Canon EOS 5D Mark II and Focus – My Images Aren’t Sharp

by planetmitch37 Comments

Update: March 2010 This article has gotten a lot of use since it was first published on Jun 16, 2009 and I thought that it would be a good time to re-issue this. Especially in light of @fcwestfall's posting of this excellent article “This lens is soft” and other FACTS from LensRentals.com 

“My images from the Canon EOS 5D Mark II just aren't as sharp as my xxxx (usually a 1.6 crop camera)”

I can't tell you how many times I've read something like that lately. Well, I think we all know better, the Canon EOS 5D Mark II would be an absolute failure if that were true. But it isn't – people around the world are still clamoring to get their hands on a 5D mk II.

So, why do people say their Canon EOS 5D Mark II stills aren't focused?

I believe it comes down to a wide variety of factors (none of which is a camera failure) and we'll discuss each one in more detail:

  • 21mp images – this will eat inferior lenses
  • lots of pixels in 21mp (usually compared to 8 or 10mp) – 5616 x 3744 pixels
  • High ISO Noise Reduction on by default
  • Microadjustment needed on lenses (also complaints that the AutoFocus(AF) misses)
  • jpeg vs RAW

 

21mp images – watch out when using your old lenses

Many people say that the resolution power of the camera exceeds most lenses ability to resolve details – and if you aren't using good glass, you may well think that the camera is lousy – but in fact the issue is the lenses. The lenses you use on the 5D mk ii had better be very high quality or you'll be disappointed when looking at them at 100%. Does that mean you've got to buy all new lenses? Maybe… it depends on how you use the camera. The 5D mk ii shines best with really good glass. Using inferior lenses will disappoint you with this body.

Lots of pixels in 21mp (usually compared to 8 or 10mp) –

I also believe that many of the folks with ‘blurry' images have to do with looking at 21 mp images at 100% on a monitor and they're comparing that to the 12mp of the 5d (or 10mp or less on a 1.6 crop camera) – these images are huge and looking at them at 100% may lead some to think that they aren't in focus. The images from the 5D mk ii are huge. The full dimensions of the 5D2 are: 5616 x 3744 pixels and my 24″ monitor is 1920 x 1200, so the 100% image is almost 3 times larger than my 24 inch monitor. People used to seeing 40D images at 100% will see a lot more details that they never saw before on the 5D mk ii. Sometimes those details at this size would look fuzzy. I'm not saying the 5D mk ii images can't be tack sharp at 100%, they can. But you've got to realize there's a lot lot lot more data in the 5D mk ii images at 100%. Let's not forget that most people (ie. your customer or someone viewing on a web page) will never see these images at 100%! If you print them at 100% they'd be monsters… you'll likely print them at much smaller sizes and when you take 21mp down to a reasonable size, they'll look darn sharp. You can get a little ‘sloppy' at 100% when you're reducing it for print.

FYI, here's a sample image I've taken with the 5D mk ii… on the left is an image at about 8×10 resolution on my monitor – the right side is the 100% blow up… is it “tack sharp” at 100%? nope… (it was handheld on a slightly breezy day) but it looks very nice at print resolutions. It is stunning at 8×10 size.

Here's the image on smugmug, you can see it at the largest size (which is 50% of the original size!)

Looks darn good doesn't it? Does it have to be ‘tack sharp' at 100%? I don't think so – not unless you're printing it on a billboard.

High ISO Noise Reduction on by default

High ISO speed noise reduction – which is in the custom functions (C.Fn II: Image section). The 5D2 manual says (page 176 C.Fn II-2), “Although noise reduction is applied at all ISO speeds, it is particularly effective at high ISO speeds.” There are 3 settings and it is on “Standard” by default. I turned mine to “OFF” as I decided I didn't want the camera applying any NR. If I need it, i'll apply it myself with Noise Ninja or Neat Image. I suggest you try the different settings on the same shot to see what works best for you.

