Canon 5D Mark II Reviews, User Opinions and Tests

First published on: Sunday, 21 September 2008

Last update (Jun 15, 2009): Review of the 5D2 and Sigma 150mm f/2.8 lens.

This page is a compilation of annotated links to Canon 5D Mark II full-frame digital SLR professional reviews, user opinions and experiences, tests, conclusions, ratings and feedback.

Full attribution is given by linking to the source and where available, the author’s homepage or photo gallery.

Review of the 5D2 and Sigma 150mm f/2.8 lens

LetsGoDigital shares their findings on how well the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 APO EX DG Macro HSM performs on the 5D Mark 2, in particular:

In general circumstances, the Sigma 150mm f/2.8 only rarely hunts if used in combination with the Canon 5d Mark 2. Should this phenomenon occur, you can opt to set the ‘limiter’. This limits the auto focus range from infinity to 52cm or from 38 to 52cm. When doing macro jobs, I nearly always set the lens in the manual mode. This is easy using the switch on the lens. The manual rotation from infinity to 38cm is 270 degrees. This is more than enough to be able to manually focus with extreme accuracy. The AF of the Canon 5D Mark 2 can be adjusted per lens. The problem of front focus and back focus has therefore become a thing of the past. That said; with my test sample I did not have to do so.

Review of the Canon EOS-5D Mark II at Bob Atkins Photography

Bob Atkins concludes his review with the following verdict:

The new EOS 5D MkII would be an excellent choice for serious landscape and portrait photographers and anyone who needs a full frame camera for both the quality of the images and the capability to fully utilize lenses such as the full frame 15mm fisheye and ultra-wides like the 16-35/2.8L (which loose their wide view when used on crop sensor cameras). When used in combination with fast lenses, full frame cameras also provide the shallow depth of field that many portrait photographers like. The EOS 5D MkII is also an great choice for budding videographers who want to exploit its excellent HD video capability.

Review of the Canon EOS-5D Mark II at DCResource

Jeff Keller has written a very comprehensive review of the 5D Mark 2, with the following conclusion:

All things considered, the Canon EOS-5D Mark II is a very impressive digital SLR. For the Canon enthusiast who wants to step up to a full-frame body, it’s an excellent choice. I’m not quite sure that it’s the ideal camcorder replacement, due to the lack of continuous AF when you’re recording a movie. I’ve spent time with all three of the “budget” full-frame D-SLRs, and I’d place the Mark II second on my list. My favorite camera in this class is the Nikon D700, with its slightly better photo quality, faster continuous shooting, more elaborate autofocus system, and built-in flash (though it lacks a movie mode). But honestly, whichever of these cameras you choose, you can’t really go wrong — they’re all excellent.

A brief 5D Mark II report by Jack Kurtz

Jack Kurtz, a photojournalist, posted a brief report on his use of the 5D2 in Laos and Thailand.

Conditions were dusty and smoky in the two countries he visited, but this didn’t pose any problem for the camera.

He found the high ISO response on the 5D2 to be excellent, and posted a link to an ISO 6400 sample photo shot in virtually pitch-black temple interior.

Battery life was also excellent, as he only need to charge the battery (the 5DMarkII use LP-E6 battery packs) three times for 6,500 to 7,000 frames, and the battery meter never dipped below 50%.

AF micro-adjustment works best with L lenses

“apixel” reports that the autofocus micro-adjustment feature on the 5D Mark 2 works best with L lenses.

Non-L lenses have a larger focus accuracy variance which makes the feature less useful when it comes to calibrating AF for these lenses. From the other replies in that thread, it appears that the same issue exists for compatible / third-party lenses.

User comments by Lloyd L Chambers

Some Canon 5D Mark II comments:

  • It’s too bad that the Sony A900 doesn’t offer a LV (Live View) feature.

  • It’s not easy manually focusing the 5D Mark II using the stock focusing screens. The black AF (autofocus) rectangles that never go away doesn’t help either.

  • The viewfinder experience on the 5D2 cannot compare to the Nikon D3X and Canon 1Ds Mark III.

The Imaging Resource reviews the 5D Mark 2

This is a very well-written piece which explores every facet of the camera, and pits it against competing full-frame cameras such as the Nikon D3X and D700, and Sony A900.

The final conclusion reads:

The Canon 5D Mark II is indeed a premium digital SLR. It’s not just the very high resolution that makes it stand out, but the excellent high ISO performance, effectively giving you the freedom to shoot handheld in conditions where you’d normally need a flash or a tripod.

Initial impressions by John

Here’s a summary of what John has to say after owning the 5D2 for six hours:

  1. Compared to the older Canon 5D, the 5D Mark II offers better image detail and color renditions, although he’s not quite satisfied with the image quality at ISO 6400 and above.

  2. Autofocus is highly accurate, with every image in focus. In this respect, the 5D Mark II does better than even the Canon 1D Mark III or the Canon 1Ds Mark III.

Vincent Laforet’s first impressions of a 5D MkII prototype

Vincent Laforet is one of the most accomplished photojournalists, having covered the Beijing Olympics 2008, among others, and is also a Canon Explorer of Light.

