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Canon EOS 5D Mark II: NOT WORTH IT – Save your money!

Note: This post has been updated below. Last update on 04/08/2010.

After having written two posts about why the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is barely worth it (see the last one here), I have to take it a step up now and go ahead and say that the Canon EOS 5D Mark II is absolutely NOT worth it. Save your money for something better. Go get a Nikon D700 or something.

Seriously, do the research before you spend close to $3000 on a camera body that is seriously underperforming and has a lot of issues. You can start by reading this post of mine, which I have updated today as well. I am including the update to that post below. When you spend $3000 on a camera body, especially in the time we live in right now, quite frankly you should NOT have to worry about it working well or not while using it. We live in a time when $900 cameras can focus without issues, so why should you spend $3000 on a  camera that has focus issues? Yes, FOCUS issues. One of the most critical functionalities in any camera, and it’s not working properly.

Here’s the update (read the full post and any links in it completely before you buy, you have been warned!):

Update 02/09/2009: In the mean time some more examples have been posted of the 5D Mark II focus issues. The fashion shooter I mentioned above, who had trouble getting his 5D Mark II to focus properly got another 5D Mark II body, and apparently he had the same issues with that one. Now he has decided to NOT use the 5D Mark II AT ALL. Here’s what he had to say:

There are a few issues with this camera which I can not live with. The AF is still pretty bad on this, my second 5D2 body in anything but the brightest of light. (the first one was returned with abysmal focusing and weird image quality issues.)
People right and left are reporting failures in damp conditions/light rain. There were a bunch of 5D2 failures on Michael Reichmann’s Antarctic trip.

I cringe every time I remember this scenario: I was shooting advertising with the 5D2 with models, hair, makeup, stylists, etc waiting on me. As I was shooting tethered, the art director was standing next to me looking at the monitor and saying “they are soft!”, and I was there thinking, yeah, I can see that, but I don’t know what the f*ck to do about it. This is after hours or working with the AF microadjustments, etc., etc.

I cringe when I think about something like that happening to me as well.

And that’s not all. Another photographer compared the old 5D to the new 5D Mark II, doing some tests with both cameras in the same conditions, and noticed that the 5D Mark II did not focus consistently, and that shots from the 5D Mark II were in fact slightly out of focus often:

I’ve come to the conclusion that the 5Deux has A.D.D. Sometimes it focuses very well. Other times, it’s slightly disappointing compared to results from the old 5D. I know the 5Deux can focus well, because I’ve got proof, it just doesn’t focus well ALL of the time, which is annoying.

I’ve seen other photographers say that they’ve had similar results, so I guess this is pretty common among 5Deux owners.

In conclusion, the 5Deux did not walk away with a clear decisive victory because of the focus issue.

So again, I have to ask, what the FUCK is the use of 21 megapixels when you can’t focus properly?!?! Take a good look at the sample pictures posted in the above mentioned review, and notice how the 5D Mark II images are out of focus compared to the old 5D. All the extra resolution you expect from the 5D Mark II can’t be achieved because of the very poor autofocus system.

And here’s what PDN had to say about the 5D Mark II autofocus capabilities in their review:

A bigger issue is the annoyingly slow speed of the 5D Mark II’s autofocusing in low contrast, low light situations. These are the sorts of situations where the 5D II should really shine especially since the High ISO/low light capabilities of its 24 x 36mm CMOS sensor are so impressive.

Though we didn’t experience problems with the focus while shooting inside the dimly lit subway station and in Grand Central Terminal, when I later went to photograph the park at night, I found that the 5D II would often hunt for focus, racking in and out until it would finally lock in. On occasion, the camera couldn’t find focus at all.

The problem really lies with Canon’s resistance to updating the 5D II to a new autofocus system. The camera uses the same 9-point selectable AF with 6 assist points around the center as its predecessor, a system which clearly is getting a little long in the tooth. While Canon’s resistance might be understandable—after it upgraded its Mark III series pro cameras to a new 19-point/16-assist point autofocus system it faced many complaints from photographers about autofocus misfires—it still doesn’t solve the problem of putting a creaky old autofocus system in a brand new camera.

Yep, I saw this coming way in advance.

Update 04/18/2009: Some more people talking about the issues with the Canon EOS 5D Mark II. Photographer Zack Arias said the following:

• The AF system sucks in low light situations. Every Nikon I have ever owned from the D100 to the D3 can lock focus faster and more accurately than the 5d does in low light levels.
• Nikon still pwns Canon at ISO 3200 and up.
• It’s slow as Christmas compared to the shooting speed and buffer of the D3.
• The ergonomics. The 5d feels like a brick in my hands even with the grip. The D3 feels like a glove.

He later also says:

I will tell you this though… when it comes time to shoot the reception tomorrow night I bet you the 5d goes back in the bag because the auto focus is useless in low light. You’d think they could do something about that. The D3 can focus in just about any dark environment I find myself in. The 5d requires you to be standing on the surface of the sun to have enough light to focus. Ok, maybe not right on the surface but pretty close. The AF system on the Canon can not even be compared to the Nikon. In this area Canon sucks and Nikon rocks. The rest seems to be up for debate.

Photographer Lloyd Chambers had the following to say:

This latest AF issue follows on the heels of a Live View exposure problem with the Canon 5D Mark II. I think it’s fair so say that with 3 professional camera models with issues, this firmly establishes Canon as having a track record of not testing products adequately. And at the cost of customer time, hassle, and perhaps money.

I couldn’t agree more. I have written a couple of posts about Canon quality control problems. Just search my blog for them.

Update 04/08/2010: 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.


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  20. Karel Donk's Blog » Blog Archive » Canon EOS 5D Mark II – A Piece of Shit (10/06/2011)
  21. Karel Donk's Blog » Canon EOS 5D Mark III Review (13/07/2012)


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