Looking Back on The 5D Mark II

It’s been a little while since I had a Canon 5D Mark II in my hands. I’m very grateful to the good folks at Canon and at 1000Heads for loaning me such a wonderful beast to shoot the digital mission out at South by South West. When a gadget is “shiny new” it is hard to give an objective view of it, actually that is true for as long as you own any gadget. If you paid good money for something, you are always going to want to tell yourself it was good, aren’t you?

Well, the 5DII went back to its true home quite a while ago and since then I’ve been shooting with a 1Ds, a 40D and an old 5D (mark I). Now seems like a good time to reflect back on having the 5D Mark II and what I remember of going Full Frame and Becoming a Videographer.


Looking back on the 5 Mark II from Benjamin Ellis on Vimeo (shot, +2, looking into a mirror, a couple of months back).

The odd thing that really sticks in my mind was the battery life – it was brilliant. I normally have 2 or 3 batteries when I cover a long event. For the trip I had just one. In over a week of using the 5D it only got charged every other day, as I dived into my hotel room to change into evening clothes, then unplugged shortly after as I headed out. It didn’t get charged over night, as I only had one adaptor. Despite all that, it never even got close to having a low battery. Stunning.

Low light performance. This gets talked about a lot, and I mentioned it in my posts at the time, but it is a fact: the 5d Mark II seems to create light where there was none. I’ve used dozens of cameras from different manufacturers. Never experienced anything like it. With my love of night time photography and shooting events, it is a killer feature.

The size – it is not a full body – I’m playing with a 1Ds right now, boy is it a monster (and I love it in its own sweet way), but the 5D is big enough to get you into the press enclosure without being laughed out, and compact enough that you don’t end up looking like rambo.

The full frame sensor made my 70-200 IS f/2.8 L series lens a joy to use – a perfect zoom range for what I do. The 24-105 f/4.0 L IS lens I had on loan was a great walkabout lens, and ideal for shooting video (the image stabilisation a big plus).

I was stopped several times each day by people enquiring after the camera, “is that a Canon 5D Mark II?” Who knew there were so many camera geeks in the world! When I was shooting in New York a photographer brushed Julia to one side and started to ask questions about the video and image quality. It wasn’t so much Benjamin with a 5D Mark II, as the 5D Mark II with Benjamin. Anyway, my ego survived, and I got some great photographs to show for it.

There was just one thing holding me back from rushing out and buying one, and that was the lack of manual control in video mode. That’s now fixed in the latest firmware. Oh dear!

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