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Sunday, 21 September 2008

Hands On with the 5D MkII, G10 & 24mm f1.4L MkII

A day after the announcements I was fortunate enough to be one of the few invited by Canon to check out the new additions. Before I continue, its important to point out that all of the equipment was pre-production and as experience has shown in the past, final production products are much more polished in both performance and quality terms.

I headed straight for the 5D MkII. This camera has huge shoes to fill as the 5D has without a doubt been responsible for being revolutionary in the digital SLR market. I’m happy to announce that it most definitely doesn’t disappoint.

The camera has a familiar feel to it; anyone who has a 5D will feel right at home. It does feel better in the hand though. It has a tougher feel to it and the fact that its weather sealed  will add to the usability of this camera.

The focusing system, although the same as the 5D, has a new processor, the Digic 4 and a new algorithm; although I didn’t put it to a proper side by side test, it certainly felt faster than the 5D.

On paper, the camera has a 0.9 fps faster motor drive (in fact, compared to the way fps used to be calculated, its 4fps, but as this system has now changed, Canon have had to call it 3.9fps!). Although I definitely would’ve preferred 5 or 6fps, its still quick enough for the kind of work its aimed at.

Alas the control dial still doesn’t have a lock on it. Although the dial’s quite stiff and clicks round with a reassuring resistance, I’m sure like the 5D, in a situation where you’re running around or stuck in a rush in the middle of a riot, the dial will again move. Whilst addressing disappointments, its a shame that there is a dedicated button on the back of the camera for “Picture Styles”! How many people use this?! Mine are always set to neutral and remain this way. This button should have been programmed as a lock to protect / tag chosen images. Hopefully this can be changed with a future firmware upgrade.

The two big headline features for me are the high ASA range and the video recording abilities of the camera. I shot a load of images with the pre-production camera and it really is very impressive. As non of the RAW converters can yet convert the to be released camera’s files, I was shooting jpegs. The quality of the images (both in terms of colour accuracy, detail and image noise) was stunning at 3200 ASA. Even at 6400 ASA the images are crisp and beautiful. I wouldn’t hesitate in using this camera at this high sensitivity settings. The camera doesn’t disappoint as you get higher either; it produces results that weren’t even imaginable until Nikon brought out the D3. Talking of which, side by side tests shown by Canon at 25,600 ASA showed the 5D MkII producing a more detailed, crisper and less noisy image. Astonishing!

The video recording aspect is equally mind blowing. Canon had several movies shot on the camera playing at full 1080P HD on 42” flat screen TVs; the quality is absolutely out of this world. Just think of the possibilities; you can use your full range of SLR lenses and shoot with minimum depth of field - even in wide angle. It just opens up so many creative possibilities. Also, you no longer need to invest in and carry more equipment; its all there in your bag. Just add an external microphone (for better sound recordings). Also do remember not to hold the camera in an upright position!

The camera has a newer battery which I guess was changed to be able to handle the extra power needed for video. There’s also a new grip and most interestingly another grip with built in WiFi.

Around half the shots I took with the 5D MkII were with the new 24mm f1.4L MkII. I had the original version of this lens and must admit that I was never a big fan. On my 1DS MkII or 5D it just didn’t produce great results. However, this version is mind blowingly good; absolutely pin sharp, great colour and resolving ability. Also, somehow, at f1.4 there seems to be less depth of field than I remember getting with my lens - brilliant!

Now onto the G10 - the new compact camera that I envisage will be draped off every photographers’ shoulder! 

The body design is superb; its as tough as the G9, but is chunkier with a better grip and a bigger optical viewfinder (I wear spectacles and could look through it with ease). They have introduced an exposure compensation dial to the left and the ISO and mode dials are on top of each other and on the right - very neat!

Also the long needed 28mm wide end is finally here! I took a load of shots with this camera too (again, on jpeg) and I’m very impressed. The images are crisp, detailed and have great and accurate colour, even on auto white balance. The camera produced better results than the G9 up to 400 ASA and much better results at 800 and 1600 ASA. It has a new high ASA noise filtration system which actually works really well and doesn’t soften the image in any way. This is the first time in my career where I’ve actually enthused about this kind of system, as they never work.

Canon have also improved on the exposure metering; the G9 always had the tendency to over expose (mine’s permanently got -0.3 dialed in). The G10’s exposure was spot on.

I absolutely rate this little camera - definitely get one folks!

All said and done, the day did end with disappointment; I now need to somehow find a way to pay for a couple of 5D MkII bodies, a G10 and quite possibly the 24mm f1.4L MkII too!!

