Thoughts On Full Frame - The 5D Mark 2

The last two weeks have been absolutely draining. On top of working 9-5 and taking photos for Mammoth Printshop, I shot and edited a wedding reception for a friend of mine, shot and edited a full wedding for another friend, shot and edited engagement photos, shot Rush Week at Auburn for FlipFlop Foto, and shot Bid Day as well as another full wedding for another friend that same day, and shot photographs for The War Eagle Reader at Auburn’s Fan Day on Sunday.

I’ve been busy, and I’ve needed a little help from my friends.

Specifically, the Canon 5D Mark 2. I’ve been shooting with the 5D for two weeks, and I’m blown away. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to move back to cropped sensor cameras.

Shooting full frame gives you a wider angle of view, so when you’re used to using a lens from a certain distance you’ll have to move in a good bit closer to achieve the same composition. That also means your depth of field will be more shallow because you’ve moved closer to your subject.


I’ve run into some subtle vignetting when shooting wide open, but it hasn’t been enough to bother me. Actually, I rather like the effect. It’s a very subtle way of bringing the viewer’s eye towards the center of the image. And, if I don’t like it for a certain photo, I can easily take it into Lightroom or Photoshop and adjust accordingly.

This camera’s high ISO/low noise performance is INCREDIBLE. Coming from the cropped sensor Rebel XT and 7D, the 5D is just a beast. A very clean, quiet, awesome beast. High ISO looks great, but the expanded low ISO setting of 50 is another awesome feature perfect for really bright sunny days and long, virtually noise free exposures.



(No noise reduction applied in post)

In addition to having great noise performance (even without in camera/post processing noise reduction), the sharpness straight out of camera is fantastic. I’m constantly being shocked to find that the images I’ve shot even from a distance are crisp, which I was not used to while shooting with the 7D, even when using the same lenses. I was very disappointed in the 7D’s SOOC sharpness, but the 5D gives me a breath of fresh air. A lot of people will say that every camera’s RAW file needs a certain amount of sharpening before its usable. This may be true, but its great having most of the work done for you before you even get into post.



(Taken at f/1.8)

The 5D’s 3.9 frames per second shooting speed won’t win any races. Compared to the 7D’s 8fps its just downright slow. That being said, the 5D isn’t geared towards sports/wildlife shooters. I was reading a few 5D Mark II user posts on and saw a great comment that compared the 5D Mk 2 to a truck, and the 7D to a sports car. The 5D is great for landscape and portrait work where resolution and dynamic range are crucial. The 7D is more geared towards sports photographers who need to be sure they get the shot in a short amount of time.

Something else that’s different with the 5d compared to the other cameras I’ve used in the past is the need for speed in the cards you use. Even shooting in the sRAW size it takes forever to write files to the CF card if I’m using a standard speed. The two 4 gig 30mb/s cards I have do the trick fine.

In that same vein, the file sizes are MASSIVE. I haven’t even used the full resolution RAW file yet because my computer would simply tell me to go screw myself. Thank goodness for the sRAW file sizes, effectively using 10 or 5 megapixels.

Something I really do miss from the 7D is the electronic level which is absent on the 5D. This made it easy to be 100% on your leveling in camera instead of finding later that it was slightly crooked, forcing you to sacrifice image area for straightening. Another thing I’m not a fan of is the on/off/scroll wheel on/off button placement. Its really awkward to have to shift your grip to turn the camera off, and the actual lever isn’t really the easiest thing to move. I also don’t understand why Canon makes turning off the back scroll wheel an option. Why would anyone want that feature disabled while shooting? When I first opened the box and started playing with the camera I thought I had a dud because the aperture wouldn’t change when I moved the scroll wheel in Manual mode. There’s got to be a reason, so if you know it, tell me.

Another thing I miss from the 7D is its AutoFocus. AF on the 5D is slow and has to search for objects in low light. The AF points (the few there are) are clustered in the center and would be better served scattered throughout the viewfinder.

Video on the 5D is everything I want and nothing I don’t.

Mammoth Shop Tour from Zac Henderson on Vimeo.

Making the move…

Yeah, thats right.

I’m making the switch to full frame.

Some of you (probably no one) might be familiar with some of my first posts regarding the 7D and its performance. I got the 7d and loved it, but as I started shooting I began to realize that this camera was not made for someone of my shooting style. I do a lot of low light and shallow dof work, and the noise put out by the 7d did not make life easy. I have a problem with a camera having features that I shouldn’t use, (iso 12,800 being completely unacceptable).

I wanted a camera that was able to record video, but I didn’t care as to the quality so much as long as the still capture was good.

Well, the 7D ended up being a camera that was great at shooting video, but only ok at taking stills. I needed a camera that was great at taking stills, and ok at taking video. Enter the Canon 5D mark II.

The full frame sensor allows for greater image quality, higher resolution, less noise, greater dynamic range, and a more shallow dof. Not to mention there no longer being a need to multiply the focal length. The 5D Mark II does shoot video, but there is not as much effort put into it than in the 7d. I haven’t received the 5d yet, but it should be here within the next couple of weeks. I’m having to sell my 7D as well as my Hasselblad (croak) to pay for it, but in the end I think its worth it.

Keep checking up on the blog to see my review/thoughts on the switch to full frame.

—-I should note that the 7D is more than ok at taking stills. It has great resolution, but there was softness in the images that I didn’t appreciate. The 8fps was great, but I think I used it in the field once. It has great features, but just wasn’t for me.

