Canon 5D – time to wait

A few months’ patience will save hundreds


It’s not hard to guess what the Mark II version of Canon’s 5D will be like. If the upgrades to the current pro (1D Mark III and 1Ds Mark III) and amateur (Digital Rebel, D40) models are any guide, expect to see sensor dust removal technology, a slightly faster frame rate and a 3” diagonal LCD screen replacing the current 2.5” one. Who knows, the new screen may even be readable in daylight.

Will the sensor be upgraded? Well, the full frame pro model (1Ds Mk III) migrated from 16.7 to 21.1 megapixels, so maybe the 5D Mark II gets an upgrade from 12.8 to 16.7? It really does not matter. First I think it’s unlikely as there is too much risk of cannibalization of the $7,000 top model compared with the $3,000 or so to be charged for the new 5D. Secondly, the 5D’s sensor is already recognized by many to be superior to the old 16.7 megapixel one in the 1Ds Mark II, so marketing may dictate the change, image quality does not. Canon’s sensors in their DSLRs are already so far ahead of the competition that incremental changes reflect the law of diminishing returns.

The point of all of this is simple. Today a new 5D (Mark I) body can be bought from a reputable retailer for $2,200. The used market sees mint bodies selling for $1,700, give or take $100. A 24% discount, say. Now I’m a huge fan of buying used as that means someone else has paid the depreciation for you and you save money at very low risk. If the new 5D comes out at something like the $3,000 I paid for my new Mark I (no used ones were available at the time), I can see the used market dropping another 10%, making a mint used ‘obsolete’ Mark I some $1,500, or half the price of a new Mark II.

“But there’s no warranty on a used product” you cry. Well, first read this then find a good mint used model. The odds are very much on your side. Remember, all insurance (e.g. warranties) is nothing more than a play on human gullibility and fear, the latter seldom supported by objective analysis.

If I’m right about the enhancements in the Mark II, unless you need dust removal or a larger (probably every bit as useless) LCD screen and those are worth $1,500 to you, have at it. I would suggest the better course of action is to wait 3-4 months and pick up a used mint Mark I for less than half the price of a new Mark II. The $1,500 can buy you two or three great primes from Canon which, I can assure you, are optically in a different class from the zooms, to say nothing of their compactness. Alternatively, you can blow the change on a few tankfulls of gas for your car ….

Back in May I wrote that a $2,500 budget couldn’t get you into a full frame DSLR kit. Well, that is no longer correct, which is great news. Your $2,500 gets you a mint used 5D body ($1,500, say, in a few months’ time), the ultra-wide 17-40mm L zoom (they are giving it away at $650 new) and the drop-dead fabulous 85mm f/1.8 portrait lens ($320). That’s $2,470.

One thought on “Canon 5D – time to wait

  1. Well, I think you’re discounting some features, expected in Mk.II.

    They being:

    • 14-bit A/D conversion for superior tone gradations
    • Digic-III processor for better noise suppression
    • Auto-optimization for better highlight control
    • Faster fps

    These, except of Digic-III I think are very useful additions to existing model. The 14-bit A/D DEFINITELY produces better images, period. Faster fps – it’s great to have, if we’re doing a bit of high-action photos. Frankly, I love to do auto bracketing and using a higher fps truly helps.

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