Addendum 1:  I now have a full production model which I'm reviewing for a magazine - check HERE for more on the camera.

Addendum 2: For my short film shot with a 5D MkII, please check THIS post.

Addendum 3: FULL REVIEW of Canon 5D MkII: Part 01 and Part 02


  1. Hello,
    is there distorsion at 28 mm?

    Thanks for your answer.

  2. Hi PPL,

    None that I could see. I didn't shoot anything apart from people and was very impressed with the quality of the lens- its very crisp.

  3. How much is Canon paying you? Do they have any open jobs? :)

  4. Hi Simon,
    I did shoot some video, but just played with it as opposed to really exploring it; hopefully I'll do that in the future. The examples Canon showed were superb though. Also, Vincent La Foret's done some video and was blown away by it.

    Hi Anonymous,
    Canon isn't paying me anything. If I think a piece of kit is good and of use to my job, I make positive comments on it. If I don't think its any good, I'll make my negative comments on it. Its pretty straight forward.

  5. I have been using the G9 for a year and love it. Except for the viewfinder which is useable but unappealing. Is the G10 viewfinder and improvement. Thanks

  6. I lust after all three of these new products, thanks for the quick reviews.

    Question. I bought a G9 when it was first released and would never part with it, but I would like a 28mm lens and lower noise (though I would really miss the reach!). I consider the G9 "usable" up to ASA 400, how much better would you say the G10 is with regard to noise?

  7. I've heard a lot about dust being sucked into the lens barrel on the G9 as its opened, and accumulating inside as a result of static charge generated by the plastic barrels themselves - a big oversight if you ask me, especially in a $500 compact. This of course could be solved by installing some dust brushes or seals between the barrel sections. Do you know if dust sealing has improved with the G10?

  8. Edo, you're like a kid in a candy shop, and yes, that makes me jealous. ;-)

    Anyways, we've got there, huh? Video on a D-SLR. Never thought it would happen.

    I suppose you do this using the LCD monitor and not via the optical viewfinder?

    Still, I hate Canon controls and would much rather the D-700 just because I'm used to Nikon layout.

    However, the G10 sounds really nice. Had a G3 once and would have used it more if noise was more under control.

    The G10 sounds great. Any sample shots online anywhere?

    Suggestion. Get your new kit, get back to Armenia for a photo story, and let me play with your new toys for a bit. :-)

  9. Anonymous,
    The viewfinder is bigger than the G9's and even with glasses is now much more useable.

    With the G10 the useable ASA becomes 800; having said that, at 1600 its really a very nice and crisp with its "grain". Its really hard to make definitive statements though as i) it was a pre-production camera and ii) I was shooting jpegs. As far as reach goes, its naturally a personal choice. I'd prefer a 24mm to 105mm on a compact with a fast f-stop.

  10. Zen,

    I've had a G7 and now a G9 and haven't had a dust problem. I'm sorry but I haven't got an answer for you regarding the G10's dust proofing.

  11. Hi Onnik,

    Yep, we've got there!! Digital cameras that now perform better than slide film and HD video which isn't a gimmick but puts to shame video cameras and lens combinations costing tens of thousands (visually; sound is a different question as there are no manual controls for recording level. I don't know how well the automatic works yet).
    For video you used the LCD on the back and the set button to start and stop recording.
    As far as Canon controls, it takes getting used to. When I switched over from Nikon four years ago, it took me about a week to be 100% efficient on the 1D MkII. Its strange but when I did a review of the D3, it seemed completely alien to me as I had now got used to the Canon control system! I think its something anyone can pick up given a few days.
    The G10 is superb! Here's a link for samples:

    Also keep an eye on:

    I'd love to come and do a story in Armenia - alas funds don't allow that and at this stage don't allow me to go shopping!!

  12. Hi Edmond,
    do you have any idea how it compares to the LX3? Do you have any experience with that one? (it has a 24 -60 for you :)
    How about dynamic range? Sky washed out?

  13. Yep, have had a play with the LX3. Its a superb camera and nicely designed. However the image quality is terrible compared to the G9, let alone the G10.
    The dynamic range (non scientifically) is broad; having shot portraits of a friend (who's white) wearing a black leather jacket, all seemed well (on jpegs) with lots of shadow and highlight detail.

  14. I am a happy G9 user and expect 28mm for a long time. G10 now offers 28mm but cut back the 6x zoom to 5x. Moreover, it reduce the image size on movie from 1024x768 to 640x480. Can't understand why Canon make such cut backs ... which reduce my desire to upgrade now.

