Canon EOS 5D Review – Performance, but it comes with a price

Even while we don’t usually put too much stock in marketing hype, we have to admit that Canon’s claim that the EOS 5D “defines (a) new D-SLR category” is, in this case, pretty damn close to the truth. 

The Canon EOS 5D is unlike any digital SLR that has come before it because it manages to pack a full-frame (35 mm sized), high-resolution sensor (12.8 megapixels) into a reasonably compact chassis (slightly larger than the Canon EOS 20D, but it feels notably ‘chunkier’ in your hand). The Canon EOS 5D is a professional digital single-lens reflex camera that is intended to fill the gap between the Canon EOS 20D and the Canon EOS-1D.

The Canon EOS 5D is a professional digital single-lens reflex camera that is intended to fill the gap between the Canon EOS 20D and the Canon EOS-1D. Although Canon does not refer to the EOS 5D as a “professional” digital SLR model, it is clear that this camera will appeal to professionals who are looking for a digital SLR with a high level of image quality but a body that is lighter than the EOS-1D. 

It is also likely to appeal to people who already own an EOS 20D (although we should hope that they haven’t already purchased an excessive amount of EF-S lenses

Design

When compared to the EOS 20D, my first impression of the EOS 5D was that it was “chunkier,” and I continue to believe that this is an accurate observation. It is actually not that much larger than the EOS 20D; it is about 8 mm (1/3 inch) wider and taller. However, the EOS 5D does generate the sense that it is both more solid and more sturdy owing to a remolded handle (which now includes a finger hook) and its additional weight (125 g/4.4 oz).

The EOS 5D, with the exception of this one detail, has an appearance that is quite similar to that of the EOS 20D. Even the control configuration on the rear of the camera is almost exactly the same. The goal here is to encourage existing EOS 20D users to upgrade with as little hassle as possible, which is, of course, the purpose.

Side by side

You can see the EOS 5D accompanied by the EOS 20D (eight megapixels) and the EOS-1D Mark II (sixteen megapixels) in the image that follows. The EOS 5D is just a little bigger than the EOS 20D, but it is unquestionably more compact than the Canon EOS-1Ds Mark II (although add the battery grip and overall dimensions are similar).

The EOS 5D has a weight (with the battery) that is 125 grams (4.4 ounces) heavier than the EOS 20D, but it is 640 grams (22.5 ounces) less than the EOS-1Ds Mark II. This results in less strain on the photographer’s wrist.

Within your grasp

As I alluded to before, the hand grip of the EOS 5D is marginally bigger than the one found on the EOS 20D. Additionally, there is more room between the tips of your fingers and the lens mount on the EOS 5D. Because Canon has now covered that part of the lens mount with rubber, the EOS 5D does not have an effect similar to a “nail file” on the side of the lens mount.

The support sections of the camera (both the front and the rear) are covered with a rubber substance that offers a strong grip despite the fact that it is not as pliable as the material that Nikon utilized on the D2H/X.

Alterations to the camera’s layout in comparison to the EOS 20D (animated)

To see the differences between the EOS 5D and the EOS 20D in terms of their physical design, hover your mouse pointer over the image that can be found below. This makes it easier to visualize the difference in size between the two cameras. The most noticeable difference in size is the increased size of the viewfinder prism, and there is also a significant increase in the size of the LCD monitor. Both of these differences contribute to the overall larger size of the newer camera.

LCD Monitor

The Canon EOS 5D includes a huge 2.5-inch LCD panel that, happily, has a decent resolution of 230,000 pixels; this allows for extensive image evaluation as well as menus that are clean, appealing, and easy to understand. Additionally, the LCD has a very broad viewing angle, which means that you do not need to be holding the camera with the LCD facing directly in front of you in order to see it. On the other hand, the screen isn’t as brilliant as I would have liked it to be, so you’ll have to bump up the brightness setting quite a bit. Additionally, there is no anti-reflective coating on the screen.

LCD Panel

A large LCD panel can be found on the top of the camera, and it displays a variety of information on the exposure and settings currently in use by the camera. The primary numeric part of the panel is also able to display other kinds of information, such as a warning that says “Busy,” the ISO setting, and the processing parameter that is now being modified when any of these are altered.

You may turn on the panel’s orange illumination by pushing the backlight button, which is located in the upper left corner of the panel. Once activated, the backlight remains on for roughly six seconds.

