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Canon EOS 5D Review

November 2005 | By Phil Askey

Preview based on a production EOS 5D, Firmware Version 1.0.1

Canon's press material for the EOS 5D states that it 'defines (a) new D-SLR category', while we're not typically too concerned with marketing talk this particular statement is clearly pretty accurate. The EOS 5D is unlike any previous digital SLR in that it combines a full-frame (35 mm sized) high resolution sensor (12.8 megapixels) with a relatively compact body (slightly larger than the EOS 20D, although in your hand it feels noticeably 'chunkier'). The EOS 5D is aimed to slot in between the EOS 20D and the EOS-1D professional digital SLR's, an important difference when compared to the latter is that the EOS 5D doesn't have any environmental seals. While Canon don't specifically refer to the EOS 5D as a 'professional' digital SLR it will have obvious appeal to professionals who want a high quality digital SLR in a body lighter than the EOS-1D. It will also no doubt appeal to current EOS 20D owners (although lets hope they've not bought too many EF-S lenses...)

Canon EOS 5D vs. EOS 20D feature and specification differences

Canon EOS 5D

Canon EOS 20D
Sensor • 35.8 x 23.9 mm CMOS
• 12.8 million effective pixels
• No FOV crop (1.0x)
• 22.5 x 15.0 mm CMOS
• 8.2 million effective pixels
• 1.6x FOV crop
Image sizes • 4368 x 2912
• 3168 x 2112
• 2496 x 1664
• 3504 x 2336
• 2544 x 1696
• 1728 x 1152
Lens support Canon EF lens mount (not EF-S) Canon EF lens mount (EF and EF-S)
Auto focus • 9-point TTL
• 6 "invisible assist AF points" *
• -0.5 to 18 EV working range
* Within the spot metering circle
• 9-point TTL
• -0.5 to 18 EV working range
AF assist No (only with external flash) Yes
Metering modes • Evaluative 35 zone
• Partial (8% at center)
• Spot (3.5% at center)
• Center-weighted average
• 1.0 to 20 EV metering range
• Evaluative 35 zone
• Partial (9% at center)
• Center-weighted average
• 1.0 to 20 EV metering range
ISO range ISO 50 - 3200 (when extended) ISO 100 - 3200 (when extended)
ISO steps 0.3 EV steps 1.0 EV steps
Flash X-sync 1/200 sec 1/250 sec
Image parameters "Picture Style"
• Standard
• Portrait
• Landscape
• Neutral
• Faithful
• Monochrome
• User 1
• User 2
• User 3
• Parameter 1
• Parameter 2
• User 1
• User 2
• User 3
• B&W
Custom image parameters • Sharpness: 0 to 7
• Contrast: -4 to +4
• Saturation: -4 to +4
• Color tone: -4 to +4
• B&W filter: N, Ye, Or, R, G
• B&W tone: N, S, B, P, G
• Sharpness: -2 to +2
• Contrast: -2 to +2
• Saturation: -2 to +2
• Color tone: -2 to +2
• B&W filter: N, Ye, Or, R, G
• B&W tone: N, S, B, P, G
Viewfinder • 96% frame coverage
• 0.71x magnification
• Focusing screen can be changed
• 95% frame coverage
• 0.9x magnification
LCD monitor • 2.5" TFT LCD (wide viewing angle)
• 230,000 pixels
• 1.8" TFT LCD (wide viewing angle)
• 118,000 pixels
Shutter release Soft touch Soft half-press then click shutter release
Histogram • Luminance
Built-in flash None Electronic pop-up
Shooting modes

• Auto
• Program AE (P)
• Shutter priority AE (Tv)
• Aperture priority AE (Av)
• Manual (M)
• Bulb
• Custom

• Auto
• Program AE (P)
• Shutter priority AE (Tv)
• Aperture priority AE (Av)
• Manual (M)
• Auto depth-of-field
• Portrait
• Landscape
• Close-up
• Sports
• Night portrait
• Flash off

Continuous speed 3 frames per second 5 frames per second
Continuous buffer Up to 60 JPEG or 17 RAW frames Up to 23 JPEG or 6 RAW frames
Folder selection Yes No
Playback file size display Yes, MB No
Playback jump • 10 images
• 100 images
• By date
• By folder
10 images
Custom functions 21 custom functions with 57 settings 18 custom functions with 50 settings
Portrait grip Optional BG-E4 battery grip Optional BG-E2 battery grip
Dimensions 152 x 113 x 75 mm (6.0 x 4.4 x 2.9 in) 144 x 106 x 72 mm (5.6 x 4.2 x 2.8 in)
Weight • No battery: 810 g (1.8 lb)
• With battery: 895 g (2.0 lb)
• No battery: 685 g (1.5 lb)
• With battery: 770 g (1.7 lb)

If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X, Y, and Z and ideally A, B, and C.

