It’s been over ten years since DPReview published the review of the Canon EOS 5D. With the Mark IV version launching today, we decided to take a look at the 5D ‘Classic’ (as it is now known) as part of our Throwback Thursday series.
It’s easy to forget, now, what an important camera the original 5D was. It was the first ‘affordable’ full-frame DSLR, costing a mere $3500 at a time when just about the only other full frame model on the market was the $8000 1Ds Mark II.
By modern standard, its specs look antiquated. A 12.8MP CMOS sensor and 9-point AF system sound disappointing next to the Mark IV’s 61 AF points and 30.4MP. However, the ability to use EF lenses with their full field-of-view was revelatory, as was that CMOS chip: at a time when most of the rivals were using APS-C sized CCDs, the low light capability of the 5D was amazing, despite its upper limit of ISO 1600 (expandable to 3200).
That chip was the camera’s main appeal, though. Although the sticker price was the same as the Mark IV’s, that $3500 would now be the equivalent of $4300 in today’s money. Despite this, the original 5D had no weather sealing, a viewfinder with 96% coverage and a relatively modest 2.5″ LCD with 230k dots (that’s 320 x 240 pixels, compared with the 900 x 600 you’ll get from the Mark IV’s). Should you want to capture the moment, the 5D would let you shoot at a whole 3 frames per second. And, of course, there was no live view or video, no Wi-Fi, no GPS…
From these comparatively modest beginnings, the 5D series has evolved to be one of the most refined and versatile cameras.
|Over more than a decade, a lot of 5Ds have seen hard service. The shutter may have been rated to 100,000 cycles but heavy use and wear-and-tear mean there are ever fewer ‘classics’ still in use.|
A lot has changed since the original, and for the better. The 5D Mark II brought the new 21.2MP CMOS sensor that revolutionized the industry by bringing 1080p Full HD video capability to a DSLR (the D90 was the first DSLR to offer video, but with only 720p and a simpler feature set, it didn’t revolutionize much). Before that, there wasn’t even Live View, which we were desperately missing while fine-tuning the 5D’s focus on our test chart.
The first two 5Ds didn’t exactly push the boundaries of autofocus, with the Mark II still sporting a now laughable 9-point autofocus system with a sole cross-type point. It wasn’t until the Mark III that the AF system got much more serious. The 5D III was also the first in the series to get a 100% coverage viewfinder!
Unlike the later models, the 5D isn’t complicated… at all. The basic feature set means the menu is just one long page and takes only a couple minutes to run through and check.
To find out how the sensor performance has changed over time, we found an old 5D that still had a mirror left in it (one of the most common failures), and ran it through our much younger studio test scene.
So with the knowledge of today’s technology and the possibility that Canon may no longer repair them, are 5D Classics worth the bargain prices they are not selling for? Let’s find out!