In our little nook of the photography world, it's amazing how central, and how important, the Canon 5D has been over the course of its relatively long life. Virtually everywhere you look you can find good and great photographers using the 5D, and the percentage of the best work that it has been responsible for far outstrips its market share. For a long time it was the only opportunity in its category, and its image quality really has been, and remains, a cut above. Only recently have competitors managed to edge past it, sidewise.
For that reason if nothing else, Canon's pre-Photokina announcement of the Canon 5D Mark II is significant. But there is something else, of course. There's a lot else. For one thing, Canon says the "EOS 5D Mark II achieves the highest level of image quality of any EOS Digital SLR released to date." No mean statement from a company whose bread, butter and beer is the vaunted image quality of its cameras. It has an all-new full-frame (i.e., 35mm-size) 21.1-MP CMOS sensor and Digic-4 processing engine, for ISO speeds up to three stops faster than the 5D and what Canon promises is "significantly lower noise." There are three RAW modes offering different pixel counts and file sizes. There's live view and, within live view, a special super-silent shooting mode that apparently (apropos our discussion of shutters recently in the monolight thread) doesn't use the camera's shutter (I'm not sure about that, so don't quote me). There's also a high-DR mode and automatic falloff correction (I assume with JPEG only?), and the finder features 98% coverage. Size and weight are unchanged.
"Answering the question of where SLR technology is going next," as Canon puts it, the 5D Mark II will shoot HD video up to 4GB or 30 minutes, "whichever comes first." The class of professional being tarketed is apparently wedding shooters, although of course we're more interested in it as a camera for art photographers, landscape and nature shooters, and (very) advanced amateurs.
And it's a lean, clean, highly refined machine. Looks to us like a no-nonsense shooter's tool of the highest order, with image quality (IQ) as the top priority...and, um, video.
The Canon 5D Mark II will ship at the end of November. It's keenly priced, too, at $2,700 for the body and only $3,500 in a kit version with the EF 24–105mm ƒ/4L IS USM zoom lens, which amounts to about $250 or so off the current street price for the lens alone. Consider that Canon's first "affordable" DSLR, the landmark, 3.1-MP D30, which came out almost exactly eight years ago and is just about the same size and weight, actually cost just about the same only a few months after its introduction (its initial list price was $3,000). Canon's come a long way, baby—and ain't we lucky.
Also widely anticipated (because of the widespread disappearance of the G9 from dealers' shelves and online sellers' catalogs), Canon has introduced the G10 premium compact digicam. With 14.7 (!) megapixels, a wider lens, a huge (3") viewing screen, RAW capability, flash, an improved optical finder, ISO speeds on a handy dial, exposure compensation on another dial, and a 5X zoom that extends to 140mm-e, this seems to be the Canon engineers' very robust attempt to give the market every last little thing it wants.
Although it will sell like hotcakes, we have to admit we're not quite so sanguine about this one, especially with the Panasonic G1 looming on the horizon and looking rather menacing. Canon seems to have taken the original Gx concept about as far as it can go—or possibly just a little further. If the 5D Mark II puts IQ über alles, the G10 crams every imaginable feature around an overstuffed, overly small sensor that still has inherent limitations despite its admittedly high degree of technical refinement and optimization. The camera sure does tick off all the boxes in terms of features, though. It has so many modes (26!) and capabilities that it really requires quite a sophisticated photographer even to understand it all (leading to an idle and somewhat snarky question—wonder how many G10 buyers will actually master this camera in all its subtle capabilities? And how many buyers will use it through an entire ownership period without ever really knowing everything it can do, and how to do it?). But we'd best shut up and wait to see and try it before damning with faint-ish praise.
The G10 will be available in October and will cost $500.
Mike (Thanks to Jason at canonblogger.com)
Featured Comment by Bahi: "When Canon says that a new camera offers 'the best image quality and lowest noise of any EOS model to date,' there should be little doubt that we're going to see some astounding results from this camera in the hands of talented photographers using natural light. As you mention, the 5D really punched above its weight and was used by photographers who often owned 1DS MkII's but chose the cheaper, more luggable 5D to get low-light shots that were rendered beautifully.
"It's not just an issue of low noise—there was something very convincing about the tonal detail in work shot with the 5D, which I also see three years later in D3 and D700 files—a much more pleasing look than was typical for digital cameras of its class. Remarkably, the effect is very clear even when these pictures are displayed at the one-megapixel resolutions we typically see on a screen. So much of the writing about current SLRs and their lenses concentrates on sharpness and acuity but richness of tone really distinguishes the best cameras."
Featured Comment by Gordon Lewis: "If anyone is interested, here are some sample photos taken with the Canon G10. As you might expect, they all look great. Canon is bright enough not to post examples of the G10 at its worst. I feel obliged to point out, however, that all of the samples are at ISO 80, and that upon close inspection, many have blown highlights. (They're small, but they're there nonetheless.) Tiny sensors struggle with high dynamic range scenes, and the G10 is no different.
"I also managed to locate a sample from the EOS 5dMkII at ISO 6400. It's noisy, but quite sharp. If a G10 photo at ISO 200 looked this good you'd be delighted.
"Complain all you want about these cameras' features or lack of them, but when it comes to fundamental image quality, Canon still delivers the goods."