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Canon 5D Focus Screens
© 2007 KenRockwell.com

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Canon 5D

I bought mine here. I'd also get it here or here. enlarge.

Also see my Canon 5D review and other Canon tests.

February, 2007


Focus screens haven't been ground glass since the early 1970s.

Conventional ground glass screens worked great when everyone shot f/1.4 lenses and f/2.8 fixed teles and wides, but these screens go almost black with f/4 - 5.6 zooms.

Minolta pioneered, and for decades every other camera maker has used, precision laser cut plastic screens which consist of zillions of microscopic prismatic cuts.

These precision surfaces simulate ground glass and greatly increase brightness for f/2.8 and slower zoom lenses so popular today. They are designed to be bright and contrasty with these slow lenses.

Oddly, these modern screens get no brighter when you're using a lens faster than f/2.8. Try it: put on an f/1.8 or other fast fixed lens and flick the depth of field button. You'll see no change in anything until you stop down to about f/2.5!

Still think I'm making it up? Look through the front of your fast lens at the focus screen. It's black outside the area of the lens that corresponds to f/2.5!

Standard focus screens see nothing coming from the lens at annular angles faster than f/2.5.

If you're using a fast lens and want to see the real depth of field or want to focus well manually at large apertures, you need a different screen.

The standard screen with which the 5D ships is the Ee-A. The same screen with a grid is the Ee-D.

For optimum use for manual focusing or seeing depth of field with the 5D and fast lenses, use the Ee-S screen. Sadly of course this screen is great for your fast glass, but dim with slow lenses. Digital hasn't fixed this yet, sorry - you might wind up having to swap screens.

Each of these screens costs about $35.

I have no idea how to change screens; my 5D manual (page 158) says see the instructions that come with the screen. It was easy with Nikon cameras; I presume it ought to be as easy with the 5D.

Use the standard screens (Ee-A and Ee-D) with lenses of f/2.8 and slower.

Use the Ee-S screen with lenses of f/2.8 and faster.

Since they differ in brightness, the 5D's meter needs to know what screen you're using. You se this in Custom Function 00.

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