EOS 5D Mark II a risky investment?

God damnit, how many times do I have to tell you people not to bother me anymore with autofocus problems? Seriously, I told you there’s nothing I can do, and there’s nothing more I can say to you. Please, for the love of God and all that is holy, for the sake of my sanity, stop emailing me and calling me. Do you know how I feel when I get calls from frustrated customers and I can’t really comment about the issues they’re having? Let’s just say I’m not really proud to be the technical spokesperson right now at Canon USA when I have to be promoting and standing behind our latest DSLRs. I really want to rave about the products, but it’s fucking embarrassing when people start pointing out the obviously serious issues like the autofocus problems.

And I know I said in the past that the 5D Mark II has better autofocus than the 1D Mark III, but apparently that’s still not good enough. The following comment caught my attention, among many others, mostly because of the person making it, Derek Doublin:

I am experiencing similar issues with my Canon 5D MKII. I am a photographer, a cinematographer, and a director for Jimmy Kimmel Live. I use top of the line L glass and have been having a very difficult time achieving focus. At first I thought it was me until I came across this post.

Recently I tried to process some HDR images and the result was quite astonishing. Despite the new firmware update I believe the black dot issue is still present and can clearly be seen when merging 3 images into an HDR tiff. If the black dots exist in at least two of the images they become extremely evident in an HDR image.

I am very sad to say that this camera needs work. If the video feature wasn’t so crippled I may consider having Canon attempt to repair it under warranty. But since the video feature is so limited, I am now seriously considering moving to a D700 or possibly waiting to see Nikon’s answer to the 5D MKII. Since Nikon does not have a video department to compete with, the Nikon D800 (or whatever it will be called) might just be the game changer. We’ll have to wait and see.

As for now, in my opinion the Canon 5D MKII is a risky investment.

Now you tell me, if you were the Technical Advisor at Canon USA, what the hell do you say to something like this, especially when you know you’re getting emails with such complaints almost daily? How can I honestly tell anyone to buy a 5D Mark II or a 1D/Ds Mark III with such problems? Now do you understand why I get embarrassed?

Look at what Lloyd Chambers is saying:

Canon has announced yet another fix for an AF problem, this time with the 21MP 1Ds Mark III as well as the 1D Mark III.

Kudos to Canon for stepping forward to fix the problem. I like Canon products and I’m not about to give up on them.

But wouldn’t it be better for Canon to test their products a little longer, rather than try to beat Nikon to the market? I already suffered through a previous “recall” with my Canon 1D Mark III last year. Now the 1Ds Mark III too? We’re on the 2nd or 3rd firmware update as well. As I postulated previously, Canon does it first, Nikon does it right. I was serious, but didn’t know I was prescient.

This latest AF issue follows on the heels of a Live View exposure problem with the Canon 5D Mark II. I think it’s fair so say that with 3 professional camera models with issues, this firmly establishes Canon as having a track record of not testing products adequately. And at the cost of customer time, hassle, and perhaps money.

I own a 1Ds Mark III, and will sell it at some point. Any potential buyer will want to know if my camera has “the problem” (not to my knowledge). So I have little choice but to send the camera into Canon for service to test for and/or fix the issue, or at least to get a statement that it’s A-OK. Even so, buyer FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) effectively reduces the value of my 1Ds Mark III, which is why I think Canon needs to do more for customers than a check/repair— an extra year of warranty would be one reasonable approach.

And the thing is, it’s not just the autofocus issues. Depending on the product, it can be many things at the same time, often overwhelming. In the case of the 5D Mark II, I also keep getting reports about the noise and banding in images, even at ISO 100, especially in dark parts of pictures. This thread on DPReview mentions a similar issue. Looking at the sample images, it is quite bad. And this is supposed to be the camera with very low noise? I told the morons in Tokyo last week during a conference call that I want to do my job as best as I can, I really do, but I can’t lie.

What is even more depressing, is that now our competitors are jumping on top of this opportunity to say what I have been telling the morons at Canon Inc. for the last few years now, without them listening. I’m talking about Olympus. Just look at this:

LAS VEGAS–Olympus has declared an end to the megapixel race.

“Twelve megapixels is, I think, enough for covering most applications most customers need,” said Akira Watanabe, manager of Olympus Imaging’s SLR planning department, in an interview here at the Photo Marketing Association (PMA). “We have no intention to compete in the megapixel wars for E-System,” Olympus’ line of SLR cameras, he said.

Instead, Olympus will focus on other characteristics such as dynamic range, color reproduction, and a better ISO range for low-light shooting, he said.

See that? Now Olympus gets to be the hero, the innovator, when I and many others here at Canon have been saying the same thing all along. But did the old farts in upper management listen? Nope. And now they’re getting what’s coming to them.

If you read the article above, pay attention to what Watanabe is saying about the contrast-detect autofocus technology. We’re not very concerned about Olympus here at Canon, but Sony has been scaring the hell out of us for a while now, to be honest. More so than Nikon, and for a lot of reasons. They’ve got their hands on a lot of good technology now, and we’re very concerned about their next wave of DSLRs. If you can recall their DSC-R1 camera from a few years ago, it had a CMOS sensor and really great and reasonably fast contrast-detect autofocus functionality. You could even use the small joystick to move the focus point *anywhere* on the screen and focus *exactly* where you wanted to, even the edges. This was a few years ago. If this makes its way into their DSLRs, with today’s faster processing technology, we’re going to be fucked. We know they have the sensor technology (D3x) with IS, they have the lenses, it’s just a matter of the right software, the pro features and tuning it all to work together. Since they have the financial capabilities, it’s only a matter of time.

