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Thursday, 11 December 2008


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Take your time Mike. The hungry mobs will soon go away and leave us in peace again. Understanding where you put all these amazing cameras relative to each other will help us to see whether any of them might suit our needs. Pixel peeping not required.


"You see, I just assume—I mean I take it as a given—that all cameras have idiosyncrasies when it comes to control and layout configurations, and I take it as a given that anyone who buys a certain camera will familiarize him- or herself with that camera thoroughly..."

And this is why you will never be welcome in the DPReview forums. ;)

Just have fun working with the cameras, Mike. I would like to know what _you_ think about them, not what you might think other people _want_ you to think (not that you were planning on doing that). I don't seek confirmation for my personal choices. I like to use other peoples opinions to form mine. I learn from different points of views which might be not they way I see them, but they help me understand why I like things I like.

"...nine billion names of God"

Ah, one of my favorite short stories by Clark.


I want your opinion, to hell with objectivity.

Early on in my life I sat and worshiped at the doorstep of objectivity. With age I came to realize that everything is relative. To understand any information you have to understand where it is coming from, thus the only obligation an author has is to reveal where it is they sit, a very complicated perch.


"and I take it as a given that anyone who buys a certain camera will familiarize him- or herself with that camera thoroughly, practice with it, and learn how to use it, and become expert with it"

Are you here to aid or enslave humanity?

Some people want cameras to be *heavy*? What planet do they come from?

I'd love to see how the 5D2 stacks up against the D700 on that opening unscared of the dark shot... if that was handheld it's simply amazing... no, surreal...

I should have read Michael Houghton's comment before posting my own. His was better.

I agree with Maarten B., there is only so much technical info we can analize. And having your opinion about the camera as a user, not an engineer, helps me keep everything in perspective. And maybe because I can only dream of getting on of those, I like hearing how the camera handles from someone who understands that it is mostly just a tool. Sorry for any typos.

"all the same, scaredy-cat that I am, I felt like a mob was gathering outside the window and, like a cold draft on the back of my neck, I imagined I felt the crowd's mood turning ominous."

Puk, puk, puk, puk-KAAAAHHHHHH!!!!! =)

""...nine billion names of God"
Ah, one of my favorite short stories by Clark."

Yeah. :-)

And Mike, take care you _don't_ start cataloguing the controls. Or the stars might start going out, without any fuss. :-)

Yeah, cameras do see more than we do. Shouldn't it tell us something?


Since you posted that first picture you took in the dark of the house across the street from you I have been attempting some "dark" photography myself. I have one question: How do you DO that? My camera is being very stubborn and trying to make everything look like full on daylight. I simply cannot dial things down far enough to keep it from overexposing and have to resort to guessing and chimping.

That "Uscared of the dark" shot is lovely. It makes pixel-peeping completely irrelevant.

Vis a vis, size. Combining the 5D Mark II with a small lens like the 35/2 looks like it would produce a reasonably sized camera for "street" photography or just a plain carry-around camera.

"I imagined I felt the crowd's mood turning ominous. So even though I don't want to say much yet, I feel like I have an obligation to say something, if only to forestall the shouting and cursing and rending of garments."

If you'd like to be a little more forthright in censoring or rebuking the less considered or worse mannered comments, I know that'd be fine with me and I suspect with others. But I also recognise that that could be pretty tiresome and unpleasant for you.

If you'd prefer to write about your experience, rather than to review the camera, I suspect you would lose very, very few of your readers. At least among the, uh, more thoughtful and discerning ones.

But if the mob brings you to self-censorship, remember, they've won.

Apologies for lecturing a former Editor. It's kindly meant.


I cannot wait for this camera to be delivered to my door! The potential of this camera with its video and low light capabilities is so great that I created a wiki for the 5d. People have been collecting video and still samples from around the world that is very helpful to anyone thinking about buying the mk ii or wanting to see what it can do... http://planet5d.com -- we've added your review to the wiki

Compared to "the Nikon" -- which one? You mention two in the first pargraph?

