Camera review: Canon EOS 5D DSLR

With the release of the new EOS 40D and EOS-1Ds Mark III, it’s easy to forget the camera that changed the entire market: the EOS 5D. It was the first affordable full-frame sensor DSLR ever. I bought it in April of this year, and I still don’t regret the purchase. As a matter of fact, I love my 5D!

Updated 2/1/09: I’ve also written about the new 5D Mark II.

Canon EOS 5D (front)

Yes, the newer models that came out have more resolution and low light sensitivity, in addition to the EOS Integrated Cleaning System, which shakes dust off the sensor. It’s annoying to have to clean my 5D’s sensor with swabs once in a while, and to get out my bulb air blower and make sure there’s nothing inside the sensor chamber, but I don’t mind it that much — except when I have to use the Heal brush to get that dust off my photos. Even then, Adobe Lightroom makes it a breeze with its wonderful Heal/Clone tool.

I went back through Canon’s PR section and dug up the 5D’s original press release. You know how we have a healthy amount of mistrust when we read press releases? Well, read through that one and tell me if anything written there turned out to be untrue.

All these new models make me wonder what Canon will do with the 5D. I don’t think the 5D will go away. It fulfills a very important role in the marketplace and it’s beloved by many photographers. But what will happen come November? Will Canon announce a second-generation 5D? I’d kind of like them to hold off on upgrading the 5D till next spring, and I recognize that I’m entirely biased when I say that.

Whenever they decide to upgrade it, here’s what I think will happen:

  • It will get the EOS Integrated Cleaning system
  • It will get Live View
  • The pixel count will go up, possibly to 16 megapixels, but not much beyond that. If they go up higher, the renowned low light sensitivity of the 5D will suffer. Remember, pixel pitch (the space that each pixel occupies on the sensor) has a lot to do with low light sensitivity. The more pixels you squeeze on that sensor, that harder it is to keep noise in check. The DIGIC III processor should help with this, and putting microlenses over each pixel should also help, but I don’t think the new 5D will get more than 16 megapixels. Keeping all this in mind, I’d really like the new 5D to be able to go up to 3200 ISO natively, and to 6400 ISO with expansion turned on.
  • The battery life will go up slightly
  • The body will get weatherproofing
  • The AF will get upgraded with the new system present on the Mark III cameras
  • Exposure metering will get more zones, possibly as many as the new 1Ds Mark III, or at least as many as the new 40D
  • Shutter durability will be increased to 300,000 cycles from 100,000 cycles
  • The LCD screen will be upgraded to 3 inches
  • The retail price will be around $3,300, just like with the previous model, and the street price will stick pretty close to that for the first few months after the launch

Meanwhile, the existing 5D cameras aren’t outdated by any measurement, and I look forward to using mine for a long time to come. It was a significant investment for me, and I’ll try to get at least 3 years from it before I upgrade.

Buy the Canon EOS 5D


13 thoughts on “Camera review: Canon EOS 5D DSLR

  1. I definitely will not count out the 5D. I hope that as the introduction of the 5D mark II draws near, we will see the prices continue to trend down. I agree that while the 5D is old and many of the features that will come in the MkII are going to be fantastic, the cost of the new version puts it out of my league. For the money, I think the 5D absolutly has the best image quality to cost ratio. I will certainly long for that sensor cleaner, though!

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  3. Sean, I would highly recommend a full-frame DSLR like the 5D. Realize though that the lens prices will be significantly higher than those for a cropped sensor DSLR, because you need more glass to cover the full sensor.

    The larger the surface area of the lens, the longer and harder it is to get it free of imperfections at the factory, and that costs more. Lenses that work great on the 40D, 30D and Rebel line will show imperfections on the 5D, so you’ll almost have to get L series lenses to get quality photographs.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that even the current 5D is great. While it might be worthwhile to wait for its new version, we don’t know when it’ll come out. On the other hand, you do have the Rebel as a stopgap, so you can afford to wait a bit.

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  4. This issue is of interest to me. When I finally moved from film to digital last year, I limped in getting an xti. At this point I still haven’t gotten used to the cropped sensor and have been considering a move to the 5D. I don’t want, for obvious reasons, to buy the 5D only to have a 6D or 5D Mk 2 come out a month later with the sensor cleaning technologies. I hate these decisions.

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