By April 16, 2008

Canon EOS-5D review

Canon are synonymous with high end professional cameras and the slightly Modified Canon EOS 5D is no exception. Yes, this beast has been around for a couple of years now but with a few cosmetic tweaks Canon have once again extended the life a little bit more.

Now, this camera is not your modern flashy electronics, multiple scenery mode, point and click camera – It is a serious high end professional camera built like a tank to take plent of scrapes and knocks I know it may not meet the needs of many of our readers. However, take a look at the paps on the streets and a vast majority of them will have this very camera in their hand.

Canon EOS-5D

Canon EOS-5D


When we examined the Panasonic I commented that many purists may not like all the scenery options and shooting assists – Well, The Canon EOS 5D is as far away from this as you could possibly get. It’s a body only purchase as well (Although many suppliers are doing “Kit” deals with a number of lense choices) so don’t forget the lenses!

I hooked the 5D up to a pretty standard Sigma 500mm EF lens for the review.

What’s in the Box?

Very little! The camera body comes complete with battery, lens covers, leads and battery charger. The supplied software allows easy transfer of images via USB if required (To be honest I always use a CF Card reader as I feel this is faster).

Canon EOS 5D specification:

  • 12.8 MP full frame CMOS sensor
  • 3 fps 60 JPEG image burst
  • 9-point AF with 6 Assist AF points
  • 2.5″ LCD
  • Picture Style image processing
  • Records RAW/JPEG images
  • Digital Photo Professional software
  • Compact magnesium alloy body
  • Connectivity options
  • General

    Built like a Tank with a Magnesium alloy body, you instantly feel this is a serious piece of kit with an extremely good build level and judging by the review unit can take a few knocks along the way. Never seen a camera so bashed!

    Oh, and for Canon EOS users the controls are pretty much the same too…

    One of the big additions the 5D provides is a full-frame sensor. Most consumer focused D-SLR’s are 2/3rds frame and use a much smaller sensor.

    The biggest advantage of a full frame sensor are much higher picture quality, this is backed up in low light situations as well – However, you do loose the magnifying effect found on smaller sensor cameras.

    Taking the classical EOS look and feel, with a much more solid body than say the 350D, the EOS 5D is one beast of a camera to hold and feel but I’m really interested in is how it works.

    Looking at the now de facto Canon EOS controls top left shows the mode dial button.

  • Auto Mode – Fully automatic mode – The camera sets aperture and shutter speed depending on the conditions
  • Program Mode – Fully automatic, however you can change shutter speed and aperture using the main dials – Useful to change depth of field.
  • Shutter Priority Mode – Allows you to change the shutter speed from 30 Seconds to 1/8000th second
  • Aperture Priority Mode – Allows manual changes to the aperture settings
  • Full Manual Mode – All settings can be changed manually with no assistance from the camera.
  • Bulb Mode – Allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you need.
  • Custom Mode – This allows quick access to custom settings you may have on your camera
  • Canon EOS-5D mode dial

    Canon EOS-5D mode dial

    The top right hand side of the camera houses the main camera setting display

    Canon EOS-5D LCD Panel

    Canon EOS-5D LCD Panel

    This shows many of the camera settings such as shutter speed and aperture this can also be used when changing many settings. A handy back light can be switched on for those darker nights!

    Other settings such as ISO, White balance and focus modes are changed with the collection of buttons encircling this LCD screen.

  • Backlight – Enables the orange glow on the LCD display
  • ISO – Changes the ISO settings, standard settings range from 100 through to 1600. These can be extended by enabling ISO expansion but the image quality does suffer a little.
  • Metering – This allows changes to the camera metering for exposure compensation
  • The camera has a few AF modes, from the standard One Shot mode to the AI Focus modes that keeps the camera focusing at all times. Useful for moving objects.

    Of course, the shutter release is just to the front of these buttons.

    In the centre of the camera is a pretty standard hotshoe. The camera uses E-TTL II Flash Metering. It’s important to note this camera does not have any integral flash (Or an AF assist lamp for focusing) but it will use any of these features on a compatible flash unit.

    The left hand side of the camera has a small lift up flap allow access to the connections of the camera.

    Canon EOS-5D connectors

    Canon EOS-5D connectors

    Connections are provided for external flash synchronisation, Remote Shutter release, Video out and a USB 2.0 connector for linking with your PC.