Viewfinder

Viewfinder When switching from a digital SLR with an APS-sized sensor, one of the first things that will “wow” the user is the significantly larger view that is presented in the viewfinder. You have arrived in the full-frame territory, where everything is significantly larger, the view via the viewfinder completely fills your field of vision, the image is bright and crisp, and it is simple to select the focus point. The image via the viewfinder is virtually indistinguishable from that of the EOS-1Ds series.

During prolonged exposures, the rubber surround may be removed, and the eyepiece cover that comes with the device can be slid over it to prevent unwanted light from entering the chamber. This cover is located on the shoulder strap. In addition, the eyepiece is designed to accept dioptre adjustment lenses of the E-series, which will allow for an even greater expansion of the dioptre correction range.

Viewfinder view

You will be able to see the nine focus points of the AF system as well as the spot metering circle when you look through the viewfinder. If you are using the automated AF point selection mode, the AF points picked by the camera will be highlighted when you commence AF (half-press the shutter release or the AF button). If you are not using this mode, the AF point that you have selected will be highlighted instead.

Take note that the ISO sensitivity is now shown on the status bar of the viewfinder when it is adjusted (I would still have liked to have seen a permanent display of ISO and WB in the viewfinder).

In the setting that allows for automated AF point selection, the AF point won’t get highlighted until after an AF lock has been obtained. When there is just one AF point set, it will flash twice: once after you are halfway through the shutter release, and again when it has locked (or not if no AF lock was possible). In the AI Servo AF mode of the EOS 5D (which is activated by pressing the shutter release halfway), the selected AF point blinks once before the camera begins tracking AF.

There are also six more unseen AF sites.

In addition to the nine AF points that are visible, the spot metering circle has an additional six AF points that are undetectable to the naked eye. According to the user manual for the EOS 5D, these points are only utilized in AI SERVO mode for predictive AF tracking. If the subject moves completely outside of the center circle, then other points will pick it up.

Storage Space for Batteries

The EOS 5D has a battery configuration that is identical to that of the EOS 20D. The battery is concealed behind a straightforward clip-locked door in the base of the hand grip. The door panel itself may be removed (to make way for the optional battery grip).

The BP-511A Lithium-Ion battery pack, which is included with the EOS 5D, has a larger capacity and supplies 1390 mAh at 7.4 V. (10.3 Wh). The connection that connects the AC adapter’s fake battery to the optional hand grip escapes via a small door that is located on the inner edge of the hand grip.

Charger for the Battery

The CB-5L battery charger is included with the 5D, just like it is with the EOS 10D and 20D. This charger is quite compact and lightweight, making it simple to bring along on travels. Charge completion is indicated by a blinking LED that is located on the top of the charger. The charging process takes around 90 minutes.

Grip for a Battery (optional)

A new variant with an updated battery grip is an available extra. Although the battery “stalk” is made of plastic, the new BG-E4 that comes with the EOS 5D seems to be constructed out of magnesium alloy. This appears to be the case. The grip may accommodate either two BP-511A batteries (or BP-511/512/514 batteries) or six AA batteries through the magazine that is included in the package (not really intended for long-term use, just a backup feature).

The grip is attached to the EOS 5D by first removing the door to the battery compartment (which slides neatly into a groove on the edge of the section of the grip that has been inserted), then putting the grip into the battery compartment, and then screwing the tripod mount to a secure position. If you just use one battery in your EOS 5D, the additional weight of the BG-E4 and two batteries is 475 grams (1.1 pounds).

A compartment for CompactFlash cards

The door of the CompactFlash compartment on the EOS 5D may be opened by sliding it towards you and then flipping it outwards. This compartment is located in the back corner of the hand grip. After the CF card has been ejected, the door itself swings open on a metal hinge and provides ample space for removing the card. The EOS 5D is compatible with both Type I and Type II CompactFlash cards, in addition to cards with capacities of more than 2 GB (FAT32).

I apologize if I sound like a broken record.

If you’ve been following my evaluations of Canon digital SLR cameras, you probably already know that I’m not a fan of what occurs when you open the CF door. If you open the CF door on the EOS 5D, the camera powers off. It continues to write the picture that is now being shown, but any more photos that are buffered to be written will be lost. This behavior is similar to that of earlier models of the EOS digital SLR.

Canon claims that it was created in this manner so as to prevent corruption of the entire card in the event that the user was to remove it while it was still being written on. My response to your question is that you have two options: you can either lock the door until the writing is finished, or you can use a beep alarm to alert the user that the buffered photos are still being written (standard on PowerShot G series digital cameras for years).

