Wednesday, October 1, 2008
Is Now The Time For Full-Frame D-SLRs?
With more options, state-of-the-art technology and lower prices, D-SLRs are worth a careful look for serious outdoor shooters
Introduced in 2005 as a lighter and less costly alternative to the EOS-1Ds models, the EOS 5D has been a popular model for three years—quite a lifespan in the D-SLR arena. While its specs pale compared to the EOS-1Ds Mark III’s (12.8-megapixel Canon CMOS image sensor vs. 21.1 megapixels, single DIGIC II processor vs. dual DIGIC IIIs, 12-bit A/D conversion vs. 14-bit), the 5D costs nearly $6,000 less, turns out high image quality and does surprisingly well with action subjects.
As a landscape camera, the EOS 5D is excellent, handling contrasty scenes well and producing accurate colors. The 12.8-megapixel images are crisp and can render big prints with good detail. And the full-frame sensor retains the bokeh designed into Canon EF lenses (i.e., the pleasant appearance of the out-of-focus background and foreground areas in images shot at wide apertures).
As an action camera, the EOS 5D starts up in a quick 0.2 seconds and can shoot up to 17 RAW or 60 Large/Fine JPEG images at 3 fps, which is plenty fast for most wildlife subjects. The AF system features nine primary AF points, plus six invisible supplementary AF points, and our test camera tracked flying birds better than our EOS 30D. ISO speeds range from 100 to 1600, with extensions to 50 and 3200; image quality is excellent for the speeds at all but 3200 (which is quite usable).
One of our favorite features of higher-end Canon D-SLRs is the ability to set exposure compensation just by rotating the big dial on the camera back—no need to fumble around for an EC button first. The 5D provides this capability.
The 5D introduced Canon’s Picture Styles, which let you start with a basic “look” (standard, portrait, landscape, neutral, faithful or monochrome) and adjust such parameters as sharpening, contrast, saturation and color tone (color images only) and filter effect and toning (monochrome images only). This gives you control akin to selecting a specific film for a specific need. Picture Styles are incorporated in all recent Canon D-SLRs.
While not as rugged as the far more costly EOS-1Ds Mark III, the EOS 5D is quite sturdy—our EOS 30D, a 5D contemporary in age and build, has spent its life in the field photographing wildlife during many hikes and is still going strong after more than 70,000 shots.
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