Reading Vincent’s blog post, one can’t help but be totally impressed about the capabilities of Canon’s latest camera. Vincent found the h.264 clips to be of outstanding quality, and enough to extract web-resized stills that can stand up to close scrutiny.

At the time of writing, Vincent was not able to share the movies he shot with the 5D2, but has posted a video of the video Laforet made:

Read more about that video here.

The following statement is bound to give rise to some debate:

It produces the best video in low light that I’ve ever seen — at 1080p. A top commercial film editor who who regularly edits RED camera footage — and has seen the raw footage from the 5D MKII — says the 5D MKII is “far superior to the RED camera” in terms of low light performance…

The short of it is, Vincent proclaims this camera a “game changer” for many reasons, and adds, in the comments:

All stills were shot between 1600 ASA and 3200 ASA… you are not seeing stills here… you’re seeing frame grabs off of video… One more thing since this is a common question: most of the framegrabs you see on the blog so far — therefore from the video I shot — were shot at a still exposure setting equivalent of 1/15th at f2 at 1600 ASA — which is stunning.

<blockquote>Jean -- I shot one still with a 400mm 2.8 of a silhouette of a woman…. a beautiful woman -- a model -- and you could literally count the hairs on her face in a full head profileat 3200 ASA -with close to ZERO noisethis camera is STUNNING -- Im not throwing around expletives needlessly here</blockquote>

<blockquote>Ive already pre-ordered not one, not two but FOUR of these cameras.</blockquote>

<blockquote>Exposure wasnt a problem for 95% of my shots (in fact this camera is the bestpoint and shootcamera Ive ever usedjust click and godont worry about the technicalirritationsIm not sure what they did at Canon to make it so</blockquote>

<blockquote>This camera allows you to dream BIGmy marketing sentence for it would beIf you can see -- we can capture it in 1080p.” Referring to the low light performance -- thats sure what I experience shooting this.</blockquote>

<blockquote>I did shoot it w/ one light source -- 1 <a rel="nofollow" href=" Pro-7B&tag=dpnotes-20&index=electronics&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=9325">Pro 7B</a> pack (a still camera battery pack strobe -- w no strobe being used -- just themodelinglight) with either a beauty dish or head w/ reflector -- or 1 LED light source for the helo and car scenesI did mention that in the postthose lights were powered all the way down to not exceed the ambient light though (the idea was not tofloodthe natural light out as were so used to doinginstead it was to add a little touch of more carefully angled lightto the existing ambient light) -- so were talking really LOW LIGHT -- such a sodium-vapor lights in Brooklyn -- you just normally CANT SHOOT in that light periodmostly because of the horrible color cast.. this camera did.</blockquote>

<blockquote>- the AF worked great -- unless you doscientific testslike Rob Galbraith -- you cant give a fair answer on thatI certainly did not see any issuesIm not going to rest my reputation on that however -- as I honestly did not spend my time testing it -- I spend my time on the video in what was a whirlwind two daysWhat I can say is that at no time did I notice any AF problems during the 72 hours of useand in very very low light</blockquote>

Chris asked, in the comments:

The fatal flaw of the D90 video mode is that it has rolling shutter lag, which makes the scene look like it was made of jelly when you pan the camera. Did Canon address this shortcoming?

To which Vincent replied:

The panning looks great — no problems. Didn’t notice any problems at all in the footage…

Here’s an interesting comment Vincent has comparing footage shot with the Canon high-definition HDV XH-A1 camcorder:

- the funny things is — we borrowed the Canon XH-A1 to do the behind the scenes footage — and we decided not to correct it for the behind the scenes video…because it clearly shows how big of a jump (leap) this camera is technologically…while the video quality is similar in daylight (5D MKII is better…) the night time footage is night and day… frankly — and I may get heat from Canon for saying this the Canon XH-A1 looks like unusable garbage… an that’s because we were shooting in light that was as low as 1/8th of a second at f2 set to 1600 ASA for a film camera… the video from the XH-A1 looks like it was shot w/ my Canon G9…

Canon 5D Mark II vs Canon 5D: High ISO Noise compared real-life image noise levels, pitting the new 5D2 against its predecessor, the 5D. They’ve made sure to disable HTP (Highlight Tone Priority) and ALO (Automatic Lighting Optimizer) camera settings for this test.

The lens used in the test was the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L.

They conclude that the 5D Mark 2 “… enjoys around a one-stop advantage over the original 5D when viewed at 100%, along with less of the chroma noise which often plagued high ISO 5D images.”

Akiba Interactive Reviews

Here’s a list of reviews that have been done at

  1. ISO 50 to 25,600 series — write-up and full-sized JPEGs.

  2. RAW files for ISO 50 to 25,600 with noise reduction (NR) turned off — write-up and zipped files.

  3. Canon 5D Mark II AF Test — write-up and test samples.

  4. Canon 5D vs 5D Mark II ISO and noise test — write-up and zipped sample files.

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