A Decade of Innovation with the Canon 5D Series


Ten years ago, in 2005, Canon broke new ground in the imaging world with the EOS 5D, the first full-frame DSLR to feature a body size similar to that of a 35mm film SLR. Today, Canon is still revolutionizing the industry with the 5D series, most recently with the jaw-dropping 50.6-megapixel resolution of the 5DS and 5DS R, announced in February. In order to celebrate this decade of innovation, let’s take a quick look back at the most notable features and trends introduced by the 5D series.

Back when the original 5D was released, in the mid-2000s, full-frame digital cameras were reserved solely for professionals, and only those who could afford them. The 5D brought down this wall with relatively affordable pricing and a more familiar and compact body type for shooters. Also, in combination with the DIGIC II processor, the 12.8-magepixel camera created images with significantly lower noise than the APS-C cameras on the market at the time, with sensitivities up to ISO 3200. A nine-point AF system was also implemented, along with a 3 fps shooting rate for capturing subjects with ease. Overall, this was a revolutionary camera with features not available in any of the competitor’s models.

Jumping ahead to 2008, a new revolution was on the horizon with the introduction of the 5D Mark II, the first full-frame camera to offer full HD 1080p video recording. This ended up jumpstarting the HDSLR movement and brought cinema-quality video tools to professionals and amateurs alike, democratizing the process of creating films to allow everyone from young college students to grizzled industry veterans to record in top quality. Beyond this, the 5D Mark II also revamped its stills engine with a 21.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, the DIGIC 4 processor, and ISOs ranging from 100-25600. Additionally, the rear LCD also grew, from 2.5" to 3.0" and used 920,000 pixels for making use of the new Live View capabilities.

While the 5D Mark II may have been a gigantic evolution, the announcement of the 5D Mark III, in 2012, brought refinement to the series. Offering a very modest bump in resolution to 22.1 megapixels, the Mark III also implemented the DIGIC 5+ processor and improved sensitivity to a maximum ISO of 102400. This combination even allows for a 6 fps continuous shooting rate and worked with a much-improved 61-point + 41 cross-type AF system for capturing fast-moving subjects. This was a huge upgrade from the 3.9 fps rate and simplistic 9-point AF system available in the Mark II. Video shooters took pleasure in more options for compression to maximize quality, and a headphone jack to monitor audio. Other changes include a 3.2" screen, dual card slots, and much, much more, making this the workhorse 5D model to this day.

Back to the present time, the latest introductions to this lauded line expand the family, as opposed to simply updating and replacing a previous model. The 5DS and 5DS R once again take photography to new heights with a 50.6-megapixel CMOS sensor, the highest resolution full-frame sensor available today. The 5DS R also marks the first time an EOS series camera has been introduced with a low-pass filter cancellation effect, which grants users the ability to squeeze the most detail out of the sensor as is possible, though with a greater risk of aliasing and moiré. Designed for high-resolution imaging, the 5DS models are optimized for a more specific group of users and will sit alongside the excellent stills and video features of the 5D Mark III, a grand new change for the growing 5D line.

Looking forward, Canon does not appear to have an end in sight for the 5D series, which should make photographers everywhere rejoice. Each iteration has brought significant improvements and features to both Canon and photography as a whole, enabling innovation throughout the industry. Here’s to another decade of the 5D.

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