I Miss the Canon 5D Mk II: An Ode to Canon’s Most Perfect DSLR

The Canon 5D Mk II was a pretty perfect DSLR that changed the entire industry.

Her name was Dahlia–and she was my Canon 5D Mk II that I adored in so many ways. This is the camera that I really, truly forged my career with as an Editor in Chief and camera tester. It served its need and purpose for a long time and I ultimately miss this camera. Despite how much grief I’ve given Canon over the years, the Canon 5D Mk II is something that will always stand out to me as something that they did right. There were complaints about it based on how the industry was evolving, but the camera was still a fantastic one in the hands of a photographer that knew how to work with its quirks.

Canon 50mm f1.4 shot at f1.4 on the 5D Mk II

I knew a ton of photographers that loved the feeling of the Canon 5D Mk III when it came out. But I couldn’t warm up to it. Where the Canon 5D Mk II felt like a Leica S medium format camera, the Canon 5D Mk III felt like a 7D on steroids. And I missed the elegant though serious feel of the Canon 5D Mk II. The last camera to come close to that build was the Canon 6D. And that was basically the 5D Mk II but with Wifi and better high ISO output. But every time I picked up the 5D Mk II, I was given a sense of joy. It’s like putting on your favorite jacket. Or the way you feel after you fit into a piece of clothing that you haven’t for a long time. That sense of elation hit me each and every time that my fingers reached around the grip of the Canon 5D Mk II.

Buy Canon 5D Mk II: Amazon / eBay

Despite it’s elegant feel, it wasn’t at all something meant to be treated with preciousness. In fact, my Canon 5D Mk II survived Hurricane Sandy. When it was happening here in NYC, I decided to do the typical stupid thing that every hobbyist and professional photographer that’s passionate about their craft will do. I went out and shot–instead of relegating the camera to something that was just for work, this was in many ways the equivalent of a constant companion. Please believe me when I say that no single camera has ever had that effect on me and I test a ton. Despite how much I like Olympus, Sony, Fujifilm and Canon’s current lineup, nothing has replaced that feeling of joy. That’s not to say that I don’t find contentment in these new cameras, but lots of what’s made today feel like soulless objects meant to pass measurbation tests in some ways. The Fujifilm X Pro 3 is the closest thing to a camera that I’m wholeheartedly passionate about, but I don’t get to spend as much time as I’d like to with it.

With the Canon 5D Mk II, I was constantly using it to test first party and third party lenses and accessories. Fujifilm doesn’t have that open of a community though. Zeiss and Rokinon are really the only major manufacturers that we find lenses for. We know that there are others, but not a lot. Flashes are a different story.

And in case you were wondering: the Canon 5D Mk II survived Hurricane Sandy. And it did a great job. It kept working for a long time after that until having problems with the hot shoe and Phottix’s transmitters.

You’ve gotten this far and read my love letter to the Canon 5D Mk II. But let me address some of the problems first. The biggest one was the autofocus. It was at a time when photographers wanted to use more than just the center focus point. Otherwise, why even bother having them? Unless you had good lighting and put the focusing point on a high contrast area, the were almost unless. The Canon 5D Mk II was instead for the photographer that used the center focus point and recomposed. 

Remember doing that?

And besides having all the resolution that you really needed for the time, the RAW files were beautiful. They looked gorgeous in many ways because of Canon’s color science. But like the Canon 5D original, they had a film-like look to them that Canon hasn’t really captured again since. 

Alas, this is a time when cameras were much different products. And in some ways, I’m sitting in my Brooklyn apartment missing those days.