Happy Birthday! The Canon 5D Turns 10
It's hard to believe it, but a few days ago Canon announced the official 10th anniversary of its game changing 5D Camera. The Canon 5D was the first digital camera to make full frame affordable and to it to the masses. It was the first enthusiast camera to have a full frame sensor, and it brought with it a huge step up in terms of image quality when it was first released back in May 2005. I was one of those who bought one of the 5Ds in the first year of its release, and it was a game changer for me too, in terms of my photography.
At the time I was shooting with a Eos 300D, which was my first DSLR. Up till then I had mostly shot film, with my SLR of choice being the Canon Eos 5. When the company announced that they were going to be creating a digital version of my favourite camera I was very excited. As soon as I could afford it I bought one in the short lived Dublin branch of Jessops (which is now long gone). I immediately fell in love. While I had been shooting digital for a while with the Eos 300d (which was a fine camera), I missed the big viewfinder of my Eos 5 and the look I got from shooting 35mm slide film (which was still viable back in 2005). The 5d I had felt, for me anyway, that it was the first time digital had truly surpassed film, and I pretty much stopped shooting film after I had gotten the 5d, except for special occasions.
The first 5d really was and still is something special. The quality of the images, in particular the colour and feel of them still looks amazing. In my mind, it has better colour than the 5D Mark II which replaced it. Of course some of that is down to nostalgia. When I look back through my archives, I still see a certain style from my 5D images, which I still love, even though I've moved on stylistically. I know it's become uncool to say that a camera was an influence on your photography these days, because people love to trot out the somewhat overused trope of "it's not the camera, it's the photographer", but at the time the 5d was such a huge change, it really did let you see and do things differently than you had before. Up till then most DSLRs had tiny viewfinders, pretty crappy dynamic range and lousy iso performance. With the 5d it was like going to the cinema for the first time having only ever watched movies on a little portable television. (Some Film Camera viewdinders are still bigger and brighter, mind you)
I still have some of the images from one of my first shoots with the camera posted on Flickr. They've been there ever since I first posted them 10 years ago (which also shows you how old flickr is - especially in internet years!)
It was by no means a flawless camera. In fact it was very flawed in one area in particular. The mirror mechanism that Canon put in the camera used oil, and that oil frequently got onto the mirror, the result of which was a magnet for dust spots and oily sludge. Many a shot had to be carefully photoshopped to fix this. There was no cleaning mechanism in the camera either, so it had to be done manually or sent to a service centre, which needed to be done fairly regularly depending on how you were using your camera. At the time cleaning kits were rare, and it was especially difficult to get them outside the USA. You had to wet clean it too to get rid of the oil residue, and one wrong move could result in even more oil on your sensor. Some cameras were worse than others too, with some people hardly ever experiencing this problem, while others like myself experienced it on a regular basis. This was mostly an issue if you shot landscapes or other scenes that requited you to stop down a good bit. If you mostly shot wide open this was less of an issue. I believe that this issue being such a talking point led to the introduction of cleaning mechanisms on competing cameras that came out subsequently to the 5d.
I ended up switching to Nikon after that for various reasons, although I did buy the 5D Mark II (primarily for video). While the 5D Mark II was also revolutionary in its own way, ushering in the era of DSLR video, I don't think it ever quite lived up to the magical appeal of the first one.
Anyway, happy birthday to the 5D. It was a hugely important camera, both to the industry, but also on a personal level to me too. Here are some more images that I've taken with the original 5d over the years. Enjoy.
For more from my random collection of 5D images see this setI put together on Flickr.