10 observations about the Canon 5D Mark 1

In recent months there have been more and more videos on the Canon 5D Mark 1 or classic. Clearly it is an affordable full frame; but there are some issues that are unmentioned; some good and some bad.

The additional points that I want to raise are based upon my interest in street photography and event photography; but also in regard to photographers with disabilities. Having poor vision, mobility or dexterity can render a camera useless.

Canon 5D Mark 1

The internet generated interest in the Canon 5D mark 1 or classic has increased over the years. It is cheap to purchase second hand, it is full frame and it has a quality build. All that said getting one in the hands having been used to more modern digital cameras can be a shock.

As newer cameras are used there is an absorption of techniques into a way of working that obviously are missing when going back to an older system. In addition getting to grips with the suitability of a camera is more than simply reading the features and using it. The character and the implementation of options differ camera to camera.

These points may make you think twice or possibly even make you more desparate to get one…

1. – Check the Serial Number

The serial number matters. Older cameras had a poorer preview screen and some even had a problem with the mirror dropping off. Check up on the various serial numbers and their charactistics. This has an effect on the price, reliability and usability…

Here is a flicker discussion on the issue of serial numbers: Canon 5D serial number implications

2. – Not 100% view finder

This was a “pro” camera 13 years ago. Despite this the view finder still does not have a 100% field of view. This can effect the framing and with only 12mp cropping can be a problem.

3. – USB can’t be used to charge

This camera is not chargable with a USB cable. This can be a problem for those that want to reduce their “luggage” when traveling, buy not carrying the charger. In addition this can affect people with limited dexterity. Removing and charging batteries and replacing them in the camera can be difficult for some.

4. –  Ergonomic place for the thumb

Being so old this camera lacks the “features” and importantly the need for millions of buttons. The rear right of the camera has plenty of free real estate for the thumb to sit comfortably without acidentially pressing buttons…

5. – ISO gets “bitty” fast

Digital cameras at high iso’s are bitty not grainy. This rarely leads to a pleseant image rendition, more often than not the image is unuseable. The Canon 5D classic gets bitty fast. At around 400 iso specks of miscelaneous colour pepper the image. Not surprising considering that the sensor will be one of the first full frame that was available. In addition the internal software processing is old too. I will run some checks to determine if the problem is sensor specific or software specific. The former is going to affect raw, the latter may be “fixed” with modern post production software.

>>Since this video and article I have looked into this and Lightroom can be used to get a good image by using the RAW file. Video on this issue.

6. – Depth of field preview

This camera has depth of field preview. Now I guess most people don’t care, but I learnt with DOF Preview on my old Mamiya and without it the nice bokeh in the view finder can be not what you get in the end image if the aperture is stopped down. I think it is worth the time to check if the bokeh is important to the character of the image… Many cameras can’t preview this…

7. – Zoom is possible

Whilst the back screen is poor for reviewing images, the one redeeming feature is that you can zoom the images. Whilst this is nothing new it is sometimes forgotten in the reviews.

8. – Wearing glasses works

The eyepiece is suitable for people wearing glasses. I personally need my reading glasses and look over to take a shot and look down and through the lens to review pictures and control buttons. The view finder is visible to the edges even when the eye is not directly at the eyepiece. This is not always the case with cameras.

9. – Fast shutter

A maximum shutter of 1/8000 is something new to me. I have only had Nikon cameras with 1/4000. This can help with bright light conditions where the aperture should be fast for artistic reasons…

10. – Green hew

I ran a little test comparing the BW between the Nikon D610 and the Canon 5D. Interestingly the 5d seemed to have a green hew to the image on the rear screen. This could effect how colour images are percieved…

I trust these points give a little deeper insight into the camera and help you make a better purchasing decision. Till next time…


LOOKING FOR A CANON 5D in the UK… Check London Camera Exchange


Previous video on Canon 5D classic: https://alexjacksonsmith.com/?p=42