I decided that maybe a quick test might help convince some people that this needs to be set for your personal preferences. Using my 5D mk ii on a tripod, I took a couple of photos of some refrigerator magnets. The results are below (yes, I used ISO 1600 and used the timer at 10 seconds to hopefully remove any shake – all settings were manual and I turned autofocus off after focusing with live view at the 10x setting). The screenshot is of the RAW files in Aperture. It is not jpegs (tho the image itself is a jpeg). The difference here is subtle, but in some of my tests, the results were very significantly different.

Microadjustment needed on lenses (also complaints that the AutoFocus (AF) misses)

People are very happy about the microadjustment feature in the Canon EOS 5D Mark II to help focus specific lenses. Returning to the resolution issue, it is quite possible that your lens on an older camera may have been just slightly missing focus when you were using autofocus, but since the resolutions were smaller, it may not have been obvious. Now, with the huge resolution of the 5D2, you may now notice more images where the AF missed just a bit. You can correct that in the camera with the microadjustment feature!

jpeg vs RAW

Recently, I've been reading more about the compression applied to the jpegs in camera. I almost always shoot in RAW and I use Aperture to manage my images (you can also use Adobe's Lightroom – see the buyer's guide for more). I'm able to do more with the RAW files in terms of post processing and then export to jpeg or png. Jpeg is a compression algorithm, and therefore you'll most likely lose a little bit when the camera stores the jpeg. And, don't forget that most camera makers apply a bit of sharpening to jpg images – so a side by side comparison of a jpg and RAW file might show the jpg as sharper.

So? What's the net?

I've seen enough stunningly great photos from the 5D mk ii to know it isn't the body that is the problem… in all likelihood, it is the settings (High ISO NR) and the lens (that was ok on a smaller body but not at 21mp), or the lens needs microadjusting on the 5D2 or a combination of these things.


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Comments

  1. Alex B

    On your comment about the mediocre lenses… What is your definition of “not so great lenses”. I have noticed a little softness on my mark ii but I just assumed it was my fault during focusing. The lens I use on average is the 50mm 1.4 prime. Do I need to upgrade to the 1.2 for this body?

    Thanks

    1. Author
      planetMitch

      I’m afraid I’m not the one to judge the lens… I’m far from an expert. I do believe tho that if you’re going to be pixel peeping on the 5D mk ii, you’d better have good glass. Moving up to an L may indeed help. If you’re unsure, you could always check with our sponsor Lensrentals.com and check out a better lens for a few days and do a comparison for yourself before spending tons of money on a new lens.

  2. Teft

    Hmmm, the 50mm 1.4 should be fine for sharpness. But, don’t expect superior sharpness at f1.4 to f2.0. Anything beyond 2.0 should be excellent. I don’t own the 50 1.2l, but I’ve read a lot about how it slightly loses sharpness after f2.8 in comparison to the 1.4 lens.

    I’d say try the microadjustment feature first, then double check your aperture/shutter/iso settings and revisit your expectations on sharpness at certain settings.

    Something I’ve notice with this much resolution is that the focal length to shutter speed rule doesn’t work if you want sharpness down to the 21mp level. If you’re hand holding the camera, try shooting with a shutter speed that’s double your focal length. For example: 50mm lens, shoot at a minimum of 1/100 shutter. And stop that aperture down a bit.

    Hope that helps!
    Teft

  3. Sev

    Since the video mode has a much lower resolution than photo is high iso noise reduction recommended or not?

    I am wondering because recently I have turned it off and have noticed some noise in the midtones shooting iso 400.

    Has anyone made comparisons?

  4. alain

    I have played with the micro adjustment to get perfect focussing and stopped after 2 hours of frustration. After every adjustment, I took 5 pictures at the same setting (remote trigger + tripod and mirror lock) and they were all different! The differences were very minimal and only applied on DoF of less than 3mm so I did not bother.

    ANd Mitch is right, as long as you dont show your picture at 100%, the pictures are going to look very sharp even if they arent.

    1. JimMan

      “I have played with the micro adjustment to get perfect focussing and stopped after 2 hours of frustration. After every adjustment, I took 5 pictures at the same setting (remote trigger + tripod and mirror lock) and they were all different!”

