The Canon 5d Mark II has cemented itself as an innovative machine capable of providing incredible photography results. But, it also served as the start of video mode for many of us Canon shooters! So why review this camera almost a decade later? As it turns out, this is still one of the most popular cameras amongst top amateurs and budding pros skimping to build a lens kit. We’ve received many requests from our readers to review this epic camera, and-although it has a little mileage-it can still perform alongside the best!
The Canon 5d II was a camera that I (Mathew) owned along my Canon journey! However, shortly after our studio acquired the Canon 5d Mark II (less than 6 months later) the Canon 6d was released and we migrated to that system. During the time I owned it, I recall it literally blowing my mind! Transitioning from an APS-C sensor camera to this full frame made a world of difference and it really up’d my game quickly. For natural light situations it’s up to most tasks and is a complete workhorse for paid shoots.
As a working photographer, certain functions, features and ruggedness are required-and this camera delivers on all fronts. Fellow Denver Wedding Photographer, Nick Sparks, is not only an advocate of this camera, but he relies solely on this platform to run his entire studio. I’ve asked that he share some of his thoughts about the camera! With his nearly five years of experience holding this device in his hands, he has quite an intimate perspective to share. Here is his take on Canon 5D II Wedding Photography!
Full-frame under $1k
Mediocre Low Light Capabilities
The 5D Mark II changed everything in 2008. Having owned an original 5D, I noticed that this was an extremely impressive upgrade to its successor’s feature set. Gone was the old blurry small, tiny screen, and in its place, a larger more pixel dense screen! The back button focus and the menu system became much easier to navigate. These small improvements, along with other upgrades, added up to an excellent reincarnation of the original 5D. The 5D Mark II was a much better camera then, and is still a very capable camera now. Videographers loved the new features too, because they were finally able to enter the cinematography market for just a few thousand dollars.
The largest net benefit for me, however, was the greatly improved image quality! This improvement was mainly attributed to the increase of megapixels on the sensor. With this camera in 2008, Canon leaped ahead of Nikon in the megapixel war by almost doubling the pixel count with this new sensor design. The myriad of small tweaks added up to new abilities and enabled wedding photographers to rely less on big lights and flashes to achieve more intimate moments captured.
Like Mathew, I think the 6d is an amazing camera. At a similar price point on the 2nd hand market, the 6d excels in a few areas. It has better ISO performance, along with a more sensitive middle auto focus point. However, for me the 5d II triumphs for a couple reasons. Firstly, I prefer its larger design and find it’s easier to grip and hold more comfortably throughout a wedding day. Secondly, using the 5d Mark II’s joy stick to select different autofocus points has become my natural way to shoot! This is now an essential part of my wedding day workflow. This sort 0f joystick feature is completely absent on the 6d, and the function is replaced by a dial wheel that serves as focus point selector control. In practical use I’ve found it’s not nearly as precise as the joystick and I don’t trust it in motion heavy frames.
Not much else (if anything) has changed in the autofocus system outside of the more sensitive -2EV center focusing point on the 6d. You can even transfer your focusing screens between the 5d II and the 6d, indicating how similar these machines really are. The more simple 11 point focusing system implemented on the 5D II and 6d work for most photography situations. But, if you are looking to capture sports or other high speed photography subjects consider another camera in the lineup. Canon reserves its premiere multipoint autofocus system for its 1d, 5d III+, and 7d lines.
There have been a lot of updates to this camera during its lifespan. I recommend upgrading to the latest firmware version: 2.1.2. Through the years, updates have included manual control for video, camera operation bug fixes, and the ability to use a wider variety of CF cards. See a full list of firmware updates featured on the Wiki page, or visit Canon’s camera support for more information about how to update.
Opening up new possibilities for wedding photographers, the low light performance improved by about a stop and a half compared to the original 5D. This huge ISO increase paired with fast prime lenses changed my low-light game. Gaining the additional stop and a half of light means you can get shutter speeds in dark spaces that were never achieved at this level prior!
Since the 5dII’s initial release cameras have improved dramatically in the ISO department and what was once its strength has become its downside. I feel comfortable pushing my 5D Mark II cameras to ISO 2500. After ISO 2500, pictures will start to fall apart with heavy color casts and shadow banding. Photographers can get away with delivering black and white pictures at ISO 3200 or 6400, but I prefer to deliver every picture in color. I feel like this is the biggest weakness of the camera and should always be considered in low-light shooting situations.
Although, it’s been almost a decade since its release, there is no reason to think this camera can’t be a professional workhorse for many years to come. At sub-$1,000 prices on the used market, the 5D Mark II is the best bang for the buck when it comes to investing in a pre-owned full frame DSLR system. If you are looking to save a little capital, seek out a low mileage Mark II and you’ll be sacrificing very little in your camera’s performance, abilities, and feature set!
Are you interested in learning more about this camera? There are lots of great useful resources all of the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams! We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.
Canon – Canon Tech Specs