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Timings & File Sizes

The EOS 5D's semi-professional positioning means it has to deliver a certain level of performance. Thankfully it does appear to live up to its billing, startup is instant, menus and image browsing are fast and you never feel as though you're waiting for the camera. Continuous shooting may only be three frames per second but the camera buffers well and thanks to fast media write speeds has the images written away quickly too. There has been some comment on our forums about shutter lag, I personally couldn't tell any difference between the EOS 5D and EOS 20D, if it's there it's so slight to be insignificant for most photographers.

Timing Notes: All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 4368 x 2912 JPEG Fine (approx. 3,400 KB per image).

The media used for these tests were:

  • 1 GB SanDisk Extreme III CF card
  • 2 GB Lexar Pro 80x CF card
  • 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II CF card
Time, secs
(1 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Time, secs
(4 GB SanDisk)
Power Off to On   0.0 0.0 0.0
Power Off to Shot   <0.2 <0.2 <0.2
Sleep to On   0.0 0.0 0.0
Power On to Off   0.0 0.0 0.0
Record Review *1
1.2 1.3 1.2
Record Review *1
1.2 1.3 1.2
Play *2
0.7 / <0.2 0.8 / <0.2 0.8 / <0.2
Play *2
1.1 / <0.2 1.2 / <0.2 1.2 / <0.2
Play Image to Image
<0.5 <0.5 <0.5
Play Image to Image
<0.5 <0.5 <0.5

*1 Time taken from the shutter release being pressed to the review image being displayed on the LCD monitor.

Just like other Canon digital SLRs the EOS 5D caches images which have been viewed recently to speed up browsing in play mode. The first timing is for the camera to load the image from the media card (if it has not already been cached), the second is if they have been viewed and cached by the camera.

Continuous Drive mode

To test continuous mode the camera had the following settings: Manual Focus, Manual Exposure (1/200 sec, F5.6), ISO 200. Measurements were taken from audio recordings of the tests. Media used were the same as above.

Next burst (9 indicated)

The EOS 5D uses "smart buffering" this means that it takes RAW data from the buffer, converts it to the output format (JPG or compressed CR2) and places that back in the buffer ready to be written. All of this happens in parallel, which means that space can be made in the buffer for another burst before all the images have been fully written. This exact point in time is indicated by a '9' on the buffer space display on the viewfinder LCD status bar.

The tests carried out below measured the following results for JPEG and RAW:

  • Frame rate - Initial frame rate, this was always 3.0 fps (+/- 0.01 fps)
  • Number of frames - Number of frames in a burst
  • Buffer full rate - Frame rate if shutter release held down after burst (buffer full)
  • Next burst - How soon after the camera indicates buffer space '9'
  • Write complete - How long after the last shot before the CF compartment light goes out

Burst of JPEG Large/Fine images

1 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
2 GB Lexar
Pro 80x CF
4 GB SanDisk
Ultra II CF
Frame rate 3.0 fps 3.0 fps 3.0 fps
Number of frames 87 83 80
Buffer full rate 1.3 sec then 2 shots 1.2 sec then 2 shots 1.3 sec then 2 shots
Next burst (9 indicated) 6.5 sec 7.0 sec 9.3 sec
Write complete 25.3 sec 24.4 sec 30.7 sec

Burst of RAW images

1 GB SanDisk
Extreme III CF
2 GB Lexar
Pro 80x CF
4 GB SanDisk
Ultra II CF
Frame rate 3.0 fps 3.0 fps 3.0 fps
Number of frames 13 13 13
Buffer full rate 1.5 sec then 1 shot
1.5 sec then 2 shots
5 shots random
1.7 sec then 1 shot
4 shots random
1.6 sec then 1 shot
Next burst (9 indicated) 15.5 sec 20.9 sec 21.2 sec
Write complete 19.4 sec 25.2 sec 25.4 sec

We already know that the EOS 5D isn't aimed at the sports photography market, however its three frames per second shooting rate is still fairly respectable when you consider that each frame equates to about 19 MB of RAW data. What we can derive from the above results is that the EOS 5D has a fairly respectable buffer, shooting JPEG you can get around 30 seconds of continuous shooting using a fast card. Comparing the different media shows that while the SanDisk Extreme III card was faster than the rest it wasn't a huge margin of difference.

