The long-awaited successor to the EOS 5D has arrived in the guise of the 5D Mark II. Naturally the most curious feature on this camera, and the one that has caused the most controversy, uproar and extreme interest, is the high-definition movie functionality on the camera. Setting that aside for just a moment, we have to remember this is still just a camera — after all, the Nikon D90 was the first to introduce movie recording (albeit at 720p).
From the outside nothing has changed too much from the old 5D, apart from some streamlined areas and slight textural differences. The look and feel is quite similar to the standard Canon configuration, with buttons having the same feel and layout to the older 30D, 40D and 50D models. It tips the scales at just under a kilogram as body only, which is relatively lightweight for a camera of its class.
Inside the 5D Mark II though, things certainly are different when compared to its predecessor, with a 21.1-megapixel CMOS sensor that apes the 5D's resolution considerably. The auto focus system remains the same as the 5D, at 11 points, and somewhat pales in comparison with fellow competitors from Nikon such as the D700 with 51 points and D3/D3X.
There's also a new battery supplied with the camera (LP-E6) which is purported to be around 30 per cent more powerful than the previous battery and is rated at 850 shots in normal usage conditions, 200 shots with live view activated, or for two hours in movie mode.
The camera is water resistant to an extent, meaning light splashes and small amounts of rain won't hurt the camera body too much. As is starting to become standard on many Canon dSLRs is the 3-inch LCD screen, with a 920,000-dot resolution. It's a considerable improvement on its predecessor's. The viewfinder covers a 98 per cent field of view and is lovely and bright.
As for the video functionality, it's full 1080p (1920x1080) and the camera has a built-in microphone as well as a microphone input. HDMI output is also standard, though note there is no cable supplied.
The 5D Mark II has a quoted burst rate of 3.9 frames a second, which is definitely not a speedy performer compared to some of the competition and it's a fair bit slower than the 1Ds Mark III. With continuous shooting activated, we managed to squeeze out around 3.5 frames per second shooting on full quality, and with JPEG shooting rather than RAW, the camera performed admirably in terms of buffer usage.
Remember how we said the battery was tested by Canon to last 850 shots in normal usage conditions? Well, on a full charge we managed to squeeze out over 1460 shots during a photo shoot, involving the use of a speedlite and continual use of the LCD screen in reviewing photos. Even then there was still a fair amount of battery life left as you can see from the status screen to the right.
Canon supplies the 5D Mark II as body only or in a kit with an EF 24-105mm L IS USM lens. With this sensor it would really be a shame (and somewhat of a waste) to use anything but the nicest quality lenses, and for the most part the 24-105mm is a good, though not perfect, match. Note that lenses denoted with "L" are Canon's premium models. The 24-105mm displays a moderate amount of barrel distortion at its widest end and does exhibit a slight amount of vignetting and light fallout at the corners of the frame though this is mostly negated when the peripheral illumination correction is turned on.