I am just a bit curious as to why one would post a Nikon D700 image in a post about the Canon 5D mkII . . . as the first image even?! If nothing else, it may make some suspicious as to the honesty of the outcome of any review you might do between the two. That said, I would like to at least thank you for your more down to earth thoughts about the direction of dials and other trivial matters.

"Compared to 'the Nikon' -- which one? You mention two in the first pargraph?"

The D700. The D3 was some time ago returned to its rightful home.

Mike J.

"I am just a bit curious as to why one would post a Nikon D700 image in a post about the Canon 5D mkII . . . as the first image even?!"

Because, alas, I am more interested in pictures than I am in cameras. I have had the D700 a little longer than I've had the Canon and am a bit more familiar with it, and it's the one I happened to take along last night when I went to pick up my son at his band practice, and encountered that lovely and vaguely spooky house.

Don't think I am reviewing these cameras to arrive at an "outcome," however. I emphatically don't care what camera you use, as long as you are happy with it, and do good work that pleases you.

Mike J.

I had a dream recently in which I met a camera reviewer and ended up helping him out with a computer problem at his house. When I walked in, I saw that all his walls were covered with converging black-and-white stripes and posters of small square colour patches. As we talked, it became clear (in the way that things become clear in dreams) that the stuff wasn’t there for camera review purposes- it was well-known art that I'd been ignorant of so I came to understand why pictures of all that stuff kept appearing in camera reviews - the reviewers are just photographing what they love and they just happen to love that kind of stuff. It all made sense and I was quite pleased about it in a weird way.

Things mostly went back to normal ("normal") when I woke up but memories linger. All of which is preamble to this: it's very pleasing to see thoughtful, real-life photographs to accompany the thoughtful, real-life words that make up camera articles round here. I get a pretty good idea of what a 5D2 or D700 would have done on the stuff I shot just yesterday.

"I saw that all his walls were covered with converging black-and-white stripes and posters of small square colour patches."

Well, you're not that far off art, even in a dream. :-)


Bahi, you need to get more sleep. I'm not a doctor. I'm just throwing it out there.

Nice pics.

Which is the best camera?


More years ago than I care to count I bought what for me was a very good, very expensive audio system. A year or so later I woke up to the fact that I'd been listening to the cartridge, the amp, the speakers, more closely than I'd been listening to the music, all the while worrying that I wasn't getting optimal performance. On an impulse I packed up the gear and bought a cheap compact system, thinking that might restore my perspective. It worked; I'm still listening to cheap stuff, although cheap stuff is a lot better now than it was then. It's easy to fall in love with the technology, easy to forget the music.

Have you seen any of the "black spot " problem that is all the buzz


Just for the record , I'm betting that it is an integer overflow problem


The way the Canon raw files are compressed is to calculate the difference between a pixel and it's same color neighbor to the left. My guess is that either the really bright blown out spots get calculated as a negative number or that the difference between them and their neighbor to the right gets calculated as a negative because it is bigger that the largest allowable value, and hence is represented as black.

Old Amiga programmers will recognize the Canon raw format as HAM

Hey Mike,

Objectivity?? I want conclusive data like which one has more "air", "snap" "punch" and I guess panache. You know, something we photophiles can identify with. none of this numbers crap, we get enough of that from the other sources.


Yeah, don't get all techy on us, what ever you do. It is nice that you are a photographer first, a writer kind of second, and lastly a reviewer.

This is my favorite photography, and photography gear site. I managed to kick the DPR habit.

Other ones I frequent are Lenswork, Luminouslandscape, and Reid's Reviews. The others i read are art related photo blogs.

bl -- exposure compensation is generally limited to two or three stops, and that's probably what you're running out of. Switch to manual control and "underexpose" more. (In this community I can take it as read that "correct" exposure is an artistic, not technical, judgment, right? That the "correct" exposure is the one that produces the effect the artist intended?)