Body Design

Connections

All of the camera’s connections are located on the left side of the device, and they are covered with a rubber cover that can be removed to show the PC sync and remote terminals while allowing you to conceal the USB and video out terminals.

PC Sync (located on the left), USB (2.0 Hi-Speed), Remote terminal (located on the left and of the N3 type), and Video Out (located on the bottom) (right). (Note that the USB transfer speed test has been relocated to the section on Timings and Sizes.)

Mount for Tripod

A metal tripod socket can be found on the underside of the camera. This socket is precisely aligned with the optical axis that runs through the center of the lens.

It would have been wonderful to have a rubber “foot” on the base of the camera, as I have asked in prior reviews. However, I will admit that I will conjecture that this may cause the camera to be incompatible with the optional battery grip.

Flash from the outside

The hot-shoe of the EOS 5D is compatible with flash units made by Canon as well as those made by third-party manufacturers (sync only). It is compatible with E-TTL II metering, which derives the flash output based on the distance information received from the lens. This is compatible with each and every Canon lens (although distance information is only provided by lenses with ring-type USM motors).

The new Speedlite 430EX was released at the same time as the EOS 5D, and it possesses digital-ready features like a zoom that is related to sensor sizes and an automatic white balance that may be converted to flash WB (causes the camera to switch to flash WB in certain circumstances).

Lens Mount

The EOS 5D utilizes a full-frame sensor, hence it is not compatible with EF-S lenses. This is because EF-S lenses were designed to operate with APS size sensors. The EOS 5D features a normal metal EF lens mount (and hence produces a smaller imaging circle). There is no “field of view crop” when using a 50 mm lens with the EOS 5D since the sensor covers the complete frame. This means that the field of view produced is the same as it would be with a 35 mm film camera.

When compared to the EOS 20D, a mirror.

As can be seen in the photographs that follow, the mirror on the EOS 5D is significantly bigger than the mirror on the EOS 20D. (which has an APS size sensor).

Included Within the Packaging

Since the EOS 5D will (officially) only be sold in its “body” configuration, purchasers will be required to either provide their own lens or purchase one separately. It would appear that the new EF 24–105 mm F4L IS lens was created expressly with this application in mind.

The body only of the EOS 5D is provided as the following

  • body for the Canon EOS 5D Digital SLR camera
  • Eyecup
  • battery pack for lithium-ion batteries model BP-511A
  • Charger for the CG-580 and CB-5L batteries
  • Neck strap (with eyepiece cover)
  • Connector USB
  • Video Cable
  • CD-ROMs
  • Solution Disk for the Canon EOS, Version 11.0
  • Version 2.0 of Digital Photo Professional
  • Manuals / Reg. card
  • Warranty

Controls & Operations

Exposure Mode Dial is located on the top of the camera (to the left).

The dial that controls the camera’s exposure settings may be found on the top of the device, to the left. It is important to note that in comparison to the EOS 20D, this has been much simplified and now just features completely automated, ‘creative,’ Bulb, and the new Camera user setting option.

IconDescription
Fully Automatic Exposure

Camera has complete control over exposure, essena tially point-and-shoot operation. In this mode ISO sensitivity is set to ‘Auto’, White balance is,
‘Auto’ and AF mode ‘AI Focus’. You can only select self-timer.
icon modepProgram Auto Exposure (Flexible)

The standard Program mode everyone will be used to, can set the ISO, exposure compensation, use AE lock, bracketing etc. The Program AE on the EOS 5D is flexible, that means that you can select one of a variety of equal exposures by turning the main dial (top of camera). Example:
       
 • 1/30 F2.8 (metered)
 • 1/20 F3.2 (turn left one click)
 • 1/15 F4.0 (turn left two clicks) etc.
icon modetvShutter Priority Auto Exposure

In this mode you select the shutter speed and the camera will calculate the correct aperture for the exposure (depending on metered value; metering mode, ISO). Shutter speed is displayed on the viewfinder status bar and on the top LCD, turn the main dial to select different shutter speeds. A half-press of the shutter release causes the camera’s exposure system to calculate the aperture, if it’s outside of the camera’s exposure range the aperture will blink. Available shutter speeds below represent 1/3 stop increments, 1/2 stop increments can be selected via custom function 6.

