Canon EOS 5D - Mini Review

Canon EOS 5D – Mini Review

Canon-Eos-5D-ReviewThe Canon EOS 5D made waves when it was announced as the first DSLR with a full frame sensor that wasn’t priced in the Pro range. While it’s still not priced in the reach of most digital camera owners it is an incredible camera that bundled with the 24-105mm L Series lens has tempted many serious amateurs and Pros alike.

The Canon EOS 5D is a very solid camera (with the 24-105mm lens you’ll really feel it around your neck after a day of carrying it around) with magnesium alloy construction. This is of course when you compare it with the 20D and 30D – however when you look at the next cameras up in Canon’s Pro DSLR range this is actually pretty light and portable option.

It is obviously aimed at the serious photographer as it doesn’t have any shooting modes beyond what a pro would use (ie no portrait, landscape, sports modes) and has no integrated flash (unlike it’s little brothers the 20D and 30D have).

Image quality is superb. I spent a month with this camera last year and was constantly amazed by the sharpness, smooth tones and wonderful contrast that this camera’s 12.8 megapixel sensor produced. Giving it back to Canon at the end of my time with it was no easy thing.

In fact I loved it so much that the day I handed it back I decided to start saving for my own and in the last couple of months made my purchase – I’ve not looked back since.

What I love about the Canon EOS 5D

There’s a lot to love but let me mention just a few things:

  • Viewfinder and LCD – the first two things I noticed about the 5D after it’s weight were the size and clarity of the viewfinder and LCD. They make taking and reviewing images a breeze.
  • Resolution – having upgraded from the 8 megapixel 20D I’ve come to love the resolution that the 12.8 megapixel sensor in the 5D has to offer. Pictures are consistently sharp and have low noise – even when bumping up ISO.
  • Full Frame Sensor – I’ll be honest, it’s taken a while to get used to and shooting with wider angle lenses has taken some adjustment but I’m coming to love the full frame sensor and what it opens up when I’ve got my 17-40mm lens attached at the 17mm end of things.
  • Spot Metering – this was something I always missed on the 20D
  • 50 ISO – stepping ISO back to 50 instead of 100 is a nice luxury to have.
  • Construction – this camera really feels like a serious camera. It’s solid and feels so nice in the hand.

What I don’t like about the Canon EOS 5D

  • Burst Mode – The main thing that I’ve found frustrating with the 5D is the slower burst mode/continuous shooting. 3 frames per second is OK – but coming from the 20D I’ve become used to a 5 frame per second burst. Doesn’t sound like a lot – but when you’re shooting action it is.
  • Price – this camera not only feels heavier in the hand – it magically lightens your wallet. It’s not cheap – having said that, it’s a lot cheaper than Canon’s higher end DSLRs and fills the gap in their range quite nicely.

The Canon EOS 5D Features at a Glance

Sensor – 12.8 megapixels
LCD – 2.5 inch, 230,000 pixels
Focal Length Conversion – 1.1 – Full Frame
Lens Mount – Canon EF (no EF-S)
Kit Lens – 24-105mm L Series
ISO Range – 50-3200
Memory Card – Compact Flash (CF)
Metering Modes – Muti-zone (35 zones), Evaluative, Centre weighted, Partial, Spot
Exposure Modes – Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual
Focusing Modes – 9 point Auto Focus (with 6 more assist points), Manual, Focus Point Selection, AI Focus, One Shot, AI Servo
Shutter speed – 30 seconds – 1/8000 and Bulb mode
Flash Modes – No Built in Flash, hotshoe
Drive Modes – Single, Continuous (3 frames per second), Self timer
Weight – 810 grams (body only without battery or memory card).
Battery – Lithium-ion, BP-511
Battery Life – 800 shots

Get a Price on the Canon EOS 5D at Amazon

Do you have a Canon EOS 5D DSLR? If so please leave your own review of it below.

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Website July 23, 2011 11:18 pm

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  • Kristine May 23, 2010 06:23 am

    I am a beginner, looking to purchase my first digital camera. While I dont know how to use one I hope to learn and I'm fairly good with post production in photoshop. I am looking to purchase this as my first camera. I want to make sure I have a good quality camera. Would this be way over my head? or if I can afford it go for it?


