When the original EOS 5D was launched it had almost no competition. The only other full-frame DSLR available at the time was its big brother the EOS 1Ds Mk2, which was much larger and heavier, and considerably more expensive (the EOS-1DS was around £5000). The lightweight and (relatively) reasonably priced EOS 5D brought the advantages of full-frame photography within the reach of amateur photographers, and more importantly within the reach of many thousands of existing owners of Canon 35mm film SLRs, who could now afford to use their lenses on a digital camera. It's really not that surprising that it was so successful.
Five years on however the 5D Mk2 isn't going to have it so easy. Most of those 35mm users will have already made the switch to digital, and it also doesn't have market all to itself any more. It has to compete with two very good lightweight full-frame DSLRs, in the highly accomplished shapes of the Nikon D700 and the Sony Alpha A900, both of which are over £300 cheaper than the Canon camera. The 12.1-megapixel D700 might appear to be outclassed by the 21.1-megapixel 5D Mk2, but its advanced 51-point AF system, 5fps shooting speed and impressive high-ISO noise control should not be dismissed lightly. The Sony A900 is an even more formidable opponent. It has a 24.6-megapixel CMOS sensor, built-in sensor-shift image stabilisation and sensor cleaning, 5fps shooting in Raw+JPEG mode, a tough weatherproof body and what is widely acclaimed as the best viewfinder on the market. Against such competition the EOS 5D Mk2 may be in for a rougher time than its illustrious predecessor.
Physically the Mk2 is clearly its father's son. The body is almost exactly the same size and shape as the original 5D, measuring 152 x 113.5 x 75mm, and has exactly the same body-only weight of 810g, although adding the new 1800mAh battery pushes this up to 890g, or just shy of two pounds. This new battery is significantly more powerful than the 1350mAh pack in the 5D, and has greatly improved cold weather performance. One of the Mk2's new features is an option to keep track of the charge and overall condition of several batteries, and the charge level can now be expressed as a percentage, similar to Sony's InfoLithium cells.
The camera's controls are also virtually identical to the previous model, with Canon's familiar two-wheel system. The menu has had a thorough overhaul to improve its appearance, and now includes an on-screen quick menu similar to those used by Sony and Olympus, navigated via the small joystick control to the right of the screen. Although this does provide quick access to all the main shooting functions, the control logic is a bit counter-intuitive at times. While the joystick is used to navigate and select which item to adjust, the actual adjustments are made using the two data wheels (the large wheel on the back of the camera and the smaller finger wheel just behind the shutter button), and it's not always obvious which controls what. In the Sony and Olympus menus, the D-pad can be used to make adjustments as well as selections.
The main menu is rather daunting in its complexity, but among its nine pages and dozens of options it does provide more customisation of every aspect of the camera's operation and performance than anyone could ask for. It's certainly not recommended for beginners, but in the hands of an experienced photographer it