Canon EOS 5D Mark II: Amateurs Need Not Apply

Shutter Speed and ISO: Tough To Beat

The EOS 5D Mark II has a shutter range of 1/8000th of a second to 30 seconds, and while the camera does not have an ultra-fast frame rate (only 3.9 frames per second), it can capture a fast-moving subject for you. With an ISO range of  100 to 6400, this camera will also give you an exposure latitude that is usually found only on the highest-end professional cameras.

Our testing indicated that with the camera set to ISO 100 through 400, we found no disturbing indications of excessive noise in the images. With the camera set to ISO 800 or 1600, we did start to pick up noticeable noise in our images. Set it to ISO 3200 or 6400, and you can expect marked increase in noise levels. However, it should be noted that in a similar situation if you were using film at those speeds, you would be dealing with considerable levels of grain and you’d expect it.

We tried using the EOS 5D Mark II in a low-light situation. We set the camera up, using the 24 mm-105 mm lens, in the northeast bastion of San Francisco's Fort Point. If you are familiar with that city, it is the large brick fort located under the Golden Gate Bridge. The lighting in many of the gun galleries is very poor and this particular location in the fort is one of the most dimly lit. With the camera set to ISO 100, our indicated exposure was 30 seconds at ƒ22. Here is the resulting picture that has been converted to grayscale. Next to it is a picture of that same location taken 30 years ago with a Mamiya RB67 camera, shooting black-and-white film rated at ISO 100. The spot meter indicated an exposure value (EV) of 1, which translated into an exposure of 30 seconds at ƒ32. Because of the slow exposure, we had to allow for the phenomena of reciprocity failure (which means that the longer an exposure, the less capable the film is to register light). The reciprocity failure table indicated that the exposure was now six minutes and 30 seconds. As you can see from the two figures, the EOS 5D Mark II more than holds its own.

  • GeoMan
    Must say I’m a little disappointed with this so called review. First and foremost this is a still camera aimed at the advanced armature/professional photographer with the added feature of being able to take HD video. That target market already knows a fair deal about photography and using cameras so why spend half the review bashing the camera on a feature that isn’t its primary function (video)? No quantification of noise at increasing ISO, in camera noise reduction, RAW versus JPG performance, dynamic range, bundled software and no comparison to its competition (Nikon D700, Sony Alpha A900)? If you want high resolution and excellent low light performance for static subjects go for the Cannon, if you want something that’s better at action/sports photography go for the Nikon.
  • one-shot
    For computers, I go to Tomshardware/Anandtech/Tech Report. For cameras, I go to This "review" was lacking in so many ways compared to a more in depth review, which this camera does deserve. No ISO comparisons, no CA comparison, no falloff comparisons for different apertures etc. Tomshardware, please spend more time on camera reviews because not spending enough time is an injustice to the manufacturer's respective products and the reader.
  • theuerkorn
    I agree with previous comments. A bit basic and and comparisons are a bit out of place. I think an actual user report (rather than repeat specs) would have been better.
  • theuerkorn
    I agree with previous comments. I think a better format (than just repeating specs) would have been to put out some actual user experience. This is not the site for in-depth reviews anyway a la, but plain repeats of info that can be had from a spec sheet isn't useful either.
  • Shadow703793
    +1 for dpreviews. Agree with above that this was a cr@ppy review. This is a high end pro CAMERA, not a HD VIDEO RECORDER.
  • zodiacfml
    we already know and read dpreview and clearly this review is for amateurs done by an amateur. the review still had its purpose to amateurs like me and shows that it can't do video like a normal video camera and i agree those above that user experience format is a good idea.
    though i want to add that the problem with the video focusing can be minimized if we planned the shot by limiting the length of a shot to the focused subject, around 5 seconds per shot/clip.
  • michaelahess
    I'll stick with my D300. It cost less, probably has very equal quality, and video is just a gimmick on these things anyway. And 21mp? At that res, focus will limit the actual quality when you get to the pixel level anyway.

    Now as soon as they make a viable full frame focus lens, this will be awesome. Ya know, where the focal point is optimized for every pixel, not just your "subject".
  • I agree, I have a 5D and I upgraded to the Mk II and am quite happy with it. I like the tonal compression and the fact that it can fix the vignetting effect of some lenses. It store the vignette information of each lens and applies it to the image.
    I also like the way the ISO can auto adjust to keep the shutter speed to 1/30s in low level light.
    However I don't have a video camera and I didn't buy it to use the video mode. However it's there if I want to use it.
    Also the focus can be done manually and I read that focus is very important in video and pros use a focus puller to focus for them.
    That is, another person who focuses for the photographer. Therefore, an auto focus wouldn't be very useful.
    Also the ISO can't be changed in video mode. But you can't change it in a film camera either.
    In my view, if you take movies, then you use a specialist movie camera, like a RED One which does the job more effectively. The RED is probably not a good still camera either.
  • marokero
    A lot of my co-workers are adding this Mk II to their repertoire. Unfortunately one thing this camera carries from the original 5D is the same autofocus system, which isn't great for tracking action. Canon should've improved the autofocus in this new iteration, especially for low light scenes - pity, since the image quality is really good at the high ISOs these low light scenes require (as in weddings and other event photography).
  • ohim

    HD movie shot with Canon EOS 5D Mark III