Pros: Reliable, high image quality, great noise handling, good dynamic range.
Cons: Outdated AF and metering system, low FPS, slightly outdated controls
- At the time, the 5D Mark II was a big upgrade to the original Canon 5D. Some of the updates included:
- The updated sensor (Digic II CMOS in the 5D Classic vs Digic IV, CMOS in the 5D Mark II, which up until recently was still widely used by Canon)
- More megapixels - 12.1 Megapixels in the Canon 5D classic, vs 21.1 megapixels in the 5D Mark II
- The introduction of Live View and Full HD Video to the 5D Mark II
- ISO capabilities were expanded from 100-1600 on the 5D Classic (expandable to 50-3200) up to 100-6400 on the Canon 5D Mark II (expandable to 50-25,600).
- Improved viewfinder (98% viewfinder on 5D Mark II) as well as improved LCD (3.0" 920,000 dot vga 5D Mark 2 vs 2.5" 230,000 dots in the 5D classic).
- Allows for different size raw captures - this is pretty big when the average file coming out of the camera for a raw file can be closer to 25mb given lighting conditions, etc). Allows for Large Raw (5616x3744), Medium Raw (3861 x 2574) or small raw (2784 x 1856). This can be very useful, especially if you know you're not going to be printing large images as it can help you save more images on your cards.
- Update to the LP-E6 battery system (better quality batteries; on average, many more exposures on the 5D Mark II than the 5D Classic; also, shares batteries with the Canon 7D and the Canon 5D Mark III)
I'll write a bit about the camera and its usage here, and then I'll talk about some things that I wish Canon had incorporated into the camera at release.
The 5D Mark II is a fantastic camera, but it can be somewhat situational. For photographers, this camera truly shines in an environment where there isn't alot of activity (relatively, I guess - think studio photography, portraiture, landscape photography, event and product photos, to name a few). That's not to say that the camera can't handle action - it absolutely can, but not nearly as well as it's successor the Canon 5D Mark III or the Canon 7D, and this is simply due to some of the limitations outlined (reusing the same 9 point (6 point assist) single cross type auto focus system, low FPS, etc). That being said, the Canon 5D Mark II is still perfectly capable of capturing action shots -- just not like some of its successors.
As indicated above - the camera is great for landscapes, portraiture, and event photography. For professional photographers that shoot Canon, the 5D Mark II was probably in the bags and hands of any serious wedding photographer over the last couple of years, and probably will remain so due to the price difference between the Canon 5D Mark II and 5D Mark III (MSRP on 5D Mark II is currently $2199; 5D Mark III is $3499), but I think this price point (used ones are now going for anywhere from $1250 to $1800 now) now truly breaks it into the enthusiast level as well. The camera is quite capable of taking fantastic quality images for those with experience in photography and SLR cameras and pretty much hasn't left my hands since I picked it up.
As great as the Canon 5D Mark II is, everything has or had room for improvement. In general, the autofocus system was a bit of a disappointment (but moreso in retrospect and not at the time, only because the 7D was not yet released and nobody had heard of or seen an AF system like that in the non-1D style bodies). The frames per second handcuffed the 5D Mark II and kind of kept it from becoming a contender for work as a serious sports camera. Also, while this is somewhat minimal, the power switch system was the same as the 5D classic; the single switch on the mode dial (which looks to have been introduced by the 7D) was a awesome improvement (this also left more room on the back of the camera for (potentially) more features.
Canon has answered almost all of these cons of the 5D Mark II with its recent release of the Canon 5D Mark III -- even more robust ISO range (100-25,600 native, expandable to 50 - 102,400), a 61 point high-density reticular Auto Focus system (41 cross-type points at f/4, and 5 dual-diagonal points at f/2.8) (as well as its own dedicated menu tab for the AF system alone), a bump to 6FPS, dual card slots (SD or CF) and more.
The fact that Canon took the focus system out of their new flagship professional photography camera (1Dx, originally slated for release in June) and added it to their 5D Mark III is kind of unique, mostly because the 1Dx isn't available yet. In comparison, the Canon 7D release date was 9/1/2009; the 5D Mark II was announced almost a year earlier. My initial thought was that these release dates were much closer together; had they been, we might have seen a 5D Mark II with the focus and metering system of the 7D, and that would have made for a very robust camera, which would pretty much only marginally been upgraded by the 5D Mark III as it currently is.
Try not to get blinded by some of my critiques of what the camera doesn't do or could have done. The Canon 5D Mark II is no slouch, and given the recent release of the 5D Mark III and its price drops, should be considered a viable option for enthusiasts looking to take their photography to the next level and upgrade to a capable, full frame DSLR solution.