Pick up the EOS 5D and you'll be surprised by its large size and heavy metal body. Although the shell is made from lightweight magnesium alloy, the casting is more in-line with the maker's pro 1D series.
Despite the lack of a pop-up flash, this new model has a much larger pentaprism and mirror-box. There's a good reason for this, as anyone who has been waiting for this camera will know: the 5D has a 35mm 12.8-megapixel CMOS sensor. It may be £2,000, but the 5D is now the cheapest full-frame device on the market; it's half the price of the only other fullframe digital SLR, the 16.7- megapixel 1DsMk II.
It's still pricey though, and double the cost of the superb 20D. If you already own several of Canon's top-flight L-series wide-angle lenses, which cost over £1,000 a piece, then the 5D starts to look more attractive.
In use, the large 2.5-inch screen is a vast improvement over the smaller types used in Canon's lower-priced models. But, although it's nicely detailed with good colour, it's not a hybrid type so you can't switch off the backlight and use reflected sunlight instead. This a shame, as the monitor washes out in bright lighting. Still, it has wide viewing angles and the size makes scrolling through the menu so more comfortable.
Thankfully, Canon has done away with the old confusing parameter settings in favour of six Picture-Style presets that are easy to relate to, and not unlike the film-type settings seen in the Fuji S3 Pro.
Unlike the Canon pro models that have both CF and SD card slots, the 5D has a single Type II slot for CompactFlash or Microdrives. The larger sensor produces stunning images with superb colour gradation. Noise is impressively low and sensitivity is entirely usable up to 800 ISO. Beyond that, colour and contrast suffer and noise becomes pronounced.
At the maximum sensitivity, the equivalent of 3200 ISO is possible when set to the extended range, but some might find the noise levels too grainy for comfort. What's more, fringing was noticeable - even with Canon's highly regarded 16-35mm f/2.8 L-series zoom.
Speed-wise, focusing in low light is a little tardy - there's a pregnant pause before the lens snaps into focus, even using an L-series lens. Some of the controls are awkward to reach, too - it's a shame Canon didn't stick with the successful layout of the 1D series.
But despite these grumbles, the 5D is a truly superb camera that's worth every penny. Users looking for a full-frame device - no longer having to spend in excess of £4,000 - should be happy. Kevin Carter