Canon EOS 5/EOS A2 Film SLR Review7 min read by
Canon EOS 5/EOS 5QD/EOS A2 film SLR is one of the latest full-frame analogue bodies by the famed Japanese manufacturer.
First released in 1992, this camera has a familiar shape and controls for a modern digital photographer. It also comes with a Canon EF lens mount, meaning you can use the latest and greatest glass on this body.
EOS 5 Ergonomics.
I may be biased against the Canon EF-mount bodies. Despite their impressive ergonomics, these cameras feel like a relic of my former life as a digital photographer. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with digital photography — I’m simply more used to the wealth of whacky, unique film camera bodies that look nothing like the modern DSLR.
But a familiar design may be all you need to spice up your digital workflow without having to get used to the fiddly ergonomics of sixty-year-old film cameras. And thus, I will try to approach this review from that perspective.
EOS 5 has a ton of features and shooting modes. During my test exposures, I used the guided manual “M” mode and center spot metering. If you’re interested in learning everything this camera can do, check out this 72-page manufacturer’s manual that explains every switch and every dial.
EOS 5 is a working camera built to do practically anything in a studio or at a live event. It’s hard to imagine you’d miss features on this camera should you come straight from a digital body — save a colour LCD display and digital image transfer. But while most of the controls on this body are fairly intuitive, I had to dip into the manual to understand what does what exactly.
You can certainly hold this camera in one (right) hand and operate thusly, should your lens not be too heavy. EOS 5 has an excellent grip despite its weight (675g/1.5lb); it felt light in hand though I missed being able to pocket it — as I usually do with my tiny 35mm film cameras.
Once the controls become familiar, dialling the switches and hitting buttons feels natural and uncluttered — though it can’t be all done with one hand, unless you’re moving the exposure wheel next to the shutter.
The viewfinder on EOS 5 is decently bright, free of clutter, featuring a handy backlit exposure guide which I used with the manual mode. I found it comfortable with my contact lenses on but with the glasses, the corners turned out to be slightly obstructed. The manual states that the viewfinder has 0.73x magnification, 92% vertical coverage and 94% horizontal coverage.
The date back, along with an enormous control wheel and a few switches for ISO/AF/and motor drive modes was mostly useless to me; this is not a manufacturer’s fault, of course.
The motor on EOS 5 is delightfully quiet and relatively fast: up to five frames per second. Along with the rest of the electronics, it’s powered by one 6v 2CR5 lithium battery.
EOS 5 comes with a built-in flash along with a hot shoe, an external flash wire port, and an optional vertical grip. There are many shooting modes and a wealth of autofocus and exposure metering modes.
A notable feature of this camera is the multiple exposure mode — unfortunately, I did not get to test it in the field.
Certain versions of this camera (EOS 5/A2E) come with a unique autofocus feature: an eye-tracking software that sets the focus based on your gaze. Most photographers never bothered with it according to my research, as it takes time to set up and “train” the faulty computer from 1992 — although some claim it to be useful.
I’ve tested my EOS 5 with manual focus lenses, thus not much to say from a practical point of view. But the specs for the camera suggest the light meter sensitivity range of EV 0-20 and autofocus range of EV 0-18, which means you should be able to work in dim lighting with various metering modes: 16-zone evaluative, center-weighted, and a 3.5% spot. The Sunny 16 Calculator app on this website illustrates EV 4 as a deep forest in the daytime, whereas EV 20 is four stops brighter than a scene lit up by bright sunshine.
EOS 5 is housed in a reinforced polycarbonate shell. Despite its plasticky appearance, it feels solid in hand. My only complaint is the shooting mode selector which feels stiff.
Overall, this camera feels like a quality-built, relatively expensive modern device.
Hacking Canon EF lens mount.
There are tons of lenses that you can use with your EOS 5. But only if it’s made by Canon or if the lens manufacturer reverse-engineers the chip that needs to be on the lens. Manual or adapted lenses do not work because Canon purposely locks them out; I do not find their reasoning satisfactory: “It is possible that the use of incompatible lenses or other accessories may result in unsatisfactory performance or damage to your camera” — manual.
Non-OEM lenses without modifications will cause your EOS camera to lock the mirror as soon as you press the shutter button, which obstructs the viewfinder, and indicate a blinking “empty battery” on display with the rest of the information wiped. Pressing the shutter button again resets the display, but the image is never taken, and the film does not advance.
There are ways around this, of course. Your first option is to buy a Canon AF Dandelion Chip and modify the lens. This chip should work with lens adapters and manual focus lenses, giving confirmation sounds when the subject is sharp.
I wanted to keep my lenses pristine, thus modification was not an option. My fix (your second option) involved undoing the lens mount lock by pressing the black button just below the “EOS 5” on the front of the camera and rotating the lens by about two degrees counter-clockwise. This way, the lens is still attached to the camera, and the camera takes pictures normally (autofocus and automatic aperture control do not work in this mode, but TTL exposure works with the manual mode).
Of course, you’ll need to take additional precautions against having your lens fall out of your camera as it’s no longer locked.
How much does Canon EOS 5 cost and where to find one.
I’ve sought Canon EOS 5 out as a high-value top-of-the-line EF-mount SLR. There are newer, pricier bodies out there, such as the EOS 1V; still, this camera is one-tenth of the 1V’s price yet is considered by many and sold as a professional tool.
As of this writing, EOS 5 bodies are priced between $60 and $150, depending on the seller and the condition of the camera.
Though this camera’s size and appearance did not appease my preferences, the only real fault I found with it is its proprietary lens mount lock-out, which is a non-issue for modern most lenses and active adapters made for this camera.
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