I’ve owned a Canon 5d Mark II for a few months now and have had some time to test it out under different shooting conditions. The digital files created by the camera are excellent, and this topic has been well discussed on the web already. What I’d like to share are a few comments specifically regarding the camera body and functions in relationship to my specific shooting style. I began shooting with a digital camera back when Canon introduced the first digital 1D series, at 4PM. Since then, I’ve migrated through the upgrades of the crazily named successors: 1Ds 11MP, 1Ds Mark II 17MP, to the current 21MP 1Ds Mark III. I’ve owned a number of the other models along the way also. Those of you who have used these cameras know that they are large, well built and heavy! This provoked my intrigue in the 5D (yes cost also, buy not as much) This without question is my favorite aspect about the body, and the sole reason it will stay in my line up in spite of a few inexcusable annoyances.
As to my shooting style, I realize it may differ from others. I’ve often got two cameras hanging off me, riding in a skiff, on a snow machine, running across the tundra, etc., Add a tripod mount angle bracket to each camera and there is a lot of weight in the body alone. I found the small camera size and light weight of the 5d to be fantastic. However, in nearly twenty years of photography with many film and digital bodies I’ve never encountered one whose knobs and settings can be so easily, accidentally moved. My primary complaint is the mode dial on the top left, which when hanging from the shoulder will switch modes with the slightest rub or bump. Many times I grabbed it to shoot and found myself in C1 or program mode! It seems crazy, but I now have a piece of gaffers tape over the mode dial–an unfortunate modification on a $2500 dollar camera. I’ve also had the power switch on the back bump against my belt and switch to the middle which locks the back wheel dial. I find that out when I’m unable to make exposure adjustments. Both of these issues caused me to lose shots on my last trip, and both of them in my opinion are unacceptable for any camera made in today’s meticulous engineering environment, and certainly for a camera of this level. Another annoyance made very apparent when shooting the 5D side by side with the 1Ds is the brightness of the LCD readout in the viewfinder. For some reason it is considerably dimmer, and quite hard to read on a bright, sunny, day.
I also find the reduction of auto focus points (in comparison to the 1D models) limiting for action based shooting. I realize the build of these cameras is completely different, and while I’m not expecting the 5D to be a mini 1D (although that would be cool) it’s unfortunate about the knobs.
There are a few things I liked about the 5D, that are not found on the 1D series. Of course the video, which is impressive, but at this point I do not use it professionally. The small battery size is a bonus, making a second one very easy to carry. The vertical grip add-on feature is nice too. While I own one, I’ve not used it since my main focus is keeping the camera body small. I like the location of the focus function button, situated near the shutter button. This let’s me hand hold a big lens like a 500mm f4, with my left hand, while changing focus modes with my right hand by just moving my finger slightly off the shutter button. On the 1D bodies, the focus mode button is on the other side of the camera and requires coming out of the shooting position in order to reach across and make the change.
Now, putting things in perspective a bit. if you are a landscape photographer, and don’t run around with cameras bouncing around your neck, you are not as likely to have the knob crisis that I have. For me, the 5d will take it’s rightful position as primarily a studio camera for artwork, and the occasional camera to grab when I need a really lightweight body for hiking or landscape work–all knob-proofed for the field
My procon summary in relation to comparison with the 1ds mark III body
Size and weight
Vertical grip option
Location of auto focus mode button
Poor mode dial knob
On/off switch susceptible to movement.
Limited auto focus points
Dimly lit exposure info in viewfinder-hard to read when shooting in bright light.