Monday, July 20, 2009

Canon 5D MkII

Friday my whole game changed. I got my 5D MkII in the mail. As soon as I took it out of the box I slapped my 17-40mm lens on it, and before I even put the battery in, I looked through the viewfinder and all I could do was laugh and say "Holy CRAP!" Having never used a full-frame camera before, I was finally in that total and completely warranted awe of what a 17mm lens does for you. It is amazing. Nothing short. I'm already 10,000% sure that this was the right purchase for me, and I hadn't even stuck the battery in yet. For those reading this blog who don't know what "full-frame" means, basically, if its not full-frame, the camera has a smaller, or "cropped" sensor. Meaning, you get LESS picture from your lens. Its like having a small piece of film with a regular sized lens. However, with digital you don't have film, you have a sensor. See below for the ACTUAL difference. Both were taken at 17mm from the same spot in the room. (you'll also notice the 5D picked up a rogue wolf that was wondering in the room, where the 20D did not)

In this blog I will be comparing my 5D MkII to my 20D. Its not a fair comparison, but its what I HAVE. So it would be helpful for people thinking about making the change to full-frame. (For reference, the 20D is a 1.6x crop... meaning my 17mm is actually a 27.2mm) More information here.

So, for me to go into heavy detail would be pointless, there are other places to read that sort of review, I just want to give you the real-world benefits that I personally see and find valuable. I'll tell you the stuff that is important, and excites me personally. The 5D MkII is a 21 megapixel sensor, my 20D is 8 megapixels for example.

Some of the most amazing things about this camera are how Canon has just made every function a little (or a lot) better. The ISO settings range from 50 - 25,600, for a total of 22 different settings. (the 20D, ISO 100 - 3200 in only 6 stops) 2 things are amazing here, the fact that the ISO goes so high, and also that ISO settings are so clean and noise free up to a certain point. This type of thing makes shooting in low light possible without a lot of digital noise. A real world example would be shooting inside your house with no real bright lights on, or a flash... sounds simple enough, but low light is were digital cameras either excel or fail. See below for an example from the 5D at 1/40 sec, ISO5000, F4.

Another neat option Canon stuck in on the new 5D is the ability to have different RAW file sizes. A RAW file is just how it sounds, raw... no effects put on the picture, and no compression used to make the file smaller. It is the cleanest and largest picture your camera can take. It also makes it easier for exposure recovery, and fixes to the image, without loosing quality. Now, however, Canon has made a way for you to take RAW files, but at 3 different sizes. For a real world scenario, take me... I shoot concerts, but the majority of my work ends up being smashed down to a 400px wide file... but I still want the benefits of RAW. The 5D takes a 21 mega bite RAW image, and it's 5616 px wide. That is a bit large. Now I can shoot a RAW file as small as 3861px wide, or even 2784px!

Some other neat additional features... the self cleaning sensor. It keeps dust off the sensor by vibrating at high frequency. This just makes sure no specs show up on your image. Cool!

The large 3 inch LCD screen with optional live mode shooting, while awesome on it's own, it also has its own light sensor, and adjusts it's brightness automatically... so if you are outside, it gets brighter, and when you're in a dark room, the screen wont blind you when it turns on. Neat.

One last neat little gadget worth mentioning... auto rotate, which I actually hate... because the picture become tall on a wide screen... so your image is tiny when you try to review it on your camera. The upgrade makes it possible to auto rotate AND has a feature where it will auto rotate the FILE itself for transfer onto a computer, but it keeps it WIDE when you look at it on the camera's LCD screen. Clever.

Ok, lets get to the really ridiculous feature... full 1080 HD video!! Yes. It IS amazing. It's not super 'user friendly', it's very much set up like a "real" HD camera, where you really should use the focus ring and not auto focus. Two things about the video feature... the sound is not great (BUT it does come with a mic input)... and the actual sounds of the lens focusing and zooming are picked up by the internal mic. Not a huge deal. Especially if you plan to create something worthy of 1080 HD... you would just use a nice external mic anyways. (see the quick example movie I threw together below.)

Lastly, lets get serious... the image quality is amazing! It's got basically the same CMOS sensor that the $7000 1Ds MkIII has. The images this thing will produce are now only held back by your lens quality, and your own abilities. (I will post more photos later to show off the camera's abilities... I actually haven't had a lot of chances to shoot with it yet. Tonight I'm shooting Tool, so I should have some nice examples tomorrow!)

I find this camera very easy to use. Having used my 20D for so long, it was basically a quick assimilation. Only the live view and video functions take a few minutes to get the hang of. But just overall, the fact that this camera has so many features to help YOU and help the IMAGE quality... it just makes shooting easier. It feels like what it should be like... less of a 'challenge', more of an art. The camera is just a tool, and now it's just easier to use.

Now to quote Ferris Bueller, "It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up."

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