1/8000, 1/6400, 1/5000, 1/4000, 1/3200, 1/2500, 1/2000, 1/1600, 1/1250, 1/1000, 1/800, 1/640, 1/500, 1/400, 1/320, 1/250, 1/200, 1/160, 1/125, 1/100, 1/80, 1/60, 1/50, 1/40, 1/30, 1/25, 1/20, 1/15, 1/13, 1/10, 1/8, 1/6, 1/5, 1/4, 0.3, 0.4, 0.5, 0.6, 0.8, 1, 1.3, 1.6, 2, 2.5, 3.2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, 13, 15, 20, 25, 30 sec
icon modeavAperture Priority Auto Exposure

In this mode you select the aperture and the camera will calculate the correct shutter speed for the exposure (depending on metered value; metering mode, ISO). Aperture is displayed on the viewfinder status bar and on the top LCD, turn the main dial to select different apertures. A half-press of the shutter release causes the camera’s exposure system to calculate the shutter speed, if it’s outside of the camera’s exposure range the shutter speed will blink. Available apertures will differ depending on the lens used, the list below represent 1/3 stop increments, 1/2 stop increments can be selected via custom function 6.

F1.0, F1.1, F1.2, F1.4, F1.6, F1.8, F2.0, F2.2, F2.5, F2.8, F3.2, F3.5, F4.0, F4.5, F5.0, F5.6, F6.3, F7.1, F8.0, F9.0, F10, F11, F13, F14, F16, F18, F20, F22, F25, F29, F32, F36, F40, F45, F51, F57, F64, F72, F81, F91 (exact range depends on lens used)
icon modemFull Manual Exposure

In this mode you select the aperture and the shutter speed from any combination of the above. Top dial selects shutter speed, rear dial selects aperture. Half-press the shutter release and the meter on the viewfinder status bar and top LCD will reflect the exposure level compared to the calculated ideal exposure, if it’s outside of +/- 2EV the indicator bar will blink either + or -.
icon modebBulb exposure

In this mode the shutter stays open for as long as you hold the shutter release button, use either dial to select aperture. (Note that this is a departure from the EOS 20D which implemented Bulb in manual mode).
icon modecCamera user setting

This mode dial position is essentially a ‘user memory’, from any of the P, Tv, Av, M or B modes you can select the ‘Register camera settings’ option from the menu to preset this mode. Virtually all settings (including custom functions) are then memorized and can be recalled by switching to this mode.

Controls at the very top of the camera (right)

ButtonMain DialQuick Control Dial
icon afwbAuto Focus Mode

 • One Shot (focus lock on half-press)
 • AI Focus (locks but monitors movement)
 • AI Servo (continuous predictive focus)

AI Focus mode initially locks just like One Shot mode but monitors the focused subject, if the subject moves it will automatically switch to an AI Servo operation.
White Balance Mode

 • Auto (3000 – 7000 K)
 • Daylight (~ 5200 K)
 • Shade (~ 7000 K)
 • Cloudy (~ 6000 K)
 • Tungsten (~ 3200 K)
 • Fluorescent (~ 4000 K)
 • Flash (~ 6000 K)
 • Custom (2000 – 10000 K sample)
 • Kelvin temperature (2800 – 10000 K)
icon driveDrive Mode

 • Single shot
 • Continuous
 • Self-Timer

Self-Timer delay is by default 10 seconds, however if you use mirror lockup (C.Fn 12) the delay is reduced to 2 seconds.
ISO Sensitivity

 • L (ISO 50) *
 • ISO 100
 • ISO 125
 • ISO 160
 • ISO 200
 • ISO 250
 • ISO 320
 • ISO 400
 • ISO 500
 • ISO 640
 • ISO 800
 • ISO 1000
 • ISO 1250
 • ISO 1600
 • H (ISO 3200) *

* Enabled via C.Fn 8
Metering Mode

 • Evaluative (35 zone)
 • Partial (8% of center of frame)
 • Spot (3.5% of center of frame)
 • Center-weighted Average
Flash Compensation

 • +/-2 EV
 • 1/3 or 1/2 EV steps (C.Fn 6)

The LCD status panel is located on the top of the camera on the right side. Directly above the LCD panel are four buttons that control the LCD panel backlight, AF/WB, Drive/ISO, and Metering/Flash company. The primary dial and the button to release the shutter are located in front of these buttons. To return to shooting mode, you must first push the settings buttons once, then spin a dial to alter the setting value, and last, you must press the shutter release halfway (or press another button).

The following table provides an explanation of the connection between each of the settings buttons and the parameters that may be modified by rotating either the main dial (at the top) or the fast control dial (rear).