I know I sound depressed today, but I can’t help it. I know we have a lot of potential at Canon, but it saddens me to see that we don’t seem to be able to realize it these days, while competitors are moving ahead of us. Let me leave you now with my tech tips for March, while I go lie down for a bit.

28 thoughts on “EOS 5D Mark II a risky investment?

  1. Chuck, you need to relax. Autofocus is obviously a HUGE problem for Canon at the moment but things are not as bad as you think. That thread on DPReview for example, showing the ISO 100 noise in the blue sky, is most likely the result of the idiot setting “C.Fn II-3 Highlight tone priority” to 1:Enable. The user manual states that “noise in the shadow areas may be slightly more than usual” but that is not entirely correct. The manual should have have said that noise will be one stop more than usual *all over*”. I have seen many people using this C.Fn without understanding what it does and then complaining about noise. Perhaps you should address this issue in a future Tech Tips.

    Having said that, I still think that Canon has neglected ISO 100 in favor of high ISOs. My 10D is definitely cleaner at ISO 100 than my 5D. I find this rather disturbing considering that these two cameras have the same pixel pitch.

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  3. Pingback: EOS 5D Mark II a risky investment? « Fake Chuck Westfall | The Click

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  5. Look on the bright side, Not Chuck. If the federal gummint doesn’t get its act together and fix the banking industry, the entire global economy is going to crash and no one will have any money to spend on cameras of any kind. Dud Canons, great Nikons, innovative Sonys — won’t matter. We will have spent the last of our meager funds to get a pot to piss in.

  6. Aww Fake Chuck, why don´t you “dance ballet” on their heads and end all this madness? Hell, maybe even fuji will get better cameras now

  7. Why on earth is the bracketing limited to 3 pictures with -2EV/0/+2EV. Poor HDR photographers have to use homebuilt stuff like HDR-Jack to get the job done. Is it so difficult to modify the firmware to take 7 exposures?
    Chuck, this kick-ass link is for Canon Japan. It’ impossible to find the right email address on the Canon Website, so please forward it to Canon:
    The ultra-compact interval and HDR trigger – http://www.doc-diy.net/photo/hdr-jack/

  8. Say whatever else you want, but OLYMPUS IS NOT THE ANSWER.

    Two years ago I was still shooting with the E-1 when I had the most horrific experience getting my equipment fixed. My E-1 arrived back from repair with a missing screw and with a broken sensor. I sent it back, but the delay cost me money as I had to rent Canon equipment to shoot a wedding. At a later time, my 7-14mm came back from servicing with a broken bayonet mount and with a loose rubber seal. When dialing the 1-800 number you get Customer Service which doesn’t have a clue about what the Repair Department is doing, and is unwilling to transfer you to someone more knowledgeable.

    Moreover, the 7-14mm lens I purchased in January of 2007 was supposed to come with a $70 mail in rebate, to arrive within three months. Over the next four months, I called more then three times to request updates about the status of the rebate, and every time I got the same robotic, well-rehearsed answer: “the rebate will be mailed shortly”! The rebate finally arrived in August, but ONLY AFTER I filed a complaint with BBB and the California Attorney General.

    Afterward, I wrote two letters of complaint to the General Director of Olympus USA and never heard back.

    AVOID OLYMPUS at all costs, or you will regret it in the long run!

  9. Hey Chuck
    the 5dII is really great… as a camera for the museum. The autofocus of this 3000$ cam is much worse then of the cheaper 1V a decade ago. great progress really!
    But I have read in the tech tipps, that canon is not useless – the do not include things for marketing reason. with the 3-image-limit for ae-bracketing the 5dII has certainly not arrived in digital age.

    after all this 1d dedacle one would hope, that canon would care about customer satisfaction, but obviously marketing is more important.
    well, those are the times, when one has to really regret to be invested in canon glass. and for personal marketing reasons I really have to consider to get rid of this as soon as possible.

    have a nice day in your marketing glass house – a photographer from the outside.

    ps: don’t surprise me, with a useful firmware update, it doesn’t fit to canon.

  10. I was hoping to come on here and see either `500D is fucked’ or some rant about how it has a 10 stop ISO advantage over everything else on the market and how it’s the next best thing to the second coming of Christ.

    Where for art thou Fake Chuck ?

  11. Fake Chuck, I was told by marketing that the 20fps on the 500D is an improved feature because #1 People like smaller files #2 It will work better for the web since most youtube stuff is 15fps, #3 It makes people look like cool robots in sprinting motion.

    Can you comment on this? Thanks!

  12. Pingback: Canon’s Chuck Westfall Answers Questions March 2009 - Digital Photography Tips and Techniques

  13. Fake Chuck,

    When are you gonna start posting again? I really miss the posts. Hope the cease and desist letter didn’t dim you enthusiasm for telling it how it is…

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  19. The focusing problems on my 20D lead me to buy an L lens because a Canon rep convinced me it was my crappy kit lens making my photos look soft. Back then I was used to shooting 120 film with a Rollei, so I was used to a certain quality of image. Now I have a kickass lens and a crap ass digital camera. I’ve been waiting, and waiting, and waiting for a Canon digital camera that can focus like my Canon rebel 2000 film camera. It’s pathetic. I’m going to have to sell my equipment just to upgrade. It’s a damn shame that I’ve waited this long for something that’ll never happen. I am just kicking myself for ever picking up a Canon.

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