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Canon digital SLR upgrade - EOS 350D / XT versus EOS 5D Gordon Laing, November 2006

Sensor and processing
/ Screen and viewfinder / Lens features

Canon EOS 350D / XT vs EOS 5D: Lenses

When it comes to using lenses, there’s one big difference between the Canon EOS 5D and the models which come below it. The EOS 5D has a full-frame sensor which means lenses deliver exactly the same field of view as they would on a 35mm film SLR. In contrast, the physically smaller APS-C sensors used by the 300D / Rebel, 350D / XT, 400D / XTi, 10D, 20D and 30D models result in every lens having its field of view reduced by 1.6 times; this has the effect of multiplying the focal length by 1.6 times.

While this would appear to give the 5D the advantage, at least in terms of wide angle lenses, there’s actually benefits to having a body with a smaller sensor. Most crucially, smaller sensors avoid the outer areas of a lens where it doesn’t perform as well. So if you were to fit a lens designed for use on a full-frame body, the camera with a smaller sensor will almost certainly deliver superior optical results, especially towards the edges of its frame. This is clearly illustrated in this page from our Canon EOS 30D review.

Of course this benefit only applies if you attach a lens corrected for full frame, and it must be said the vast majority of lenses used with Canon’s APS-C bodies are only corrected for their smaller frames. But it does none-the-less give owners of these bodies a premium lens option if desired.

In contrast, the 5D’s full frame sensor is forced to use the extremes of every lens and shows up poorer models warts and all; it also won’t work with any EF-S lenses. And even if you fitted a top-end L lens to the 5D, you’re still more likely to suffer from worse vignetting (light fall-off in the corners) than an equivalent EF-S lens on an APS-C body. Towards the corners of the 5D’s large frame, the light rays are also striking the sensor's micro-lenses at a shallower angle, which further accentuates the problem. This is clearly illustrated in our results pages.

In the favour of full frame though, while you may not be able to use EF-S lenses, you do have a much larger range to choose from, and again, each will deliver the same field of view as they would on a 35mm body. This is surprisingly reassuring for photographers trading up from 35mm who have an existing collection of lenses, but clearly means much less for anyone upgrading from an APS-C digital body; indeed any EF-S lenses they’d bought would become redundant. For a more detailed discussion on the pros and cons of full frame, check the Verdict of our Canon EOS 5D review.

Canon EF-S 17-85mm versus EF 24-105mm

Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM
Canon EF 24-105mm f/4.0L IS USM
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In this feature we’re not just comparing the Canon EOS 350D / XT against the Canon EOS 5D in terms of body alone, but also the kind of general purpose zoom lens you’re likely to use on each. So for the 5D we’ve chosen the EF 24-105mm f/4.0L IS USM, and for the 350D / XT gone for the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM; the latter is also a popular choice for 20D, 30D and 400D / XTi owners, for whom all of the following comparisons equally apply.

In terms of coverage on their respective bodies, each lens has a slightly different range. Once the smaller sensor is taken into account, the EF-S 17-85mm delivers an effective range of 27-136mm. On paper this is clearly slightly less wide than the EF 24-105mm, but considerably longer. To see what difference these really is in practice though, we shot the same scene with both lenses fitted to their respective bodies within moments of each other, and used a tripod to ensure a consistent position.
Below are the results with each lens set to their widest positions. As expected the EF 24-105mm delivered a slightly wider field on the 5D than the EF-S 17-85mm did on the 350D / XT. It wasn’t a great difference though, especially as the wide angle on the 17-85mm comes up slightly wider than other 17mm lenses as seen on our EF-S 17-85mm review. That said, fans of wide angle coverage place great importance on those extra few mm, and for them the EF 24-105mm on the 5D will be preferable.

