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Canon EOS 5D Mark II – Camera from Hell

Canon: You Can'tEver since I wrote some posts about the Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR on my blog last year, I’ve continued to get comments from many users around the world who’ve used the camera and had issues with it. Most of the time these users went online after experiencing issues to search for a solution and then found my blog only to wish they had read it before they bought their 5D Mark II. Just yesterday I got the following two comments from two different people:

From Troy:

Being a Canon user makes me feel cheated. The autofocus is terrible, owning a $3000 camera and having so many shots out of focus is unacceptable. Shooting landscapes is most of the time fine (even there AF hunts at times) but anything moving and easy to lose over 75% of your shots. Slow frame rate and many out of focus shots, bad news. I have tried every AF combination and get the same results. I have some great photos but have lost too many. I hate to switch but selling my Canon gear and moving to Nikon. I would love to stay with Canon but AF issues are too much, and they don’t seem wanting to fix it anytime soon.

From Mark H:

Hi Karel,

I haven’t read all the responses but I can’t believe some of the assessments of the camera based on limited shooting situations. I’m a wedding photographer, shoot 2000-3000 images per wedding in all kinds of lighting and all situations, and yes, low light shooting with the MK2 sucks compared to even prosumer cameras like the 40D. IMO it’s the outer autofocus points….focus dead-on with the center point (to hell with the rule of thirds or any sort of off center composition) and you’ll do ok in low light (in most situations), but try “getting ready” shots with a window behind the bride’s head (bright backlight), or low light church shots and good luck getting 30% of them in focus with the off-center focus points. I shoot a lot wide open at 1.4, so I know when it’s on and when it’s off. It’ll focus fine in bright light (so it’s not needing microadjustments or a lens problem), it’ll focus fine with off center points in bright light most of the time, but go indoors and be careful. Get trigger happy if you want some images to choose from. I love the resolution, love most of everything about the camera, can live with the speed of the autofocus, but a “low-light” camera that only has 1 “usable” autofocus point in low light is kinda disappointing.

And there’s a lot more where those came from.

If you’ve read my previous posts about the 5D Mark II, you know that the issues these users are describing are exactly the issues I mentioned in my posts. From the moment the 5D Mark II was announced I saw based on the specifications alone that Canon had seriously crippled the camera with an old autofocus system that wouldn’t be able to let people really take advantage of the other features the camera had to offer. Many users who’ve bought the camera for professional use have had no choice but to sell it again and move to something that worked much better and offered A LOT more, such as the Nikon D700. Here are just two cases:

Case 1: Sold Canon gear and switched to Nikon:

Canon was good to me, especially back in the day when I rocked a cropped sensor and a 35mm lens for 90% of my shoots. It was simple, reliable and dependable.  Then I got a 5d.  The 5d offered great high ISO features, a full frame, a nice big LCD and the worst focusing system money could buy. 🙁

Let me preface this next part by saying that I am a hard-core stickler for sharp images; “A little soft,” or “a little back-focused” is not ok by me.  It’s tack sharp or it get’s the hose. So, as you can imagine, the 5d became quite a handicap for me.  But, nonetheless, I figured out that if I only shot on One Shot and kept my aperture up, I could make in-focus photos.

Despite my near-constant frustration with Canon, I held out for the mythical 5d Mark II – a camera that promised even better ISO, an even bigger sensor, an even fancier LCD and (you guessed it), the same crappy focusing system. At that point, Canon had me by the you-know-whats (I don’t actually have you-know-whats… it’s a euphemism, silly) – I had *thousands* invested in lenses (see below). So I shot my 5d Mark II for the entire 2009 wedding season…. on One-Shot…. using a high aperture… constantly cussing under my breath.

Case 2: Sold Canon gear and switched to Nikon:

So, my 5DII came back from Canon’s repair center AGAIN on Tuesday. I took it out for a 45 minute stroll and took pictures of cats, leaves, berries, trees, the water.. etc. I used both the center focal point and the outer focal points. I spent the entire 45 minutes cursing after each shot as it became more and more apparent that it was just the same (if not worse) as it had been when I sent it in.

So, I sniffled a little, I paced back and forth, I thought. Then I typed up all the Canon gear I own on a forum and titled it ‘For sale’. I sniffled some more and grit my teeth and clicked the ‘post’ button. There. I said it. It’s for sale. I’ve been a Canon girl for eight years. I busted my ass to buy that 5D, and I love it. If I could afford to keep it and the 50mm lens that’s been with me for four years, I would do it in a heartbeat.

I’m done. I’m switching to Nikon.

In both these cases the users were let down by the bad autofocus performance of the 5D Mark II and had no choice but to switch to the Nikon D700. Even the image quality offered by the 5D Mark II isn’t what you would expect from a $2700 camera with noise and banding issues even at the low ISO settings.

The reason why the 5D Mark II still appears to be selling well is because of the HD video features that are also built into the camera. But as a tool for photography, the 5D Mark II has some serious issues and shortcomings that I hope will be addressed sufficiently by Canon in the next version.


  1. Tweets that mention Karel Donk’s Blog » Blog Archive » Canon EOS 5D Mark II – Camera from Hell -- (08/04/2010)
  2. Karel Donk's Blog » Blog Archive » Canon EOS 5D Mark II – A Piece of Shit (10/06/2011)


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