Canon EOS 5D Mark II: Amateurs Need Not Apply

Professionals and advanced amateur photographers tend to rationalize the purchase of a new digital SLR camera by weighing the feature set and image quality of the camera along with the qualities of the lenses they already have in their camera bag. Canon’s latest DSLR, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II, adds an additional twist to the consideration soup: the ability to capture high-definition video. But approach the Canon EOS 5D Mark II with caution–this camera is not for everyone.

What type of photographer is a good fit for this camera? Someone who could benefit from the Canon EOS 5D Mark II's HD video feature without having to depend on it. Few amateurs or professionals will replace their dedicated video cameras with this one. Its limitations and constraints would frustrate them to no end. The professional who is called on occasionally to shoot some video, such as a wedding photographer or commercial photographer with a diverse client base, will likely be best suited for this camera.

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  • 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).
  • theuerkorn
    The title "Canon EOS 5D Mark II: Amateurs Need Not Apply" says it all ... though differently from intended ... I think it very much applies to the reviewer too. ;-)

    (The 5D doesn't require any more or less skills than your average semi-pro dSLR camera.)
  • Tomsguiderachel
    Hi All,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I figured that those of you who are really into cameras have already read plenty of in-depth reviews of this camera, and didn't need that kind of nitty-gritty detail from Tom's. However, a lot of non-enthusiast gadget-heads read this site too, and for them, I think this piece was at about the right speed. I asked Rick to write a piece about how a person who is familiar with DSLRs and basic camcorders would feel when using this camera--after all, this camera has intrigued amateurs just as much as professionals. Even though Canon isn't necessarily marketing this camera to casual photographers, casual photographers are still interested. This piece was intended to give them a sense of what their experience using it might be like.

    Again, thanks for reading.

    Rachel Rosmarin
    Editor of Tom's Guide
  • melgross_85
    Rachel, I understand where you're coming from. But even so, there's an expression, "Don't send a boy to do a man's job." That holds here as well. If he's not in the market for a camera that will cost well over $3,000 with even a basic lens, or isn't competent enough to use it properly, then that's pretty much that.

    People who will spend half, or less on their cameras, might look longingly at the more expensive models, but won't buy one because they know it's not for them.

    Someone who could have made better use of this should have been used.

    And for that comment, that "many" photographers would not have bought this if they only new that video was difficult to use is a joke really. It's the fault of the photographer for not investigating a product before buying, who's at fault there, though the comment makes it seem otherwise.

    I own this camera, and like virtually everyone else I know who does, I'm very pleased with it.

    Using a video head, this takes amazingly good video. And so yes, for that, it's a pro camera. It shoots video the way motion picture cinematographers do. Mostly manually. They wouldn't be caught dead using auto focus or metering.

    As for the guy who thinks his D300 has about the same IQ, well, he's obviously never used this.

    They aren't even close.
  • I own this camera too, but I think this review was a great idea. I have had *many* people who really have no need for a camera like this ask me all about it as they were considering one, thinking that getting a pro camera that could shoot HD video might be a better option than buying a digital SLR and a HD video camera. They thought maybe they should get it as they would never outgrow it.
    Having someone with basic knowledge review this camera points out exactly why it isn't for the average user, and the headaches they would likely experience. Just like a supercar is not good for family trips, it seems obvious, but first hand experience might save some people making an expensive mistake, and can stop the un-necessary longing for something they actually wouldn't enjoy.
  • mrmez
    Rach, pretty decent for a beginners guide.

    You wont be able to do a tech analysis of this product half as good as joe blogs on the net. Pixel counters who have a good wank over their pixels will never be happy. The specs speak for themselves, but you can probably do a very good job telling us how its like to live with this camera. Are the buttons in the right place? Does it have auto settings to make life particularly easy? Does the onboard flash still suck, etc etc.

    For pure quantitative data you cant go past DXO Labs. They have scientists in proper labs, not some guy taking photos of colour charts.

    For qualitative data and a good read go to Ken Rockwell.
  • rockerrb
    For being a review of a high end digital SLR, this article sure didn't include many pictures that were taken with it. Not much of a review without them
  • I consider myself a long standing armature who likes to take bird photos and I find the option of short HD video great. I use the Canon 100-400mmL IS lens. I want the Canon 600mmL IS lens next, not an expensive HD video recorder. The short video option is great for me. You don't buy a camera like this for the video, but the option, with this quality is a plus IMO. If you need video full time I would say buy a video recorder.
    I found the buttons and dials to be absolutely in the right spot and fast to learn. The large LCD panel makes reading menu's a breeze. The dials and joystick button make menu browsing fast and hassle free. The top buttons, especially the ISO button being the second and larger than the first button (LCD panel illumination) makes it a fast to find with not finger fumbling and counting. Go in one more and you have AF then one more and your on the WB. Too easy.
    I doubt any one would even consider this for a first camera IMO but anyone who wants to get into photography and can afford it I think would be thrilled. But as we all know, you buy the best you can afford at the time. I recommend buying the body only and spend a little extra $ on good Canon L glass that meets your shooting requirements. Buy a great camera and pair it with inferior glass and you will be disappointed no matter what.
    I agree, I don't think this review was very fair to this camera at all.