Canon EOS 5D Digital Camera Review

October 16, 2005

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Testing / Performance


*We tested the color accuracy of the Canon EOS 5D by recording several photographs of an industry standard GretagMacbeth color chart at the camera's various settings. The files were uploaded into Imatest Imaging Software, which compares the camera’s rendered tones with the correlating ideal.

The Canon EOS 5D has a range of parameters, labeled Picture Styles, which strongly impact the look of the recorded images. Canon draws a parallel between the Picture Styles parameters and different types of film. (For more on the 5D’s Picture Styles, refer to the Image Parameters section of the review).

We tested the EOS 5D in its Standard (default) parameter, but the 5D’s Faithful parameter – which is colormetrically optimized for photos recorded under photographic tungsten lights and contains neutral saturation settings – performed far better. Thus, the color charts seen in this section were shot using the camera’s Faithful setting. The accompanying parameters were not manually altered beyond that selection, although it is important to note that users can heavily influence the camera’s rendered tones using the Picture Style options.

Below is a GretagMacbeth color chart modified by Imatest Imaging Software, contrasting the original colors of the chart with the colors produced by the camera. The inner vertical rectangle of each color tile shows the ideal color. This is in contrast to the outer square, which represents the color produced by the Canon EOS 5D. The inner square displays the camera’s produced tone, corrected by Imatest for luminance.

The same information is shown below in a more linear graphic. The circles contain the 5D’s produced tones, while the correlating squares depict the ideal hue. The line joining the two shapes illustrates the degree of error for each rendered tone; the longer the line the more erroneous the color.

This showing in the Faithful mode earned the Canon EOS 5D a 9.0 overall color score. We tested the camera in its default Standard mode as well, but its 6.52 overall color score is certainly not as impressive as the 9.0. The discrepancy stems from the Standard style's boost in saturation, over-saturating tones by 7-9%.

In Faithful mode, the tonal palate produced by the Canon 5D had a 6.7 mean error, which is quite good. The 5D slightly under-saturated colors (by less than one percent), achieving a 99.68 percent saturation score. The colors are extremely accurate, which reflects the quality of the 5D’s internal components. However, through the manipulation of the 5D’s Picture Style settings, color accuracy can range substantially. Alterations made through picture styles are rendered prior to compression, so they pose a viable option to those shooters looking to maximize their workflow.

**Still Life Scene **

Below is a shot of our glamorous plastic assemblage as captured with the EOS 5D.


Click on the above image to view it in full resolution (CAUTION: the linked file is very large!)](

Resolution / Sharpness*(10.9)

*To test the sharpness and definition of the 5D’s 35.8mm x 23.9mm 12.8 megapixel full frame CMOS sensor, we recorded several exposures of an industry standard resolution chart and uploaded the images into Imatest Imaging Software. The software read the imported files for sharpness and resolution. The shots were recorded using both the default Standard mode and Faithful mode at several focal lengths and apertures using a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens. The image below was shot at 60mm using an aperture of f/7.1.


Click on the above chart to view full res image](

When utilized as such, Imatest will produce resolution results in LW/PH, which stands for line widths per picture height. The typical means for measurement is line pairs per picture height (lp/ph) and while this applies to the EOS 5D because of its full frame sensor, lp/ph is not applicable for digital sensors of varying sizes. Thus, LW/PH is a deduced measurement in the same manner of measurement as lp/ph but standardizes results for variances in imager dimensions.

Imatest detected 2281 LW/PH along the horizontal axis and 2182 LW/PH in the vertical direction.

Noise - Auto ISO* (6.99)

*If photographers should ever use the automatic ISO setting, they will be glad to know that it performs decently. The Canon 5D received a 6.99 overall automatic ISO noise score, which is pretty good. The camera produced noise equivalent to what was found in the manual ISO 400 setting. The automatic ISO setting is respectable, but the manual setting suppressed noise far better.

