Equipment Review – Canon 5D Mark II & Wedding Photography
Search the phrase “Canon 5D Mark II Review, and you’ll find more information than one can process. Some of the reviews are technical, done thoroughly by reputable magazines and professionals in the industry. Others are purely subjective, written by frustrated or happy consumers expressing their opinions with their limited knowledge and experience. This review is somewhere in the middle, leaving out the inapplicable detail, but thorough enough to make a good case for purchasing the camera as a professional wedding and engagement photographer.
As a professional wedding photographer, is it worth the money? Which features are the most useful for our profession? Why did we decide to purchase the camera, and why are we going to continue to use it?
ISO – Though there is a combination of reasons we decided to purchase the camera, the first and primary reason is its ISO performance. Bringing out the backgrounds of landscapes, chapels, or reception halls without sacrificing image quality decreases our reliance on flash and increases the overall quality of our photographs. We’ve been able to create usable shots up to ISO 12,800 (vs. 800-1000 ISO with a Canon 40D). These capabilities truly change the way we photograph.
Image Quality – Excellent! At ISO 50, the resolution of 2830 lines matches the $6,000-$7,000 Canon EOS 1-D Mark III. Comparing the images taken with our backup Canon 40D‘s and our Canon 5D’s, we notice an obvious quality improvement in our new cameras. Image quality differences are particularly noticeable in images with heavy bokeh and color gradients.
Video – The ability to control the depth of field and the ability to use your fisheye lenses and various filters makes the video capabilities an attractive feature, even for professional videographers. However, the aperture is locked once you start recording and you have to manually focus, limiting its usefulness in our profession. We don’t anticipate utilizing this feature any time soon in our studio.
New 3 inch LCD – Although not that important of a factor, the new, larger, more vibrant, and higher resolution LCD is great for those photographers that like to have your subjects “chimp at the images just taken of them. This is an effective way of getting them excited about the image, ensuring that they follow through to view the rest of the images posted online.
Auto Focus (AF) Problems – In extreme low light (EX -1 and -2), autofocus becomes inconsistent and sometimes fails altogether with the Canon 5D, limiting its performance for dark chapels and other crucial situations. In these situations, the center focus, like all DSLRs, is your most reliable point, and in our experience, eventually gets it right. However, these focus issues, along with the 0.51 second speed of the focus (vs. the Nikon D700‘s 0.35 sec and the Sony A900’s 0.29) are frustrating downsides to the camera.
Frames Per Second – The usefulness of having high frames per second is limited in wedding photography, as brides aren’t usually sprinting down the aisle or kicking field goals. Well, most aren’t anyway. However, at only 3.9 frames per second, its usefulness for action shots are limited; and handholding some HDR shots may require a bit more steadiness of hand than with the zippy 6.5 frames per second of the Canon 40D.
[REWIND: Learn HDR Photography with our HDR Tutorial]
Competition – Why didn’t we get the Nikon D700 or the Sony Alpha 900? Besides being married to Canon with our lenses, strobes, and other equipment, there are a few good reasons we didn’t go with the competition. For the Nikon D700, the deal breaker was the pixel resolution. With half as many pixels, similar noise performance, and the same price range as the Canon 5D Mark II, the better AF performance didn’t justify switching over. While we don’t usually tout megapixels as a major deciding factor, shooting in SRAW (Small RAW at over 10 megapixels) makes the Mark IIs ISO noise performance quite amazing, even rivaling Nikon’s new line of cameras. Additionally, the Sony Alpha 900’s sensor-shift image stabilization and better focusing system wasn’t worth sacrificing the superior noise performance of the 5D.