Canon 500D (T1i) vs Canon 5D

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by chadamorrill, Dec 19, 2011.

  1. macrumors 6502

    Sep 13, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    Ok folks, I know this isn't really a fair comparison for multiple reasons, but I'm asking you to help me out. I've had my 500D for a couple of years now, and really like it. Honestly, I wanted a mid range body first, but my wife talked some sense (read: cents) into me and we ended up with it. Months later, I upgraded the kit lens to a Tamron 17-50 f2.8 (non VR). About the same time I borrowed (and ended up keeping) a Canon 50mm f1.8. This lens is almost always better, but for the length on a 1.6x body. This has led me to really want a full-frame body.

    I can find a used 5D for about $900. I would use the 50mm f1.8 exclusively, and would love the low-noise (most of my current shooting is of my 3.5 year old indoors) and weather sealing. I also have a 70-300 IS USM that I would use when/if the kids get into sports.

    The other option would be to spring for a 35mm f1.4 L. I've heard this is a ridiculous lens, and that usually a better lens on a sub-par body is the way to go, but I just can't get over my lust for a full-frame body.

    So the question, I suppose, isn't really fair. It should be Canon 500D w/35mm L vs Canon 5D w/50mm f1.8?

  2. macrumors 6502


    Jan 21, 2009
    I was on the same boat. T1i with 50mm f1.8 wasn't cutting it. I finally upgraded to 5dMrkII and a couple months later sold the 1.8 to get the 1.4.

    It never ends. Now I'm saving up for the 50mm f1.2.

    For me it was worth upgrading. I prefer natural light (strobes still scare me), so ISO and noise justified it. Oh and full frame, I really can't see myself going back.
  3. macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2009
    the cold dark north
    While I am a Nikon shooter, I used to shoot Canon for a while and I have to say...It's up to you.. Full frame is full frame no matter how you put it but the 35 1.4 is an incredible lens. Perfect world: get the 5d and the 35mm :) ...
    However, I would join with above: Go with the 5D (if it has a low click count) and the 50mm 1.8
  4. macrumors 68000


    Sep 30, 2007
    NSW, Australia.
    Modern crop DSLRs have had significant sensor improvements in recent times, that put some of them ahead of the 5D - the 5D is getting old, but is still a capable performer.

    The viewfinder on the 5D is stunning - large and bright, a pleasure to look through. This is my favourite thing about the 5D, and the greater field of view. The viewfinder reminds me of my Olympus OM-1.

    One thing to keep in mind is the 5D is no speed daemon out on the field, but is still usable for the kids.

    It seems like the 5D is a good choice for you - as you mention the 50mm's FOV will become more usable, and the full frame sensor will result in a more shallow depth of field. Coupled with f/1.8, this can make for some really compelling shots.
  5. macrumors 6502

    Jun 12, 2008
    I disagree with most of the above.

    Get the 35 1.4L. The viewfinder is great on the 5D however the T1+35L will blow the doors off of the 5D+50 1.8. It wont even be close.

    Besides, the glass will hold its value - camera bodies don't. Get the glass now and go full frame later when you can afford it and/or the prices of the 5DII come down (expect another drop in the next year or two when the III is rumored to come out).

    I started with a rebel XS and added my 35L. I later swapped the XS for the 5DII and it was definitely the right order to do things. Plus, 35mm is still a good walking around focal length on the 5D/full frame down the line.
  6. Moderator emeritus


    Jul 24, 2002
    Absolutely. Great glass will always be great. You only have to look at the value of old glass that is incompatible with new cameras: it's still expensive. The top quality FD glass is still expensive. The 1960s Summicron I bought for my rangefinders was still about £500 despite being ancient.
  7. macrumors 68020

    Apr 14, 2001
    Fukuoka, Japan
    Instead of spending so much on a body and putting a mediocre lens on it, I'd upgrade your lenses. As mentioned, they retain value much better. Also, the 5D Mark I has a subpar AF system (compared to modern mid-range bodies) which means you'll have a hard time focussing properly in the dark. Secondly, the sensor of the 5D is based on 6-year old technology and modern sensors actually deal with noise much better.

    So, for instance, you could get a Canon 35 mm f/1.4, but if you don't have that type of money, look into Sigma's 30 mm f/1.4. I have it and I find it much better than most reviews say it is. If money weren't the issue, I'd get Nikon's 35 mm. But then again, in reality, money is an issue. ;)
  8. thread starter macrumors 6502

    Sep 13, 2007
    Orlando, FL
    Thanks for the feedback so far! I think I do know that I should really go with the lens first and get the body second, especially being that the 5D mark II is really what I want (just can't afford :()

    On the other hand, my wife, God bless her, recently laid her claim to the camera (even though I take most of the pictures) by stitching a custom, frilly, neck strap for it. I hate the neck strap. I want my own camera, dangit. So I'm really tempted to go the other way and get the camera first and just hang tight with the 50 f1.8 for the time being.