  15. Naturally I can't comment for Canon. My thoughts on the lens having a shorter long end is purely because of quality. Compromises have to made in the quality of a lens when trying to have too long a focal range. If you look at the SLR lenses, the best quality zooms cover certain lengths; 16-35, 24-70, 70-200 and so on. This is purely to keep quality and also a faster aperture. Lenses like the 28-300, even the L lens, are no where near as good as using the smaller focal lengths mentioned above.
    As far as the movie mode, I don't really have a clue! Perhaps its to do with the processing needed as the chip is so large?

  16. Hi
    thanks for your comments. Do you mean that the LX3 has a high DR or the G10? The new sensor from Fuji seems very promising. I think what they are doing is on-chip HDR, measure each sensor intensity and adjust the "shutter" range in that sensor -victor

  17. Hi Victor,
    My DR comments are about the G10. I don't know how the LX3 and G10 compare on DR, but the noise on the LX3 is so much that it has discounted itself for my consideration (which is a shame because on paper and in design, its superb).

  18. I believe Vincent's video is now up:

  19. What kept me from buying the G9 was the enormous shutter lag, as I do a lot of street and similar subjects - did this improve?

  20. Simon, you're a star - thanks for the link. Its amazing! I'm going to post it now. Cheers.

  21. Anonymous - the shutter lag was fine on the G10. In the time I played with it I was never aware on a lag issue. Having said that, my G9's not that bad in the lag department. Usually I try and pre-focus on something of an equal distance and then it fires pretty quickly.

  22. The Ixus 980 IS has the same sensor than the G10 and the IQ is bad at 400 iso (see dcwatch siteweb).

    I hope that the G10 IQ will be better...

  23. Hi from New Zealand, I'm curious if you used the Safety Zoom option which would push the G10 well past 200mm - albeit by reducing the file size. If so, what did quality look like?

  24. The G10 has 640x480 video @ 30fps.
    The G9 also has this, but it also has 1024x768 @ 15fps. With my G9 I've had to keep away from the bigger video simply because the framerate is too low for my uses. So the G10 losing that mode isn't a problem for me.

    Actually I'll be sticking with my G9 for a while yet. It works OK for now (sure, lower noise would always be better, and a wider lens can be nicer, but I haven't felt too hamstrung by the G9). It shares batteries/charger with some other units in our kit, etc. Maybe next year I'll look again, but who knows: at this rate there might be a G11 by then...

  25. I didn't use the digital zoom of the camera. I tend not to venture outside of the optical zoom. However, if you need to zoom in closer, you can always crop the image later in software. It'll give the same results.

  26. You mentioned that on the G9 you prefocused in order to avoid "shutter lag" problems (which I guess are really a combination of AF and shutter delays).

    Did you have to prefocus with the G10 as well to avoid lag? Would you say the AF is noticeably faster than on the G9?

    And in what sorts of situations would you say that the G10 is capable of capturing The Decisive Moment, if any?

  27. Hi Peter,
    I took 33 pictures with the G10 and mainly concentrated on seeing the noise levels (lack of!) and the image and lens quality on the whole, with which I was very impressed.
    Apart from one shot where I focused on the wall behind my subject, I had no issues with the focusing and it was speedy and the shutter fired when I'd recomposed the shots. I certainly never felt that it was taking too long.
    Not comparing it side by side, I can't say for definite if it was faster than the G9, but it did feel speedier.
    As far as decisive moments go, I guess it depends on how quick these are! Its a very speedy and a high quality camera. Its definitely not as fast as a 1D MkIII or a Leica M4P! Any compact camera has to have its compromises; this one just doesn't have many.

  28. Hello Edmond,
    could you post some samples from the G10 ????

  29. Sorry PPL; no can do. The shots were taken on a pre-production camera and the pictures I took were purely for my own evaluation purposes and not for publication (as was agreed with Canon as a condition). However, if its any conciliation, trust me - the results are superb!

  30. Hi,
    I'm curious about the distortion at 28 mm on G10. Is there any?

    Thanks for your answer.

  31. Hello Edmond,
    you said that the photos from the LX3 have too much noise.

    But when I see these samples (from Canon website), it seems to me that there is more noise on the Canon photos, no ?

  32. Anonymous,

    There's very little distortion at 28mm. The extreme edges show a tiny barrelling with the lens pointed slightly downwards but not much.

  33. PPL,

    A friend of mine has the LX3 and I was looking at his pictures on a laptop and there's a lot of noise in shadow areas - even at low ASA compared to the G9. When I looked at these pictures the G10 hadn't even been announced yet. Needless to say, the G10's even better.

