Pros: Super stills quality; excellent high-ISO performance; durable, weatherproof chassis; industry-leading video capture.
Cons: Still using original 9-point AF system; some handling niggles, particularly with video capture.
For video capture, some ‘jelly-cam’ effect is noticeable in use, so it’s best to have the Mk II set up on a decent tripod with a pan and tilt head. Video quality is several steps ahead of the D90 and a real game-changing feature of the Mk II.
Noise levels are well controlled up to ISO 3200, but above that (in this case at ISO 6400) chroma noise is evident as horizontal bands, especially in shadow areas.
Stills quality is another highlight, with high ISO performance falling somewhere between the low-light champ – Nikon’s D700 – and the resolution king – Sony’s Alpha 9000. Noise is fine-grained up to ISO 6400. Above that, horizontal colour banding becomes an issue. The maximum – which is occasionally usable – is H2, equivalent to ISO 12800. Canon’s noise-reduction system retains higher levels of detail at high ISOs.
The L setting – equivalent to ISO 50 – is handy in the studio, but the Mk II delivers incredibly detailed files at low ISOs. Auto white balance (colour) accuracy is good generally, too, but it still struggles to deliver a convincing white under incandescent light.
Left A Raw file conversion using Aperture on a overcast day at ISO 400 shows markedly more detail than the in-camera JPEG, suggesting the EOS 5D Mk II is applying noise reduction even at fairly low ISOs.
Over the original 5D, the Mk II has improvements in several key areas: there’s the gain in resolution without sacrificing too much to noise at high ISOs, the slightly faster burst rate (though that’s at 14-bit), and improved weatherproofing.
All these things are enough to justify the established Canon user trading in their old 5D for the MK II. With the addition of the superb 1080p video, there may well be enough here to tempt users away from the D700 and A900, too.