Noise - Manual ISO*(13.51)

*We tested the noise distribution in both Standard and Faithful Picture Styles to perceive the noise present at each available ISO setting. The Standard (default) mode’s lowest four ISO settings had less noise than the same four in the Faithful mode. However, the higher manual ISO settings in Standard mode produced more noise than those in the Faithful mode. Once the noise levels at each ISO rating and in each mode were considered and input into a regression analysis, the Faithful mode came out on top with a steadier slope and less overall noise – although they were close. Note the lowest sensitivity settings in Standard mode (ISO 50 through ISO 400) contained slightly less noise, but overall there was more noise present in the green channel when the Standard mode was used. Below is a chart showing the results from tests conducted in both modes. The Canon EOS 5D’s ISO ratings are plotted along the horizontal axis while the corresponding noise levels appear on the vertical axis.

To remain consistent in our reported scores, our overall manual noise score applies to results garnered in the 5D’s Faithful mode. We imported the individual noise values emitted by the 5D at each available ISO setting into a regression analysis to determine the overall score. The Canon 5D earned an overall manual ISO noise score of 12.01. This is quite impressive and ranks the 5D among the top DSLRs in terms of image clarity. When you consider the control offered by the camera’s flexible ISO range, running from 100 to 1600 in 1/3-stop increments, the 5D is tough to surpass – particularly in such a small, portable camera body.

Low Light Performance*(8.5)

*To evaluate the Canon 5D’s low light capabilities, we recorded a sequence of images at decreasing light levels of 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. We turned on the camera’s long exposure noise reduction and set the sensitivity to ISO 1600. The camera was set to aperture priority mode and the lens was stopped down to force longer exposures. This low light test is designed to observe the impact of extended exposures on the 5D’s image quality.

Unfortunately, the noise levels dramatically increase as the amount of time the shutter is open increases. As the exposure time increased, the colors gradually lost their saturation. At 60 lux, color saturation was 107 percent; it was 105.7 percent at 30 lux, 105 percent at 15 lux, and 97.88 percent at 5 lux. Colors also became less accurate with the extended exposures. The Canon 5D recorded a 5.65 color error at 60 lux, 7.43 at 30 lux, 8.19 at 15 lux, and 8.61 at 5 lux.

Below is a graph displaying the increase in noise with prolonged exposures; the exposure duration is plotted on the vertical axis, while the resulting noise is on the horizontal axis.

Oddly, the camera did not set an appropriate exposure at 5 lux – the image was underexposed. With a maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds there was no reason for the camera to underexpose the image. We surmise this to be a result of metering difficulties at very low light levels.

**Speed / Timing **

Speed and timing tests on the Canon EOS 5D were conducted using a 1GB SanDisk Extreme III CompactFlash card and a fully charged battery.

*Start-up to First Shot (9.81)

*With the shutter speed set at 1/1000th of a second, the Canon EOS 5D takes 0.19 seconds to start up and take its first shot.

*Shot to Shot (9.62)

*The Canon 5D’s burst mode shoots at an even pace of 3 frames per second as our testing confirmed a shot every 0.33 seconds exactly. This time held true for both JPEG and RAW files in the burst mode. In our tests, the 5D actually surpassed its advertised 60 max burst duration and continued for 71 JPEG shots. Canon also reports that the 5D will shoot 17 RAW files in a burst mode; however, we could only get 15.

Once the 5D shot its 71 JPEG files, it took 24.49 seconds to write them to the card before the camera was ready for its next burst. After its 15 RAW file burst, the Canon 5D took 21.62 seconds to write to the card. This is remarkably fast and indicates the effectiveness of the camera’s impressive 4-channel reading and DIGIC II processor.

*Shutter to Shot (9.12)

*In true single lens reflex style, the Canon EOS 5D had hardly any shutter lag at all. A quick 0.01 seconds went by from the moment the shutter release button was pressed to the time the picture was taken.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.


  1. Testing / Performance
  2. Physical Tour
  3. Components
  4. Design / Layout
  5. Modes
  6. Control Options
  7. Image Parameters
  8. Connectivity / Extras
  9. Overall Impressions
  10. Conclusion
  11. Specs / Ratings
  12. Photo Gallery

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.

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