  34. Hi Edmund,

    Perhaps it would be helpful to give us a crop from another camera which come close to the noise level of G10 at ISO 800. Maybe like samples from DPR website.



  35. Hi Chris,
    As the sensor in the G10 is a new sensor and none of my cameras have the same sensor, it would be pointless I'm afraid. There would be no parallel to what the G10 actually looks like. Sorry.

  36. re: G10 Optical Viewfinder. Is it as badly misaligned as the G9s?

  37. The only comment I can make on the optical viewfinder is that its bigger and is actually usable. As far as how it lines up with the lens, I didn't test this.

  38. There's a sample at 400 iso on dcfever.


  39. thanks for the excellent article and comment responses.

  40. Thanks Goblins for the kind comment, and many thanks for all who have added their comments to this post; much appreciated.

  41. I have a G7 and have taken well over 10,000 photos with it now. I am looking to "upgrade" this year to another high end compact camera (non-D-SLR) replacement. What 3 cameras besides the G10 would you recommend and why? My price range is up to $1000.00. Thanks. MB.

  42. Hi Anonymous,

    Before seeing the quality of the files, the Panasonic LX3 would have been one. Another would have been the Sigma DP1 (if a fixed 28mm, or the new version with the 45mm isn't a problem). However, although the image quality is very good at lower ASAs, the handling of the camera is terrible; also an f4 lens on the 28mm may pose problems depending on what you shoot.
    However, after seeing the G10, there's nothing on the market that I've seen which I can recommend more; its a superb camera that ticks all the boxes.

  43. How does the G10 compared to SX1? The specs are similar and SX1 does a lot more with a decent 10MP. I think having 14MP with the small size sensor is way too much. I've been extremely happy with my G5 for years and it's time to get a new one. I've read reviews (with pictures) on G10 elsewhere that ISO 400 and up are very noisy. Comments?

  44. Not having tried the SX1 I can't comment. However to say that the G10 is very noisy at 400 ASA is nonsense. I have pictures here in front of me and they are very very good. At 100% there is bit of noise but it looks very crisp with no colour noise mottling. I'd be more than happy to use the G10 at 400 ASA. All my comments are naturally on the pre-production camera and I suspect things will be a little tweaked before it hits the shops.
    I do agree on the 14 megapixels (I frowned when I first read about it, but in practise the camera produces astonishing results); I'd prefer compacts to max out at 8 or 10 megapixels and for the manufacturers to use the latest chip technology to keep the noise down on higher ASAs.

  45. Canon has two new cameras coming out soon, the SX10 and the SX1 (not available in the US). They are basically the same camera except for the image sensors. Canon put a CCD image sensor in the SX10 and a CMOS image sensor in the SX1...

    The G10 has a CCD image sensor... So my question is... Do you think Canon is planning to put another version of the G10 out with a CMOS image sensor? And if so, do you think the G10's image quality would benefit more from a CMOS image sensor?

    Also what can you tell us about the G10's lens? Does it sport a true "L"/high-quality lens or? Thanks... MB

  46. Hi MB,

    I'd be very surprised if there's going to be another version of the G10; I'd imagine that if there was, it would've been announced at the same time. What you have to remember is that I'm a photographer and don't have any insider knowledge of what Canon is working on - I just get to see some of the goodies sooner than most and try them out; I'm in no way tied to Canon. I think they make the best digital equipment and optics (SLR) available and are my choice for my equipment.
    As far as the lens on the G10 is concerned, I was impressed by it. It was pin sharp and had a crisp contrasty look to it. Also the lens and sensor resolved highlight and shadow really well (in the same scene - I took a shot of a chap wearing a dark suit with a ceiling behind him with loads of lights shining from it. It captured the detail perfectly and didn't flair at all!). As far as it being an "L" lens, its not. To memory the only compact which had an "L" lens was the Pro1.

  47. Hi Edmond,

    thanks for your comments so far on the G10, they read making one "hopeful" regarding the IQ.

    What do you mean by "tweaking before hitting the shops" exactly? Doing things better or worse?

    Thanks for a reply.

  48. Pre-production models are kind of almost ready and as a result are shown to a handful of people. The final versions are always polished up a bit (tech wise) and are in my experience always better. So yes, it'll be tweaked for the better!!
    I was invited to another event yesterday where a much larger group of photographers was shown the 5D MkII and G10; the reaction was extremely positive and I didn't come across anyone who wasn't impressed. I know a bunch of friends who were there placed orders for the cameras as soon as they handled the kit.