Mike-- do yourself a favor and call these write-ups your "Personal Reactions" or "Field Notes" or anything but a review. Save you a heap load o' hassle.

No matter what you call it, I'm really enjoying this recent run of Sony. Nikon, Canon evals. I like how you write about them.

I agree. I love mine. It is a great camera and a very serious step up from my old EOS 20D. I probably would have considered the D700 if I hadn't already invested in Canon glass, but, really, the minutiae are not that important. Both take great photos in skilled hands, and, really, isn't that all that matters? The rest is pedantic arguing over ultimately unimportant details.

I can see where you are going with this and I do not like it. You are going to take a few more pictures, stall around then come right out and say in some mamby pamby way that all is good in the world, one is better here and one there and one just a little lefter and a little righter and overall all is OK and like Pangloss we should pick our camera based on prejudices and our budget and go take pictures and enjoy life. And images will be good if we just have any skill. And where does that leave us? It just aint right. One has to be much better than all the others and its mine......

Maybe someday you'll get to review a "small" full-frame digital camera that takes those wonderful Pentax pancake lenses!

Until then, we'll all have to do with Nik/Can bodies... ;-)

I have had the 5D Mark II in hand for a week now - I have it for another week before I need to return it. My other camera is a 40D, so that's what I have to compare it to.

I have shot with Nikons only a little (D300, D90). I like them, too. I know I would be just as happy as I am now (love my 40D) if, back in time, I had gone with Nikon instead.

The reason for my two-paragraph preface is that I read all the comments on your first 5D Mark II post. Like you, I have never understood the vitriol Canon and Nikon users have toward each other. It seems to me that some of the trolls got in there (your smarter readers ran one of them out on a rail) who had never actually shot with the camera.

In my mind, both make excellent photographic tools. I went from a Canon AE-1 to a Digital Rebel in 2003, so Canon is my system.

I find the 5D Mark II's controls to be just fine, probably because I am used to the 40D. I am blown away by the new camera's low-light capability...ISO 3200 looks like 800 on the 40D. ISO 6400 is more than usable. Wow. I am not an old man, but I remember what ISO 400 film looks like.

I've been recording vignettes of my experience with the 5D Mark II as I go, but like you I'll reserve my "judgment" (for what it's worth) until I send it back. It's an amazing leap forward for Canon. That said, I, too wish it were a 12- or 15-megapixel camera, but c'est la vie. I love your perspective, and I value your insight. Truly we are in exciting times as photographers.

I've just been reading the last edition of "Chasseur d'Images", and they talk about something I think is important, but not very often referred. Although they praise the quality of the D700’s viewfinder, they measure its coverage and find it to be, not 95% as announced but rather 94%. What that means (they say) when you take a photo and have to retain that crop in the final picture because there is something you didn't "see", and you don't want/can't photoshop-it out, you end with a final photo, not with 12 but 10.6MP. That is something to think about. And they did like the camera, saying it's the one with the best price-performance ratio of the 3 full frame now on the starting blocks. As they say "...nous sommes enthousiastes"

José PS

oh, I forgot to say, but I'm really, really liking your "test images", those that show more than what your eyes can see. Maybe you have attained wisdom and begin to use your third eye? Or is it me that am a light-in-the-dark kind of guy? (I am). I don' t care if they are Canon or Nikon, they're beautiful, so simple and profound, with a primitive kind of look (as from the beggining of photography). I love them.

José PS

I bought a Mk II in Shanghai yesterday and am walking around with it using a borrowed 50 2.0 lens for the next two days, before I fly back to New York.
Suffice to say initial impressions are wonderful. Will post real world pix on my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aglimpseoftheworld/ by Sunday.
My plans are to buy the new EOS mount Zeiss lenses for it, meaning the 50 1.4 and the 85 1.4. I've also ordered an Olympus OM to EOS adapter with focus confirmation chip, so as to be able to use all of my old OM glass.

