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Canon EOS 5D

Review Date: Jan 5, 2006 Recommend? | Price paid: $3,300.00

Pros: Great image quality
Price, but it is coming down

I have already reviewed this camera, so this is more of an update review. I have now shot in excess of 2500 images and overall I am very happy with the results.

Some banding issues are still there, especially when underexposed or in shadow areas. Also the Custom mode gotcha that looses your on-the-fly changes when the camera powers down is a real pain, but you can work around it if you're careful (or quick!).
One thing I have noticed with this camera compared to the 20D I used for a year is that in continuous shooting mode I no longer shoot off accidental extra frames. This is good, as with the 20D I really had to concentrate and pull my finger off the shutter button quicky to avoid duplicate images when I didn't want them.

Also this camera is a "slower pace" one, a tool that invites you to think about what you are shooting, rather than blazing away. For the sports photographer it aint.. for the artist in you it is excellent. Some compare the new D200 Nikon to this camera.. Full frame is for some and not for others.. For me it means seeing the whole image again. To set the record straight, the 5D is Canon's response to the Kodak DCS/C full frame camera that used to be the cheapest full frame 35mm DSLR.

Some other minor things such as no fill flash still annoy me, but the higher ISO capability means that available light photography is acceptable, and indeed desirable. Build quality is what it is.. not 1D series, but not plastic either. I hope in future incarnations the build quality for this 2-3K$ camera improves (the D200 from Nikon shows what is possible), but I expect to keep this model for some time to come, unlike the 10D and 20D before it that were eagerly sold to make way for the next best thing..

One word of caution. If you don't treat it as a precision optical instrument, this camera will show your inadeqacies as a photographer. Beware camera shake! Use a tripod if you can.. Don't just fire away whilly-nilly as you will find unacceptably soft images the result. As the resolution is excellent, any user error will show up mercilessly. My sensor after 2500 shots is a bit spotty, though not as dust-collecting as my previous 20D.

Overall I am enjoying photography again, and have forgotten about the tool, which mostly does as it's told, and only occasionally annoys me (C-mode is less than useless!). Now I feel I'm taking pictures again!

Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM

Review Date: Nov 2, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $799.00 | Rating: 7 

Pros: Good wide angle coverage for film and full frame digital
Build quality is shocking

I have been overall quite happy with the results of this lens, and seeing as I bought it because I couldn't afford the 16-35.. I think it is money well spent. Though the 1mm difference is quite a lot at the wide angle, you still get impressive wide angle vistas.. I use it very often with landscape and interior photography.

F4 means that in low light it hunts, but that is the nature of the beast.

Build quality for an L lens is quite shocking.. I always thought it was quite robust, until I dropped my padded camera backpack from about a metre onto grass and dirt.. The lens snapped in two! A lens, like a chain, is only as strong as the weakest link, and plastic is used throughout! Well, it is being repaired and will hopefully be back up to speed again.. Of course I will be a bit more careful with it, but I expected better quality from an L lens. Canon is not involved in the repair as it is out of warranty, so a third party repair guy is fixing it for me.

Overall though, if you are in the market for a decent ultra-wide, and especially now that the price has dropped, by all means go for it.

Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS USM

Review Date: Nov 1, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: Not Indicated | Rating: 9 

Pros: IS, f2.8, tripod collar design
Strange Bokeh when IS is on

Overall very satisfied with this lens. The IS MAKES it.. I owned the non-IS f2.8.. It gave me much better Bokeh, but too many blurred shots due to camera shake when I'm wasn't using a tripod..

One significant negative of this version is the Bokeh produced at full aperture with IS turned on.. instead of shadows and lines blending into each other this lens seems to give a harsh edge effect which is displeasing and distracting.

Weight... A downside which makes it less portable than it's non-IS and f4 versions, both optically better. However the IS comes to the rescue.. and my reject % has really decreased.

Works well with a 1.4x extender, but very poorly with the 2x extender. Please do not buy this lens if it has to do double duty as a 400 f5.6 or 100-400, as you will NOT be pleased with the result. Also, the extenders reduce autofocus speed and efficiency, as well as the loss of a stop or two of light.

If you want it for portraits, close wildlife, and don't plan to walk through a crowded city with it then go for it. If you value your discreteness (i.e. don't want to draw too much attention) then go for the optically inferior but more practical 70-300 DO lens.

Canon EOS 5D

Review Date: Oct 31, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $3,300.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: Full frame sensor
Flash sync down to 1/200. No weather sealing. 3fps. NO FLASH!

Overall this is a ground breaking camera from Canon, offering "affordable" full frame to the masses. That is however where it stops. Most of the reviews wax lyrical about the magical qualities of this camera. I think we need to temper our enthusiasm for something new with a critical look at what Canon has in actual fact done.
In almost every other area Canon has "sacrificed" the body, probably to make room for it's replacement in about 18 months with the 3D (speculation on my part).

The good (full frame), the bad (see below) and the ugly (the mirror box is plain UGLY!)

