In the past I have owned the Canon 20D, and then more recently the 5D.
I've read reviews and craved this camera for a long time, and it is now finally in my grubby hands. Here's what I can say after only using it for a week:
Noticeable changes from the 5D:
- physical changes
1. It feels more sturdy and slightly bigger.
2. The screen is superb, automatically adjusts for ambient light conditions, and very clear. Zooming into photos is a real treat (if you managed to get it pin sharp, like from a tripod, it's especially stunning). I'd read about a new special coating on the screen (the same coating they now put on the front of the first sensor filter) to repel smudges etc, but it doesn't seem to do much. It does have a nice purple-blue sheen, but my nose still makes it messy after a while shooting. Note to self: shower more. Only kidding.
3. The sensor is full frame, 21MP and 14 bits per channel. This allows for smooth tones and lovely switches from light to shadow. Simply light years ahead of the 5D or any other camera (better in some comparisons I've read than even the 1Ds Mk III).
4. They moved the light button to the outside of the top lcd. Minor, but takes a second to remind myself about it.
5. The flash hotshoe is now bare metal instead of black (which ended up half metal anyway - lots of scratches from the 580 being put on and off.
6. The plastic flaps on the side that contain the ports are now way less awkward to use.
7. The main dial now has three custom fucntion sets there, which I have not used yet.
8. It's subtle, but the viewfinder is somehow more crisp - and slightly bigger. Just that bit more comfortable. And the autofocus points are that bit more easy to see without fiddling with the diopter.
- software changes
1. There is a handy feature called "highlight tone priority" in the custom functions that shifts the dynamic range to hold the highlights. It also makes the minimum ISO only 200, but I've tried it and it seems to work very well. Possibly a little more noise in the shadows, but nothing noticeable.
2. Speaking of dynamic range, I do a fair bit of HDR photography and the AEB functions are now nicely linked to the Exposure Compensation function. On one screen you can shift the exposure up or down a stop, as well as expand to bracket three exposures of +/- 2 stops. Lovely addition. As in the 5D you can shoot all three exposures automatically by using the timer.
3. Oh my god I love this feature: lens micro focus adjustment. Previously only available to lucky owners of the 1D series, this allows you to check the autofocus feature of any lens, and adjust the focus if you find it to be slightly soft (e.g. the focus is slightly behind or in front of the target). I spent 3 hours last night in full-on nerd mode, and finally figured out a way to do it simply. Skip the next bit if you're not a total optic nerd. The more in-focus an image is, the larger the file size. By varying the micro-adjustment from -20 to +20 in stages, you can later review the file sizes of the images and the one with the largest file size (if you keep all parameters the same) will be the setting with the most accurate focus. To do this, set up the camera and lens on a tripod and get it exactly perpendicular to a target. The target should fill the frame. I taped an old "start here" poster from a printer to the wall, and used a level to level the tripod. Tether the camera to a laptop and use live view shooting. Defocus the lens manually. Go into the custom functions and select the adjust by lens, and set it to -20. Then click the autofocus on the laptop to focus it. I repeat this focus click 3 times to make sure it is perfect. Then shoot 4 shots (to get an average reading). Move the micro-adjustment to -10 and repeat at intervals of 10 until you reach +20. Make sure to defocus the lens manually each time to make sure you force the autofocus to work through the problem again each time. Lets say +10 gave the largest average file size. Then go back and shoot at +5, +10, and +15. Lets say you decide +10 is still best, then go for +7, +8, +9, +10, +11 until you find the perfect focus. Nerds rejoice!! Actually it's not just nerdyness for the sake of being nerdy - I spent 3 hours on my 85mm f/1.2 last night and it is now WAY better than it was previously. It's razor thin depth of field at f/1.2 is now slightly behind where it was at it'd default (0) setting. So instead of a lovely in-focus image of an eyebrow and the tips of eyelashes, I now get the eyeball itself in clear focus. This is obviously a lens issue, but the fact that I can fix it in-camera without sending my lens off for re-calibration is a joy!!
4. In general the digic 4 system is vastly better than the digic 2 I was used to on the 5D. Menu surfing is fast and intuitive, and in no time I was used to it.
5. The main screen is now used a lot more than I realized - there is a whole lot of information that pops up between shots - and you can now navigate using the small adjustment knob, and change your ISO or metering mode that way (as well as the old way of looking through the viewfinder, or using the top lcd).
6. As much touted, you can now also shoot full HD video. This is a bit fiddly, and it's hard to get used to how to change aperture etc. Also because it's not raw (a format I use all the time) I now also have to learn about the picture style settings. Using zoom or changing focus while shooting is not advisable, because the noise of the lens (even the relatively quiet USM lenses) is simply deafening on playback. A mic can be added, which I think I would do if I got seriously into making movies on the 5D. Movie buffs are drooling over the chance to use wide aperture lenses that don't cost a trillion dollars, but for me the HD function is more of a gimmick for now. Although if I have some time on my hands, maybe I'll get into it some day. You can shoot still frames while recording, and on playback there is just a tiny glitchy moment when the camera returns momentarily to being a still frame device.
Overall this is a superb upgrade to the 5D. Aside from the size and name on the side, it's hardly the same camera at all.
Yes it's expensive, and yes the 7D seems to have similar quality photos in terms of bit depth and image size, but for me full frame functionality of this camera is the main thing. L lenses (especially the wide angle ones) only really make sense on a full frame camera. Although wildlife shooters might argue against me there.
The 5D was an amazing camera and I had years of joy with it. I look forward to years more with this one - and wonder what Canon will have to do in order to convince me to ever upgrade again.
Beg, borrow, steal. Get one!!