    I just don't know.
  9. Policar, Dec 24, 2011
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2011

    macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    I don't understand why anyone thinks the T1i will have significantly better image quality. Let's take a look at this in terms of sharpness.

    Let's consider lenses first. The 50mm f1.8 and 35mm f1.4 have fairly similar mtf charts. If you want equivalent depth of field and field of view, you'd be shooting the 50mm (on the 5D) stopped down a stop and a third, about, which would further improve your image's sharpness. Of course, the t1i would crop the 35mm f1.4's corners, which are its weakest point, so it all kind of cancels out. The 5D's sensor is probably a stop faster, so it really does cancel out. In terms of sharpness alone, the lenses should be similar enough at equivalent stops.

    Now let's look at sensor sharpness. The 5D has a 52% larger sensor so 52% higher mtf performance from a given lens. The t2i has 15.1 megapixels, rather than 12.8, so root(15.1/12.8) is 9% higher mtf.

    Having used very little of this gear, I would still guess that the 5D and 50mm f1.8 would deliver better performance, plus the better finder matters, too. But the 50mm f1.8 has poor autofocus, inconsistent quality control, and is a pain in the ass for manual focus, too. Bokeh is rather poor. Glass is a much better investment.

    There are rumors that Canon's developing a 35mm f1.8 EF-S lens to compete with Nikon's $200 version but I wouldn't wait on rumors.
  10. macrumors 68020

    Apr 14, 2001
    Fukuoka, Japan
    Your reasoning is quite simplistic and doesn't address the main points the OP has mentioned why he wants to have a 5D.

    Those are low light performance (which has since been surpassed by newer generations of sensors) and weather sealing -- which the 5D does not have.

    Also, larger sensors are more demanding when it comes to lenses while crop body have the sweet spot advantage. This means you cannot take resolutions and sensor areas, extrapolate MTF graphs and such.
  11. macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    @OreoCookie, don't butt into discussions you don't understand. Ignorance is contagious on these message boards.

    Yes, you CAN read mtf charts and compare performance on a cropped versus full frame body. One of the axes on mtf charts is mm from center; you just carry that chart out 60% of the way for the crop body. (Though corner performance is generally less critical in the first place.)

    There are simple formulae for determining sharpness based on mtf, sensor size, and pixel density; in theory the numbers above are right, though the fact that mtf figures at more stops aren't available complicates things. If this is too "simplistic" (accuracy is often simple), I'd love to see what figures you use to prove me wrong. Let me guess, deferring to the unquestionable greatness of L glass? Marketing has had a field day with you.

    If I wanted to waste time, and if I had access to mtf charts at any given stop, I could methodically determine exactly which camera is sharper at an equivalent field of view and depth of field based solely on pixel density, sensor size, and mtf charts. But just glancing at the mtf charts and megapixels on each camera and knowing the difference in sensor size, it's obvious that the 5D would generally be substantially sharper.

    Is it the better investment? No. I never argued that. The L lens will hold its value better. Are the claims, posted above, that the t1i and L lens will blow it away in terms of image quality super inaccurate? Absolutely.

    And the t1i isn't exactly weather-sealed either... Nor is it known for impressive low light performance; it has a very noisy sensor...

    So please don't butt in to discussions you don't understand with smart-alec comments parroted from Canon's marketing department; I took sensor size into account twice, once in terms of corner performance, and again in terms of it providing an absolute 52% boost in mtf. The result? 5D is beyond question sharper. If that's so "simplistic" it should be easy for you to understand and agree, no?
  12. macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2009
    the cold dark north
    I am gonna have to agree with policer. The 500D is a nice consumer camera with some bells and whistles that the 5D does not have but in term of pure image performance the 5D, even though it is dated, is still more advanced. That L lens will do nothing that the 50mm in front of the 500D do. in front of the 5D it will shine.

    In this case it would mean that he has a pretty dated 500D body and a nice L glass in front of it. In terms of image quality... I would still move away from that combo.. ESPECIALLY since the 50mm lens is so amazing off the bat also.

    Well, it's for the OP to decide of course and lenses hold their value yes.. but the 50mm is not really dropping in value anymore either :)
  13. macrumors regular

    Feb 23, 2011
    go for the 5d mark 2, you'll want to shoot some video on these and they're incredible, full frame is everything.
    and more and it's a pro camera gets you through the door with some L glass attached and the 50mm 1/2 is the best.
    don't get a 5d now, get a 5dmark2 now.
    Nikons are nice but resale has gone they're now like windows computers whereas canon retains some resale price, it's Apple and it won the dslr wars thanks to hollywood embracing the full frame 5d mark 2 with video.
  14. macrumors 68020


    Nov 14, 2003
    Washington, DC
    Personally, as much as I love the idea of full frame and lust over the 5D Mark II, I've come the the realization that it's not really worth it for my purposes. Full frame cameras will expose the limitations of any but the best lenses, so owning one will push you towards wanting more and more expensive lenses. For example, that 70-300 will get you up close to the action on a 500D, but to get a similar length you're looking at a 400 or 500mm lens for the 5D. Those are seriously expensive.

