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Technical

February 2009

Canon Ambassador Jeff Ascough is regularly voted as one of the world’s top wedding photographers by photo experts on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Although he has been an habitual Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III user, for his regular wedding work, CPN gave him a new EOS 5D Mark II to see how it suited his field of photography.

 

Top wedding photographer Jeff Ascough.

The ‘jewel in the crown’ of the EOS 5D Mark II’s specification has been viewed by many as the camera’s ability to shoot full HD video footage but for Jeff Ascough he views it as primarily a stills camera. “It’s an amazing stills camera and in many ways it’s better suited to what I do. It’s lightweight, performs well at high ISOs and delivers 21 megapixels,” explains Jeff.

He adds: “To be honest I wasn’t a fan of the original 5D at all, in terms of build and handling, but in comparison in my opinion the 5D Mark II is really well built. Having a small camera is great because it’s not intrusive and allows me to shoot in my photojournalistic style.”

Initial thoughts

After using the 5D Mark II at several weddings Jeff had some initial thoughts about the camera's specification and handling: “Everything seems fine mechanically. The shutter is nice and quiet. The autofocus is good, but I'd like to see some way of locking the main control dial (for AV, P, M, TV etc), as it is very easy to move accidentally, especially getting the camera in and out of a camera bag. I love the small size of the camera, although I feel dual cards would have been a nice option to have.”

Jeff Ascough shooting with the EOS 5D Mark II
© Jeff Ascough

Click here to watch a multimedia presentation of Jeff Ascough’s stills and video work with the EOS 5D Mark II.

Exposure

Commenting on the EOS 5D Mark II's exposure Jeff says: “Exposure is very accurate in all lighting conditions, with hardly any compensation required from the photographer. The image quality is fantastic - it matches the EOS-1Ds Mark III.

One of the best features that Jeff found was the 5D Mark II’s abilities in low light: “I’m really pleased that Canon has kept the quality of the flesh tones, particularly in mixed lighting and at high ISOs. The skin tones in low light are amazing, in fact I would say the camera is more consistent in low light than the EOS-1Ds Mark III.”

The low light capability can be extended up to ISO 25,600 thanks to an improved CMOS sensor and the DiG!C 4 processor which removes image noise while retaining detail in the image. Jeff admits: “I’ve not used it beyond 6400 as I can’t really envisage any situation where I would need anything higher.”

© Jeff Ascough

He adds: “The dynamic range looks very similar to the 1Ds Mark III. The dynamic range at high ISO is incredible, and it’s even more surprising with 21 megapixels to play with. The exposure, image quality, and white balance are fantastic and these are really the biggest strengths of the camera. I'm not sure how these could be improved, they are that good. JPEGs out of camera were excellent, with very little required in post processing to make them look great.”

Focusing

© Jeff Ascough

Jeff’s initial feelings on the AF system were: “The centre focus point is great. The other focusing points are not so good. The positioning of them doesn't make sense to me. This is really the only 'issue' I had with the camera. To me it would have been better to have used something like the focus on the EOS-1N - where there is a row of cross sensors which would help focus.”

CPN spoke to him again after he had been using the camera on several shoots over a couple of months and his opinion had shifted a little. “Recently I have covered three more weddings, two of which were done solely using the EOS 5D Mark II. The focusing and AF is great and the camera handles really well. It’s been pretty much faultless.”

Shooting video

Jeff admits that he is much more of a stills photographer than a videographer. He laughs: “It’s been a strange experience using the video feature as I am booked up for the next year as a stills photographer. When shooting weddings to take video footage you’re kind of breaking off from what you usually do.”

He adds: “We’re possibly looking at incorporating video into our wedding coverage, in terms of providing a video/stills multimedia presentation. At the moment the video editing is a whole new world to me so I have to look at whether that takes up too much time or not.”

© Jeff Ascough

But, what about the HD video quality? Jeff laughs: “The image quality in movie mode is excellent - almost too good, as it shows up my rubbish video technique! In-camera sound is a bit muted but it’s no worse than a hand-held consumer video camera.”

Live View Function

One of Jeff’s favourite aspects of the camera is the Live View Mode: “Live View is incredible. The ability to sit at the back of the church, zoom in to focus, and then take a near silent image is phenomenal. It would also be good to be able to perhaps have the option to release the shutter from the SET button. That way the camera would make more sense ergonomically. The record button for the video can be applied to the SET button, so it just makes sense to have that option for the shutter in Live View Mode. Other than that, I've found it very useful in different situations.”

He adds: “As mentioned before JPEGs were great. I'm not really a fan of the preset Picture Styles, but as most people tend to shoot RAW these days, I'm slightly surprised that the Picture Style options are still being used by Canon. The sRAW settings are really good, and I couldn't see any difference in terms of quality amongst those settings.”

© Jeff Ascough

Conclusion

Summing up Jeff notes: “It's a great camera, especially at the price point that it comes in at. Coming from an EOS-1 series background, I can see some of the ‘weaknesses’ it has compared to the 1 series but, those aside, it is really good. For me, the image quality coupled with the size and weight of the camera are very, very appealing.”

He concludes: “Overall it reminds me a lot of the IQ and features of the 1Ds Mark III. I will happily be using one alongside my EOS-1Ds Mark III cameras for all my future assignments.”