This article is Copyright 1998 - 2015 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Total comments: 16

Still worthy 10 years on because you can shoot it at any selectable ISO in RAW and it`ll be excellent, doesn`t ever get noisy (about half a stop or less noisier than the D700 or D3S in Capture one at ISO3200) , even the DR is good - JPG engine is both dated and limited but as a RAW only camera, it stands up .. Pixel level sharpness (therefore resolution of fine details) is better the D700 or D3 due to a weaker AA filter .

Focus is fast enough , though really best seen as a centre focus only system due to the lack of cross sensors anywhere else , excellent on batteries too.


Totally agree, except for the focus part, it can be improved for that value.

Hai Ching Lee


I bought one last month for Usd500 in super good and working condition but without any lens......
I bought an L Lens 24-105mm f4 for another Usd 500...... a 50mm f1.4 for Usd350.......
After much testings around, I noticed 5D is not good at Indoor unless with the help of a Flash......However , at Outdoor I must say it is a Super duper Good Full Frame machine even though it is around 8 years old........!!!

I still feel it is a Good Investment as far as dollars and cents counts......
An FX cameras from Nikon like the D700 body will cost Usd1.3k in Malaysia......

I also own a Nikon D90 with standard kit lens 18-105mm, 70-300mm Tel lens, a Fx 24-50mm f3.5-4 and 20mm f2.8 and others...
Recently I bought an Adapter for Nikon lens to Eos FX body like 5D..........It WORKS very well but have to Manually focus......So now I can have Nikon lens on 5D body which safe me a lot for a start....!!
Used 5D MK-II is selling here at around Usd1.6k which I am looking forward to...!!


I am using a nikkon D 5100. Have the opportunity to purchase a cannon eos 5d in excellent condition for $500 with 50mm f1.8 lens. Any advantages to this camera vs what I currently have besides FF? Good investment? I currently do not own any pro lenses from nikkon.

Pascal Parvex

Well, that is a great deal. I would do it.


The 5D was and is my first digital camera. It has served me with spectacular results. It's main minus for me has been its inability to use the higher ISO's, as anything higher than 200 produces visible grain in images that I print very large on my epson 24" printer. I almost always shoot with a monopod to assure the results.
Technology has changed and improved and I am searching for a replacement. I am invested in excellent Canon lenses and want to stay with Canon. I also want a camera that is not as heavy as my 5D (I am old and am fatigued by the weight of the 5D which I affectionately call "my brick".) Price is an issue too.
Still casting about trying to find a replacement.

frosty 7

hi i jus bot a canon eos 5d from a friend am i able to record video with the camera ?


No, unfortunately you are not able to shot video, neither by installing Magic Lantern (because the camera is not equipped with live view).


Easy answer: Buy a Sony A7 mirrorless and a metabones adapter to use all Canon AF lenses.


Since you have invested in Canon lenses, I think the Canon 6D is what you are looking for, if you are still looking.


I wish you guys would do a new comparison with the 5D, would love to see it vs the newer dslr's


Agreed! In all cameras announced around that time, only EOS 5D still attracts many discussions in DPR forums. How many are still talking Nikon D200 that announced just three months later these days? If you don't print/view in very big size, EOS 5D actually withstands most today's FF cameras very well till ISO 800/1600 in IQ, no mention crop cameras.


I love my 5D.
Using the 5D with quality Canon L lenses produces images that I do not see a difference between them and those taken by a newer camera (5D II, 5D III).

If video is not needed or required, then finding a clean 5D would be prudent.
Some very well kept, used lightly by some hobbyists can be found at around a $1,000 or less.

I have no immediate plans to shell out $3,000 or more for a newer model that is not going to give me much over the 5D, in terms of image quality.

But for commercial photographers, that's a different situation.


Ditto. I could not be happier with my 5D. I'm also disappointed that the set up for image comparison keeps changing. It makes it difficult to compare any older digital camera with anything contemporary.


I just sold my trusty old 5D. I love the camera but I will not miss cleaning the sensor every other week and fixing dust spots in lightroom! That was always a royal pain in the neck. Still a great camera.

Pascal Parvex

I don't know what you mean. I own the 5D since 2006 and have cleaned the sensor only once.

1 upvote
Total comments: 16