      I have the same issue. It’s not a camera motion problem because a portion of the image is always sharp–it’s just that the sharp area changes from shot to shot if refocusing occurs between shots of a stationary subject. I don’t think consistent focus is too much to ask for a camera body costing $2,400 and the 24-105 f/4 L lens costing about a thousand dollars more. Is this issue unique to just some of the 5D Mark II cameras and L lenses, or is the difference in users’ experience a function of whether or not users care about the small but measurable variances in auto focus from shot to shot? For me, I purchased this camera primarily for consistent, tack-sharp photos. I could get better features in other cameras for less money if I were willing to accept less than tack-sharp photos. Have any of you performed tests on consistency of auto-focus, and have any of you found solutions to getting consistent autofocus? To be clear, microadjustments alone aren’t the answer, because the autofocus is inconsistent even with these adjustments.

      1. frankie

        My question is this, unless Canon has something to hide why wouldn’t Canon post explanations in their website saying these words the OP is saying in order to relief the fear of those who paid so much for this camera and for those who would like to purchase. That would clear many things out. Does Canon assume since this camera is for semi to professionals , there are no need to clarify. Does Canon expect us to go through all those tests? I don’t recall one has to do so with other brands. If I was from Canon, I would say that in the website somewhere saying you may experience sharpness issues if so and so and so. It would save a lot of headaches and time for us.

  5. LeeH

    I have used the 1DII, 5D and 5DII. I see no sharpness issues with the 5DII. You can not judge the sharpness on the screen of a computer. We don’t view prints at the equivalent distance to viewing pixels at 100%.

    You need to see prints, to judge how good this camera is!

  6. mike hill

    I’m trying to shoot slow exposures. In manual it only goes down to 1/30. in Bulb mode, it seems to be on automatic? Any ideas

  7. johnrahim

    Thanks for the post. My camera is soft compared to my assistants who uses an indetical camera. We both use the same lenses, all high top end L cannon lenses yet his images have the edge over mine even though they were bought from the same store. My printer noticed that some of my wedding photos were sharper than others hence how I came across the problem. John

  8. Johnna

    I wish this were so simple. using new L series glass and working on a tripod with a cable release, in manual focus – standing more than 10′ away from my subject @ f8- I rely upon the focusing system to tell me(beep) when the camera is focused- then take the shot. I recently zoomed in right after taking the shot and found the focus to be WAY off. Turned on the live view and zoomed in and had to turn the focus ring a full inch or so – at which point the camera did not think that I was focused. I’ve tried multiple lenses and still have the issues. Beyond this, the 5dm2 is a wonderful camera. But I do print “billboard size”, I should be able to print @ 300dpi and have a sharp photo. expecting accurate focus from an otherwise gorgeous camera is not too much to ask…

  9. James Craig

    I replaced my 5D with the 5D Mark II. Yes, there IS a sharpness problem with the 5D Mark II, one I have been “solving” through multiple exposures. I’ve run enough tests on both cameras and think that I have identified the problem.

    The telling was in mounting ( very firmly on a heavy model) the cameras on a tripod and shooting with the cable release, slow exposures of 1/15 second. With the Mark II sharpness varied considerably, from razor sharp to considerably blurred. Somehow, maybe involving the sheer size of the senor, the slightest of camera shake from the mirror flopping moves the sensor during exposure.

    I have yet to run test with the battery grip off, to see if direct mounting helps. This is totally unacceptable. Unfortunately I had already sold my 5D and had to ship it out. This is a major frustration. I rely on sharp images and am not getting them. I will be contacting Canon.

  10. James Craig

    I have now run the same test as above (on the Mark II) with the mirror locked up and the grip off. Focus was preset and locked in manually. Results the same, a couple of exposures very sharp. The rest exhibiting varying degrees of slight blurring. I do believe the shutter curtain may not be properly dampered in this camera. Pushing down on the camera against the tripod while shooting seems to help, increasing the percentage of sharp images. Not a happy camper here.

