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Canon 5D

Initial Image Quality Impressions and Samples

2 September, 2005

The images on this page were shot with a pre-production Canon 5D. No firm conclusions about image quality should be drawn until testing with a full production camera has been undertaken. My comments on image quality therefore should be understood as pertaining just to the sample camera used.

With that caveat aside, (which manufacturers request when pre-production camera image samples are displayed), let me start by saying that these photographs were not taken as tests. They were taken as photographs, for their own sakes, not to illustrate any particular strengths or failings. Also, each of these photographs were taken with the Canon 70-300mm f/5.6L DO IS lens, not a lens that many people judge to be one of Canon's sharpest, but a lens that I find to be more than adequate in that regard and also extremely versatile.

Note that as always on this site, clicking on an image leads to a page showing a somewhat larger version.


Gaze. Toronto, September, 2005
Canon 5D at ISO 400 with Canon 70-300mm f/5.6L DO IS
1/125 sec @ f9.5

I received a sample of the 5D for field testing just one day before leaving on an extended trip (see What's New for Sept 3, 2005). These shots are from a few dozen which I had time to take before departure. I'm sure someone on the online forums will complain, as they always do, that I should have done this or that, or used some other lens, or that they don't like my photographs. Fine.

My full hands-on field test will appear in late September, when I return and I have had an opportunity to do the required comparisons. But since I was curious to see how the 5D would perform prior to my departure (a corollary to Murphy's law must state that new cameras for testing will always arrive just before a trip), I went to the the Midway at the CNE (a country fair) and spent two hours shooting with the camera and my favourite walk around lens. Because I will be on the road without Internet access for over two weeks I wanted to share my initial image quality impressions and some sample images.

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Image Quality

In a very controversial posting to a DPReview discussion forum, columnist and industry pundit Mike Johnston stated that based on the sample images contained on that site's review, "...the posted Canon 5D samples don't look all that good to me. Dynamic range appears to be even slightly worse than most average DSLRs...". Mike has subsequently followed up on this in his column for September 4, 2005, titled The Magic Bullet.

Well Mike, though you're an old friend, and I have a great deal of respect for your eye and knowledability, your premature judgment on the 5D's image quality was way off. Indeed, after having spent the past 5 years shooting almost daily with my own Canon D30, D60, 10D, 20D, 1Ds and 1Ds MKII, and samples of most other DSLRs to come to market, I can only tell you that the dynamic range and overall image quality of the 5D sample that I have for testing is as good if not better than the best of the cameras that I've used before.

The photograph Gaze above tells the whole story of the 5D's image quality. It has been slightly cropped at the bottom and right side, and white balance was set using the fur of the stuffed animal. It has been sharpened using Photokit Sharpener. That's all that has been done to the raw file. (Processed with a beta version of Camera Raw). The photograph was taken in the open shade at ISO 400.

There is no noise visible. None, even at 100% magnification. Skin tones are lovely and colour reproduction totally satisfying. There is considerable detail both in the black fur and the white. Dynamic range is excellent. Resolution appears to only be limited by the lens. Other test shots taken of static objects with some of Canon's top lenses show this to indeed be the case.

So, sorry Mike. Your premature conjecture was simply wrong, at least based on my first-hand evaluation.


C arney barker. Toronto. September, 2005
Canon 5D at ISO 400 with Canon 70-300mm f/5.6L DO IS
1/90sec @ f9.5

The shot above, Carney Barker, taken in direct late-afternoon sun, also shows the dynamic range to be as good as on any previous Canon camera. From the woman's white shirt to the deep shadows near the top of frame, there is extensive detail which can easily be extracted if desired.

And, not to belabor the point (Oh, OK, I guess I will), the photograph below retains excellent shadow detail without blowing out the sky.


CNE Chains. Toronto, September 2005
Canon 5D at ISO 400 with Canon 70-300mm f/5.6L DO IS
1/1500sec @ f8

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My field report on the Canon 5D will appear here in late September. Till then you may wish to read the preliminary review at DPReview and also Canon's White Paper .

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Concepts: Digital single-lens reflex camera, Camera, Photography, Canon, Canon EOS DSLR cameras, Full-frame digital SLR, Image, Raw image format

Entities: Toronto, Canon, ISO, Michael Reichmann, Mike, Carney Barker, Mike Johnston, DSLRs

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