I was a bit shocked to learn that my 5DII will arrive tomorrow (Friday). I didn't expect to see it before January!

Honestly, as I've been shooting with Canon's best for a long time I've not seen any online images that suggest to me that the 5DII will present an enormous step forward for me. But, of course, online images are worth less-than-zero for judging camera performance. Only prints count for me.

Still, of course, I'm eager to give the highly touted 5DII a healthy spin.

"like Pangloss..." Thats what i love about this place. While discussing cameras, an analogy to Candide!

The optimist says this is the best of all possible worlds.
The pessimist agrees with them.

Light? You want light? Did you see the sunset tonight? I was about 1/2 way tween Indianoplis and South Bend; and forced to pull off the road, and whip out my battered P and lo, it caught it. Glorious light. Mean while, back at the ranch.........

Maybe, as Adolph mentioned the other day, you want light, call Ken, or just get a little P&S.

I kind of hate to say this, Mike, but I don't give a damn about your opinion.

OK, that's unfair and untrue. I enjoy reading what you have to write, and I'm always glad to find a new post, but honestly, what's all this *camera* stuff doing on a blog about *photography*?

I use Canons, I use Nikons, and I'll probably never use a Sony. I know what I have the most fun with, and I know which to pull off the shelf under which circumstances.

I'm glad you're having fun, and I know it's not your fault, but I don't understand why people are getting so hot and bothered about your verdicts.

Hey, are you gonna get a copy of the Panasonic G1? *That'd* be cool.

John, with tongue planted near his cheek, but not firmly

"Hey, are you gonna get a copy of the Panasonic G1?"


Mike J.


Suh-weet. I tried to play with one this evening, but the store didn't have any in stock.

I have to say that I'm pleased that you're spending some time with your first Canon DSLR.

Regarding the first set of responses from your first post: I know you'll follow some of the good advice here and not let the naysayers deter you from your experiences with the 5D MkII.

My experience has been every time a new Canon has come out, there are always those that come out of the woodwork, and jump in and bitch about this and that for whatever model the camera is. Readers using 5Ds will remember all the gnashing of teeth and wringing of hands regarding the lack of fully weather-resistant sealing of the body, and the AF system from the XXD-series of cameras when the 5D first came out. It didn't stop the camera from becoming quickly THE reference standard for image quality.

Regarding Canon ergos, build quality, and control layout: For every person who grouses about Canon ergos, buttons, and dials, there is someone who is very pleased and comfortable with the design of Canon cameras. It's, as you have alluded to, a very individual thing. Ever since I bought my first Canon DSLR, a D60 in 2002, they've always just made sense for me. They just flat WORK. Nikons, on the other hand, have never been as good as a fit for my sensibilities, as I am sure Canons are not for the folks who like Nikons. Big deal. They are all so good now you should just buy whatever works best for you, and not worry about everyone else's sensibilities, opinions, or rants. With respect to build quality, I have always been impressed with the build quality of the 5D; higher than that of the XXD series, but slightly less than the 1D-series. It sure works for me. The smaller size and lighter weight are a plus, too. Plus that viewfinder is pretty special. Personally, I've always found Canons really easy to live with, in rough seas and calm, in fair times and foul, just like my Honda motorcycles.

But the bottom line is image quality. I can already tell from the few 5D images you've posted that this camera has that magical 5D image quality: smooth, luscious images and files that just don't quite look like anything else; it's hard to put your finger on what it is, but just like listening to vinyl music instead of CD's, you know it's special. As soon as I saw them, I thought, "Yup, those are 5D images..."

Keep up the good work and let us know what you think. I'm much more interested in your insights as to what this camera is like to live with, work with, the experience of using it, and the quality of the files you get from it than any objective data-stuff.

BTW, your first post above was another really, really nice piece of writing.

My thoughts are that, as soon as you can, you should start making prints.

