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Canon 5D Mark II
Canon 5D Mark II
Name: Canon 5D Mark II
Essential Sale 1-10
1 = I almost never use this thing.
10 = You had better own this, like yesterday.
Essential Scale: 9

The Canon 5d mkii is one of the most important digital cameras ever released. No other camera has made an impact like this one, as it brought the world of video to DSLRs and to photographers.


How do you follow a classic? That’s the question Canon faced when it got to work producing a successor to the EOS 5D. The original 5D was the first ‘affordable’ and lightweight (in relative terms) full frame camera, and set a standard for low noise at high ISO settings that remains competitive three years later. The EOS 5D attained almost cult status amongst Canon users (selling surprisingly well for a $3000 camera), and paved the way for Nikon (with the D700) and Sony (with the Alpha 900) to launch their own ‘compact’ full frame semi-pro bodies.

Technical Details

  • 21.1-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, 14-bit A/D conversion, wide range ISO setting 100-6400
  • Body only; lenses sold separately
  • DIGIC 4 Image Processor; high-performance 3.9 fps continuous shooting; Live View Function for stills
  • Full HD video capture at 1920×1080 resolution for up to 4GB per clip ; HDMI output
  • Updated EOS Integrated Cleaning System specifically designed to work with a full-frame sensor


The Canon 5d mkii is one of the most important digital cameras ever released. No other camera has made an impact like this one, as it brought the world of video to DSLRs and to photographers.

This was not the first camera to offer video, far from it; it was the first camera to offer GREAT video. So good that it made an entire industry become suddenly obsessed with pictures that move.

I feel it was this feature that made it wildly popular, but it had nothing to do with why I bought one. It is a damn good camera for many other reasons, and a close to perfect camera for my type of photography.

Personal Experiences

I upgraded from an Olympus E-510 DSLR to the Canon 5d Mkii, and was instantly blown away. This was in late 2008 and cameras have come a long way since then, but the 5d Mkii doesn’t suck in 2012. That is a pretty big deal in a world where most technology is obsolete in a year or less.

At the time of writing this – May 29, 2012 – The Canon 5d Mkii is still my primary camera. Sure there are a few things I think it could do better, but overall it is still a great camera.

Anyone who knows me personally and has shot with me knows that my shoots are anything but clean. Almost everything I do involves a huge mess, and my gear sees it all. I don’t go out of my way to mess up my equipment, but I don’t pamper it either.

Things I have never done to this camera:

  • Drop: This is probably out of luck more than anything else, but my camera has never hit the ground. I do really love my hand strap, and it makes dropping this thing pretty difficult actually.
  • Submersion: I have never placed this camera fully under water without a housing, and I don’t suggest you do either.

Things I have done to this camera:

  • Dust: So many shoots involve some type of fine grain including sand, baby powder, smoke, dirt, flour, chalk, and anything else you can think of.
  • Water: I have shot in the rain many times, I have shot in lakes and the camera has been hit with some pretty big splashes. No damage.
  • Interns and Friends: So many people have borrowed this camera who know very little about cameras, even they didn’t manage to destroy it.

When this has saved my ass

In a world where ISO 400 looked horrible, this camera came along and made shooting at 6400 acceptable. I don’t shoot anywhere near ISO 6400 most of the time, but it is great to know that if I do need to push my ISO a little it won’t ruin a shoot.

Most of the shooting I do involves external lights, so I am usually able to get by with 100-200. If I need more light, I will opt for using a longer shutter over pumping up my ISO if I am shooting still

Full Frame – yeah it really is that big of a deal.

The jump from a cropped sensor to full frame is like stepping out of a Toyota Corolla into a Mercedes. it does exactly the same thing, it just does it better.

A camera is just a device for capturing light, and a larger sensor allows the camera to do a better job. When getting a full frame camera, most of what you are paying for is an improved sensor. A full frame sensor is able to record more detail with less light present than a smaller sensor. Sensor size also affects DOF and apparent zoom of your lenses. For instance, a 50mm lens on a cropped frame camera (Canon t3i) will appear more telephoto than on a full frame camera.

If you are shooting sports or birds, you may want to use a cropped frame camera because it will make your lenses appear as being able to see farther. For just about everything else you will probably prefer a full frame.

I am able to push darks and lights much more when working on a RAW image from a full frame camera as opposed to a cropped frame. This is a big deal if your exposure is not perfect straight out of the camera. If your shadows are so dark that you can’t see any detail in them, or your highlights are sometimes blown out, a full frame sensor will allow you to better recover that information in programs like Lightroom, Capture One, and Photoshop.

Why I decided to put this on the list

This camera is the best camera I have owned and used often. Most of my portfolio was taken using this camera, and very little of the time did I want more from it. 

The Goods

  • 21 Megapixel images are beautiful to look at and print very well at large sizes.
  • Live View – I use it to check my focus when on MF, you can zoom in on the screen and nail focus. If you take a photo when in Live View Mode, it will be close to silent, which can be very useful when noise is an issue.
  • Battery Grip – With the battery grip and 2 batteries loaded, the batter life on this camera is amazing. After a full day of hard shooting you may drain 1/3 battery life.

The Bads

  • Autofocus – If you are shooting weddings, sports, or fast moving children, this is not the camera for you. There have been many improvements in AF since this camera came out, and I would go with a newer model Canon (Canon 5d  Mkiii) or a Nikon (D700, D800). If you are shooting portraits in a studio, the AF will not be an issue for you.
  • Price – This camera will continue to drop in price as newer cameras replace it, but it will remain expensive for many people. In this case you get what you pay for, it is a great camera, and it is expensive.

Who is this camera for?

  • Studio Photographers – AF will not be a problem in your well lit studio, and you will love the huge images this camera produces.
  • Fashion Photographers – Combined with an L Lens, your images will be very sharp, colors will be accurate, and you will love being able to push your lights and darks.
  • Senior Photographers – Being able to print very large means being able to sell very large prints :)
  • General  - If you are the person who points your camera at everything, there is not much this camera won’t do well.

Who is this camera not for?

  • Sports Photographers – Not enough FPS, heavy, FF sensor makes your lenses not as telephoto as crop sensor.
  • Wedding Photographers – AF in low light is not great, and may cause you to miss an important shot. Wedding photographers would be better off with a Nikon D700/D800 or a Canon 5d Mkiii.
  • Children Photographer – Depends on how much they are running around, trying to get a good focus.


The 5d Mkii is a great camera, and with the 5d Mkiii release it will be coming down in price, making it the perfect camera for many people.

Buying Advice

I would recommend getting this camera as Body Only, rather than the kit which includes the 24-105 mm 4.0. You may be happier with getting a 24-70 separately, as it is a 2.8 lens and will allow you to use a faster shutter speed in the same amount of light without compromising your ISO.

For more reviews, and to order your camera we recommend AMAZON.

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Set Autosave every 5-10 min.