ButtonOperation
icon aelockAE / FE Lock

Press to trigger automatic exposure and lock the exposure for the next shot. Hold the button to lock the exposure for more than one shot. The exact function of this button can be programmed via custom function 4 (see below).
icon afpointAF point selection button

Press to choose a single AF point, turn the main dial or the quick control dial to scroll around the available AF points. Alternatively you can also use the multi-controller to select a point directly (press the selector for the center point). The exact function of this button can be programmed via custom function 13 (see below).

Under Thumb

Where your thumb rests There are two buttons located on the right-hand side of the camera, “under your thumb.” The AE lock button (which, when pressed, allows the user to read and lock the exposure, and which may also be re-programmed), as well as the AF point selection button (press to select AF point, AF point selection can also be re-programmed).

Shooting mode

ButtonOperation
icon aelockAE / FE Lock

Press to trigger automatic exposure and lock the exposure for the next shot. Hold the button to lock the exposure for more than one shot. The exact function of this button can be programmed via custom function 4 (see below).
icon afpointAF point selection button

Press to choose a single AF point, turn the main dial or the quick control dial to scroll around the available AF points. Alternatively you can also use the multi-controller to select a point directly (press the selector for the center point). The exact function of this button can be programmed via custom function 13 (see below).

Play mode

ButtonOperation
icon thumbThumbnail index / reduce magnification

If in single view play mode, pressing this button will switch to a 3 x 3 thumbnail index. If already magnified it will step back in magnification levels once.
icon magMagnify

Press to magnify the current image, there are fifteen steps up to a maximum magnification of 10x. Use the quick control dial to pan around the image, press the direction switch button to change from horizontal to vertical panning. Note that it is possible to change image while maintaining magnification, just roll the main dial.

The function of the shutter button and the AE lock button (C.Fn 4)

You can control WHEN the camera AF executes by using setting 1 or setting 3, and all it takes to start AF is a simple press of your thumb. After that, you can take as many pictures as you want (obviously, more quickly) without the camera refocusing, and you can also manually focus once the AF has finished. Most photographers who specialize in sports photography use setting 1 or setting 3.

Custom Function 4
SettingShutter button half-pressAE Lock button
0AE, AFAE lock
1AE lock (shutter release priority)AE, AF
2AE, AFAF lock (no AE lock)
3AE (shutter release priority)AE, AF (no AE lock)

AF point selection method (C.Fn 13)

Personally I preferred setting 1 which allows you to simply press the multi-controller to select an AF point or press the the AF point selection button to return to auto AF selection mode.

Custom Function 13
SettingAF point selection method
0Press AF point selection then use dial / multi-controller
1Push multi-controller to select AF point, selection button for Auto
2Quick control dial to select AF point, selection button has no function

Controls on the back of the camera

The only noticeable difference between the control layouts on the back of the EOS 5D and the EOS 20D is the inclusion of a button labeled “Direct print” (above the LCD). The control arrangement is well thought out and simple to understand, the quick control dial is in the ideal place, and it is of great benefit (more manufacturers should add large dials on the rear of their cameras!).

Shooting mode

ButtonOperation
icon menuEnter / Leave the Menu

The camera menu is described on the following pages of this review.
icon infoInformation

Displays current camera settings / information (click here for an example).

Play mode

ButtonOperation
icon dprintDirect Print

Press this button to begin printing of the displayed image on a connected printer.
icon menuEnter / Leave the Menu

The camera menu is described on the following pages of this review.
icon infoInformation

Changes the play display mode: No information, brief information, detailed information and histogram.
icon jumpJump mode

Enters jump mode which allows you to skip images by a preset amount or by a particular criteria. You can change the jump mode by pressing the SET button:

 • Jump 10 images
 • Jump 100 images
 • Jump shot date
 • Jump folder
icon playPlay

Displays the last image shot (the last image on the card). The EOS 5D is a shooting priority camera, which means that no matter what is displayed on the rear LCD this will be canceled if any of the camera’s photographic functions (example half-pressing the shutter release) are accessed.
icon eraseErase

Press to erase the current image, displays an OK / Cancel dialog. In play mode you also get the option to erase all images (except those protected).

Lens mount controls

The last set of controls for the camera is located on the side of the lens mount. The first button is the lens release button, and the second button is the depth of field preview button. When you press the depth of field preview button, the lens shuts down to the aperture that has been specified or selected, and the viewfinder displays a preview of the depth of field.

Image Quality Test

Accuracy with regard to ISO and sensitivity

As a brand-new feature that has been added to our reviews, we are now assessing the real sensitivity of each ISO sensitivity that is specified. This is accomplished by taking the identical images that are used to determine the ISO noise levels. We then compare the exposure of each shot to the light level that was measured (with a Sekonic L-358), making sure that the center gray is the same. The precision of these data is estimated to be within a range of +/- 1/6 EV.

