Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Canon EOS 5D Mark II On The Way

My new digital camera is on the way. It is the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It will replace my 5D. I am really excited about the camera arriving and using it. As you can imagine it offers a number of updated or added features that make the upgrade worthwhile. I happen to find many of those features compelling. The first feature that I look forward to is the increased resolution. I will be going from 12 megapixels (MP) to 21 MP. The new camera captures data off of the sensor with a 14 bit depth, whereas the 5D was 12 bits. This equates to four times as much data, smoother gradations in tone, and more than likely more exposure latitude. The new camera allows for a greater high ISO range. The 5D topped out absolutely at ISO 3200. The 5D Mark II tops out at ISO 25,600. Although 25,600 is one of its extended high ISO settings, its maximum regular ISO speed (sensitivity) is 6400. I've seen pictures on Flickr taken with the 5D Mark II at ISO 6400 and they are quite clean considering the high ISO speed. For me, having the high ISO speed of 6400 (I'm sure that I will use 12,800 and 25,600 once in a while), means that many more pictures can be captured in natural light, at some pretty low light levels. Over the past couple of years, I have upgraded many of my lenses to better, faster (larger aperture), higher quality lenses. One of my lenses has a maximum aperture of f/1.2 and another is f/1.4. I'm really curious to see how dark it can be and still take a sharp picture hand-held with the lens wide open.

The 5D Mark II also supports Live View. In Live View, the mirror is flipped up and the shutter is opened and you can compose your picture on the LCD panel. For me, I will probably not regularly use Live View, but I can see four types of shooting where I will use it, plus one more type of shooting that I will mention in a little bit. With macro shooting and a narrow depth of field, focusing can be critical. With Live View, you can focus easier on the LCD screen and you have the option of zooming in five times or 10 times and really nail the focus. Another type of shooting is portraiture with my Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM lens or my Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM lens. With both lenses, depth of field can also be narrow, and therefore focusing is critical, and Live View can be used to achieve accurate focusing. Another type of shooting is nighttime shooting. With nighttime shooting especially with manual focus it is sometimes not possible to tell if your subject will be in focus, simply because the viewfinder is too dark. From what I understand, in Live View mode the LCD display will compensate for the dark conditions and brighten the display allowing focus to be determined. The fourth time, I would probably use Live View is with a tilt-shift lens. I don't have that type of lens yet, but I am looking at the Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L. With shift movements, you are controlling perspective, such as straightening the converging vertical lines of a building or trees. Although I understand that Canon sells a focusing screen with grid lines etched in it, you can also display grid lines on the Live View display and get your vertical lines truly vertical. With tilt movements, you are typically controlling depth of field, but again the Live View mode may make that easier to determine. While I am here, I will mention that I don't think I will have trouble adjusting to the new LCD display. It has approximately three times the resolution and is supposed to be much more readable in the sun.

Video is another very interesting feature on the 5D Mark II. It supports full HD recording in arguably one of the better codecs, H.264. The video possibilities with a large sensor, and potentially large apertures, along with other creative possibilities such as depth of field control with a tilt-shift lens, are pretty neat. Another thing to keep in mind is that this camera has excellent low light capabilities. I'm really looking forward to shooting some video with the 5D Mark II. I do already have a standard-definition 3-CCD MiniDV camcorder (the Sony DCR-VX2000) and for shooting video, nothing beats a dedicated camcorder where all of the controls are ergonomically placed.

Other features to be excited about are how the review histogram can be displayed. You can have the luminance histogram and RGB histogram displayed simultaneously, so you know if you are clipping the exposure on the overall picture or individual color channels. The 5D Mark II apparently has better dust and water sealing. It also has a self-cleaning sensor. I got burned before with a dirty sensor. I discussed it in an earlier post.

Me and a friend went together on the purchase. He has wanted the Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens and, of course, I have wanted the 5D Mark II. Canon sells a kit that combines the two and saves the buyer some money over buying them separately. I also made a separate purchase and am waiting for the battery grip, a L-bracket, a spare battery, and a UDMA-capable CompactFlash card.

Check out my Flickr, Pbase, and Picasa photo albums for upcoming pictures from the 5D Mark II.