Smile, you are on video! The Canon 5D Mark II

The photographer web’s a’buzz with Canon brand spanking new 5D, the Mark II. The key features include a new 21MP full frame sensor, DIGIC 4 processor, VGA screen and environmental sealing.

And of course, last but definitely not least, Movie recording. And not just any movie recording mode: the full HD 1080p of glorious shooting. For 12 minutes. (VGA resolution for up to 24 minutes). The clips are encoded in H.264 in both modes.

I won’t go into more tech specs than that, DPReview has them covered in devilish detail. I will however discuss two issues: (1) market approach and (2) sensor wear.


Market approach goes first. Canon decided to go with movie recording in their higher end offering ($2700 is no pocket change), while Nikon goes for the entry level with the sub $1000 Nikon D90. This is rather interesting because, personally, if the Canon 50D had movie recording, I would not even think about the new 5D MkII, I just want to shoot video through my sweet Canon glass. And Canon is forcing me into spending $1000 more for the privilege. What is certain is that the next 50D (60D?) will most certainly have movie recording (1080p or less remains to be seen.)

To me, the first generation 5D was always a weird animal. It had an amazing sensor (it had a surgical quality to details that I found staggering), a rather hefty price tag, and yet the body was not even near the 1D series. It had no environmental sealing, the finish was somewhat like a 30D/20D, and the ergonomics were surpassed by the “fits like a glove” Nikon D200. Yet many (myself included*) were quite happy with the compromise for the imaging quality versus overall price. (The 1D series is still double the price.)

And now the Mark II solves those body issues (except the ergonomics bit probably – it looks identical to the 1st gen) and adds a 21MP sensor, which, if continues Mark I’s tradition of surgical quality, Canon’s got one whopper of a camera here.


And now for the sensor thing, the question I want to ask (which goes to the Nikon D90 as well) is how will the sensor cope with lengthy movie recording sessions. Considering this issue of sensor heating and wearing, Nikon’s decision to go after the entry level market makes more sense, as the pro users won’t want to thrash their camera’s sensor on movies and then have it underperform in important photo shoots. While this may indicate that Canon have something up their sleeve like a sensor cooling system or a new sensor design that is more resilient to extended exposures. But I find that hard to believe, as this is something that Canon would have branded with a cool sounding trademark. SensorCool™. Or Thermoshield™. Or SensorCoolKeepingThingy™ (SCKT™). Well, you get the idea.

All sensors age, and as they do, hotpixels begin to rear their ugly 1px heads while more noise taints the image. Having stuff like Live View and movie recording mode only accelerates this process. For now, only time will tell how Canon and Nikon’s babies will fare under the pressure.

*While I don’t own a 5D myself, I worked with a borrowed unit for a few photo sessions as well as seeing tons of images with it while I worked at a stock agency. When I don’t borrow expensive gear from friends, I am shooting away on my “mere mortal grade” 30D, which may not have that 5D surgical grade image, but still has some cool stuff going for it: the amazing responsiveness of the thing and the fact that I can use the EFS 10-22.


One response to “Smile, you are on video! The Canon 5D Mark II

  1. Pingback: Ergonomics » Ergonomics in Australia

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