  11. James Craig

    Follow-up: I have now run extensive tests and have isolated the problem. The 24-105 lens is pretty heavy, leaving the center of gravity somewhat in front of the camera body. On a regular tripod, the sheer weight tends to allow what I would call micro-spring action during exposure. I can eliminate this by pressing down on the camera during exposure. Cable release exposures with mirror-lockup were not as sharp, or consistent. Sure screws up the reason for a cable release.
    With the camera mounted on the grip, the problem becomes much worse, resulting in many more slightly and even very fuzzy exposures. I found this out the hard way by shooting a number of exposures of ballet students. Far too many were downright fuzzy.
    This problem (without the grip) did not become evident at 12.8 megapixels, but at 21 it can be disappointing. My solution was to mount the Manfrotto 357Long Quick Release Plate on the 357 Pro Quick release adapter on my tripod. This is a video solution. The only customization I had to do was place a small piece of felt over one of the tension screws and align it to the lens filter rim. This distributes the weight and eliminates all softness, inconsistencies, blurring, etc. in subsequent tests. NOW I’m back to being a happy camper.
    My hand-held tests show that with this camera-lens combination one cannot (lke with my bad habit) grip the camera by the body with both hands. The lens weight causes inconsistencies. My tests show these even at 1/200 of a second. Keep that left hand under the lens to eliminate problems. Again, if it weren’t for the 21 megapixels, this amount of “fuzzing” due to micro-vibration might never be an issue.
    I hope this helps someone. And, maybe someone can come up with a tripod solution cheaper than mine.

    1. planetMitch

      I appreciate all of the work you went thru to get a solution that works for you. However, I’ve got the same 24-105L and I don’t believe I’m having a fuzzy image problem. Sure, there are some losers in my batches, but even at 100% (which most people shouldn’t really be looking at anyway) they are darn good in 90% of my images. Oh, and almost all my images are shot handheld and the other minority are with a monopod.

      Maybe there are some other issues involved here?

  12. James Craig

    The tests were extensive, with initial exposure sets of four at each “setting”. The real problems do not arise when hand holding properly or bracing on a monopod. Any hand-held problems I was having stemmed from my bad holding habits (hand not under the heavy lens).

    Inconsistent results on a tripod with a cable release is a serious issue though. A set of 10 or more carefully exposed frames, all exactly alike, with the camera firmly (but normally) mounted on a tripod, using the cable release and mirror lockup (without which the results are a tad worse), will yield frames that vary from razor sharp to slightly fuzzy (most of my serious work is tripod, hyperfocused work). Multiple exposures helps.

    I could provide close-ups. If the camera is on the grip, on the tripod, the effect is magnified. The slightest touch generates a very slight, but discernible, motion.

    This all came to my attention shooting some kids in ballet costumes. Tripod, no mirror lock up, cable release with the camera on the grip. Out of 300 shots at 1/200 of a second, at least 10 were downright blurry, most were sharp “enough”. Another 10 maybe were razor sharp. Subject motion was not an issue. I was able to salvage the shoot, but I realized there was a problem somewhere. Tests eliminated a focus problem, IS problem or any other problem. I ran the “vibration” tests after I noticed how unstable the assembly was on the tripod with the grip on the camera, watching closely.

    I used to use 120 film cameras for tripod work. I can’t afford the equivalent in digital, and find it unnecessary with 21 megapixels. I get sharp 18×24 images out of this camera. With my new tripod set-up I have a restored faith in my ability to trust the sharpness of tripod exposures.

    I love this camera. The lens is to die for. It is just simply too heavy to trust hanging over the front of a tripod, even with cable release and mirror lock-up, at 21 megapixels. It is definitely off balance. My stabilizing rail mount makes all the difference in the world. Hey, how many people use this camera and lens for this kind of shooting?

    Note: since moving to this camera I too have started using a monopod more. The phenomenal range of usable ISO settings encourages this. That and the hoops one has to jump through to come close to hyperfocusing modern zooms.

    My thanks for having a place to post this. It might help someone wanting to use this lens/camera combination for tripod work.

