Review of the Canon EOS 5D
To be truly accurate, this sensor is not completely full frame. In fact it’s 35.8×23.9mm, if you want to split hairs. If you really want to be pedantic, you could even say that the full-frame sensor is a bit of a misnomer anyway – a 35mm frame size is a more accurate term, as film formats have always been of different sizes. But I digress. More to the point is that the image area offers a 3:2 imaging ratio, the same as 35mm, and will have a negligible effect on the focal length of lenses.
The sensor is a CMOS type, which Canon has long promoted and had much success with. The total pixel count of 13.3 million drops down to 12.8 million effective pixels, after you subtract the outlying black pixels used to set the sensor’s exposure parameters. The sensor also uses an RGB primary colour filter, and a three-layer low-pass filter to reduce aliasing and moiré effects.
What’s also interesting about the sensor, theoretically at least, is the pixel pitch of the sensor. As it’s a larger sensor than is usually found in the majority of DSLRs, the size, or pixel pitch, of the individual sensor is larger. This means the less should display less noise and have a greater dynamic range from current offerings using the APS-C sized chip.
Canon has also developed a new system of image processing for the camera. Essentially an advanced form of scene modes, Picture Style allows you to set processing profiles within the camera. For example, within the camera menu already are a set of five options – Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful and Monochrome. These parameters apply digital filters to provide the best results for those subjects.
The Standard profile offers crisp and vivid colours, suited to the majority of users’ tastes. Portrait offers a softer texture and better skin tones. Landscape enhances important natural colours such as skies and greens. Neutral is a slight flat, subdued look, and is better suited for work that will be post processed, while Faithful remains true to the colours and tones. Monochrome speaks for itself, with a slight boost in image sharpness as well.
There are also three custom options available, to which you can add your own parameters, like colour or contrast; or download custom versions from the Canon website. These versions at present include Nostalgia, giving a flat faded look; Clear, which helps to reduce the effect of ultra violet light and increase sharpness; and Twilight, which adds a warm tint to images.
The good thing about the Picture Style is that it can work with RAW images, much like White Balance. The filters can be downloaded directly to the camera, by transferring or added to files on the PC using the latest version of Canon Digital Photo Professional software. Incidentally Picture Style is backwards compatible and can be used with RAW files from any Canon SLR since the EOS 30D, although the in-camera option isn’t available on the older cameras.
The idea isn’t especially new; scene modes work in much the same way, though with more automated exposure functions. And the Kodak Pro SLR had a similar system, though limited to Portrait and Product ‘looks’, primarily for studio photography.
While the Picture Style system may offer a personalisation of colour, tone and so on, the camera still has a more standard approach to profiles, with Adobe RGB and sRGB colour spaces available. For standard use, sRGB will suit most of your needs; but for better colour and for times when you will be performing more processing, then AdobeRGB is the way to go, with its wider colour gamut.
The camera includes a noise-reduction system, primarily for longer exposures. Like other such systems, it seems to make the camera add a blur over the image to hide the noise rather than remove it, so images look less sharp than they would behind it. A plethora of software-based noise-reduction systems is available, including within the Photoshop CS2 RAW processor, and this may be a better option to use because it reduces the colour artefacts rather than blurs them.
As for White Balance, the Canon EOS 5D has a multitude of options. As well as a set of presets and auto WB, all of which are pretty darned good, there is also the option of setting the colour temperature, as well as a WB bracketing option.
Unlike the lower-priced cameras, the Canon EOS 5D boasts several options that push it into the semi-pro bracket, or even (at the price) professional bracket. These include little touches such as interchangeable focusing screens, of which the Canon has two. Obviously the back catalogue of lenses, flash guns and so on are also included. The 5D has no built-in flash, so a Canon-compatible flash needs to be added to your shopping list, but at least the camera has a PC sync socket for external flash, so the camera can easily be used in the studio.
Next page: Canon EOS 5D design and build quality review
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