Canon EOS 5D in 2018

In 2018 I’ve owned the Nikon D850, Canon 5D Mark IV, Sony A7R Mark III, and Canon 1DX Mark II.  Each camera is superb. But they are photographic cameras first and video cameras second.

I sold my current camera, the 1DX Mark II, and used the money as part of a Canon C200 purchase.  As a former C100 owner I’d missed having a dedicated interchangeable lens video camera.

I’d resigned myself to not having a dedicated 35mm camera for the time being.  I didn’t desire anything on the market.  But a random night of internet browsing had me stumble upon a listing for a mint condition Canon EOS 5D.  The camera included the full retail box and accessories, under 30,000 actuations, the official battery grip and 3x third party batteries.  The price was roughly $300.  I was intrigued.

Is the original Canon 5D relevant in 2018?

Canon 5DBG-E4 Battery Grip

Canon EOS 5D

Imagine my surprise when I found that the Canon 5D had become something of a cult classic in the modern era.  Now it was dubbed Canon 5D Classic or Canon 5Dc.

One of the most compelling videos for the argument for the competency of the 5D on Youtube is by Mattias Burling.

What I remember about my own experience owning the 5D back in the day was that the colors were very pleasant.  The mirror box had a reputation for falling out.  The LCD could have a green tint.  And when you went to buy one later in the camera’s lifecycle you were very paranoid about what serial number you were buying.

Scrubbing through the few photos I’d kept from that time in my life, I reconfirmed that, “…yup the colors are nice…dare I say filmic at the risk of sounding asinine…”

Quick rundown:

  • 12.8 megapixels
  • 50-3200 ISO
  • 9 user point + 6 assist points
  • 30 to 1/8000 s shutter speed
  • 3 frames per second
  • 2.5 in, 230,000 pixel LCD monitor
  • 96% viewfinder coverage

IQ: image quality

The 12.8 megapixels on a full frame sensor are surprisingly nice.  The Nikon D3/D700/D3S also have 12MP and are some of the most beloved cameras of the digital era.  The D3S is my favorite digital camera ever.  In fact if Nikon had a cinema camera line, I would probably own one still.  

Processor technology has come a long way in terms of processing and speed which have allowed manufacturers to increase pixel density and sensitivity.  But looking at the images of these older 12MP cameras, it makes me wonder if the actual sensor technology has improved outside of the extreme ends.  In the sweet spot of ISO 100-400, these old timers keep up. 

The camera shines between ISO 100-400.  

It’s good at ISO 800.  

ISO 1600 there is an IQ hit and noise but not unpleasant.  

I don’t find the expanded ISO of 50, 3200 are fine for snaps.

Nikon D850

Canon 5D

Canon 5D Mark IV

Canon 5D

Sony A7R Mark III

Canon 5D

Canon 1DX Mark II

AF: autofocus

The autofocus isn’t as bad as I remember it.  But that doesn’t mean it’s good.  Focus and recompose is much more forgiving at 12 megapixels than at 30+ megapixels but it’s still not as good as using a dedicated AF point or live view.

The center focus point is the only cross type point and the outer points are hit and miss in the best of circumstances.

I had completely forgotten that back in the day companies used viewfinder coverage as a marketing tool.  It’s an annoying product differentiator in today’s marketplace where even your smartphone has 100% viewfinder coverage.

LCD

The LCD panel on the camera back wasn’t spectacular when the 5D was a new camera.  It’s terrible today.  You can use it for framing and general exposure; it’s USELESS for checking focus.  

I bought the Canon EE-S focus screen to ease focus anxiety with fast apertures.

If you like to shoot old school and refuse to chimp this is definitely the dslr for you.

LIVE VIEW | VIDEO

You take live view for granted today.  It’s convenient for checking white balance and exposure.  Too bad this camera is circa 2005.  No such technology here.

No video.

BUILD QUALITY

The 5D is solid. The outer plastic has taken on a more shiny appearance with age vs. the 5D models that followed which have a more matte appearance.  Despite 10+ years the rear dial is still tactile and doesn’t have excess play.  The buttons are as spongy as I remember.  Canon definitely improved the button feel over the years.

Canon 5D in 2018…YES or NO?

The 5D reminds me of a legendary athlete at the tail end of their career.  In all respects it’s been superseded by current contenders.  It’s no longer the best at anything.  But within its niche, it’s still capable.

PROS

  • 12 megapixels, enough for most needs
  • image quality at ISO 100-400 is competitive with modern 35mm  ‘full frame’ cameras
  • RAW have great color and sharpness when properly exposed
  • shutter speed up to 1/8000s unlike 6D and 6D Mark II which only go to 1/4000s
  • can be bought for less than $300

CONS

  • 12 megapixels in a 24+ megapixel world
  • lcd screen is pretty awful
  • autofocus is unreliable outside of center point
  • no micro-adjustment feature for lenses
  • no live view or video
  • no wireless remote

The camera is light on amenities.  It’s a minimalist’s camera.  I jokingly call it my Canon M-D saving myself $6,000 (Leica M-D).

It’s not a panacea.  But it is a tremendous bargain.  This camera within its range lets you compete image for image with cameras that are 10x the cost.

Using Format