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47176 1/12/2017
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  • 12.8-megapixel (effective), 35.8 x 23.9mm, 12-bit RGB CMOS sensor delivering 4,368 x 2,912-pixel images
  • Focal length multiplier of 1.0x, equivalent to a 35mm camera
  • Variable ISO (100 to 1,600 settings in 1/3-step increments, plus ISO 50 and 3200 using ISO expansion option)
  • Continuous Shooting mode captures as many as 60 images as fast as three frames per second
  • 2.5-inch, low-temperature TFT LCD with 230,000 pixels
  • TTL autofocus with nine main focusing points plus six "invisible" points, manually or automatically selectable. One shot AF, AI Servo AF with focus prediction, AI Focus AF, and manual focus with AF assist beam
  • Topside hot shoe for external flash connection of EX Speedlight flashes, E-TTL II, as well as a PC flash sync socket
  • Magnesium-alloy body panels, stainless steel chassis
  • Supports all Canon EOS lenses, except EF-S series

Built around a 12.8-megapixel (effective) CMOS sensor, covering the same area as a 35mm film frame, the Canon EOS 5D provides "full frame" digital SLR technology at a much more affordable price point than ever before. "Affordable" is definitely a relative term though, as the Canon 5D's $3500 retail price (at announcement) still puts it beyond the reach of all but the most well-heeled photo enthusiasts and professionals. At the same time, our lens-testing work on has shown that full-frame cameras like the Canon EOS 5D place much greater demands on lens quality than sub-frame designs like the Canon 20D and Digital Rebel series. -- If you're seriously considering a Canon 5D for your photo kit, you'd better budget several times its cost for the highest-quality "L"-series lenses that you'll need to take full advantage of its potential. The Canon 5D will deliver incredible image quality when paired with excellent lenses, but will quickly expose every flaw in lower-grade glass.

Following in the impressive footsteps laid down by earlier members of the highly-acclaimed Canon EOS line of digital SLRs, the new 5D definitely upholds its EOS lineage. While a truly excellent photographic tool though, it doesn't automatically represent a slam-dunk choice between it and a sub-frame camera -- or even between it and the much more expensive EOS-1Ds Mark II. The 5D struck us as an odd mixture of consumer and professional aesthetics, a slightly uncomfortable fit in the current world of d-SLRs. For people addicted to ultrawide angle photography with a substantial investment in full-frame wide angle lenses, it will probably be a no-brainer. But for someone not already invested in wide-angle glass, you could buy an EOS-30D and Canon's excellent little 10-22mm EF-S wide-angle lens and have more than just change to spare relative to the cost of the 5D body alone. Not only that, but the 10-22mm's performance on a 30D will be superior to that of most ultrawide full-frame lenses on the 5D. After only a little shooting with it, it became manifestly clear that this was a camera that absolutely shows up every minute flaw in a lens' performance, particularly in the corners of the frame. The sub-frame cameras also have the advantage of being markedly faster than the 5D in continuous mode, in part a consequence of the larger mirror that the 5D needs to flap back and forth between shots.

On the upper end of the scale, the massive EOS-1Ds Mark II does have some advantages relative to the 5D, namely a more rugged construction, a more long-lived shutter, perceptibly better resolution, and noticeably better noise characteristics. (The 1Ds Mark II shows higher noise amplitude, but finer "grain" structure, making it less objectionable overall.) It might be hard to argue that these advantages justify the $4,000+ price increment between the 5D and 1Ds Mark II, but if you're looking for the ultimate full-frame experience (with price no object), the 1Ds Mark II is still the way to go.

On the other hand, full-frame purists with more modest budgets or unwilling to lug around the daunting weight of a 1Ds Mark II will find an awful lot to like in the 5D. It's also a more approachable camera for the casual shooter, thanks to its Picture Styles (think of them as film types, one more suited to portraits, one more suited to landscape shots, etc) and slightly more aggressive in-camera sharpening. The bottom line is that the 5D is a better camera if you really want to use JPEGs from the camera as the final file format (without processing after the fact on a computer). Also, while we've been speaking glibly of "full-frame purists," shooters only just now making the move from traditional film-based SLRs may find that the 5D offers a much more comfortable transition than would a sub-frame model. We encountered the opposite side of this in shooting with the 5D, as we found ourselves having to really re-think framing and focal lengths after our long immersion in the sub-frame world. Moving from a film SLR to the 5D would be a relatively painless change, as all your lenses would behave exactly the same as they did on your film body. (Except you'd now see all their flaws magnified and splashed across your computer screen.)

If you're not a die-hard full-frame fan though, a Canon EOS-5D may not be the best choice for you. A 30D with the Canon EF-S 10-22mm wide-angle zoom and a good-quality intermediate zoom would actually be a more powerful picture-taking machine, and likely one costing a lot less than the 5D body alone.

We expect to see Canon continue their evolution of full-frame d-SLRs, and also work more on their L-glass lenses to bring lens performance into line with the demands of full-frame digital sensors. Our guess is that this will ultimately be the way a lot of the SLR market will go, at least in the fullness of time. For now though, it's our opinion that sub-frame digital SLRs offer a better cost/performance ratio.

For the record, we highly recommend the Canon EOS-5D as a full-frame d-SLR option, but do counsel readers to consider their sub-frame options carefully before taking the plunge with a 5D.

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Keywords: Canon SLR CF 35mm 13MP


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