  13. Pingback: Incidents and accidents » 5D II focus issues… again

  14. Jaime Rodriguez

    1/14/2009 from BH, $2500 w/free bag and two free 4G cards shipped!!! I just bought a 5D MII, I took 20 photos and had my 8 year snap most of the photos. As I pulled out the files into my desktop I about sh1t a brick. Seemed like the camera focused one area and missed the other wtf over? !confused! sounds dumb to let a 8 year old shoot a photo? no, some photos were indeed sharp! I understood your above article and it made sense. Lens on the camera is a 70-200 2.8L IS. For the picky folks that want to see the photos I uploaded them to a site and you are more then welcome to look at all of them. I did not do anything to process the photos. Straight files out of the camera to help the next fellow photographer that is thinking of blowing 25 franklins like I just did! Enjoy and I am not a pro either. Just advance amateur I took the photo of the wood on the fire. Camera was set on auto (green box on the dial) dog is my Staffy pup.

    www.slide.com/s/APW80sCZwz-MWJ2dEfpUcYM8qj0Xywl1?dir=1

  15. Andre

    I use a zeiis 17-35mm with conurus adapter on my 5DII, and to cover myself, view the image on the back screen, and use the zoom buttons to help me focus. I am surprised at how soft shots still look after I examine them on the same back screen and zoom in. My sharpening is set at standard…which is plus 5. The deal is, why the hell am i sharpening with this big sensor and the zeiss lenses that I use? If you want to cut down on mirror vibe…shoot some video…check each frame out to see if the camera shoots sharper video than single frame. I always try to shoot around 40 sec or faster….hand held…you’d think that would be fast enough on a 17-35mm. I hear that the Red camera system has about 12 times the resolution of the canon 5DII.

  16. andre

    To follow up using the built in sharpening on the 5D MarkII, Eery time I used the standard sharpening setting, my images have that sharpened look…the little white ghosting lines around edges,etc. Without using the sharpeding settings, my shots all look soft.
    Wassa deal with that? My same argument…(in video too) with this large sensor and my zeiss lenses, why am I supposed to sharpen my files in camera? Never a problem with film…..

  17. Gribben

    If I just could have the sharpnes you have in the test shots….
    But no,,, almost every picture I took was soft or downright blurred… Cant live with that, So after 1 months of intensive testing I sold my new 5D2. If softness is the price I have to pay for 21 Mpix, I will keep the 12 Mpx I had before.

  18. James Craig

    Could someone please run this test on another SLR model? I locked the 5D Mark II down on a tripod, with rail where the front of the lens was braced. Then I placed a small medicine cup of water atop the flash shoe. Using a cable release, the vibration on the water was visible. With the mirror locked up, it reduced, but was detectable. I’m curious if this is out of line or par.

  19. Curtis Williams

    I made a video with auto focus on and the entire video is blurred. Is there any way i can salvage this video by bringing the images into focus?

  20. Baldusi

    Don’t forget diffraction! After f10, all images are diffraction limited. This means that focus will look “soft”. This is a physical limit on the size of the photodiodes (the 7D has this problem at f8!)

  21. James Craig

    Text of a “solution” posting I made on another site:
    A solution for my Mark II, of sorts. I called Canon and described my test results, described in an above posting. They had me send it in, a month out of warranty, and “fixed it”. Of course they did not say on the “repair” sheet what the problem was. The result is that I NO LONGER HAVE THE PROBLEM ON HAND HELD SHOTS. I spent half the day running extensive tests. I am much relieved, if still a little upset that I lost so many shots and Canon has not found it within their grace to explain. TRIPOD SHOTS WITH THIS CAMERA STILL REQUIRE A GOOD DEAL OF CAUTION. My tests conclude:

    1- DO NOT use the Image Stabilizer when using the tripod. Results will be inconsistent from very sharp to very blurry. A large number of tests reveals results evenly scattered along a scale from super blurry to sharper than sharp.

    2- Mirror Lock up is great BUT WAIT A FULL TWO SECONDS OR MORE between locking the mirror up and tripping the shutter. sounds odd, but locking the mirror up seems to start something of a shake inside and immediate (a second or less) shooting will make for very fuzzy shots. Combine this with the built in fuzzines that was “fixed, and it explains a tripod shoot I had that was almost a disaster.

    3- I use a rail with a lens brace on the front because of the heavy lens 24 to 105. This eliminates some residual / occasional inconsistencies.

