I've recently been lucky enough to get one of the new Canon 5D Mark II's. People have been puking their thoughts about this all over the net, but hey, one more in my quiet little corner couldn't hurt, right? I've had the camera since the beginning of December, but only yesterday actually got to really use the still camera functionality to it's fullest as I had to wait for Capture One to fully support it. Before that though, I spent a lot of time tasting and using the video function of the camera, so I'll start there.
The video quality, as has been said over and over, is really quite amazing. The shallow depth of field you can get from this thing is fantastic and beautiful... but at the same time it can be a bit troublesome. What it boils down to is that this camera will work stellar for some applications.. and not so much for others. It's just reallly not very good for run and gun video work. I know this because I've already done some for a client... and while I feel I got some really decent footage, especially for a first go, it will take some real skill and practice to make it work well in this scenario. There are three things that come together to makes this tough: really shallow depth of field, essentially mandatory manual focus and poor ergonomics for video work. I don't think using it for this stuff should be completely ruled out... but only weirdos need apply. *signs up*
There are a few other drawbacks:
No manual exposure settings. Perhaps done intentionally to not make it compete with Canon's own video products? ...but who knows. A lot of people are yelling at Canon to offer manual control in a firmware update... we'll see if they actually do it. If not there's a good chance the firmware modding community will step in.
Audio is a little tough on this one. Automatic gain control, no manual. However, on this point I will say that Canon's gain control algorithm is actually pretty awesome... it's very smooth and doesn't seem to leave you with a wall of background noise in between every sentence / sound like cheaper auto-gains. There's also the problem of camera noise, which is just unbearable when using the onboard mic. It picks up every little noise on the camera, especially the zoom and focus... and if you have big L lenses, when you rack the zoom quickly and hit the limit, you get a big *CLUNK*. Not all that desirable. I am actually using an AT897 Shotgun mounted on the hotshoe now with a shockmount. It's actually a pretty slick little outfit, although still if I hit the end of that zoom really fast, I hear that clunk, albiet subdued... just something to be more cautious of. Really the best method is just to do seperate audio, but that of course requires a seperate human.
Ok, so now that the drawbacks are out of the way: I fucking love this video feature. It's (almost) exactly what I've wanted for the longest time. The quality is amazing even in really low light up to 1600 ISO. If it switches to 3200 ISO, it all of a sudden gets pretty noisy, which doesn't look the greatest in color, but actually looks fantastic in B&W. (At least, to my eyes) I am really happy that they made th video color work with picture styles, instead of just being stuck with one video 'look'. Even sharpening is applied! I'm excited to use this, not really so much for client work, but for personal work. It has often bugged me that there are just so many things that can't be captured with a still image... and now I have that option to capture them if I like. :)
As I said, I've only been at this proper for a day now. I've been shooting here and there since I got the camera but for me half the magic happens at the Raw processing stage. Now that Capture One finally updated with proper support for this little cherub, I'm finally able to see how it performs in the software that I'm used to. I must say right off the bat, I'm amazed... no, fucking floored. Previously, when opening my 5D files, I'd hate the initial look without making any changes. It would look flat, and dull. I'd have to be fairly heavy handed with curves to get a nice contrasty look. The Mark II files open up and look amazing, without a single adjustment. Unless Phase One is doing some more heavy handed work with their camera profiling, the 14-bit Raw from the new sensor are incredibly impressive. I couldn't be more pleased at this point. Still lots more testing to do though!
Noise.... what noise? Oh, that noise... yeah I didn't see that.
I shoot a lot of people in low light. A solid chunk of my 5D files are at 3200 ISO. Naturally this means I was very much looking forward to the really high ISO capabilities here. I must say they're really exceeded my expectations. 6400 ISO it totally usable and I've already taken a bunch of photos at 12,800 and find it quite usable as well, especially in B&W. It's really nice in that even through the noise it seems to still retain a pretty solid image... also helping is how digicams have progressed such that noise patterns have become much more pleasing. 25,600 ISO is a bit too noisy to be very useful, but always good to have around in a pinch.
So yeah. I guess you can tell I'm pretty happy with my new little friend. Here's a sample from the first proper shoot...