  • pavankumar January 7, 2010 02:39 am

    very good camera.i did not go for the lens.body is cheap for a full sensor slr.pavan kumar

  • Budianto Chen January 5, 2010 09:05 pm

    I'm considering to buy this one also.
    Anybody can help me to compare 5D with 50D, 7D, 5DMarkII

  • pavankumar August 29, 2009 02:53 am

    5D is a dream camera.I have got it recently.I use my old FD 35-105,50-1.4,LENSES with adopter ,getting good results.Who needs a flash with this camera?Dint go for the bundled offer with 5D.Have17-35 Tamron,28-300Tamron.No complains.

  • Radley August 28, 2009 09:46 am

    Hi Darren, I am thinking of upgrading to a 5D, depending on what canon release in the next few weeks, with a different range of camera's available now compared to when the review was done, would you still purchase the 5D. I want a FF, and mainly shooting landscape, portrait. Do you know anyone except ebay that trades in second hand goods?

  • pavankumar June 2, 2009 02:49 am

    An excellent camera.Most of the time no need for external flash.For that price it is cheap.

  • BUCK NELSON February 27, 2009 02:45 am

    I'm considering the 40D or 5Dmk11 for my next camera, your blog has raised some interesting points. thank you for sharing. peace buck

  • Gary S October 17, 2007 02:55 pm

    As purely an amateur after using a Canon A1 for many years and then making enormous use of a little pocket Sony T1, it was time to decide on my next "real" camera. I did a huge amount of reading and investigation before I made the final decision - but that's just me! I purchased a Canon 5D with 24-105mm L IS USM lens so that I would get the most out of it, but also so my partner who is a complete novice, could use it. That might sound funny, but with very little instruction, she takes the camera to family functions, parties, etc, and comes home with the most amazing photos. This camera does it all for you. All I can say is if you have the money and can appreciate what the 5D can do for your photos, it's very easy to learn the rest over time and you'll absolutely love this camera. Now I'm just about to purchase the 70-200mm IS USM lens and the package will be complete.

  • Ajith July 25, 2007 08:54 pm

    It's great to hear different views of the technology used and what you can get out from these cameras.
    I think in nutshell the type of camera you need depends on what you are expecting from the photograph.
    I am a beginner to photography and learning a lot through DPS, most of my photos are for fun and memories like my wild life tours, camping, kids events, places of visit and some landscapes. Up until last May I was using a canon EOS 300 analogue camera and a Sony cybershot point and shoot which I was always happy with, when I start hearing about digital SLR's I alway wanted to buy one to improve my skills in photography and doing some thorough investigations about digital SLR's and considering my requirement and the weight of my pocket I ended up going for Canon EOS 400 XTi, which I am very happy with and improving my skills . The lenses I have are EF-S 18-55mm and EF 75-300 mm the bottom end ones. I will go for a better lens in future after saving some money.

  • William July 24, 2007 11:34 pm

    I do agree with Ziad that most of the camera are possible to do great picture. I started with a Olympus C700 2.1 MB 10X optical zoom camera in early 2003. It helped me to take many good pictures and managed to recover the cost within a year.

    The 300D gave me another level of satisfaction. With the upgrade of couple more lens, I found there were some limitation of the camera body, I missed a number of wide-angle shots even though I used the 11-18mm lens. The 6.3 MB RAW still not enough for the central page and the noise level of the higher ISO is not acceptable. The body is too light and too plastic. I don't feel comfortable to mount a 2Kg 70-200 F2.8 IS lens on it.

    Thinking of changing the camera but found the 20D/30D is more or less the same as 400D in terms of the pixel, sensor size and weight.

    When I got my 5D, I realised that the big sensor not only give higher resolution but also lower noise level. But it does not come with the autoprograms such as sport, marco and other direct access functions. I need to learn the manual setting again but it gives more fun.

    Again, it is subject to what the photograher wants. We have to joggle between the cost, convenience, the purpose of using the camera and the skill level.

    5D is definately not a good camera for business traveller. My colleagues carry the 400D feel more comfortable than me. I use to carry the 300D with a Sigma 18-200mm for long business trip while the 5D with 24-104 and 70-200 for dedicated photo trip. I always have my SongEricsson K700i 3.2 MP camera phone in my pocket. It producs excellent picture (only under the bright sun light or close up with flash on).

