Playing with a 5d Mkii

I’ve had the chance to play with a 5D Mk 2 for the past couple of weeks – this is a bit of a review, which isn’t really a review – more just an opinion piece.

It’s fantastic – it’s the first digital camera which actually really impresses me – the quality is like scanned medium format film. (I only use canon Eos and screw mount M42 in 35mm, so I’m not familiar with the nikon D700 or similar – which I hear is fantastic.)

To qualify that – I use an Imacon reasonably frequently – that’s the gold standard for amateurs – and while fantastic, it’s nothing like as sharp as printing optically – if you want to wring the absolute maximum out of film then you need to print optically, and with very very good lenses – a film scanner of any level short of drum scanning (which I have not used and will not take a guess on) will fall short of expert optical enlargement – that’s just the way it is.

Oh – and I’ll add – the nikon coolscan – latest model 35mm scanners, they actually match the imacon for 35mm (the medium format is another matter).

The 5D mk2 (with top quality lenses) matches what I can do with the very best film processing and optical enlargement – I’m convinced.

So now the reason for sticking with film no longer has to do with image quality – certainly not for quality – the 5D out resolves the lenses I threw at it – and actually has a pretty decent dynamic range too.

I’d stick with black and white film (75% of what I shoot) for reasons of tonality and convenience – but I see no real reason to be shooting colour film unless it’s in timing critical situations or frankly in situations where my camera might get damaged (film camera’s are cheap) – also perhaps for point and shoot collecting, the XA2 beats the shit out of most digital point n’ shoots – it is, after all, full frame (with a freakin good lens).

I’ve tested a range of lenses on it so far – most of my regular lenses were crap frankly – my 24mm was almost as sharp as the L series 24-105 at 24 – which is to say, crap. THe 28 which I quite like and will keep using was pretty poor – worse than the L series above.

My 28-200 sigma just won’t work on the 5D – it spazzes out if I adjust the aperture above maximum – that lens works fine on EOS 300’s, 100,s and 5’s (the 5D Vs 5 shootout might come up later 😛 ).

Interestingly my helios 44M  2 58mm f2, with the A/M circular metal switch will match the canon 50 1.4 in both look and sharpness at any matched aperture – albeit with a much more brown/yellow cast – and I need to dial the EV back 2/3rds of a stop to get the numbers to match (the exposure is equal in manual). I’m not hugely surprised by this as the helios is my favorite lens – especially for low light/dark situations. It’s lower contrast than the eos ef 1.4 btw – better for high contrast situations.

For auto focus the 50 ~ 1.4 is fabulous, but in manual focus the helios (which is 100% manual) is just such a nice feeling lens it’s not funny – the helios is ultra smooth when focussing with one finger – the ef 50 1.4 feels plastic, grabby and kinda grindy/rumbly – they are both fabulous for different reasons. I’d like both frankly. (I don’t own the 1.4).

Every thing I tested (mainly 1970’s screw mount lenses) proved sharpest at 5.6 to 8 – no matter the configuration, or the distance – This wasn’t a scientific test, I just pointed the sucker at some trees on a ridge about a kilometer away and then at some close fractal stuff – the infinity looked rough across the board – close up most of them really looked pretty good – in real photography that’s not at infinity, sharpness isn’t so important – tonality is more of a thing.

I’ll have some (hopefully remotely imteresting) shots to follow – but in short, I approve of the 5D.



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