Canon 7D. 21 days in. Rerereview.

I’ve reread my initial “review”, if you can call it that, of the 7D a few times, and I’ve come to the conclusion that the post really didn’t do justice to the camera. Note, probably no review I can provide can be fully counted on, but I feel as though maybe I should tell a little bit more than what was said in the beginning. Now that I’ve really had the time to shoot with the camera I can provide a more “mature” depiction of the camera, rather than the “Oh I just got it now I want to talk about it” state of mind I may have been guilty of earlier.

As stated before, the camera feels very good in hand. The body is designed quite well, and it feels snug and not as bulky as it could. The buttons on the back of the body have nothing to hide, and everything is well placed. A couple of the most useful physical features of the camera are the Quick menu and the One-touch RAW + Jpeg buttons. The quick menu is essentially what the name sounds like…its a quick menu. Press the button and you’ll see your settings neatly displayed on the LCD which can be easily navigated through and changed, you guessed it, quickly. The instant RAW + Jpeg button is useful if you’re shooting Jpegs just for the fun of it, and then you see something really cool so you need to quickly record a RAW image as well. I do not find much use for this feature, however, considering I shoot entirely in RAW. I would also imagine that most people using the 7D would be doing likewise. Of course the feature works both ways, so If you’re shooting RAW and you also want to record a Jpeg you can do that as well, but I can’t really think of a practical application where you would be unable to make a jpeg from the RAW image later… Lets not go there.

Also as as stated previously, the menu controls are logical, but some features can be a little buried. The 7D also has a feature which allows the photographer to write his or her copyright information into the metadata which is just super. Since I’m upgrading from the XT I’m not used to this feature and I’m so glad its there. Something else great about the menu is that you can customize pretty much every button on the back of the camera. Very very cool. I’ve found that having image quality assigned to the SET button in the middle of the dial is the most useful for me.

The custom functions are easily utilized, and can be very useful in the right situation . Just simply begin in manual mode, choose the functions and settings you would use to shoot in that given situation, and then assign them to C1, C2, or C3. I use C1 for standard daylight shooting, C2 for night shooting, and C3 for video.

Another great feature is the electronic level. Just hit info a couple times while your shooting and the level will come up on the LCD. You can also have it appear in the viewfinder through the activated AF points, but I haven’t spent the energy to figure out how to do it. When I first read about the level, I thought it was cool, but I didn’t think I would use it. Wrong. I’ve already used it several times in practical applications and its oh so useful, and in all my experiences, accurate.

I don’t shoot a lot of fast moving subjects, but today I decided to go out and shoot my dogs just to play around with the all new AF. Love it. Its deadly. The 7D tracked my running dogs with ease, even when they were running towards me. The 8fps was also a very useful tool and a pleasure to listen to. Oh, the power.  The low-light AF also greatly outperforms the XT, but I’m not too sure how it racks up against direct competitors. Again, the 100% viewfinder is a blessing.

I’ve looked at the noise on the 7D SEVERAL times. Yes, I’ve been pixel peeping. What I’ve found is that the noise at high ISOs isn’t as bad as I thought it was. I was actually just looking at a few JPEGS I took indoors in low light at 5000 ISO and I found the noise levels to be surprisingly manageable. Here are a couple screenshots of an image I shot in the middle of the night at 4000 iso. The Raw files were opened in DPP and then brought into Lightroom as Tiffs. NR tools were used in both programs. Taken with a Canon 50mm 1.8 II at 1.8 for 1/40 sec at ISO 4000.  The second image is at 100%.

Another point of interest is the apparent softness in the images viewed on the LCD screen. To some people, like me, this may cause some stress early on in the game. Its important to remember, however, that we’re dealing with 18 megapixels, the image we’re viewing on the LCD is a Jpeg rendition (even in RAW), and that every sensor depicts a RAW file differently, and that each RAW file put out any given camera needs a given amount of editing.

As far as video goes, I’m not going to pretend like I know stuff, ‘cause I don’t. After doing some research I’ve realized that in order to really fully get into video one has to invest in a plethora of other expensive gear that I’m just not ready to commit to by any stretch of the imagination. I’ll dabble with what I’ve got and edit with iMovie. You can find a lot of other reviews raving about the 7Ds video capabilities.

A feature that I’m excited about, but haven’t been able to test yet, is the ability to trigger multiple speedlights via the pop up flash. I haven’t been able to play yet because as of right now I don’t have any speedlights. Maybe soon? Should be very useful.

And I guess that’ll wrap up my 3rd edition of the Canon 7D “review”. Thanks for reading. Here are some sample photos taken with a similar workflow as mentioned above.

Canon 7D Review Continues…

I thought I would give you all another update on the 7D. Upon further examination… the 7D isn’t quite so bad in low light as I had imagined. One of the culprits for the amount of noise was actually Lightroom. Apparently Canon’s Digital Photo Professional handles noise a LOT better than the current Lightroom. I’ve done a little research and it appears that others are having the same issue, and have found DPP to be superior in this respect. Lightroom beta 3 is being tested right now and, when released, should have some new noise algorithms.

I’ve also started setting up my custom functions. These are pretty useful, seeing as you can customize pretty much everything.

So yeah. A useful little update. I was sweating a little bit, but this makes me feel better. I’m not one for pixel-peeping, but noise is noise, and this is noise on a camera projected to perform amazingly well in low light high iso situations.