    I am grateful for the fix but upset over the lack of information and communication.

  22. Aaron Szabo - Lens/Camera Salesman

    It sounds like half the 5D ii users are BEGINNERS!

    I’ve test at least 50 lenses on the 5D ii’s and it’s definitely the lenses that play the biggest part. Of course about half of the lenses require some Micro AF adjustments to be perfect, and Chromatic Aberration reduction in RAW to start.

    The 5D ii High Pass filter (basically a blur filter on the sensor) that is there to reduce moire, is very strong compared to some Nikon’s. It’s great for video even though the moire problem is still significant in video mode. Because of that, more sharpness is required in post which results to more noise because of the sharpness.

    SOME LENSES SUCK!!!

    Canon 50mm L f/1.2 is one of them that I tested that is BAD and shouldn’t be!!!

    Almost any 3.5-5.6 EF zoom lens is bad.

    Sharpest lenses:

    85mm f/1.2 ii
    200mm f/2 IS
    200mm 1.8
    300mm 2.8 IS
    500mm f4 IS
    100mm 2.8 macro IS
    135mm f2
    TS-E 90mm 2.8 and 45mm TS
    300mm f4 IS
    35mm f1.4
    600mm f4

    zooms that are pretty good:

    24-70 2.8
    24-105 f/4
    70-200 2.8 IS or non IS
    70-200 f4 IS or non IS

    zooms that are acceptable:

    16-35mm 2.8 ii
    17-40 f4
    100-400 4-5.6 IS

    Sigma all bad except for:

    180mm macro
    150mm macro
    105 mm macro
    50mm macro
    70-200 2.8 not that great
    50mm f 1.4
    85mm 1.4 (probably wil be sharp)

    Tamrons that are ok:

    28-75 2.8 (bad corners and vignetting)
    Macros are fine

    most tamrons are APS-C and they have a bunch of good APS-C lenses

    All lenses here are Full Frame lenses.

  23. Dan R

    Wow, reading through all this I feel as if I’m doing something wrong!

    The lenses I use with my 5D Mk2 are 50mm 1.8, 24-70L, 24-105L & Siggy 12-24.

    When I first started using it, I was very guilty of pixel peeping every single shot.. foaming at the mouth and spending hours micro-adjusting, “It’s blurry.. .it’s blurry…” But then I realised I was spending more time adjusting the damn thing than using it.

    So I did a test. I took a series of pictures with all the lenses in a variety of environments, and showed them to people on my monitor. Bit of cropping to complete the compsure, getting the light right in spots, but no unsharp mask. This was at 1280×1024. Yup, people said “That looks great.” And so I had some of the pictures blown up to A0 on fine glossy just to see if the ‘blur’ was still there. Sure enough, the prints looked sharp & fine, and again, people were really impressed.

    Now, far be it for me to dictate to people how they use their equipment; what you do and how you do it is your prerogative. But what I slowly realised is that when you’re counting the pixels on the screen, you’re losing sight of the context of your whole creation, and perhaps more importantly, you’re seeing it in a form that it’s unlikely to ever be seen in. Even when you’ve done some work for medium billboards it looks okay blown up – the scrutiny you apply when pixel counting on a monitor is, in my mind, virtually impossible to replicate during any scrutiny of the final product.

    So, unless you’ve got a super major focusing problem i.e. something that’s goes way beyond inconsistency at pixel peeping level, my advice is to forget about it, and go out there and shoot, and have fun! :-)

  24. JimMan

    “I have played with the micro adjustment to get perfect focussing and stopped after 2 hours of frustration. After every adjustment, I took 5 pictures at the same setting (remote trigger + tripod and mirror lock) and they were all different!”