  • ziad July 24, 2007 11:48 am

    I don't think we are necessarily in disagreement. All these cameras take great pictures. It is only a question of your priorities.

    I own a Canon 30D and while many recommend you buy a lower priced camera and spend the difference on better glass, I am happy with my purchase. It came with the 17-85 IS lens. Its no "L" series lens, but it is still great!

  • Elmo July 22, 2007 12:42 am

    Two things come to mind as I read the review and its comments. The first is the bigger hammer (pixel count) thing. For the type of work I do, huge pixel counts are wasted. My only reasons for owning a 5d is better noise figures at high ISO and better utilization of Wide Angle lenses. I must admit I use my 5d for landscapes as psychologically the bigger pixel count must be better. In reality for the print size I normally use it is no better than my 30d.

    This brings up my second issue the feature set. Many folks say why move up, I love my REBEL. I to was a confirmed rebel user, until 300d Rebels were no longer available. I find the XT and XTi rebels very uncomfortable, like picking up a washer with a tow-truck. I looked at the pro lines (5d & 30d) as replacements. I noted buttons and dials in about the same places so I assumed the operation would be similar. I decided to purchase the 5d for the reasons mentioned above.

    I took the new camera out for a quick test and found the buttons and dials were not the same. In some cases not even similar. The pro-lines controls provide the working photographer much easier and quicker control of function and offer some welcomed new functions as compared to the consumer models. Is this improved functionality worth the price? That depends upon the user’s needs. How do you find out if it is better for your needs? Go to real camera dealer and spend some time with the camera and manual. You can do that at a camera store but not at Best-Buy. Shoot a card of captures carry them home for review. Support Your Camera Store we need them.

    For me there are downsides to the 5d. Much of my photography requires longer lenses. I found myself faced with the dilemma of buying longer glass or cropping the images. As most of my clients want the whole image to protect against image tampering, cropping was not an option. The best option was to buy a reduced sensor size 30d as a second camera. I now find my image count is over 100 to 1, 30d over 5d. Another downside of the 5d is the quality of glass needed. With 50 percent more pixels you better have 50 percent better glass to utilize those extra pixels. Why do you think Canon ships an “L” lens as a kit lens?

    PS: I am a part time photojournalist for a small town newspaper.

  • William July 21, 2007 10:40 am

    here some correction of my comment earlier. I was referring to the D1s for the top of the range camera to cover all the photographer's dream. The MarkII means the MarkII N, just the smaller brother of the D1s.

    I agree with Ramon, I dare not delete any file from the camera base on the LCD except that those really unacceptable exposure. I either carry couple CF card for back up or bring along the Epson P200 (sorry that was the first generation and a bit older)

  • Ramón July 21, 2007 09:16 am

    William, I agree.
    I learned from misjudgement out in the field, not to trust the 5D's LCD to determine if a photo was a keeper; I wait to download to my computer, then do a 1st edit, and proceed from there.
    Shooting in RAW requires at least some minimal adjustment, and that can mean the difference between a keeper and a delete.

  • William July 21, 2007 01:03 am

    I have been using the 300D for 4 years and just added the 5D with 24-105 F4 this year. For the 300D, I took sixty thousand shots in 4 years. But in the past 7 months, I took more ten thousand shots with the 5D.

    The built and the weight of the 5D body give me confidence and I tends to carry it more often. The sharpness and clarity of the picture helped me to win a lot of girls' heart. The landscape and marco were so detail that comparable to the slides. Surely, the 70-200L F2.8 IS contribute a lot to it.

    There are some issue of the LCD. Although it is big, clear and high contrast, I always found it is a bit blur when the I enlarge the image to check the focus. It shows the picture a bit out of focus but when I put it on the 22" screen or print a A3 size, it is very sharp.

    I don't care much about the burst rate as I do not do many sport photography. We should know what we buy the camera for. 5D definately for landscape, marco and portrait. The 30D, Mark II or now the Mark III are more cater for sport photo. If you want both, you need to fork out more to get the Mark I.