As is the case with practically all of Canon’s digital SLR cameras, the EOS 5D has a sensitivity that is around a third of a stop higher than what is shown. As a result, its ISO 100 setting is really closer to ISO 125. The Nikon D2X is (as are the most Nikon digital SLRs) spot on, but the Fujifilm S3 Pro was found to be around a third (to a quarter) less sensitive.

Indicated
sensitivity
Canon EOS 5D / EOS 20D / EOS-1Ds Mk II
(actual sensitivity)
Nikon D2X

(actual sensitivity)
Fujifilm S3 Pro

(actual sensitivity)
ISO 50ISO 64n/an/a
ISO 100ISO 125ISO 100ISO 80
ISO 200ISO 250ISO 200ISO 160
ISO 400ISO 500ISO 400ISO 320
ISO 800ISO 1000ISO 800ISO 640
ISO 1600ISO 2000ISO 1600ISO 1250
ISO 3200ISO 4000ISO 3200n/a

ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels

The ability to raise the sensitivity of the sensor of a digital camera is referred to as the ISO equivalent setting. The function is achieved by increasing the “volume” (gain) of the signal amplifiers contained within the sensor (remember the sensor is an analog device). When you magnify the signal, you also boost the noise, and the noise becomes more apparent as the ISO value increases. At greater sensitivities, a lot of today’s cameras also make use of noise reduction and sometimes even sharpness decrease.

We take a series of pictures of a GretagMacBeth ColorChecker chart in order to determine the amount of background noise (controlled artificial daylight lighting). The exposure is calibrated to the ISO (for example, ISO 200 and 1/200 of a second to maintain exposure uniformity between cameras).

Our in-house developed and patented noise measuring software is then applied to the picture sequence (version 1.4 in this review). To obtain further details, please go here. (It is important to keep in mind that the noise levels that are displayed on the graphs here cannot be compared to those that are presented in other reviews.)

ISO Sensitivity / Noise levels

The ability to raise the sensitivity of the sensor of a digital camera is referred to as the ISO equivalent setting. The function is achieved by increasing the “volume” (gain) of the signal amplifiers contained within the sensor (remember the sensor is an analog device). When you magnify the signal, you also boost the noise, and the noise becomes more apparent as the ISO value increases. At greater sensitivities, a lot of today’s cameras also make use of noise reduction and sometimes even sharpness decrease.
We take a series of pictures of a GretagMacBeth ColorChecker chart in order to determine the amount of background noise (controlled artificial daylight lighting). The exposure is calibrated to the ISO (for example, ISO 200 and 1/200 of a second to maintain exposure uniformity between cameras). Our in-house developed and patented noise measuring software is then applied to the picture sequence (version 1.4 in this review).

To obtain further details, please go here. (It is important to keep in mind that the noise levels that are displayed on the graphs here cannot be compared to those that are presented in other reviews.)

