Sunday, September 21, 2008

Canon EOS-5D Mark II Announced

This new digital SLR was announced a few days ago. I currently own a 5D and it is a great camera. I feel that I am taking higher quality pictures with it than ever before (even during the film years). Part of the better quality is due to the fact that over the past year, I have upgraded many of my Canon EF lenses to their "L"-series versions. Canon announced this camera, though, and there are a number of compelling reasons for me to consider the upgrade.

The new camera has a suggested price of $2699, and my favorite online dealer, B & H Photo and Video, is taking pre-orders at that price, too.

Here are some of the new features, and what they mean to me:

  • 21 megapixel resolution: higher resolution is usually better (for a given sensor size, however, the individual pixel sites are smaller, and don't collect as much light. Therefore, they need to be amplified more, and that means more noise). You start out with more information. It can always be downsampled accordingly.
  • dust reduction system: including a vibrating element over the CMOS sensor, plus the ability to manually clean the sensor. I've had my 5D less than a year, but I can already see the results of a couple of specks of dust in my pictures.
  • ISO ranges from 100 to 6400, plus expansion down to 50 and up to 25,600. I've already seen some on-line samples shot at 12,800 and 25,600. I felt that the ISO 12,800 were quite usable. The reason why high ISO capability is desirable is that there are certain times when you may not be able to use flash. High ISO might mean the difference between getting the picture or not.
  • 3.9 frames per second: this is a small improvement over the 5D in terms of continuous shooting. I don't do a lot of this type of shooting, so this is not too important to me.
  • DIGIC IV processor: what this means is that the analog-to-digital conversion is performed at the 14-bit level instead of the 12-bit level of the 5D. 16,384 shades of grey versus 4,096. The results should be smoother tones.
  • Lens Peripheral Illumination Correction: some of the wide angle lenses when wide open have a vignetting problem (light fall-off). This feature helps to counteract that.
  • SRAW1 and SRAW2: I guess that these are different sizes of RAW file. The 5D Mark II also allows you to separately control the sizes of the JPEG and RAW files.
  • AF Microadjustment: if a lens doesn't focus perfectly, you can tweak its focus. You can do that for up to 20 lenses. There is also a global camera AF microadjustment.
  • Three-inch 920k pixel electronic viewfinder: this should be an adequate size and should be quite crisp. Supposedly there is also an ambient light sensor to control the backlighting level for improved viewing outdoors.
  • 1080p Movie mode: There is the ability to record high-definition movies in 1080p using the H.264 codec. Suitable inputs and outputs (including HDMI, and microphone-in) are provided.
  • Water Resistance: the weather sealing of this camera is supposedly improved over the 5D. That's a good thing.
  • IR port: for using a infrared remote control to snap your own picture.
  • Live View: probably one of the best new features. Normally on a SLR camera, you are using an optical viewfinder (which is quite decent on a camera such as this), but Live View allows you to compose the picture on the viewfinder and see live luminance histograms, fine tune focusing (using magnification), and compose a shot at a weird angle.
  • Auto ISO: When engaged this feature attempts to choose an ISO speed that preserves the (1/focal length) rule. This is useful when using a telephoto lens.
  • Flash Control in the camera: I own a Canon Speedlite 580EX II. Supposedly you can control the flash's functions in the camera.
  • Face Detection: also a part of Live View. This is an autofocusing component.
  • Histograms: an alternating luminance and RGB histogram can be displayed. No more having to go into a menu and choose one.
  • Copyright metadata: The camera can encode this data into the JPEG saving you from having to do it later.
  • Shutter Cycle rating of 150,000: I believe that the 5D is rated at 100,000. Therefore the 5D Mark II has a more durable shutter.
  • AF-On button: normally autofocusing is initiated by half-pressing the shutter release. This button allows you to autofocus separately.
  • Buffer: Supposedly with a UDMA CompactFlash card, up to 310 JPEGs can be continuously shot with the camera.
Those are some pretty neat new features. I've also downloaded a couple of videos shot with this camera. Aside from the fact that my four year old computer has a little trouble with a 1080p H.264 video, I can tell that the quality is quite high. Another blogger promises to post some video that he shot during a 72-hour stint with the camera.

I went to B & H's website. I know that the camera won't be available for a couple of months. I tried to add my email address to a "Notify Me When Available" list. It wouldn't let me. The website said that interest in this camera is at an unprecendented level and the mailing list is full (I'm paraphrasing a little bit).

More on this subject in the future.