A powerful DSLR that worked its way up the ranks.
While most control buttons and dials are found in the same places as on the 20D, the EOS 5D has a larger main mode dial, which no longer includes the programmed presets and A-Dep (aperture-priority depth of field) setting found on the 20D. Instead, the 5D's mode dial is less cluttered, and it includes a Camera User position (access to your Picture Style setting) and a Bulb setting for long exposures. The 5D also includes six Picture Style settings-Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful, and Monochrome-plus three custom styles. All let you customize their contrast, color tone, sharpness, and saturation settings, unlike the presets on the 20D.
Other control changes include a new easy-print button above the large LCD on the back, and the elimination of the pop-up flash button on the front. The easy-print button glows with a blue light when the camera is connected to a printer and gives you quick access to previous printer settings stored in the camera.
The EOS 5D offers even more from within. The full-frame, CMOS sensor features 12.8MP (effective) resolution, which gives it a sharpness edge over the EOS 20D. Thus, 14.5x22-inch photo-quality prints can be made from the 5D (at 200 ppi) compared to 12x17.5-inch prints from the 20D.
On the color accuracy front, the EOS 20D does slightly better, with an Excellent rating (Delta E 6.63) compared with the EOS 5D's Extremely High rating (its Delta E of 8.2 just missed the 8.0 cutoff). While both the 20D and 5D produce Extremely Low noise at ISO 100, the EOS 5D holds down noise better at ISO 400 and above, a testament to the 5D's larger pixels. Way up at ISO 1600, both cameras delivered similar Moderately Low ratings-without resorting to blurring filters. Bottom line? The 5D delivers Excellent image quality from ISO 100 to 800, with better sharpness than the EOS 20D. However, both the Nikon D2X and the new D50 have lower noise levels at ISO 1600.
Canon claims the AF system on the EOS 5D is an improvement over the 20D's, especially in motion tracking (AI Servo) modes where nine selectable and six invisible AF zones come into play (making a total of 15). With f/2.8 or brighter lenses, more of the AF zones are cross-type. Our tests show that the 5D is very fast in bright light and even capable of focusing in very low-light levels at EV -0.5. But while the AF tracking system on the 5D is fast enough for most action, the camera drops its JPEG burst rate to 3.5 fps, compared with the 4.5 fps of the 20D. The good news? If you load it with a fast CF card, such as the SanDisk Extreme III, the 5D can capture up to 60 high-quality JPEGs in a continuous burst.
The EOS 5D appears to follow a path between two extremes. On the yin side, its full-frame sensor gives photographers the advantages of the expensive EOS 1Ds Mark II and the best image quality you can find in a sub-$3,500 DSLR. On the yang side, its construction, size, and array of features are closer to those offered by the APS-sensored EOS 20D. Now if it only cost less, more photographers would reach nirvana.
Certified test results: Canon EOS 5D
Resolution: Excellent (2310Hx2220Vx2080Diag lines). Color accuracy: Extremely High (Avg. Delta E: 8.20). Highlight/shadow detail: Very High. Contrast: Normal, and adjustable in 7 steps via menus. Noise: Extremely Low at ISO 100, Very Low at ISO 200 to ISO 400, Low at ISO 800, Moderately Low at ISO 1600. Image quality: Excellent from ISO 100 to 800. Extremely High at ISO 800 to 1600. AF speed: Very Fast in bright light (EV 12 to 7) from 0.52 to 0.62 sec, but slightly slower than the EOS 20D (0.49 to 0.55 sec). In low light (EV 6 to 3) it was still fast at 0.64 sec to 0.77 sec, and in very low light (EV 2 to 1) it slowed down just a bit to 0.95 sec. At its impressive limit (EV -0.5, just better than the 20D) it took 1.5 sec to focus. Viewfinder: 0.76X magnification gets a good rating, similar to the EOS-1Ds Mark II. It shows 95% of the picture area, an excellent result. The removable, etched focusing screen (below, type Ee-A) shows 9 selectable AF zones with center-cross type. Red boxes show actual sensitivity. Green boxes show invisible AF zones active in AI Servo mode. CIPA battery life: Approx. 800 shots with rechargeable BP-511A Li-ion battery.
For info: www.canoneos.com; 800-652-2666.