Canon's EOS 5D is a 12.8Mp (megapixel) D-SLR, or digital single-lens reflex, designed for serious enthusiasts and professionals. It's the first affordable D-SLR with a full-frame sensor, widely considered to be the Holy Grail of digital photography.
That said, when we say it's affordable, we mean compared with Canon's existing full-frame D-SLR, the 16.7Mp EOS 1Ds Mark II, which costs a considerable £5,999. The 5D, priced at £2,539 for the body alone, may indeed be much more wallet-friendly, but we're still talking about serious money.
The 5D's 12.8Mp Cmos sensor delivers images measuring 4,368x2,912 pixels that look great printed up to A3. They're recorded onto CompactFlash memory cards and as with other D-SLRs, you'll need to supply your own; best-quality Jpegs typically measure between 3 and 8MB each.
The 5D can take any EF-mount lens, and thanks to its full-frame sensor, their effective focal length remains unchanged. This means it's not compatible with Canon's range of EF-S lenses, though – these are designed for D-SLR bodies with physically smaller, 'cropped' sensors.
As with other D-SLRs, composition and focusing are performed using the EOS-5D's optical viewfinder alone, although the full-frame sensor means there's a proportionally larger view. This is no different from a traditional 35mm film SLR, but it feels a world apart from the cropped view of D-SLRs with smaller sensors.
Build quality and ergonomics are excellent, with the 5D looking and feeling like a slightly larger version of the earlier 20D. Measuring 152x113x75mm and weighing 810g without battery, it's also considerably smaller and lighter than Canon's flagship full-frame body, the 1Ds Mark II. The 5D may not share the full environmental sealing of the Mark II, but it's a far more portable and discrete proposition. It's also good to see Canon finally fit a decent-sized and detailed screen on the back of one of its D-SLRs: a 2.5in model with 230,000 pixels.
The usual Program, Auto, Manual, Shutter and Aperture Priority modes are present and correct, but this is a pro camera, so there are no scene presets. Exposures range from 1/8,000 to 30 seconds and bulb, while sensitivity runs from 50 to 3,200 ISO. Burst mode is average at 3fps (frames per second), but the buffer can handle a considerable 60 Jpegs. Like other pro bodies, the EOS has no pop-up flash – only a hotshoe and PC Sync port for external lighting.
In use the 5D handles very well, starting instantly and feeling responsive. The images are unsurprisingly packed with detail and are a significant step-up from existing 6Mp and 8Mp cameras; indeed, only the 16.7Mp 1Ds Mark II currently out-resolves it. The physically large sensor also keeps noise levels low even at high sensitivities.
Sensor and sensor ability
The 5D's unique selling point is of course its full-frame sensor; it's a joy to use ultra-wide lenses without compromise. Conversely, telephoto lenses may no longer have their field of view effectively multiplied, but there's plenty of pixels if you want to crop in.
The 5D is a wonderful camera, but you're paying a high premium for the full-frame sensor. D-SLRs with similar resolution but cropped sensors should arrive in Easter at considerably lower prices; indeed, if you don't mind multiplying all your lenses by 1.6, stick with these cropped bodies.
However, for wide-angle fanatics who want lenses to act as they would on a 35mm body and enjoy high-resolution, low-noise images, the 5D is a dream come true. It may not be cheap, but it's a relative bargain compared with the only full-frame alternative.
Canon is the only company currently producing full-frame sensors for its professional D-SLRs. These measure the same size as a frame of 35mm film, and therefore do not affect the field of view of lenses.
The physically smaller sensors employed by virtually every other D-SLR (including Canon's consumer models) reduces the field of view, thereby effectively multiplying the focal lengths of all lenses by 1.6. While this can actually benefit people wanting high magnification, it clearly reduces the coverage of wide-angle lenses.