    Before I bought the 5D, I had been struggling for a year whether to upgrade the lens first or get a 5D body first. Using a L lens is more expensive than the 300D body, it seems no matching. Lucky that the bonus at the beginning of the year helped to resolve the problem, I bought all in one go :-))

  • Shane July 20, 2007 06:39 pm

    “unless you do some sort of professional photography, you can’t justify that price tag!! i’d like some comparisons between say the 350d and the 5d with the same lens. i’d be surprised at any difference in quality.”

    I upgraded from the 300d to the 30d around 12 months ago... Sure 'they both do the same job' and the quality looks the same when on the same settings... The images are hard to tell apart.

    The real reason I upgraded was usability. On the 30d all the settings at at your fingertips. Flash compensation, aperture and shutter on separate controls, etc etc etc.

    My point is that its not always about image quality - for me its a hobby, I treat it as another area of life to explore and play with. The 30D just fits with my shooting style tha much better.

    Is the full frame worth the difference - absolutely, but only if it works for you.

  • Ed Powell July 20, 2007 06:02 pm

    Has anybody tried to use a WFT-E1/E1A with a EOS5D, if so let me know how you got on with the installation.

  • Mike July 20, 2007 05:56 am

    "unless you do some sort of professional photography, you can’t justify that price tag!! i’d like some comparisons between say the 350d and the 5d with the same lens. i’d be surprised at any difference in quality."

    A Smart Car and a big Mercedes will both get you where you want to go, so the Mercedes isn't worth the money, right?

    The 350D / 5D is not a good comparison because the 5d will definately produce higher quality images. The better comparison is 305D / 30D (which I have). They have the exact same imnage quality, so why spend the extra? It's something I wrestled with when I upgraded from the G6. But I kept reading posts from people who upgraded 350D - 30D and were very happy they had. SO I spent the extra and I've been very happy.

  • Ernest July 20, 2007 03:20 am

    Nice review! I'm in the verge of upgrading my camera (nikon D50) and now very tempted to go for the 5D!! Not only changing for a better cam but have to upgrade everything from lens to flash!!! very pricey to change all my gears to Canon :-(

    But 5D has been on the market for a while .. got any news of a newer model for the same grade? Thanks


  • Mark July 19, 2007 11:13 pm

    I have a 20d, and use it mainly for product photography, as well as other times when a P&S just won't do. Darren above offers some good advice - don't worry so much about the body until you get a few decent lenses.

    They don't all have to be "L" series lenses. There are some lower priced ones that give the L's a run for their money. The 100 macro and the classic 50mm mark 1 are two that come to mind.

    Happy shooting!

  • sinergy July 19, 2007 08:49 pm

    unless you do some sort of professional photography, you can't justify that price tag!! i'd like some comparisons between say the 350d and the 5d with the same lens. i'd be surprised at any difference in quality.

    isn't the canon 40d coming out soon? :D

  • Darren July 19, 2007 07:42 pm

    The 5D might have come out 2 years go - but I only got it 2 months ago :-)

  • Mika July 19, 2007 06:52 pm

    This mini review comes out a bit late (5D came out about 2 years ago)...

    Anyway - I find 5D just about perfect for portraits and landscapes. For anything else - escpecially for sports and wildlife - I use my 30D (although I would propably recommend something else like 1d mark III for others - budget permitting of course)

  • Shane July 19, 2007 06:17 pm

    I have a technical Q for those with the 5D. I saw a statement from Nikon ages ago which mentioned they had no plans to make a full size sensor. This was based on the fact sensors work best when light is hitting directly from 90deg, and as you move away from 90deg the amount of light the sensor picks up drops quickly.

    At the center of the sensor, light hits at 90deg... but as you move away from the center, this angle moves away from 90deg. The larger the sensor, the greater the impact of this on the level of light picked up by the sensor.

    So, my Q for 5D users... can this impact be seen at all anywhere in your shots???

    Basically I think Nikons reasoning is a cover for other manufacturing problems???

  • Roger July 19, 2007 03:56 pm

    Buying a Canon EOS 5D changed my life. I cannot recommend it highly enough. I would also highly recommend the kit lens tha it comes with, the 24-105mm L series lens is a beautiful piece of glass and I rarely separate the two.

    I ummmed and aaahed on buying this camera and lens for quite a while and wondered if I could justify the price - but in the end decided that if I was serious about improving my photography that I should put my money on the line.

