It may seem initially strange to be talking about a camera body that was released almost a decade ago, but the Canon EOS 5D Mark II still has a lot to offer. The original 5D brought for the first time, a more compact full-frame camera body to Canon, which was fantastic for both stills and video. The 5D Mark II built on the success, listening to users feedback and integrating more refined features.
In the 2020’s, with everything seemingly going mirrorless, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II may seem on the surface antiquated, but it is far from it. So, let’s dig into the workings of this tried and tested camera body and see how it holds up in today’s environment.
When the Canon EOS 5D Mark II was first released, the increased pixel count was a great bonus, but it also sported the latest and greatest features like Live View. A common feature these days, but at the time it added a great new feature to extend how images were composed and shot.
The camera is wrapped around a 21.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor and DIGIC 4 processor, with a three-inch rear LCD screen and the ability to shoot 1080p HD video. The body is made from a rock solid magnesium alloy, which has been weather sealed against dust and moisture. There’s also an integrated sensor cleaning system to make sure the sensor is dust-free. Add in continuous shooting at 3.9fps and the basic feature set still looks good on paper.
The body of the 5D Mark II has the same dimensions as its predecessor and weighs in at the same 810g. The control layout also follows the lines of the past model, with a very familiar Canon use of buttons and dials.
There’s no touchscreen facility on the rear LCD screen, but the improved menu layout can be easily accessed with the rear joystick and rear dial after some practice. Compared to the latest 5D model, the external control layout is simplified, which can be subjective to if this is better than having more manual controls.
One big talking point of the time was the inclusion of HD video at 30fps, with full-frame sensor capabilities. Recorded in the .mov format, up to 29 minutes 59 seconds, movies can be recorded to the internal memory card. Video can be recorded via the live view mode, but it needs to be activated via the menu system, along with Live Mode focus.
Autofocusing can be performed with either the nine AF point phase-detection system or contrast-detection system. The optical viewfinder has a 98 percent view with a 0.71x magnification and different metering methods can be selected, which include spots, center-weighted average, and average. ISO sensitivity ranges from 100-6400 and is expandable to 50, 12800, and 25600.
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II In Use
Switching the camera on starts everything up in an instant and the nine-point AF system is extremely quick to lock on focus. Low-light conditions start to trip up the system, with a fair bit of focus hunting, but this will also depend on the speed of the lens.
The 3.9fps could be achieved in JPEG and RAW+JPEG modes, with a choice of three different RAW settings (21mp, 9.9mp, and 5.2mp) depending on the quality you need. As per usual, large-sized memory cards are a must.
At the time of release, the 5D Mark II had the same sensor as the EOS 1DS Mark III, but with the speedier DIGIC 4 processor. This was a great advantage at the time, producing find depths of color and detail, with low noise levels. This is particularly true with a quality lens, with noise levels only starting to rear their head at ISO 800 and images still looking clean at ISO 3200.
Images at the base ISO level are clean and crisp and still stand up today. Large-sized prints look fantastic and give no indication of a camera body built nearly a decade ago.
Video footage, although only as high as 1920 x 1080 at 30fps, is still great quality, just without the more advanced features integrated into newer models. There’s also no WiFi or Bluetooth, but at least there is a USB 2.0 (mini-B), A/V Out and HDMI (Type-C) outputs. An optional Wireless WFT-E4/E4A unit can be used in this case.
How Does the Canon EOS 5D Mark II Compare?
In the arena of fairness, it’s best to step back in time and see what was available when the Mark II was the latest and greatest. The Nikon D700 was released back in 2008 and on the surface, the 12-megapixel FX-format camera couldn’t compete when it came to resolution. However, the Nikon has a 51-point AF system, 5fps of continuous shooting and the usual Nikon ISO quality. The downside is no video, unless using a workaround.
You could also consider the Sony a900 with a 24.6-megapixel CMOS sensor, sensor-shift image stabilization, 5fps of continuous shooting, and the weather-sealed body.
|Canon EOS 5D Mark II||Nikon D700|
|Resolution||21.1 MP||12.87 MP|
The Canon EOS 5D Mark II may have been superseded by the 5D Mark III and with the advent of 4K video, the camera is seemingly past its sell-by date. However, for the stills shooter, the 5D Mark II is still a great option, especially considering current prices. Resolution is good enough for large-sized prints, it offers excellent color rendition and detail, and although the AF point count is small by today’s standards, the AF system is still highly accurate.
Pricing is where the 5D Mark II has the current upper hand. For the price of a new compact camera, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II provides full-frame capabilities, video quality which is still up there for producing online video and podcasts, and respectable ISO sensitivity levels. It may not have all the bells and whistles of current models, but at its heart, it’s still a highly capable imaging solution.
2 Replies to “Canon EOS 5D Mark II: Still a Great Performer”
I bought a 5D Mark II as my first full-frame body in September 2019. The one I bought only had 1,288 shutter actuations when it came to my door! I have since acquired both an EOS R and a 5D Mark III, as well as a 5D Classic. When I first bought my R, I had my 5D II listed for sale on eBay but took it down. I just could not bring myself to sell it, and I find myself still often using it even though I have newer models. Despite it being released in 2008, it is still a wonderful camera that is a joy to use — as is the 5D Classic. There’s just a certain magic and charm to using those older ones.
I went full frame on the cheap last year. The 5D2 has been superceded for sure, but the question is do you need the best (1DXmk3 at the price of a small car) or do you need something that’s highly capable, great to print at A2, suitable for sports and nature use with considered set up and decent fast lenses..
£300 for a 31k shutter count 5D2. Yes please.
I shoot stills for hobby. I’m very serious about it. But I don’t need to kid myself on that I”m a professional.
I do shoot video professionally, and wouldn’t use the 5D2. It’s 1080 only in container, and probably about half that on a chart.
But as a bargain stills camera with that depth of field control and good low light.. can’t be beaten.