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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The 10 Megapixel Club

When you need resolution and the compactness of an SLR, these are the four current models you'll want to check out

Leading up to the introduction of the Canon EOS 5D, there were plenty of rumors flying around the Internet. It was widely believed that Canon would replace the EOS 20D with something similar, so when the actual announcement on the 5D came down, we were a little surprised. The camera doesn't replace the 20D; instead, it fits into the Canon lineup as a sort of little sibling to the EOS-1Ds Mark II. The 5D is built around a 12.7-megapixel, full-frame CMOS sensor (effective pixels), but unlike the hefty EOS-1Ds Mark II, the 5D is comparatively compact. In fact, its overall size and weight runs closer to the 20D than the 1Ds.

Despite the fact that both the EOS 5D and the EOS-1Ds Mark II are made by the same company and both have full-frame CMOS image sensors, the 5D's sensor is different from the 1Ds Mark II. This is a new sensor (presumably one that's easier and less expensive to produce), but it retains the basic advantages of the full-frame. The photosites are 8.2 microns square for the low noise that full-frame sensors are renowned for delivering.

Like its big brother, the 5D has the Canon DiGiC II image processor built in. In addition to the DiGiC chip's image-processing features, it's the primary engine for moving the image file from sensor to memory card. The 5D can shoot at three frames per second for up to 18 RAW files or 60 JPEGs before you have to slow down. Three fps is a good pace, but it's not going to get the job done if you're standing on the sidelines at the Super Bowl. Still, the ability to shoot so many files at three fps without stopping makes the 5D worth a look for photojournalists.

Of course, the camera will be at home in a studio environment, where speed typically isn't as critical, and there are plenty of pro-oriented features that make it a viable tool. Images are stored on a CompactFlash Type I or II card, and the LCD monitor on the camera back is a large 2.5 inches. The metering system is 35-area evaluative, center-weighted, partial or true spot. There are nine focusing points, and you can change the focusing screen to suit your needs.

All in all, the 5D feels very much like a solid camera between the 20D and the 1Ds Mark II. If you have a 1Ds Mark II and you're looking for a smaller body as an accompaniment, the 5D is a more natural fit than the 20D. On the other hand, if you're a 20D user looking to step up to a full-frame, the 5D gives you a chance to do that without having to dive all the way into the $8,000 EOS-1Ds Mark II. At around $3,000 (estimated street price), the cost seems particularly reasonable for what the camera delivers.

Contact: Canon, www.usa.canon.com.


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