    I actually think that making it hurt a little to buy it (I actually took out a small personal loan as I didn't have quite enough) is a reason why I now use it so much. I HAD to use it to justify the spend. The great thing is that a few weeks ago one of the shots I took with it won a local photography competition and I won $1000! So you could say that the Canon 5D is paying for itself!

  • Susheel July 19, 2007 02:44 pm

    The Canon 5D is a really good camera. I've found that it's really hard to beat in the low-noise section. The build is good, colours and tones accurate, and I've found that the auto white balance is much better than the Nikon D200.

    Overall, a great camera, and when combined with an L lens, its very difficult to beat on quality.

  • Ramón July 19, 2007 10:14 am

    Darren; I agree with your advice to J. Billetdoux. I would also add that it's smart to beware of manufacturers who try to woo buyers with the notion of digital "zoom". Beyond a certain point the quality falls almost to the point of useless. Photos that could be sharp start to look grainy and flat.
    The advantage that point and shoot digital cameras have over DSLR is the immense depth of field.

    I did what you recommended to Csonger. I bought L Series lenses first, then I moved to the 5D. When I coupled a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM to a Canon 20D, the 1.6 crop factor made it seem like I had received bonus bucks. The zoom end got bumped up and I managed to get great gorilla shots because of the IS. I also used a monopod for some of the shots.

  • Darren July 19, 2007 09:57 am

    Csongor (H) - if I were you i'd probably stick with the body you have and invest in a better lens or two. The one that comes with the 5D would be a good investment if you have the cash. That's what I did - I had a few L series lenses before I upgraded the body.

    John Billetdoux - did you want a DSLR or a point and shoot? If you want a point and shoot there are some great ones out there. The Canon G7 gets some good reviews for example. Also Panasonic and Fujifilm make some good cameras with superzooms (10 and 12x zooms).

    Otherwise I'd suggest going for a lower level DSLR (lower level than the Canon 5D that is). The 400D that Csonger has is a good entry level DSLR - a step up is the Canon 30D.

    Couple of articles for you - should you buy a point and shoot or a DSLR - How to Buy a Digital Camera.

    whiteflyer - it sure is!

  • whiteflyer July 19, 2007 08:26 am

    Now that's what you call a kit lens :)

  • Roup Hardowar July 19, 2007 07:46 am

    Nice review! I wish I can afford it now too. I'm still waiting for the price to drop. I do have the 24-105 L lens on my Rebel XT.

  • AC July 19, 2007 04:26 am

    Great - another good camera that I cannot afford right now :(

  • Andrew Ferguson July 19, 2007 04:23 am

    I love the looks and feature of the 5D. I've long since decided that it'll be my next body purchase in a year or so

  • John Billetdoux July 19, 2007 02:47 am

    I need some advice with respect to purchasing a novice digital camera. I would prefer something that will allow me to take really good landscape and sports shots, something with a really good ultra zoom.
    I'm by no means a pro, but consider myself to be somewhere in between the novice and expert level, so I'd like something that will help me develop my skills.

  • Jon July 19, 2007 02:02 am

    I agree with you all the way! I love my 5D, a significant step up + improvement on my 350D!
    I have mine with the grip, which works very well and gives it a really chunky feel to it now. The 17-40F4L works very well for wide angle and the 70-200 F2.8LIS balances perfectly (excellent for weddings).
    What I know will bug is the fps - 3 is not enough for sport, so I think a second hand 1DMkIIn is on the cards at some point.

  • Ramón July 19, 2007 01:52 am

    I moved from a Canon 20D to the 5D.
    What I learned early on is to not trust what I see in the LCD screen. Yes, it's larger than the 20D, but I can't say that it was an improvement, even at a brighter setting.

    After purchasing the 5D, you may be tempted to revisit some locations to take the same photos but with what is without a doubt a superb camera.

    I photograph plenty of football games and I agree, the burst rate is poor, so you have to carefully judge when to use it, otherwise you may miss a critical shot waiting for the camera to write to the card.

    I recommend adding the battery pack; that way you can take thousands of shots before needing fresh batteries, and being able to comfortably shoot in portrait is a plus.

  • Csongor (H) July 19, 2007 01:06 am

    Is it worth changing from 400D??? Or I better buy new lenses?