    I have the same issue. It’s not a camera motion problem because a portion of the image is always sharp–it’s just that the sharp area changes from shot to shot if refocusing occurs between shots of a stationary subject. I don’t think consistent focus is too much to ask for a camera body costing $2,400 and the 24-105 f/4 L lens costing about a thousand dollars more. Is this issue unique to just some of the 5D Mark II cameras and L lenses, or is the difference in users’ experience a function of whether or not users care about the small but measurable variances in auto focus from shot to shot? For me, I purchased this camera primarily for consistent, tack-sharp photos. I could get better features in other cameras for less money if I were willing to accept less than tack-sharp photos. Have any of you performed tests on consistency of auto-focus, and have any of you found solutions to getting consistent autofocus? To be clear, microadjustments alone aren’t the answer, because the autofocus is inconsistent even with these adjustments.

  25. Ian

    Just found this page, old now – but what the heck!

    There IS a problem!! The article is misleading.

    In a social conversation with Calumet in 2011 and even though some were themselves 5D MkII owners, all openly agreed there was a real fault. I’d have to say I was also rather surprised in light of the above that they still stocked the camera.

    That people may “clamour’ to purchase is not proof of all being well. Simply the effect of marketing an impressive feature list and lack of any pre-purchase awareness of the issue. I myself was one of the clamouring throng.

    That the camera can deliver a stunning image but not reliably, remains true and renders selected samples misleading.

    Likewise at this level of purchase there is no fault in customers trusting the camera to focus without expectation that they should do additional research before purchase.

    Initial ownership brings incredulity that the joyous new investment can basically not be 100% relied upon to take a picture to match Aunt Nellie’s holiday snapper. It is understandable that many a purchaser concludes it just cannot possibly be the camera. Please God no… It cost so much! It must be a fault in technique. Yes! Technique can be fixed – all will be well. A bad investment is forever.

    Frankly when the manufacturer then washes its hands, it is understandable that some purchasers even express feelings similar to victims of conmen:- Embarrassment at what they think others may deem their foolish purchase/trust, fiscal distress in what for many is a once in a lifetime investment, humiliation that those who hurt them so – really do not seem to care and depression that they can get away with it.

    It is not a matter of micro adjustment – if it were then the focus miss would apply across all results. Take a series of shots of the same thing … all report that some are poor, some are good, and once in a while one is stunning – yes truly stunning. To quote a line from a David Bowie song “When it’s good it’s really good, and when it’s bad it goes to pieces.”

    It is not the use of inadequate consumer lenses – L series lenses suffer every bit as much, including the much praised 70-200mm f2.8 IS USM…be that on or off a tripod.
    It is not because of higher defaults on antialiasing/noise reduction. That only applies to jpg. RAW are equally prone to be “soft”. I say soft but Canon is lucky that people are using this term which suggests a more acceptable result than ‘unfocussed’.

    So why have more not complained? Others have gone before and Canon’s attitude has become clear, so further effort must seem futile. To publicise the fault further might serve only to make the device so universally labelled a lemon as to destroy any hope of escape by saving for part exchange on something that can deliver decent reliability.

    To balance the above, I am also sure that not every claimed fault is in fact the camera. For many it will be the first full frame DSLR and in a balanced system will commonly be accompanied by L series glass…perhaps a Prime or two. It is likely that not all will notice that they are perhaps shooting at apertures of f/1.4 that these lenses can deliver. The result will correctly have a limited depth of field with the image softening to the extent of blur as depth moves further from the point of focus.

    Add to this that one of the very reasons to go full frame is that it offers far greater ‘Bokeh’ i.e. it emphasises this even more and misunderstanding is clearly present in many cases.

    However this has become a ‘get out of jail free’ card for those who wish to deny the problem.

    For 5D MKII victims some comfort can be found in NOT typing web searches ‘Canon focus problem’ but typing ‘N… n focussing problem’ Hmm It’s not just Canon then, whatever the inevitable fora trolls may claim! But surely for heaven’ sake! Given the costs surely something as fundamental as focus should be assumed?

    What good are pixel extents, if you need to print small to hide the problem and cannot exploit the implied crop potential. What sense on buying L series glass if the body cannot reliably deliver better results than one would get from consumer glass on a lesser device?

    What use is ISO range, a rapid motor-drive and a full frame sensor if the end results are only good enough for demonstrating the Delete button?

    Like many, it was many years before I committed to pro lenses, knowing it would to an extent lock me in to that system as I’d never be able to justify a later switch. Am I now locked into Canon for eternity?