And try some in Black and White.


Yay! More shiny things!

The mood turning ominous.. that made me grin :)

There are few consumers more sensitive about their chosen marquee than internet dSLR owners.

I agree that with enough practice a camera will become second nature, but my opinion is that this is no excuse for bad design. Some idiosyncrasies just become a real nuisance. For instance, I tend to switch a lot between M and Av, and then I always turn the wrong dial when changing aperture or shutter speed, no matter how much I practice. I don't think that Canon cameras are badly designed (actually I really like my 40D) but the issue with the control dials is something I think Canon should fix.

I appreciate the courage you are demonstrating in comparing two established heavyweights (Nikon and Canon) and the new interloper (Sony). Why some people feel threatened when a brand other than theirs gets some praise, I don't know, but they do. Some backlash is inevitable. You know that, yet you press on anyway. That's good journalism. And even though I long ago learned to just enjoy my camera without fretting how about how it compares to Brand X, for some reason I still find these comparisons interesting. Compare on!

Hello Mike. Ignore the braying mobs and their blood-curdling growl.. Just give us your honest opinion about this little contraption, and its light gathering capabilities. Then, if you feel up to it compare it to its other Full Frame brethren, the D700 and the A900. Don’t feel obliged to declare a winner, but do tell us which one you’re prepared to put money down, as well as why. I think we are all curious about your why, and want your personal opinion.. not another pixel peeping image comparison and feature war comparison. Keep it simple.. and just let us have the facts.. YOUR facts!


Bloodcurling mob member

" but then, on cameras that have a zillion controls and 4,680 configurations, exactly where would you stop doing this?"

Review complete right there. ;)

There, that wasn't hard, was it?

I am quite curious on your opinion, Mike.

DXOMark comparisons clearly shows that the D700 outperforms the 5DII in low light, although a recent review in a major US magazine says that the 5DII "matches" the D700 in low light. Whether that comment is opinion or advertisement remains up for discussion.

@Stuart Hamilton: brilliant!

In answer to Cateto/Jose:

Be careful with the DXOMark numbers. As far as I know the basic high-ISO one is the highest film speed at which the raw data has 9 stops signal/noise, but without correcting for pixel density. Elsewhere they have an article comparing this data for a few cameras with different pixel counts, and showing that (in most case) the noise advantage of fewer pixels goes away when you compare correctly.

In other words, the basic number is a measure of how noisy individual pixels will be, which is only relevant at 100% on the screen. When you print both at the same size, the higher-res camera's pixels are smaller, and thus their noise gets averaged out more by the software/ink/your eyes.

You should also be wary of users' reports of noise, and of Dpreview's crusade against high-resolution sensors, for the same reason.



Arca Swiss user.

I can't wait until Hitler learns about the "black spot" issue.

Camera weight is important in certain respects.

If you are too weak ignore this please.

I find that a heavy weight can often be much easier to steady for slow hand held exposures. I appreciate that if you are wandering about then the weight could be too much. I solve this by using a backpack which has a lug to attach the camera to (and taking the weight onto my shoulders).

When filming a movie a couple of years ago I got the cameraman who was doing a particular scene handheld to attach part of the tripod to the camera for weight. He felt it smoothed out his movements.

A minor point I know!

I shoot with the 1DS MKII and also the 5D. I rate the 5D image quality as good as the 1DS MKII and the high ISO much better.

"Yeah, cameras do see more than we do. Shouldn't it tell us something?"

Mine have always done so, even the poor ones. I suspect that is why I do this.

Dear Jose,

That "clear" difference in low-light performance is only one third of a stop. That is not a big difference by anyone's standards.

Furthermore, if you look at the noise plots for the two cameras, you'll see that when the photographs are printed out the smaller pixel size compensates for the higher per-pixel noise so that the results are essentially identical.

In summary, this is not a case of objective measurement versus opinion; the two would be substantially in accord.

~ pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

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