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Canon 5D Mark II
What still sucks from the old 5D
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Canon 5D Mark II

Canon EOS 5D Mark II and 50mm f/1.4 enlarge.


May 2010    Canon 5D Mark II Review       More Canon Reviews


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Canon calls this the 5D "Mark II" because it's mostly just a old 5D with the big little improvements I just mentioned.

3 Total Recall memories, the Quick Control Screen, a great LCD and Auto ISO make all the difference in the world to me, and I loved my old 5D as it was. There is no perfect camera, except for the old Mamiya 6 and today's Mamiya 7.

Here's what should have been fixed after three years of the 5D, but still isn't:


Defective power switch      top

The same crappy, defectively designed power switch is still there.

It usually gets knocked as I carry the camera around my neck, meaning when I go to make a shot, either the camera turned itself off, or the big dial ignores me.

Even Nikon's crappiest cameras have had power switches concentric to the shutter release for over ten years, and on all of them, I can turn them with my shutter finger without taking the camera away from my eye.


Still have to hit play      top

You still have to hit play after making a shot in order to be able to zoom, or to go to other shots. If this wasn't a family website, I'd use expletives to express my disappointment.


No full stops      top

You still can't set the 5D Mark II to adjust exposure in full stops. It's halves or thirds, and that's it.


Dim numeric finder display      top

The viewfinder display is still too dim to read easily in daylight, and the numbers are too thin.

Even Nikon's cheapest D40 is far, far superior here.

There is more stuff in the 5D Mark II finder over the old 5D, but you still can't see it very well.

The bar graph display is small, and for I know, maybe smaller than in the old 5D. This is an important display; a pro camera would put the bar graph big, bold and vertically along the side of the finder.


No easy manual WB setting      top

There is still no practical way to set manual gray-card white balances.

You can do it, but it takes a few hands.

Canon's video and point-and-shoot cameras do this much better; these designers need to go have sake together and figure it out.


Can't display all the shots left      top

Canon still can't figure out how to move a decimal point. If you have more than 999 shots left on your memory card, the 5D Mark II still gets stuck at 999, while even the Nikon D40 is smart enough to say "2.7k" if that's how many shots you have left.

This is straight out of the 1970s! Even Canon's point-and-shoots show four digits for shots left.

Hint: hit the INFO button while the 5D Mark II is resting, and the tech data display will use four digits to real all the remaining exposures.


Limited data playback      top

The 5D Mark II still can't show focal length when playing back.


No exposure mode indication in finder      top

There's no indication of the exposure mode in the finder, so I have to divert my creative energies away from the finder and look on top as I spin the mode knob.


Uncomfortable dial design      top

The front control dial is still in the wrong place, at the wrong angle, and made of the wrong material. It's a hard, thin dial that you have to turn using the inside of your pointer finger, right on the side of your joint. It hurts if you shoot with it for a while.

By comparison, Nikons that cost one-third as much have nice, big, soft, perfect-feeling dials right where my fingers naturally land. They feel good, they are at the right angle, they are in the right place, and I can spin them with the pad of my fingertip, not the side of my finger, right on the joint, as with the 5D Mark II.


No long-exposure countdown      top

There's no bulb timer, or count-down of long exposures, on the rear or top LCDs. All it does is blink the remaining exposures number instead. (Of course that number is an embarrassment, since it's usually stuck at 999 instead of the actual value.)

Canon's T70, EOS620 and other FD and EOS cameras from the 1980s and 1990s did this.


No facial recognition      top

All-sensor AF rarely picks the correct sensor to pick the subject's closer eye unless you're either lucky, or put the subject directly under one of the AF sensors. The Nikon D3 and D700 are far superior here, magically nailing almost every people shot


Depth of field preview button in the wrong place      top

The depth-of-field preview button still requires a second hand to hit it. You have to use your left hand, not your shooting hand, because Canon put it on the wrong side of the camera.


The LCD never fills with the image      top

Canon 5D Mk II back

Canon 5D Mark II. enlarge.

You can't do this. The image never fills the LCD. I created this illustration in Photoshop. A firmware defect in the actual 5D prevents this, and instead always shows exposure data in a black bar along the top, even when zoomed.

Nikon and LEICA don't have this problem.

Oh, pardon me: this isn't a problem left un rectified since the 5D; this was fine in the old 5D. This problem is new in the 5D Mark II!


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