The Canon 5D-series heritage

The EOS 5D-series is iconic. Sitting just under the flagship 1D-series, the full frame 5D cameras have been renowned for their reliability, performance and revolutionary moments. With the EOS R5 in development (April 2020), we look back briefly at the heritage of the 5-series models and what it might tell us about the EOS R5. Are we on the brink of a new step change in photography and videography?


When the original EOS 5D camera was first announced in August 2005, Canon was very clear that this full frame, compact camera defined a new DSLR category. It was heralded as "an indispensable piece of equipment for a wide range of professionals". With its magnesium alloy body, new 9-point focusing system with six invisible assist points and powered by the then new DIGIC II found in the flagship 1D-series cameras, it was a powerful bit of kit which laid the path for the 5D-series as we know it now.

However, it was with the 5D Mark II that the potential and future prowess of the line was unveiled.


EOS 5D Mark II: announced September 2008

The EOS 5D Mark II was announced in the autumn of 2008. It was the first EOS camera with Full HD 1080p video capability at 30 frames per second (fps). Whilst the 5D's sensor offered 12.8MP, the 5D Mark II offered 21.1MP, so this potent combination of video and resolution offered new opportunities to a range of filmmakers as well as photographers. The 5D Mark II even made it to Hollywood, and was used on the set of Captain America: The First Avenger to capture POV (point-of-view) motion sequences, as well as for action shots on Iron Man 2.

Of the camera, then head of Canon Consumer Imaging Mogens Jensen said, "The addition of HD movie recording opens a new chapter for EOS. It creates new possibilities for EOS photographers to capture and share their stories and to stay relevant in a rapidly changing digital landscape."

It was clear that the 5D Mark II was revolutionary and forward-thinking. It realised the latent potential of Live View mode, which had first been introduced with the EOS-1D Mark III a year earlier. Whilst the ability to view in real-time was an in-built feature of compact digital cameras, the design of DSLR cameras – with their reflex mirror assembly – meant that a different operation was necessary to enable this functionality. (In many ways, the ongoing development of Live View technology is what has ultimately led to the mirrorless systems of the EOS M- and R-series.)

Its timing is significant, too. Video was growing rapidly. YouTube was first launched in 2005. At the end of 2006 Google purchased YouTube. In June 2007, YouTube Japan was one of nine localised versions to be launched as YouTube was developed further. User-created media grew exponentially over those first few years and so, by the time of the 5D Mark II's launch in September 2008, YouTube was already changing the face of media and imaging.


EOS 5D Mark III: announced March 2012

Just over three and a half years later, the EOS 5D Mark III arrived. It was seen more as an evolution rather than revolution, but nevertheless had its own merits. Canon said that it had taken on board feedback from its community of users and had built enhancements into the new camera on just about every level and touchpoint. It offered better resolution, enhanced processing power, improved speed and focusing, and, now critical to the 5D line, better video functionality.

There was full manual exposure control, a new Movie mode switch, improved image quality and, most notably for videographers, an enhanced range of high bit-rate video compression options, elevating the camera to more serious video levels.

Nevertheless this 5D model was designed to be flexible, creative and meet the needs of a user base that was more diverse than it had ever been.

We're skipping over the 5DS and 5DS R models as these were launched as niche models in the 5D line-up, to deliver extra resolution and detail for certain specialists. Whilst they are both worthy cameras in their own rights, their feature sets sit very much between the 5D Mark III and 5D Mark IV (but with the scales tipped towards the Mark III), both of which are the more mainstream models.



EOS 5D Mark IV: announced August 2016

The current 5D model – the Mark IV – then arrived at the end of the Olympics season in 2016. On paper, the EOS 5D Mark IV announcement might have looked like a subtle upgrade, but it was definitely noticed by those who tried it. Technical Editor Nina Bailey borrowed an EOS 5D Mark IV for a trip to Madagascar and never went back to her Mark III, having traded it in for a Mark IV within days of arriving back in the UK.

Still, the heritage of a hybrid stills-video camera continued. Again its improvements were said to be as a result of feedback from users. Its 30.4MP sensor, 7fps shooting, built-in Wi-Fi and GPS, plus internal 4K video recording brought the camera up-to-date for both stills and video users. It inherited the developments made with the Live View system, most notably via Dual Pixel CMOS AF which was introduced with the EOS 70D, and took it further, introducing Dual Pixel RAW.

The 5D-series has a broad skill set and wide audience. For some, a 5D-series model offers the ultimate wildlife camera, for others a versatile camera for weddings, with the ability to deliver both stunning images and video. And for another user base, a 5D-series camera is the go-to tool for creating video content, whether they're vlogging or shooting professional movies.


EOS R5: to be announced.... early summer 2020?

With three development announcements already made about the full frame mirrorless EOS R5, it seems that Canon is excited about what's to come. Carrying the '5' badge, it's clear where this camera will sit in terms of both performance and line-up.

Expect the R5 to be the next step in the 5-series evolution.

Expect the R5 to be equally capable in the field of both stills and video.

Expect the R5 to be the new flagship in the mirrorless line-up.

Key EOS R5 features already announced:
• Newly developed CMOS sensor
• Up to 20fps (electronic shutter) / 12fps (mechanical shutter)
• Advanced animal AF recognition for cats, dogs and birds
• 8K RAW video
• Dual Pixel CMOS AF working in all video modes/resolution/frame rates
• First EOS with in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), 5-axis
• Dual card slots
• Connectivity with new platform

We don't yet know the price or availability, but one thing is clear...

Expect to pay for this formidable feature set...


Prices at launch (body only, UK RRPs)

EOS 5D Mark IV – £3629.99
EOS 5D Mark III – £2999.99
EOS 5D Mark II – £2299.99
EOS 5D – £2539.99


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