    Once I would have said yes, but it is hard to feel loyalty to a company that does not seem to reciprocate. The cameras should have been recalled and taken off the market until fixed or refunds given – and done so pro-actively by Canon.

    In the absence it is inevitable that many express the view Canon could not give a rat’s.

    Am I saving to buy a Canon replacement for the camera that they had claimed the 5D MkII to be? Would to do so be to be taken for an even bigger mug and is it better to accept a hit now in changing brands rather than take ones chances with Canon again?

    Canon have done this twice now – with the 1 series and the 5. In the short term this affects only the high end – not the major market, but then consumers naturally like to feel they have made a good choice – and a name they associate with pros is a good start. The perceived ‘choice of pros’ does change from time to time.

    Canon was clever in the ploy of red-ring white lenses to identify Canon in TV press imagery. ..Subliminally a link is made ‘Pro’=Canon. What occurs at consumer level if that exposure goes “Back to Black.” It may not simply be a loss of a marketing tricvk – the very absence may also be as noticed.

    I for one feel burned by the experience and will definitely hire and test alternatives favourably before any future purchase. Back to Black is definitely on the cards.

    Meanwhile it is truly bizarre that with equipment that should be a pride and joy and which I could scarcely justify, I may find myself beside a happy snapper, shooting the same subject from the same angle confident, unlike myself, that with their more modest camera they have the shot. Heck why should they not?

    Galled initially, today, when someone compliments me on the camera – I tell them the truth. Many wrongly belittle their own equipment with an implied inferiority to get a good image. These days I get their email address… I might just need it!

    1. Jimmy

      So what is the solution then? I,too, have soft images when compare to an old Nikon. Should I sell my 5d2 and get 7D instead because it has better focusing system? I just want a consistent tack sharp image.

      1. jenny

        I would love to see replies to this…..I just don’t know what to do…after buying and shooting 10K pixs….1/2 are soft….I’m so disappointed…and really thought it was all my fault. I had changed from Nikon….and now…well, yes, I regret it….I must have sharp images at 100% because my stock agency will only accept ‘sharp at 100% images”…I’m FKED…thanks for selling me a POS Canon 5D II…now what am I supposed to do???…Sick….

        1. Alex

          Hello. I have 5dmk II + 24-70L 2.8 and 50 1.8 canon.

          From the beginning i tried to do landscape photos. i’ve used hyperfocal distance, Manual Focus, Auto Focus, Focused at distances from 0,5m to infinitiy and I CAN’t HAVE THAT SHARP IMAGE FROM front to back :'(.And i see photos done with crop cameras that are GORGEUS! I sent my 24-70 to service but it seems that i don’t get nothing either from my 50mm lens, so i began to WONDER myself if it’ s the camera problem ;’ (. Did u resolve smth?

  26. Sarah R

    My prints all look amazing, and the vast majority are with the nifty fifty (50mm f/1.8). Maybe it’s the focusing technique for some? I use both the spot metering in conjunction with the focus lock, using the center point. It seems to be a pretty consistent method for me. I run a side photo business, averaging about 1 shoot a week, sometimes more.

  27. Dee

    Just purchased the Canon 5d mark ii last month. What a disappointment! When taking landscape photos with my 24-105 or 100-400, on a tripod, with remote, my images are all soft with nothing in focus. Too soft to use for my 24×36 inch fine art prints. Night photography is a joke – all very blurry. Sure I can use these images to make an 8×10 print, but who buys this camera to make small prints. The point of a 22mb camera is make large sharp prints.

    1. Author
      planetMitch

      Dee – that’s not a common comment from 5D2 owners! I wonder if there’s something wrong with your 5D2? Did you turn off the High ISO noise reduction etc?

  28. Mike

    I just bought at 5D ii second hand…switched up from a 650 D..also bought a 24-70 lens to go with it…from the first shot viewed in the LCD screen there was such a noticeable softness in image quality…..in good lighting and best lens ( prime 50mm 1.4) images in 650D pinging sharp….but noticeably poorer with 5D !! Now I see from comments the series of problems….big disappointment with move up to FF…

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