The Canon EOS 5D

On Saturday I rented the Canon EOS 5D from the Digital Kameraverleih (highly recommended if you’re in or around Vienna) and spent about 14 hours shooting with it, first at a portrait workshop at the Fotoschule Wien and then in a rented studio, shooting first Mascha and Karina, and then Jin and a friend of his. What follows are my impressions of this camera, in particular in contrast to my working camera, the 10D. This is, of course, not a quantitative review, and actually not a review at all. If you want that, I suggest you head over to Phil Askey’s Digital Photography Review.

The first thing one notices when using 5D is, of course, the big viewfinder. In my case, I actually take note of a big, “traditional” 35mm viewfinder when I switch back to the 10D. Suddenly, the viewfinder there seems to have shrunk by quite a bit. Seeing things larger makes compositing and judging the scene easier and more fun. One would suppose that it makes manual focussing easier, too, but that’s not really the case if you’re aiming for critical sharpness. Sure, the image you see is bigger, but then again, so is the resolution. To get a 12 megapixel image critically sharp, you have to be more precise than for a 6 megapixel image. Since the pixel sizes and viewfinder magnifications of both cameras are roughly the same, they cancel each other out, hence getting a pixel-sharp image on the 5D is pretty much as hard as it is on the 10D.

Another improvement in size is the LCD screen, which makes a very good impression. The images look much more lively and I found that I could judge image sharpness much better when I zoomed in than on the 10D.

The 10D is a slow camera by today’s standards, which is why I immediately noticed the 5D’s speed and responsiveness. Not only does it write to the CF card much faster than the 10D, you don’t even have to wait for the write to finish to review the images you just took. If you delete an image that’s not yet written, it just gets deleted from the buffer and never makes it to the CF card. Well designed!

The big selling point of the 5D is, of course, the image quality. The amount of detail this camera can capture is amazing. I am still impressed every time I look in detail at a good shot with my 10D, but the 5D is something else completely. Take a look at this self portrait, for example:

Read! My! Blog!

If you zoom in you can see each hair in my beard, each thread in my shirt’s fabric and it’s clear that I’m wearing contact lenses.

The detail comes at a price, however. Apart from the cost of the camera, significant investments in top-notch lenses have to be made to get a good performance out of the 5D’s sensor. My Tamron 28-75/2.8, which works wonders on the 10D, exhibits horrible edge performance on the 5D, even at small apertures. But even with very good lenses there’s the vignetting issue. The 24-105/4L IS USM which I used on the 5D vignettes very noticably wide open, especially at the wide end. The 50mm/1.4 is practically unusable wide open, while on the 10D, the vignetting is in most cases barely noticable. It has been said repeatedly that vignetting can be corrected in post-processing, which is true, but there is no cure for the loss of dynamic range in the corners.

Even with the right lenses, getting a perfect shot out of the 5D seems a lot more difficult than with the 10D, which is no surprise of course.

In the end, shooting with the 5D is much more fun than with the 10D and, if done right, looking at the shots it produces even more so. If money was no issue, I’d upgrade immediately to the 5D and better lenses. As it is, the 10D delivers everything I need (and more), and spending 3000 Euro for a little bit of fun isn’t worth it.


9 thoughts on “The Canon EOS 5D

  1. Love your photography! I have a question. About the vignetting issue when you rented the 5D. You mentioned that you were using the lenses from your 10D correct? If so, It is stated that standard “Digital only” lenses are not to be used, however, you may use any of the “film only EOS” series lenses. I wonder if this may have created some of your problem? In any case, keep up the great work!

  2. Hi David!


    No, the vignetting was not due to my use of lenses for reduced size sensors. The 24-105/4L lens is the 5D kit lens and the 50mm/1.4 is Canon’s top 50mm prime lens.

  3. Hi Schani, I discovered your blog through flickr and I found it incredibly useful. Thanks.
    As for the 5D: I am in process of purchasing a digital reflex and I was seriously thinking of that camera 5D but I am a bit worried about the vignetting you talk about.
    I am used to traditional reflex (always had canon, non autofocus) and I wander if this ou would have the same effect with traditional cameras to (hence it is due to lenses and there is nothing to do) or to the sensor.
    Do you have any idea?



  4. I don’t have any first-hand knowledge about vignetting on film vs full-frame sensors, but from what I’ve read it seems that vignetting on the sensor is slightly worse than on film because of the micro-lens design.

    Still, it’s not a big problem, especially if you have the money to invest in top-quality lenses, which is the main issue for me: For the same amount of money I can get a better system with a reduced-size sensor (cheaper camera, but better lenses) than with a full-frame camera. If I had a lot of money to waste, of course I’d buy a 5D and a set of L lenses!

  5. I seem to get a lot of vignetting with my 35-350 L on my 5d as does my friend with a 24- 105 he has, but it doesn’t seem to be the case if you use tokina or tamron or sigma, or nikon for that matter with adaptors maybe L glass is over rated? & actually an old vivitar 19 mm I bought recently seems to be fine as well, ( I sent a canon 50 mm f 1.4 back because of this and other issues) it is a nice camera however & a tamron 28-105 plastic lens i have is fine too ( actually it is a great match) so I can recomend the camera just test the lenses you wish to use with it first & don’t believe all the crap about L glass being all that & a bit more,I reckon the zeiss for nikon or screw mount pentax could be the way to go if you can cope with manual focus ( now that is great glass from what I have seen) & it also means you don’t have to suffer from too much system loyalty, as each of the major brands have a bit to offer here & there.

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