Specifications

Body materialMagnesium alloy
Sensor• 35.8 x 23.9 mm CMOS sensor *
• Full 35 mm size frame *
• RGB Color Filter Array
• Built-in fixed low-pass filter
• 13.3 million total pixels *
• 12.8 million effective pixels *
• 3:2 aspect ratio
Image processorDIGIC II
Image sizes• 4368 x 2912 (L; 12.7 MP) *
• 3168 x 2112 (M; 6.7 MP) *
• 2496 x 1664 (S; 4.2 MP) *
File formats• RAW (.CR2; 12-bit)
• JPEG (EXIF 2.21) – Fine / Normal
• RAW + JPEG (separate files)
File sizes• RAW: approx. 12.9 MB
• Large / Fine: approx. 4.6 MB
• Large / Normal: approx. 2.3 MB
• Medium / Fine: approx. 2.7 MB
• Medium / Normal: approx. 1.4 MB
• Small / Fine: approx. 2.0 MB
• Small / Normal: approx. 1.0 MB
Color space• sRGB
• Adobe RGB
Lenses• Canon EF lens mount (does not support EF-S lenses) *
• No field of view crop (1.0x) *
Focusing• 9-point TTL
• 6 “Invisible Assist AF points” *
• CMOS sensor
• AF working range: -0.5 to 18 EV (at 20°C, ISO 100) *
Focus modes• AI Focus AF
• One shot AF
• AI Servo AF
• Manual focus
AF point selection• Auto
• Manual
• Home position
AF assistNo *
Metering• TTL 35 zone SPC
• Metering range: 1.0 to 20 EV (at 20°C, ISO 100, 50 mm F1.4)
Metering modes• Evaluative 35 zone
• Partial (8% at center*)
• Spot metering (3.5% at center) *
• Center-weighted average
• Metering range: 1 – 20 EV (at 20°C, ISO 100)
AE lock• Auto: One Shot AF with evaluative metering
• Manual: AE lock button
AE bracketing• +/- 2.0 EV
• 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
Exposure compen.• +/-2.0 EV
• 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
Sensitivity *• Auto (ISO 100 – 400)
• ISO 50 (Enhanced L) *
• ISO 100
• ISO 125
• ISO 160
• ISO 200
• ISO 250
• ISO 320
• ISO 400
• ISO 500
• ISO 640
• ISO 800
• ISO 1000
• ISO 1250
• ISO 1600
• ISO 3200 (Enhanced H)
Shutter• Focal-plane shutter
• 30 – 1/8000 sec
• 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
• Flash X-Sync: 1/200 sec *
• Bulb
Aperture values• F1.0 – F91
• 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
• Actual aperture range depends on lens used
White balance• Auto (3000 – 7000 K)
• Daylight (5200 K)
• Shade (7000 K)
• Cloudy (6000 K)
• Tungsten (3200 K)
• Fluorescent (4000 K)
• Flash (6000 K)
• Custom (2000 – 10000 K)
• Kelvin (2800 – 10000 K in 100 K steps)
WB bracketing• +/-3 levels
• 3 images
• blue/amber or magenta/green bias
WB shift• Blue (-9) To Amber (+9)
• Magenta (-9) to Green (+9)
Picture style *• Standard
• Portrait
• Landscape
• Neutral
• Faithful
• Monochrome
• User 1
• User 2
• User 3
Custom image parameters *• Sharpness: 0 to 7
• Contrast: -4 to +4
• Saturation: -4 to +4
• Color tone: -4 to +4
• B&W filter: N, Ye, Or, R, G
• B&W tone: N, S, B, P, G
Viewfinder• Eye-level pentaprism
• 96% frame coverage *
• Magnification: 0.71x *
• Eyepoint: 20 mm
• Dioptric adjustment: -3 to +1 diopter
• Precision matte screen Ee-A (removable *)
Viewfinder info• AF points
• Focus confirmation light
• Shutter speed
• Aperture
• Manual exposure
• AE Lock
• Exposure compensation amount
• AEB level
• Spot metering circle
• Flash ready
• Red-eye reduction lamp on
• High-speed sync
• FE Lock
• Flash compensation amount
• Warnings
• Maximum burst for continuous shooting
• Buffer space
LCD monitor• 2.5″ TFT LCD *
• 230,000 pixels *
• 5 brightness levels
• 10x zoom playback
Shutter release• Soft touch *
Record review• Off
• On (histogram via INFO button)
• 2 / 4 / 8 sec / Hold
Histogram• Luminance
• RGB *
Flash• No built-in flash unit *
• E-TTL II auto flash / metered manual
• Flash compensation +/-2.0 EV in 0.3 or 0.5 EV increments
• X-Sync: 1/200 sec *
• Hot-shoe & PC Terminal
Shooting modes *• Auto
• Program AE (P)
• Shutter priority AE (Tv)
• Aperture priority AE (Av)
• Manual (M)
• Custom
Drive modes• Single
• Continuous: 3 fps up to 60 JPEG / 17 RAW frames *
• Self-timer: 10 sec (3 sec with mirror lock-up)
Burst buffer• RAW+JPEG: 12 frames
• RAW: 17 frames
• Large/Fine JPEG: 60 frames
• Large/Normal JPEG: 150 frames
• Medium/Fine JPEG: 120 frames
• Medium/Normal JPEG: Unlimited
• Small/Fine JPEG: 200 frames
• Small/Normal JPEG: Unlimited
Direct printing• Canon Compact Photo Printers
• Canon PIXMA Printers supporting PictBridge
• PictBridge
Orientation sensorYes
Auto rotation• On (playback uses orientation data in file header)
• Off
Playback mode• Single image
• Single image with info (inc. histogram)
• Magnified view (1.5 – 10x in 15 steps, browsable)
• 9 image index
• Image rotation
• Jump (by 10 or 100 images, by date, by folder *)
Custom functions21 custom functions with 57 settings *
Menu languages• English
• German
• French
• Dutch
• Danish
• Finnish
• Italian
• Norwegian
• Swedish
• Spanish
• Simplified Chinese
• Japanese
• Traditional Chinese
• Korean
• Russian
FirmwareUser upgradable
Portrait gripVia BG-E4 battery grip (optional) *
WirelessVia WFT-E1 (optional)
Connectivity• USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
• Video out
• N3 type wired remote control
• PC Sync flash terminal
Storage• Compact Flash Type I or II
• Microdrive supported
• Support for cards over 2 GB (FAT32)
• No CF card supplied
Power• Lithium-Ion BP-511A rechargeable battery (supplied & charger)
• Supports BP-511 / BP-511A / BP-512 / BP-514
• CR2016 Lithium battery (date/time backup)
• Optional AC adapter
Dimensions152 x 113 x 75 mm (6.0 x 4.4 x 2.9 in) *
Weight (no batt)810 g (1.8 lb) *
Weight (inc. batt)895 g (2.0 lb) *

