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Compared to...

Until this year Canon had the 'compact full frame' DSLR market to itself with the venerable EOS 5D (launched almost exactly three years ago). The launch of the Nikon D700 and now the Alpha 900 (and the as yet unavailable EOS 5D Mark II) could hardly be described as a 'flood', but for the photographer with a yearning for full frame and around $3000 burning a hole in his pocket there is at least now some choice at the top of the market. Mirroring what we've seen with professional SLRs these three cameras aren't quite in direct competition with each other; each has its own strengths and weaknesses, with Nikon concentrating on speed and high ISO performance and Sony on resolution (and of course built-in stabilization). As for Canon, well that's the great unknown; the 5D is now at the end of its shelf life and we've yet to get our hands on a production quality EOS 5D Mark II. On paper it goes head to head with the Alpha 900, offering a similar pixel count and countering the Alpha's Super SteadyShot with HD video shooting and live view.

Ultimately it seems unlikely that any of these cameras is going to tempt any committed owner with a collection of legacy lenses away from their current system, but for anyone looking to build a system from scratch there are - image quality aside - some pretty compelling arguments for each.

Note that whilst we've included the EOS 5D Mark II in the spec comparison below, since we don't have a production quality body it isn't included in the image quality comparisons that follow. We've used the EOS 5D for now and will update the review once we've got an EOS 5D Mark II that is 'reviewable'. For now I've also included a couple of comparisons in the following section to the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III - until the arrival of the Sony A900 this was the highest resolution 35mm format digital SLR on the market, and should give a taste of what we can expect from the new 5D Mark II.

Positives versus the competition

  • Built-in sensor-shift stabilization (unique in a full frame digital SLR)
  • Highest resolution (24.6 MP)
  • 5.0 fps burst mode (versus EOS 5D / 5D Mark II)
  • Largest viewfinder, 100% coverage

Negatives versus the competition

  • No Live View
  • I can hardly believe I'm actually saying this... No video mode (compared to EOS 5D Mark II)
  • Noise reduction applied to RAW images if it's turned on for JPEGs
  • Smaller and less detailed LCD control panel
 


Sony A900


Nikon D700


Canon 5D


Canon 5D Mark II

Price (body only) $2999.99[check] $2999[check] $2,199 [check] $ 2,699 [check]
Dust removal

• Static-resistant anti-dust coating
• CCD-shift dust reduction mechanism

• Self-cleaning filter
• Dust-off image
No

• Auto / Manual
• Dust Delete Data appending
• Self-cleaning sensor unit

Environmental
sealing
• Dust-Proof
• Moisture Proof
• Splash proof
• Dust proof
• Sealed lenses available
• Dust and Water-Proof lenses available • Dust and Water-Proof lenses available
Sensor type CMOS CMOS CMOS CMOS
Sensor size 35.9 x 24.0 mm 36 x 23.9 mm 35.8 x 23.9 mm 36 x 24 mm
Sensor area 861 mm² 860 mm² 856 mm² 864 mm²
Pixel density 2.9 MP/cm² 1.4 MP/cm² 1.5 MP/cm² 2.4 MP/cm²
Image Stabilization Sensor-Shift Lenses only Lenses only Lenses only
Effective pixels 24.6 million 12.1 million 12.8 million 21.1 million
Image size 6048 x 4032 4256 x 2832 4368 x 2912 5616 x 3744
Live View No Live View • Yes
• Up to 1:1 pixel view
• Contrast detect AF
• Mirror flip AF
No Live View • Live TTL display
• 100% frame coverage
• Three AF modes
Auto focus

• 9-points
• Center dual cross types
• 0 to 18 EV
• 10 Assist AF points

• 51 point
• 15 cross-type
• -1 to 19 EV

• 9-point TTL
• -0.5 to 18 EV
• 6 "Invisible Assist AF points"

• 9-point TTL
• -0.5 to 18 EV
• 6 "Invisible Assist AF points"

Exp. comp. +/- 3.0 EV +/- 5.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV +/- 2.0 EV
Sensitivity range (boost setting) (100), 200 - 3200 (6400 expandable) (100), 200 - 6400, (25,600 expandable) 100 - 1600 (50, 3200 expandable) 100 - 6400 (50, 12800, 25600 expandable)
Shutter speed 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec 30 - 1/8000 sec
Continuous rate
(high)
5.0 fps 5.0 fps (8.0 fps with battery grip) 3.0 fps 3.9 fps
Continuous buffer

• 105 JPEG
• 11 RAW

• 100 JPEG Norm
• 17 RAW
• 60 JPEG
• 17 RAW
• 78 JPEG
• 13 RAW
Built-in flash None • Manual pop-up
• Guide no. 12 (ISO 100)
None None
External flash • Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
• Hot-shoe
• PC sync terminal
• Wireless flash
Flash sync speed • 1/250 sec
• 1/200 sec (with SteadyShot INSIDE on)
1/250 sec (1/320 sec reduced Guide no.) 1/200 sec 1/200 sec
Storage • CF I & II (inc. UDMA)
• Memory Stick DUO
CF I (inc. UDMA) CF I CF I & II (inc. UDMA)
Viewfinder • 100% coverage
• 0.74x magnification
• 95% coverage
• 0.72x magnification
• 96% coverage
• 0.71x magnification
• 98% coverage
• 0.71x magnification
LCD monitor • 3.0" TFT LCD
• 921,600 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 922,000 dots
• 2.5" TFT LCD
• 230,000 dots
• 3.0" TFT LCD
• 921,000 dots
Vertical grip Yes, VG-C90AM Yes, MB-D10 Yes, BG-E4 Yes, BG-E6
Movie Mode No No No • 1920 x 1080, 30fps (HD)
• 640 x 480,30fps
Video output • AV Out
• HDMI
• 'PhotoTV'
• AV Out
• HDMI
AV Out • AV Out
• HDMI
Dimensions 156 x 117 x 82 mm
147 x 123 x 77 mm

152 x 113 x 75 mm

152 x 114 x 75 mm

Weight (no batt) 850 g 995 g 810 g 810 g
Weight (inc batt) 895 g 1075 g 895 g 905 g
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