Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Why I Prefer My Classic Canon 5D Mark I Over My Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Camera

Why would a camera that was released in 2005 still be considered over the many newer cameras that are out today?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I was originally attracted to photography simply because I loved seeing photos with good bokeh (soft blurry backgrounds) and I knew that my consumer point and shoot digital camera that I owned at the time wasn’t going to deliver that. (Nowadays, we have AI generated bokeh on most iPhone and Android cameras.)

It wasn’t until my wedding in 2007 when a friend of mine, Hung Tran, who was also our wedding photographer, broke down the differences between cropped and full-frame sensors. He taught me how sensor size and the proximity between your camera and your subject affected your photos and that bokeh that I was after. You also got more details in your picture when you didn’t have to step back so far to get that shot when taken with the same lens on a full frame sensor camera compared to a cropped sensor. He taught me about how a photo taken at f/1.4 on a cropped sensor camera had the same “look” of one at f/2.24 on a full-frame sensor. Basically, larger sensors gathered more light. I knew that I had to go full-frame!

The Canon 5D (classic) Mark I was the very first digital full-frame camera I had ever owned. Before that, I had an early model Canon Rebel, a cropped sensor camera.

Today, the Canon 5D Mark I pales in comparison to many modern cameras. For one, the camera only has 12.8 megapixels. The highest resolution you can get is 4,368 × 2,912 pixels. ISO is limited to 1600. You get 9 focus points. If you wanted to do some video recording, this classic 5D won’t help you much, or rather, at all; it simply doesn’t do ANY video. And my worst gripe, there’s no auto-ISO on this camera.

So WHY would anyone consider a Canon 5D Mark I today?

  • If you’ve been thinking of going full-frame and don’t want to sell your arm to get one of those newer cameras, the Canon 5D classic could be had for a few hundred bucks on the used market, ie: eBay or Facebook Marketplace.
  • The Canon 5D is heavy, but it’s built like a tank! You can literally leave it in the freezer and it just might still be able to power on after you thaw it out.
  • It’s a full-frame camera. That means you’ll get great bokeh with a basic 50mm f/1.8 lens. The larger sensor will gather more total light than any cropped micro-four-thirds or APS-C camera. Think about it this way, if you had a cup and a large bowl outside during a rain storm, the two will gather the same inches of rain, but the bowl will have more TOTAL water.
  • But what about that ISO 1600? If you went any higher than that on almost ANY camera, you’re gonna introduce noise and grain to your photos. To me, noise and grain are ALMOST as bad as a picture that’s out of focus. With all the money that you’ll be saving by buying a classic camera, you’ll have more money to get yourself a nice f/1.2 or f/1.4 lens, a flash, tripod, and then ISO 1600 won’t be such an issue. If you shoot your photos in RAW, you can simply boost your levels in post-production if needed.
  • What? You can’t work with 12.8 megapixels? Ask yourself this… How often would you need to print a photo that is larger than 13″ x 10″?
  • If you want to be able to transfer your JPG photos from your camera to your phone while you’re on location somewhere, simply buy one of those wi-fi capable memory cards! I bought one on Amazon for like $10 and they work great.
  • Another thing about legacy cameras is that there are a TON of Canon EF lenses and accessories that are also fairly affordable. Have you seen the limited choices and how expensive those little micro-four-third camera lenses are?
  • If someone tries to rob you or steal your camera, you have two choices: use your HEAVY ass Canon 5D as a weapon, or simply give the robber your camera. It’s cheap enough where you won’t break the bank to buy another! Heck, get one as a backup camera in case your mirrorless camera stops working during a shoot.

I like to think of my old classic Canon 5D Mark I as an old classic muscle car. It’s not gonna have the latest bells and whistles, but that loud mirror slap is like a loud exhaust pipe, it’s most likely gonna get the job done on the road… or field. Remember, great photos don’t usually come from having the best gear, but they do always come from having the best subject.

Cameras are simply tools… not luxury items. Like a car, they lose value the minute you take it out of the store and use it. So choose wisely.

Canon EOS 5D camera, with Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM lens (fitted with a B+W 010 UV-Haze 58mm filter). (Creative Commons)