    The back of the camera looks almost like a 20D (or most other EOS cameras for that matter…)

    Canon EOS-5D back

    Canon EOS-5D back

    The immediate benefit however is the 2.5” LCD screen, somewhat larger than previous models. This screen is crystal clear and provides excellent reviewing of images and access to menu items.

    The camera does not have Live View though, I didn’t think I’d miss this but for close up work I certainly did. I have to say the view finder was excellent though – The Full Screen CCD allows far more light, and with a larger mirror in the camera the view is really good.

    To the left of the LCD screen are the common control buttons,

  • Menu – Takes you into the 5D’s simple to use menu system
  • Info – This displays your current settings or displays information on the current viewed picture.
  • Jump – Allows you to “Jump” through displayed menus
  • Play – Switches the camera to image playback mode
  • Just below the screen is the delete images button.

    Above the power switch (incidentally the 5D is ready within a second after switching on) is the main jog wheel. This is used to move through menu items and controlling some of the camera settings.

    On the right hand side of the camera is the CF Card slot. (Type II)

    Canon EOS-5D card slot

    Canon EOS-5D memory card slot

    Highlights and Lowlights

    Using the camera on a day to day basis has shown a number of highlights and low lights:


  • Extremely fast switch on, making the camera available for that unexpected shot within a second
  • Exceptional Image Quality – The full size CCD gives superb results and with a very good viewfinder those shots are there for the taking
  • Very good battery life with around 800 shots per charge
  • Large 2.5” Display gives clear results even in bright sunlight
  • Extremely well built – You almost feel you want to drop it just to see how it gets on…
  • Approximately 3 shots per second giving very fast response times
  • Lowlights

  • Noisy Shutter Action from the larger than normal mirror. Doesn’t cause issues but could imagine in some circumstances noise may distract.
  • No built in flash will have users reaching for possibly expensive flash guns. The canon can use other makes of flash guns but generally at fixed shutter speeds.
  • No AF assist lamp reduces focusing capability in low light situations
  • Canon EOS-5D battery compartment

    Canon EOS-5D battery compartment


    I think I mentioned before, I do own one of the original Canon 10D’s so, again I have tried to remain unbiased during this revue. Bolting on some of my existing lenses was a great benefit and the EOS 5D made full use of all the standard AF features. I did miss the extra magnification that you loose with the full screen CCD so I guess I’d need to get a better lens if I was going to use this more.

    It did make my wide angle lens behave exactly as it should though – 16mm was a true 16mm lens for once.

    The camera is very well built, and in normal Canon style shows signs of being a stong resilient camera capable of taking many a knock. The image quality is quite breathtaking and using the RAW mode allowed minute changes to be made to colour balance directly on my PC.

    I have to admit, I didn’t miss any of the scene selectors or automated imagery wizards that are now started to be found on some of the newer D-SLR’s. Give me the automatic mode for day to day shooting and happy with the ability to change my aperture and shutter settings for changing depth of field and such other trickery.

    The fast switch on and warm up time of the camera means its almost ready the moment you take it out of the bag which gives very fast access to all features and taking shots. A must for those moments you least expect (or, to be honest ever see…)Can’t remember the last time I was walking through London and bumped into Madonna.)

    I tried using some really high ISO settings on a few shots and was very surprised at the low levels of noise on the image, again, I think this is down to the full screen CCD reducing distortion etc.

    I didn’t really do too much testing with a flash gun but the brief shots I took showed a reasonable response but I wasn’t using a canon flash, just a clone cheapo unit. I’d really advise going for a proper flash unit from Canon as they just seem to match the camera a lot closer.

    The lack of an AF assist light does cause issues though, there are times you want a sharp picture taken in low light without the flash and I had to use manual focus to get the images correct.


    The Canon 5D is an excellent camera with superb quality shots and ease of use. The full screen CCD puts this camera in between high end consumer based D-SLR’s and full blown professional D-SLR’s such as the EOS 1D. You will however find many of the features and a reasonably close picture quality from some of the lower prices cameras in the EOS range such as the 400D or the upcoming 450D – The 450D for example has the same 12MP resolution and throws live view into the bundle for quite a lot less money.

    You do however get what you pay for and the EOS 5d is no exception. The full screen CCD and build quality wins for me but, I’m not a professional so I may just be tempted to move down the range slight to say the 450D and spend the extra money on that special lens.

    Review by: John

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    Posted in: Reviews

    About the Author:

    More than 20 years in the IT industry. Blogging with a passion and thirst for new technology since 2005.
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