File Flush Timing

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card. Timing was taken from the instant the shutter release was pressed to the time the storage card activity indicator beside the storage compartment went out. The activity indicator light comes almost as soon as you press the shutter release, this either means that the EOS 5D begins writing immediately or that Canon is masking the delay to write. Writing continues 'in the background' and doesn't affect any camera function. Media used were the same as above.

Image type
Time, secs
(1 GB SanDisk)
Time, secs
(2 GB Lexar)
Time, secs
(4 GB SanDisk)
4368 x 2912 RAW + JPEG *1 3.0 3.1 4.0 15,060 KB
4368 x 2912 RAW 2.4 2.5 3.1 11,660 KB
4368 x 2912 JPEG Fine 1.2 1.3 1.5 3,400 KB
4368 x 2912 JPEG Standard 1.0 1.0 1.1 1,570 KB
3168 x 2112 JPEG Fine 1.0 1.0 1.1 1,920 KB
2496 x 1664 JPEG Fine 1.0 1.0 1.1 1,290 KB

*1 File size reported here is the size of the RAW and JPEG files added together.

There does appear to be a slight decrease in performance when using the 4 GB SanDisk Ultra II card, this is likely to be due to difference performance characteristics and the fact that this card requires the FAT32 file system. Other than this there's really not a huge amount of difference between the two fast SanDisk and Lexar cards. You should never really expect any single image write process to take more than three seconds, which is very good.

As you can see from the graphs below the EOS 5D gets fairly close to each cards maximum performance (in RAW mode). These write speeds are very respectable, as good as the EOS-1Ds Mark II and almost as good as the Nikon D2X.

Card performance: JPEG Fine continuous burst write

Card Canon EOS 5D write speed (JPEG Fine)
1 GB SanDisk Extreme III 6,841 KB/sec
2 GB Lexar Pro 80x 6,511 KB/sec
4 GB SanDisk Ultra II 4,721 KB/sec

Card performance: RAW continuous burst write

Card Canon EOS 5D write speed (12.8 MP RAW files)
1 GB SanDisk Extreme III 8,300 KB/sec
2 GB Lexar Pro 80x 7,011 KB/sec
4 GB SanDisk Ultra II 5,131 KB/sec

Cardbus 32-bit Adapter benchmark

Card Cardbus 32-bit Adapter, write speed (12.8 MP RAW files)
1 GB SanDisk Extreme III 9,368 KB/sec
2 GB Lexar Pro 80x 8,550 KB/sec
4 GB SanDisk Ultra II 5,003 KB/sec

USB transfer speed

To test the EOS 5D's USB transfer speed we used twelve standard images (six RAW, six JPEG) totaling 109 MB and transferred them from a SanDisk Extreme III 1 GB CF card via four different methods. While faster than USB 1.1 the 5D's USB transfer wasn't as quick as our USB 2.0 card reader, it's a shame Canon didn't implement a simple 'mass storage device' option on the camera as this would probably have produced faster transfer rates. Considering the size of files created by the EOS 5D you would do well to invest in a fast Firewire reader or CardBus adapter.

Method Time taken Transfer rate
EOS 5D USB 2.0 * 43.0 sec 2.5 MB/sec
USB 2.0 Card reader 32.1 sec 3.4 MB/sec
Lexar Pro Firewire Card reader 15.7 sec 6.9 MB/sec
CardBus 32 PCMCIA adapter 9.8 sec 11.1 MB/sec

* Via CameraWindow (ZoomBrowser EX), normal WIA connection does not provide for transfer of RAW files.

Battery life

The EOS 5D uses the compact Canon Lithium-Ion BP-511A battery pack. This provides 1390 mAh at 7.4 V (10.3 Wh), in addition Canon do like to emphasize that their new DIGIC II processor uses much less power than older processors. In use we often found ourselves shooting for two days without needing to charge the battery. Canon's specified battery life is approximately 600 shots at 20°C and 280 shots at 0°C.

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Total comments: 11
Hai Ching Lee
By Hai Ching Lee (4 months ago)


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...!!

By JSnees (5 months ago)

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.

By SculptedPhotography (10 months ago)

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
By frosty 7 (6 months ago)

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

By Ugo78 (5 months ago)

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

By InfraOptic (4 months ago)

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

By KariIceland (10 months ago)

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

By qianp2k (10 months ago)

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.

By sh10453 (10 months ago)

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.

By Macandts (10 months ago)

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.

By MFog (2 months ago)

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.

Total comments: 11