MII; it is likely that they have re-engineered that.

  • Bill Richardson

    Oops, I thought you meant the back dial but you meant the top dial. Yeah, that is a problem on the 5D2 especially when used to a 1D model.

  • Bill Richardson

    Welcome back. On the 5D2, if you put the on switch half way the command dial will be deactivated. I shoot left- eyed and do that to prevent it being changed by my nose.

  • Caspar Davis

    I, too, like the chinstraps best because the image really conveys the depth and majesty of the Antarctic landscape – maybe better than any other picture I’ve seen.

    I have the same problem with the command wheel on my 7D, and the same complaint about the histogram. I drool whenever I look at a friend’s Nikon histogram. Why does Canon let Nikon keep the advantage on something that appears to be so easy to fix?

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Wow, almost unanimous for the chinstrap bird-scape. The fix mentioned below is also available for the 7D.

      As for no box around the histogram, I am also at a loss….

  • Keep the images from your latest trip coming Artie, they are simply delightful and are making me even more excited to head down there this October.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Aravind, We will see you there! If anyone would like to try to get on the waiting list for next October’s Falklands/South Georgia trip please e-mail me asap.

  • Chinstraps with mountains and water is one of the loveliest I’ve seen from you. The others are nice, well nice is an understatement, of course, but this particular image is astonishing. Thank you for sharing it. I’ll get to Antarctica some day…

  • Ron Sprunger

    I love the line of Macaroni Penguins coming down the rocky trail. That’s as good as it gets for me.

    As for the 5d Mk II, my son shoots it and I do a lot of the image processing. It’s a terrific camera, producing great images, especially in his landscapes and his wife’s portraits. A little better detail, and slightly better noise control than my D7000, but without the crop factor it takes a lot more lens to reach birds effectively. I understand it’s nowhere near as weather-worthy as my Nikon D700, and the limited focusing capabilities are probably more of an issue for us amateurs than for you.

    Curious why you would order the 5d instead of the 1dx, which will be out next month. Fewer pixels, but weather-resistant and full pro focusing,etc. For full-frame, it would seem to be the top dog right now.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      I will get a 5D III when they are available and also get a 1Dx. I will likely do a User’s Guide for each. The User’s Guide for the 5DIII will also cover the 5D II.

      I absolutely loved the light weight on my shoulder…. Wonder what the frame rate on the 5D3 will be?

  • The next 5D has been seen in the wild (in the Masai Mara actually). No one knows for sure but the pixel count will likely stay about the same. The autofocus has to improve. The other given is that high-iso noise (already not bad) will improve some more. That’s just a function of technology improving over time.

  • Artie, the first image is killer! I’ve been considering the 5D Mark II for awhile now so I am curious to hear more…

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks Lady D. As folks mentioned below, it might be prudent to wait for the rumored 5D MIII… Though I know nothing about the camera but what is circulating via the rumor mills I am bound by an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) so if I knew anything I could not tell anybody anyway :).

  • Artie
    This is the top of my bucket list. Would you mind sharing what group you went with……this trip sounds phenomenal. Also…..are your MkIV’s toast or can they be reincarnated?
    Thanks….and can hardly wait to see more of the trip.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      At present I am choosing not to mention the group that I traveled with. My Mark IV bodies are in the shop :). If you are interested in trying to get on the waiting list for the Falklands/South Georgia trip that I will be on next OCT/NOV please let me know via e-mail and I will do my best.

  • Geoff

    The second picture is simply stunning. The trip you did is the next one on my bucket-list (but the GF needs convincing first!). My last trip to the Galapagos was an easy sell but Antartica may take some careful motivation! My highlight of the Galapagos was snorkeling with penguins as they have been my favorite animal since I was a kid.

    I wanted to let you know that Canon offers a modification to the mode dial for both the 5DmkII and 7D that adds a locking button for $100. Click here for the US page.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Thanks for the great tip Geoff. I hope that the new version will incorporate the dial lock….

  • Marijn Heuts

    Except the relatively low fps and the slow AF, one main gripe with the 5DII is that it cannot stand the least bit of water. I got two drops of salt water on it in Iceland and it died on me immediately (and was resurrected afterwards). Be glad you did not have it exposed on Salisbury…

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      A drop of salt water in the wrong place can be fatal to most cameras…. I got splashed more than once without any dire consequences.

  • I may be willing to try Rear Button AF with the 7D if you think it is worth it! Does this work best if you are using a tripod? I hand-hold most of the time and tried it a few years ago on pro bodies. I found it so awkward when hand-holding that I gave up.

    Are there special tricks to using it when hand-holding?


    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      How can I tell if something is worth it for you? Many folks go rear focus all the way as I have done. Others who are equally skilled use the shutter button and do quite well. Makes no difference if you are on a tripod or not. If you tried it and did not like it then why change?

  • Artie, In your Northern Giant Petrel image, did you mean to type 5D Mark I as opposed to Mark II?

  • Maggi Fuller

    I like the Macaronis, such a characterful shot… I guess you have ordered the 5DII out of necessity rather than wait to see what the Mk III offers? Great value at the moment as Martin points out.

  • The 5D2 is a great camera and also worth saying at the moment it is a bargain, selling for roughly 75% of its street price at launch. We just bought another one, even though the Mk3 is surely only weeks away from announcement.

    • Arthur Morris/BIRDS AS ART

      Is this a Plant? Your mention is the first that I have heard about a 5D MIII. With the rumors hot and heavy I have decided to wait for the alleged new camera.

      • It is indeed a Plant. Who know what the next compact FF canon DSLR will be called. 5D Mk3 is as good a guess as any. Hope all is well with you. No chance encounters this year – doing Yellowstone instead of Florida. A bit different.

  • My favorite is definitely the Chinstrap penguins headed for dinner! The whole scene is just amazing! It really tells the story. I have been using a 5D Mark II for about a year and a half and I absolutely love it. I know you won’t be disappointed!

  • James Saxon

    The chinstraps headed for dinner is my favorite. Great composition, leading lines, color and subjects. If printed that should sell well.

  • My favorite is the image of the Chinstrap penguins. The angles, the colors, the shapes of the wave and the sand, the vista view that provides so much detail, yet captures the process concisely – it took my breath away when I first saw it.

  • The Chinstraps-headed-for-dinner-image is a stunner for me. I love images that incorporate the subject’s environment and this hits on all counts! The multiple layers from foreground to background, the clouds, the penguins hopping out of the water, the light on the mountains…wow! I could go on and on.
    I suspect Nik CEP had a hand in your image optimization.