    At some point you've got to step back and think about how much you really want to spend over 5 or ten years on camera equipment. You said what you really like to photograph is your kid(s). Same here. Remember, if you want to be able to take pictures of your kid(s) doing interesting things, in addition to being able to afford the camera you want to be able to afford those interesting things--vacations, sports, hobbies pretty much all cost money too.

    And the camera expenses never really end. You'll never have "everything you need." Lenses need repairs. Batteries wear down. DSLRs don't last forever (my first one put in five good years before dying).

    I'm not saying that you shouldn't get what you want, but just try to keep the long term picture in mind. It's hard though. I haven't done a great job by any means:

    Rebel Xti (died after 5 years)
    Tokina 19-35 f/3.5-4.5 (lost on a bus)
    Canon 50mm f/1.8 (lost on a bus)
    Canon 430 EX flash (lost on a bus)
    Sigma 24-70 f/2.8 (needed repairs twice)
    nice Manfrotto tripod
    Canon 55-250 f/4-5.6 IS
    Tamron adaptall 28mm f/2.5
    Canon 430 EX II Flash
    Canon 100mm f/2.8 Macro
    Canon 60D
  15. macrumors 68020

    Apr 14, 2001
    Fukuoka, Japan
    No, I was objecting to where you have scaled 52 % larger sensor area (correct) into 52 % »better« performance:
    And yes, that is as simplistic as it is incorrect. Both sensors have different coverage, different pixel density and are of a different generation. Some lenses do not mind a higher pixel density, for instance, but their performance deteriorates more strongly towards the edges. Scaling MTF linearly with sensor size as you've done is incorrect.
    Actually, if you read my first post in this thread, I suggest to the OP to save $$$ by getting a 30 mm f/1.4 Sigma. I am not sure how you infer from that that I believe in the »magical« red L. You shouldn't throw around accusations when you're not sure they are correct.
    The OP was talking about low-light performance in particular, not sharpness. The 5D tops out at ISO 1600 (and it depends on your personal taste what ISO levels you actually still consider usable, so I won't go into that mine field of a discussion) while more modern cameras (even crop bodies) produce usable shots at ISO 1600. Plus, its AF sensor craps out if it gets very dark which makes the 5D harder to handle in the dark. That's why I have suggested the OP looks into other 30~35 mm lenses instead, his wife would probably appreciate the $$$ he'd save.

    The 5D is a nice body, but if I were to get one, I'd make sure to have glass that's worthy of it and I'd be aware of its limitations.
    I don't know where you got that from. It's pretty straightforward that a full frame body needs proper lenses, not a $100 lens whose nick name here in Germany is »yoghurt cup.« Investing in lenses rather than a body is the better route in my opinion, that's all.
  16. macrumors 6502a

    Nov 21, 2004
    Assuming lens sharpness is the same, a 52% larger sensor (in each dimension) will improve mtf by 52% overall. Yes, poorer edge performance must be taken into account as a separate factor, and so must pixel density, but the mtf of a bayer pattern sensor is a predictable mathematical function related to pixel density and size. Since you can stop down a bit more than a stop to get equivalent depth of field with the 5D and a 50mm f1.8, corner sharpness improves substantially, too.

    It's not as complicated as it sounds. Multiply sensor mtf (higher on the t2i due to pixel density) by lens mtf over the diagonal and take the integral of the area under the resultant curve. Then multiply that by the diagonal of the sensor. Compare the numbers. I don't have time to calculate this exactly but just looking a the graphs it should be clear the 5D is sharper overall with possible (minor, potentially irrelevant) corner softness.

    Fwiw, the t1i is more demanding in terms of glass than is the 5d unless you're talking lenses with truly awful corner sharpness. The pixel pitch is much finer on the t1i.

    Fwiw, the 50mm f1.8 has fantastic sharpness, comparable to much more expensive lenses. It does, however, have poor bokeh. But I talked briefly with a major aerial photographer who told me he picks the 50mm f1.8 (or the best out of a number of samples he tried) over any other fast 50 for its sharpness, since bokeh is meaningless to him--and showed me images that back this up. He shoots with the 5DII and a stable of L lenses.

    Fwiw, the 5D's sensor is at least a stop cleaner than the t1i's even if the extended ISO mode goes a stop less far.

