Top positive review
102 people found this helpful
Setting a new standard
on 15 May 2006
As a keen amateur photographer and already having a range of Canon gear I was very interested when this camera came onto the market and bought it pretty much immediately.
Before then, I used an Canon 300D which in itself is an excellent camera but suffers by not having a full-size sensor, is lacking in a number of more advanced features and is generally quite slow.
The sensor size is the key feature (and being the most expensive part of the camera the key price component) so it is important to consider whether you want a full-size sensor or a smaller one (as may be found on the EOS 30D for example). There are two schools of thought re the sensor size. On one hand, you can multiply the focal length of your lens by 1.6 (in the case of the 30D) to get the new focal length and there is therefore no difference (an 8 megapixel image will print perfectly to A4 size and probably A3 size). The limitation here is on wide angle, where you cannot get as wide a landscape view as you would with a full-size sensor. At the high focal length (eg. wildlife / sporting events) you do not lose out, but you do not benefit either, since a larger sensor would in effect contain the image from the smaller one within its image.
If you are new to SLR photography then this may not too big an issue, as you can purchase a range of lenses to meet these needs. In such a case, the EOS 30D may well be a more suitable purchase, offering most the features of the 5D at a much lower price in part as a result of the smaller sensor. In that case you are limited on wide-angle lenses and there's no L-series (the highest quality lens made by Canon) available on the EF-S lenses made especially for the smaller sensor (the superzoom lenses work on EF and EF-S mounts)
Back to the 5D, the build of the camera is superb. It feels very robust, and has an interface similar to all other EOS cameras, in particular the digital models. In that regard, the LCD screen on the back is much bigger than previous models and the scrolling control is as found on the 10D and onwards. Battery and memory card slots are exactly as on previous cameras so your old batteries and memory cards will be compatible with this one, perhaps as backup.
One of the main differences I noticed in using the 5D is how much faster it is than the 10D or 300D. As soon as you switch it on (via an irritating 3 position switch for "On"/ "Off" / "On with the wheel disabled") the camera is ready to take photos and overall you do not feel limited by the number of photos it can take before needing a breather to write everything to memory (in RAW mode as well as JPEG). The viewfinder is huge (as a result of the full-size sensor) with clear indication of which focus points are in use (there are 9 focus points, with "assist points" near the centre).
In terms of features, spot metering is included (you have manual selection of this alongside normal, partial and balanced rather than automatic as on the 300D) and you can choose the focus mode re whether to follow the subject (eg. in motor sport) or to not adjust as you reframe (eg. landscapes). It is very easy to change the ISO rating for your photo, key when taking shots in poor light. The software provided to view the images is excellent, and a download is available to import the RAW files (which are a different format to the previous Canon RAW files but seemingly compatible for 3rd party backup devices) into Adobe Photoshop.
The picture modes have been removed from the main dial (I always use shutter priority or aperture priority) although you can choose the "Picture Style" (eg. indoor, landscape) via the control panel to configure contrast, saturation, brightness for each mode.
So the downsides... well, there's no flash (it is of course fully compatible with Canon Speedlite flash as well as all E-TTL flashes) although given the results of the built-in flash on the 300D you're not missing much. The on/off switch is irritating (I haven't yet needed the middle mode), the battery compartment is not that easy to open, and at times I did think the camera was too heavy.
However, as soon as I saw the results I got from the 5D, the ease with which I was able to take the photos and control pretty much everything in a easy-to-use manner, I knew this was a superb purchase and I'm delighted. My main reasons for purchasing this were improved performance and features (notably spot metering) compared to the 300D and the opportunity with a full-size sensor to move away from film photography completely. Mission accomplished - it's superb!
All in all an excellent purchase for anyone looking to turn their back on film camera once and for all, although perhaps not that worthy an upgrade from the 10D or as a first camera purchase.