Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR Records HD Video

The three-year wait for a successor to Canon's EOS 5D has finally come to an end with today's announcement of the Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital single-lens reflex camera. And the wait was worth it, based on this model's revolutionary specs: This full-frame camera is the first camera to record 1920 by 1080p video.

When it was first introduced, the 5D broke new ground as the first digital SLR with an image sensor that matches the size of a 35mm film frame. A "full-frame" camera is capable of delivering the full range of an SLR lens, such that a 24-to-105mm lens actually delivers a 24mm wide-angle view. This ability is a boon to photographers who want to shoot scenes like landscapes, or weddings and parties.

Many other digital SLRs have sensors that are smaller than that of a 35mm film frame, though. In those cases, the camera has what's commonly referred to as a "crop factor" or "focal-length multiplier" (for example, a Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi has a 1.6X multiplier), and a 24 to 105mm lens effectively becomes a 38-to-168mm lens, instead. The smaller sensor means that the edges of the lens are cropped off, which gives the effect of zooming into the center of the lens.

Latest in Flurry of Full-Frame Cameras

Canon's announcement makes the 5D Mark II the third full-frame digital SLR announced within a few months. The Nikon D700 launched this summer; this 12.1-megapixel model sells for $3000. The Sony Alpha DSLR-A900 was announced last week; the 24.6-megapixel camera will be priced at $3000 when it ships in November.

By announcing last of the three, Canon had the advantage of being able to bring the 21-megapixel 5D Mark II in at an impressive price: $2699 for the body only, and $3499 in a kit with the EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens. Canon expects the camera to ship in November.

The 5D Mark II will be the second Canon digital SLR to use the company's enhanced DIGIC 4 image processing system; the first will be the EOS 50D, due in October. Canon credits DIGIC 4 with enabling many of the 5D Mark II's noteworthy features, including improved noise reduction, faster processing, and ISO ranges of 50 to 25,600. This model can handle shooting at 3.9 frames per second (up from the 5D's 3 frames per second), with unlimited large fine JPEGs or 14 RAW files when using a UDMA CompactFlash card, or 78 large fine JPEGs with a regular CompactFlash card.

HD Video Capture

In the space of a month, the photography and camcorder worlds have been shaken up with the announcement of digital SLRs that can record video. First, the Nikon D90 launched with its 720p, 24 frames-per-second motion JPEG AVI video capture. Then word trickled out that Panasonic plans to offer high-def video capture with the next iteration of its Lumix G1.

Now, Canon's 5D Mark II transforms the landscape further by capturing 30 frames per second MPEG-4 video at 1920 by 1080p resolution. Canon says you can capture up to 12 minutes of high-def video with monoaural sound (approximately 4GB) or 29 minutes, 59 seconds of standard definition video. You can take a picture while recording a movie; the video stops while you snap a still, then it resumes recording. In addition to the built-in mono microphone, you can add an external stereo microphone. A Mini-HDMI port facilitates outputting video directly from the camera to an HDTV.

Other Enhancements

Much has changed in the three years since the original 5D debuted, and Canon has brought this model up to spec in every way imaginable. The camera has the same design and virtually the same weight as before, but there's additional weather sealing around the CompactFlash card and battery compartment, and a new, slightly smaller battery that can track battery power levels. The 3-inch LCD screen has 920,000 dots, anti-glare coating, and fluorine coating for easily wiping off dust. The camera also has Canon's latest integrated sensor cleaning system.

The 5D Mark II features a creative auto mode, as on the 50D, that gives you easy access to settings such as picture styles, exposure compensation in one location.

The Live View mode for framing your shots on the LCD screen has a dedicated button. The camera provides three ways to focus: quick mode, which lowers the mirror temporarily using the 15-point phase detection autofocus mechanism; live mode, which provides contrast based one-point autofocus; and face detection-based focusing.

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