Overall conclusion

It was a natural development for Canon to make the choice to produce a full-frame digital SLR at a price that was more reasonable; the only thing about which we were uncertain was how the camera would seem once it was made available. If you were looking for a camera that had a Canon mount and a full-frame sensor, your only choices were the EOS-1Ds/Mark II or the Kodak Pro SLR/c; however, both of these models are no longer available.

Since the advent of the digital single-lens reflex camera, a great number of photographers have been excitedly expecting the day when they would be able to (financially) acquire a camera body that was equipped with a full-frame sensor. The “full transition” of 35 mm film to digital photography would be signaled by this event.

The Canon EOS 5D, which has a price tag of less than $4,000, was revealed to a reception that was rather positive from existing Canon owners on our site, Dslrcamerasearch.com. On the other side, sentiments from owners of other brands varied from admiration to incredulous scorn. Envy was the most common emotion.

It is very obvious that two camps have already established themselves; quite a few people have nailed their choice to the wall, placing themselves either in the group that believes “Full Frame or nothing” or the group that believes “Cropped is superior.” Both of these groups have their adherents who have made their choices clear.

The assignment that was handed to us in order to complete this evaluation was a fascinating one. In the first place, we were tasked with reviewing the camera in the same manner that we would any other digital SLR, but we also had to investigate a large number of the presumed benefits and drawbacks, myths, and facts surrounding full-frame. In other words, we had to debunk as many of the myths as possible.

The results of our “extended test suite” were a confirmation of what we expected (and already knew), which is that a full-frame camera fully exposes the limits of the lens that is being used, and that just because the pixel pitch is larger does not necessarily mean that we will get more dynamic range and lower noise in the image. This was confirmed by the fact that a full-frame camera fully exposes the limits of the lens that is being used. (It’s important to keep in mind that the pixel pitch of the EOS 5Ds and the EOS-1D Mark II are exactly the same.)

The Canon EOS 5D is a wonderful piece of photographic equipment that is capable of producing results that are unquestionably exceptional. The catch is that a considerably greater level of attention to detail and knowledge with your apparatus is required in order to successfully complete it (especially lenses). With photographs that were crisp and detailed straight out of the camera (in JPEG format), and considerably more detail was available if you shot in RAW format, we discovered that the resolution was simply excellent.

The range of image attributes that can be modified inside the camera has been expanded, and users may easily create alternative “looks” by making use of the camera’s Picture Styles (it’s almost like switching films). This comes as neither a shock nor a letdown; rather, it simply denotes consistency and the fulfillment of an expectation that Canon had established regarding the performance of their CMOS sensor. Neither of these things is surprising. The dynamic range and noise levels are essentially identical to those of the EOS 20D, and the noise levels are practically same as well.

Pros & Cons

Good For
  • Extremely little noise, even when the sensitivity is turned up.
  • Excellent quality, and a significant step up for Canon users with only eight megapixels (EOS 20D)
  • Approximately one-third of a full stop is more sensitive than what is stated
  • Your vision is completely consumed by the extremely huge and brilliant viewfinder.
  • Full frame 35 mm size sensor provides a shooting experience similar to the film, as well as a truly wide perspective.
Need Improvement
  • Good lenses are required to avoid edge softness, falloff, and chromatic aberrations.
  • Interference banding problem with AI Servo using constant alternating frequency (certain lenses, high sensitivities)
  • There is no indication of picture style tone curve in the camera menu (contrast is an offset, not absolute)
  • There are distinct variances in the picture styles produced by RAW Image Task and Camera and DPP.
  • The same old problem with the “CF compartment door causes the camera to shut off.”

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