    This is almost entirely semantics at this point since your recommendation of a less expensive normal lens is a great one and probably what I would pursue, but both the 5D and 50mm f1.8 are much better than you realize.
  17. macrumors 68020

    Apr 14, 2001
    Fukuoka, Japan
    The pixel density of both cameras is different and the resolution characteristics of the lens, and even though you correctly say, these factors need to be taken into account, you don't. You yourself point out how to calculate the mtf of a lens/sensor combination from first principles. But simple proportionality between sensor size (diagonal) and mtf only works if the mtf of the lens is constant (and the same ≠ constant across the diagonal) and the pixel density of the two sensors is the same.

    Lastly, many publications test mtf numbers of body/lens combinations only as other factors impact sharpness (e. g. accuracy of centering). In other words, they don't take synthetic values of each and combine them, but only test them together to determine IQ.
    That's a rather weird way to measure resolution. You test resolution and contrast at certain apertures, not at arbitrary equivalent apertures where the dof is equivalent.
    That's not necessarily true since newer lens designs are optimized for higher pixel density and they tend to focus more on high center performance. On the other hand larger sensors are more sensitive in the corners -- especially when it comes to lenses that were designed for film.
    AFAIK the best 50 mm is Sigma's. Their 30 mm is in my experience better than many tests suggest, but for me it was a matter of price: I've paid a fraction of what Nikon's f/1.4 costs and I'm neither willing nor able to spend that much money. I'd rather take the difference, go on a vacation and come back with lots of photos.
  18. macrumors member

    Aug 9, 2010
    This is a tough one. Most advice is usually glass over bodies. I currently own a 5D classic, and used the 50 1.8 for a while, and found it to be a nice combo. I recently picked up a 35 L, which I love, but have not used too much yet. Also, the AF of the 50 1.8 is far, far worse than that of the 35 L, if tracking anything is important for you.

    The IQ of the 5D is absolutely fantastic. That said, it will feel quite old compared to the 500d. However, what you get is a huge viewfinder, stunning image quality, and very good noise control. (I'm usually pretty comfortable at 1600) It is NOT weather-sealed.

    For shooting indoors, don't discount the utility of a flash. Light indoors, in darker places, is usually crap, and a 430ex (original, used for around $200) is a great compliment to a fast lens.

    If you were comparing it to a T3i/60D, then I might have to go with the crop camera, due to its fantastic video and damn good low light features. (amazing how far they've come) However, the 500D is a bit older, so I might run with the 5D. Used 5D's can be had around $850 used, which is in my opinion a killer deal for a FF camera.

    In the end, if you are going for pure image quality, go with the 5D. Keep in mind though that you are getting a heavier, much older camera (5 years-ish) which often demands much more expensive lenses. Areas where this is very evident is wide angles and telephotos. (a sigma 10-20 is around $400, whereas a 17-40 is 600ish)

    To throw one more wrench in, if you plan on staying crop for a while, a Sigma 30 1.4 (incredible lens) and a 430ex will go a long way.
  19. macrumors 6502a

    Nov 14, 2008
    can you get the same sort of images from the T3i/60D??
  20. macrumors 65816


    Mar 12, 2009
    Wichita, KS
    Depends on what you mean by the "same sort of images", and what are you comparing it to?

    Also, this thread is over a year old. If you're looking to get your first DSLR (which I'm guessing might be the case by the question that you're asking), you might want to either read posts by others here that are more to that point, or start a new thread stating what you needs and budget are, what research you've already done, and where you could still use some advice and input.
  21. macrumors 65816


    Jan 24, 2011
    Canada, Eh?
    By 5D you mean the 5Dc(original 5D mark 1). 900 is way overpriced. The going rate is 500 dollars.

    If 5D mark 2, that is a really really good price since they go for 1200-1500.
  22. macrumors 68020

    Apr 14, 2001
    Fukuoka, Japan
    Of course, it is possible: the most important component is the brain behind the camera. Also, as mentioned before, glass matter much more than the body does. I cringe every time I read that some people use a 5D Mark II with a 28-300 mm zoom.
  23. macrumors 65816


    Mar 12, 2009
    Wichita, KS
    Wow, responses like that make me miss the downvote button. You can disagree without being a jerk about it.
  24. macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2011

    The 5D is definitely worth it. Once you go full frame you never go back. I went from a T3 to a 5D Mark 2 and I cannot see myself going back. I'd go for the 5D body right now and use the f/1.8 for now.
  25. macrumors 6502

    Jun 26, 2012
    Virginia, USA
    I'm an old film guy so I had to learn the horrors of "crop" cameras and cope with their unnatural view of the world. I have a Canon 1DIII, 5DII, and 5DIII along with dozen lenses. Full frame is the only natural way to go, the 5DIII is an extremely fine camera. After that it is your glass and your experience that count.

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