Canon EOS 5D Review
The 13-megapixel Canon EOS 5D single-lens reflex digital camera is the first consumer-priced ($2700) full-frame sensor body. It does just about everything that an $7000 EOS 1Ds body from 2004 did at about half the weight (2 lbs).
The primary advantages of having a digital sensor the same size (24x36mm) as a frame of 35mm film are (1) higher image quality, especially in terms of noise and especially in lower light situations, and (2) the ability to use very wide angle lenses. The only disadvantage to having a full-frame sensor compared to a small-sensor digital SLR body (Canon Digital Rebel or any Nikon) is that the small-sensor effectively increases the magnification of telephoto lenses, which can be useful when you are doing sports or bird photography. Of course, the resolution of the 5D is so high that you could pull out the central 8 MP of a Canon EOS 5D image and it would be almost as though you had taken the photo with a Canon 30D or Digital Rebel.
If you are a wide-angle junkie and have a bunch of older Canon EOS lenses designed for film cameras, you'll love having the EOS 5D. The small sensor Canon bodies turn an exciting 20mm wide angle lens into a boring 30mm perspective. With the 5D, what you got with your 20mm lens on the film camera is what you get with the 5D.
The Canon EOS 5D is compact and plasticky, but solidly built. Though noisier than a point-and-shoot digital camera, the Canon EOS 5D is extremely quiet in operation, quieter than any modern film body and with a slightly more muted and lower frequency shutter "thunk" than the small sensor Canon bodies.
The Canon EOS 5D turns on almost instantly and has unmeasureable delays for taking pictures, displaying previews, and waking up once asleep. The camera is always ready when you are. The only exception to this rule is if you try to take pictures continuously at a rate that exceeds three photos per second. I.e., sports photographers might want to consider one of the EOS 1D bodies specifically designed for their rapid-fire needs.
Canon's EOS 5D has the standard four exposure modes: Metered Manual, Aperture-priority, Shutter-priority, and Program autoexposure. There are two control wheels so that you can adjust aperture and shutter speed simultaneously.
The 5D has the standard focus modes of any Canon SLR: Manual, Single-shot auto, Continuous auto, and "AI focus" where the camera tries to figure out whether or not your subject is moving. As with all of the great Canon EOS bodies over the decades, if you drill down into the custom function menus, you can figure out how to make the autoexposure lock button on the back of the camera into a "burst of AF" thumb switch while in Manual Focus mode. Thus you're able to manually adjust focus but have automatic assistance available when desired. Autofocus performance is superb, even in dim light, with 15 AF sensors distributed around the frame.
Sensitivity is adjustable from ISO 50-3200 but there is no good reminder of what you've got set and the setting is persistent if you turn the camera off and back on overnight.
Operation is modeless. If you've pressed the playback button and are reviewing images, a quick touch of the shutter release readies the camera to take pictures again.
Viewfinder coverage on the Canon EOS 5D is standard for an advanced amateur single-lens reflex camera, about 96 percent of what is recorded on the sensor is displayed in the viewfinder. This sounds great and indeed would be great on a film camera where slide mounts and cropping during enlargement often result in the sacrifice of some of the image at the edges. In the digital world, however, what you capture in the camera is what you'll be delivering in a JPEG file, unless you go into a photo editing program and take the trouble to crop. This is one area where the Canon EOS 1Ds justifies its $7000 price with a standard professional 100 percent viewfinder. Note that, as with most digital single lens reflex cameras, the 5D cannot provide you with a preview in the rear LCD because the sensor is occluded by the viewing mirror until you press the shutter release. So the only way to frame an image precisely is to take a test picture, look at the edges on the bright 2.5" rear LCD, and then recompose and click again.
The viewfinder image is substantially larger than on the small-sensor Canon bodies. Eye relief is just barely adequate for people wearing eyeglasses. There is a diopter adjustment and you can change the focusing screen as well.
The 5D takes a single Compact Flash card, either Type I and II. Microdrives work in the camera, but operate very slowly if you are taking 14 MB RAW images. Microdrives are also more prone to failure than the solid-state CF cards and I do not recommend them.
The camera has an internal buffer memory for rapid sequence photography (17 RAWs or 60 JPEGs). The camera can capture 3 frames per second continuously.
The Canon EOS 5D does not have a built-in flash. Dedicated Canon accessory flash units mount in the hot shoe above the viewfinder and the camera is able to control flash exposure via a through-the-lens sensor. Maximum flash sync speed is 1/200th. Balancing flash and natural light is straightforward.
The Canon Speedlite 580EX II Flash, (compare prices) (review) is Canon's current top of the line and it usefully covers an angle as wide as a 14mm lens.
Photography in available, i.e., low, light is a pleasure with the Canon EOS 5D because the typical lenses that you'd use with this camera include the standard 50/1.4 from the film world. The following images were taken at ISO 800:
The photographer Glenn Traver, a member of "Betterphoto.com"uses this camera.
Let's see some of his amazing photos.
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