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Canon EOS-350D with EF-S 17-85mm wide
Canon EOS-5D with EF 24-105mm wide
Canon EOS 350D with 17-85mm at 17mm f8
Canon EOS 5D with 24-105mm at 24mm f8
EF-S 17-85mm at 17mm, f8 (27mm equivalent)
  EF 24-105mm at 24mm, f8 (24mm equivalent)

Below are the results with each lens zoomed-into their longest focal lengths. Again as expected, the EF-S 17-85mm on the 350D / XT enjoys the advantage here, capturing a tighter field than the EF 24-105mm on the 5D, although it’s not as big a difference in practice as the numbers suggest.

Canon EOS-350D with EF-S 17-85mm tele
Canon EOS-5D with EF 24-105mm tele
Canon EOS 350D with 17-85mm at 85mm f8
Canon EOS 5D with 24-105mm at 105mm f8
EF-S 17-85mm at 85mm, f8 (136mm equivalent)
  EF 24-105mm at 105mm, f8 (105mm equivalent)

It’s also crucial to remember the 5D’s images feature many more pixels than the 350D / XT, allowing you to crop in if desired. Indeed if you were happy with the resolution of the 350D / XT, you could always crop certain 5D images to the same pixel dimensions and enjoy a digital zoom effect. To illustrate this, we’ve cropped the 105mm coverage sample from the 5D to the same number of pixels as a 350D / XT image.

Canon EOS-350D with EF-S 17-85mm tele
Canon EOS-5D with EF 24-105mm tele (crop)
Canon EOS 350D with 17-85mm at 85mm f8
Canon EOS 5D with 24-105mm crop at 105mm f8
EF-S 17-85mm at 85mm, f8 (136mm equivalent)
  EF 24-105mm at 105mm, f8 (105mm equivalent) original file cropped to same resolution as 350D / Rebel XT

Lens build quality and features

Measuring 84x107mm and weighing 670g, the EF 24-105mm is noticeably larger and heavier than the EF-S 17-85mm which measures 79x92mm and weighs 475g. Their filter threads are 77 and 67mm respectively.

The larger size of the EF 24-105mm is down to its full frame correction and constant f4.0 aperture throughout its range. The EF-S 17-85mm may also have an aperture of f4.0 at wide angle, but slows to f5.6 at its telephoto end. The constant f4.0 aperture of the EF 24-105mm is preferred not just to maintain exposures as you adjust the focal length, but also for the extra stop and brighter view when zoomed-in. The brighter aperture in conjunction with a longer actual focal length and the full frame sensor additionally gives the 5D with 24-105mm the ability to create a smaller depth of field, as illustrated on the portraits in our Gallery pages.

The exterior materials used for both lenses are similar, but the EF 24-105mm definitely feels built to a higher standard – this is not surprising given it’s an L model. The zoom and focusing rings of the EF 24-105mm both feel smoother than those on the EF-S 17-85mm, and very fine adjustments of focal length are also easier to set. The focusing rings of the EF-S models are too narrow for our liking and don’t feel designed for regular manual focusing – you can see the differences in the width and position of the focusing and zoom rings on the Design page.

Additionally like all Canon L lenses, the EF 24-105mm is supplied with a lens hood and carrying pouch. Both are also available for the EF-S 17-85mm, but annoyingly they’re not included as standard. We reckon this is just plain mean, especially when companies like Sigma and Tamron bundle lens hoods on what are often much cheaper products.

Both lenses feature USM motors and in tests focused at similar speeds, although the EF 24-105mm on the EOS 5D felt fractionally quicker than the EF-S 17-85mm on the 350D / Rebel XT; the more sophisticated body of course has an influence on this.

Image Stabilisation

Both lenses also feature Image Stabilisation facilities to combat camera shake. Canon quotes three stops of compensation for each, which equates to shutter speeds eight times slower than usual – so if the slowest exposure you could confidently handhold at a certain focal length was, say, 1/60 of a second, three stops of compensation should enable you to enjoy the same result at 1/8 (or more accurately, 1/7.5).

In tests the IS features of both lenses performed to Canon’s quoted specifications and we can’t rank one higher than the other.

Sensor and processing / Screen and viewfinder / Lens features

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