Lowered frame rate from 20D (now 3fps)

No flash. The Eos5 Film camera had a flash.. why can't this one have it? Fill in flash is one of the most useful features of modern cameras.. Now you have to carry a bulky external one (at extra cost).. There seems to be this misconception that pro-cameras shouldn't have a built in flash. I beg to differ. Check out Minolta's 9 film camera.. weather sealed like the 1V and WITH a built in flash just in case you need a bit of fill to put a catchlight in the subject's eyes. Flash is a PRO FEATURE. Wake up Canon!

Limited use of custom function on dial, which defaults to original setting when camera powers down, even if you make changes on the fly.. so limited use of an excellent feature. Fix it with a firmware update.. don't force us to buy a newer camera instead.

Print button? On a $3300 camera? Where is the dedicated mirror lock up button instead which pro's and consumers have been screaming to Canon for the past 3-4 years! Who asked for a print button?! Common Canon.. LISTEN TO US!

Only 800 shots on a full battery? That's less than the 20D, and that has a flash. Newer cameras like the D200 from Nikon can manage 1800 photos on a single battery charge! So obviously you haven't put your best technology in this 5D beast. Do better!

A-DEP - One of the few useful additions to the command dial that Canon has made.. and now removed. Why invent something practical and then just take it away??? It's a great feature when you don't have time to check the depth of field via the dedicated button, or low light levels mean you can't see well due to the aperture stopped down. PUT IT BACK VIA FIRMWARE!

Ergonomics - The camera feels good in the hand, the notch in the grip makes it easier to know where shutter button is. The joystick (also on 20D) makes image preview easy.

LCD in bright light is a disaster.. That's where you need to see what you're doing? Good first attempt with big lcd, but source a brighter one.

Viewfinder - ISO is sort of present, but could be better.. Come ON Canon. Let us know what we're doing. ISO has become like aperture and shutter speed! We use it and change it all the time.. DON'T just let us see it when we change it.. KEEP it in the viewfinder all the time. A nice big viewfinder is a definate plus, as are the interchangeable focusing screens..

Overall I recommend this camera for one reason only. FULL FRAME. If you don't need it wait for the 20D replacement which will be cheaper, faster, more portable than the 5D, or go for the D200 from Nikon which is an excellent camera for the price and offers weather sealing, all for $1700. If FF is important to you (let's face it.. it's the Nirvana of DSLR's!), then go for it but understand that Canon has severely compromised this camera.. leaving out enough important features to create room for a future update. Though I don't advocate waiting for the future, because digital is here and now.. and you can learn so much from it just by shooting.. you might want to consider the next release of this camera. The 5D is where the D30 was in 2000.. same price point, ground breaking.. which means the 5D has a way to go to reach perfection.

Still, it's a an ugly duckling that has resolution to spare and enables you to take some really amazing shots (if you know how!). Your choice.. I bought it.. and will live with it's warts!

Canon EOS 20D

Review Date: Jan 11, 2005 Recommend? yes | Price paid: $2,000.00 | Rating: 8 

Pros: FAST turnon! Responsive camera in every way. Buttons more practical and image rocker button makes it easier to review image. Image quality is good
Banding issues on sensor at low ISO's or when image "pushed" in Photoshop - not entirely resolved with latest firmware update. Feels cheaper than 10D. Sensor attracts more dust than 10D.

The 20D is a nice upgrade from the 10D but obviously Canon has cut corners to reduce the cost while improving what they are giving you. The corners are not too drastic, though if you're expecting to keep this camera for a number of years they may come back to haunt you.

Replying to previous post, shutter durability is the same or better than the 10D, sitting at 50000 actuations. This is not alot considering that with the fact that it's digital and it's 5fps, you'll be showing off to friends the fast shutter speed! Considering that this is a digital and a newer version will be released in a year from now, the durability issue becomes very relative.

Things I like about the camera are the responsiveness and fast turn-on time which makes it feel more like a film EOS. What you get in 2005 in a digital SLR is about what my EOS3 was capable of in 1998, so I am very happy. Image quality is good and I'm printing Super A3 prints and am quite satisfied with the results. Why quite.. because it can always get better, but I am comfortable saying that the 20D offers me sufficient image quality for my applications (which are sticking photos on my wall at home).

Things I don't like about the camera - Banding! The image sensor algorithm had a bug - when used with the on-board flash you got horizontal lines in the image. After the firmware update, however, I found that they are STILL THERE. Not as bad as before, and only in underexposed areas, but still present. It is annoying, to say the least, and if I have an image which I really care about, it means much post-processing time which I don't have.

Crop factor - Considering the cost of this camera, I shouldn't complain, but the crop factor is quite limiting. If I knew what the future held in terms of DSLR, and knew for a fact that Canon would continue the reduced frame line of cameras for the forseeable future, I might invest in the 10-22mm lens ($800!!! Not cheap - but weren't reduced frame lenses supposed to be cheap!?!). However I don't know the future, so am hoping that full-frame cameras will become cheaper and save my money for that camera to replace this very good 20D.

Last item.. Post processing of images and the time spent on this task is another annoyance, though not specific to this model camera but digital in general. The time spent in front of the computer working on files has become enormous - I'd rather be out shooting. Still, digital, and this camera, have so much to offer in terms of ease of use and immediacy of results that it's a small price to pay.

In the end I recommend this camera wholeheartedly. I am however waiting for Canon's next step which will be a full frame or almost full-frame affordable unit. One day...