First Glance At The Canon 5D MK11 - Good News/Bad News

There's nothing like the thrill of a new camera. Canon 5D MK11• Canon 5D MK11 Sample Gallery
Sorry, there's nothing like the thrill of a new camera. If you are a regular reader of my photographic ramblings, you'll know I love cameras but hate gear. Not hate... but I just don't like to see the equipment become the tail wagging the dog. It should always be about the photos first. And... to follow up on that, the photos should always be about the content.

So while I think photography should be more about the photographer and not about the gear, I like nice things. And, I like them to do what they're supposed to do, simply, elegantly and reliably.

To reestablish my role in this little adventure, as I start working with the 5D MK11 over the next few weeks and months, please keep in mind, I'm only going to share with you MY experience with the camera. I'm not going to measure things. I'll only compare things through my own experience and I'll only talk about the results, the hands-on use and the images in layman's terms. I'm just a guy with a camera trying to take the best pictures I know how. I'm not a lab technician, an engineer... and I DO NOT pixel peep. I'm just going to give you my personal opinion with along my likes and dislikes.

First pop of the shutter and once glance at the preview screen, I'm grinning from ear-to-ear.With respect to the images I post, I doubt that I'll show any side-by-side comparisons. While I may post a picture "straight from the camera" to demonstrate a talking point, the pictures I'll typically post will be processed the way I process all my images... in Aperture. The descriptions will be a conversation. If you're looking for an in-depth review, I'm not your guy. For amazing in-depth reviews, I highly recommend DPReview.

What I hope to do is run this camera through the rigors of how I shoot and see what we get. I hope to try it with a variety of lens including the Canon 16mm-35mm f/2.8 L, 24mm-105mm f/4 IS L, 70mm-200mm f/2.8 (non-IS) L and the Canon 500mm f/4 IS L. While I probably won't use this camera a lot when shooting trackside, I do intend to use it and test the limits in sports/action situations.

Wow... 16mm is WIDE. You have to be careful you're not shooting your feet! When used effectively, the foreground adds incredible impact.My first outing with the 5D MK11 was a trip to the beach. I love shooting down at the pier because you get a variety of subjects, and given the right time of the day, terrific light and color. For this outing I only took one lens, the 16mm-35mm f/2.8. My reasoning was simple. I am so geeked about shooting wide angle on a full frame sensor I'm beside myself. I wasn't disappointed. I mean, wow... 16mm is WIDE. You have to be careful you're not shooting your feet. But, I love the look. As you'll see in some of the samples, the sky can be so dramatic and when used effectively, the foreground adds incredible impact.

One of the first things that struck me with the 5D MK11 is that mechanically, it's loud. Now, I know my Leica's are silent.... but I've got a few hundred thousand clicks in my head from shooting D30, D60, 10D, 20D, 30D and 40D bodies... this camera (to me)is louder. Not a big deal... but it is louder. Even the small knurled knob on top for controlling aperture, etc. "clicks" louder... but the positions are also well defined.

Kodachrome didn't do many of the things Paul Simon said it did, the Canon 5D MK11 does.The new hi-res preview screen is BEAUTIFUL. Honest.... it takes chimping to whole new level. It also has an auto-brightness feature. Shooting into dusk, I got to experience it first hand. I'm not sure I'll leave it in the auto mode, though I have been fooled when shooting at night. The screen always looks brighter at night and unless you're checking the histogram, you can misjudge your results at-a-glance.

The 5D M11's feel in my hands was pretty much the same as all my other Canon cameras. It might be a bit heavier... but nothing you'd notice in use. It should also be noted, I never use a camera without a vertical battery grip. That also applies to this camera. The optional battery grip provides much better balance (for me) and I like have all the controls repositioned when shooting in portrait mode.

Speaking of batteries, the 5D MK11 is using different batteries (and charger) than the 40D, so if you're contemplating sharing, that's not going to happen.

Keep in mind, these samples are from a guy with a camera and lens... shooting backlit, no flash and some fairly challenging sunset situations.Back to the photos. First pop of the shutter and once glance at the preview screen, I'm grinning from ear-to-ear. The colors were the best I've seen on the back of a camera. Seriously, this image looked the way probably most people "imagine" Kodachrome looked. Even though Kodachrome didn't do many of the things Paul Simon said it did, the Canon 5D MK11 does. Fantastic blue sky with fluffy white clouds, amazing reds... and (this proved to be true once downloaded) what appeared to be exquisite detail.

In the sample gallery you'll see for yourself. Just keep in mind, the approach to these samples are a guy with a camera and lens... shooting backlit, no flash and some fairly challenging sunset situations.

Upon download you become immediately aware that the images are huge. There is so much detail. You'll notice a few shots of the pier. I've shot that pier with several different Leicas and several Canon cameras, I've never seen images hold the detail like the files in the 5D MK11. It's stunning. And while I've never been one to encourage aggressive cropping, these files give you the feeling you're working with a medium format negative. Just awesome.

I've never seen images hold the detail like the files in the 5D MK11. It's stunning.As mentioned earlier, I've processed these photos the same way I process all my work. I go through, tweak the brightness, shadows, saturation, sharpness etc. to suit my eye. Now I know "purists" will say... "but we want to see what the camera produces." And I will respond, "well, you're going to see what I produce, with the camera." To me, that's what its all about... real world situations. I'm not massaging the living daylights out of every image or spending hours in Photoshop. I put them into a project in Aperture, do some quick adjustments to suit my eye (and taste) and what you see is what I captured using the Canon 5D MK11. I don't do anything the average enthusiast can't do and I don't view it as tricks or smoke and mirrors. The camera is the Canon 5D MK11 and these are the pictures I took using it.

About 200 frames into the evening, the camera started spitting our Error 20 messages and never recovered.OK... so, here's the bad news. About 200 frames into the evening, the camera started spitting our Error 20 messages and never recovered. It seems Error 20 means the mirror locks up and won't return to firing position. I followed several reset steps, but to no avail my day was done. And, so it seems, was the camera's. I was able to find online users sharing similar experience with the camera, but I can't speak to the frequency or tell you this is a common occurrence.

This camera was purchased from Roberts Imaging. their customer service is second to none.Now, the good news. This camera was purchased from Roberts Imaging. I don't know if Roberts is the lowest reseller on the internet, as that's not how I choose who I deal with. I do know they are extremely competitive in their pricing. More importantly, I know their customer service is second to none. One phone call to them (on a Saturday, mind you) and I was provided a return number and the confirmation a new camera will leave their warehouse on Monday. No question. No drilling me about "have you tried this or done that?" Or, "have you called Canon?" None of that... Roberts' phone rep apologized for the inconvenience, shared my disappointment and took every step to rectify the problem as quickly as possible. This is why I have been dealing with them for years and why many of the other pro-shooters I know deal with them too.

So, here's the first batch of images.