The American Photo Editor’s Choice 2009 For Semi-Pro DSLRs Cameras

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

The Canon EOS 5D Mark II

History will remember this 21.1-megapixel model as the first still camera capable of capturing full 1080p, 30fps high-definition video, with stereo sound. The hybrid camera has arrived!  Even better, shooting video with a full-frame D-SLR and lens lets you create much shallower depth of field, and nicer-looking out-of-focus areas, than you can get with standard camcorders.

A near-twin of its 12.7-megapixel, midsized predecessor in shape, size, and weight, the new model features a weather-protected magnesium-alloy body, updated controls, and a new three-inch LCD that’s super sharp. Onscreen we found a more stylish menu system and the new joystick-adjusted Quick Control interface.

The Mark II’s 24×36-millimeter CMOS image sensor achieves the same ultrahigh 21.1-megapixel resolution as Canon’s much bigger EOS-1Ds Mark III flagship, and at 40 percent of that model’s price. In our estimation its image quality rivals the clarity of 6×4.5cm medium-format film, allowing huge prints and, if necessary, considerable cropping without sacrificing sharpness—assuming your optics and technique are up to the task. The camera is also supremely light-sensitive: It let us capture beautiful noise-free images under virtually any illumination, with less noise than either its predecessor or the EOS-1Ds Mark III.

Unlike the first EOS 5D, the EOS 5D Mark II incorporates Live View mode, allowing you to compose shots on the back-of-camera LCD. It’s also Canon’s first full-frame model with Live View autofocus. Its Live View is simpler to activate, ready quicker, and quieter in operation than any of its full-frame competitors.

All that said, we wish the Mark II would follow-focus in video mode. Once you’ve locked in the AF, you have to refocus manually if you or your subject changes distance during the clip. But at 2.1 million pixels per frame, our “footage” was visibly sharper than the 720p of the earlier Nikon D90, with more fluid motion and smoother real-time autoexposure response.

Quick Stats:

  • 21.1 MEGAPIXELS/CMOS IMAGE SENSOR
  • 1.0x FOV CROP (full frame)
  • 3.0-INCH LCD (920K dots)
  • IMAGE STABILIZATION: IN-LENS
  • TOP ISO: 25,600 3.9FPS
  • LIVE VIEW: YES
  • VIDEO: 1080p HD
  • ABOUT $2,700