Canon EOS 5 (A2, A2e)

Canon EOS 5 (A2, A2e)
Canon EOS 5 – front view

This is an early model EOS camera dating from 1992 to 1998. All EOS cameras have the same basic shape from the first film EOS (EOS 650) to the latest digital EOS . The main way in which the various EOS models vary is in size. This EOS 5 is a large and heavy camera. It weighs 665 g (with no lens, battery or strap) and measures 154 by 120 by 75 mm.

The EOS 5 was aimed at what is now called the prosumer market – that is, the lower-end professional and high-end amateur market.
The outside of the camera is black plastic – I think polycarbonate but I am far from certain about that. The weight of the camera clearly says that the camera has a metal chassis. The battery holder on the right acts as a grip and is covered in a rubbery material. The battery is a lithium 2CR5.
For its day, it has a lot of controls but very few compared to a modern digital SLR. The controls are in two places. The most used are on the top plate and the less used on the back.
On the far left of the top plate is a mode selector dial. This has the expected options for a serious photographer – Programme, Tv, Av and M. It also has DEP, x, CF and CAL – details later. On the opposite side of off (‘L’) are settings that declare this to be an amateur camera. Here are no words or letters, just icons. This offers four options: Portrait, Landscape, Macro and Action.

Next to the mode selector is a button to release the built-in flashgun. Once the flashgun is raised, this button allows you to set flash exposure compensation.

Towards the rear by the mode selector is the indicator for the position of the film plane.
Canon EOS 5 (A2, A2e)
Canon EOS 5 – top view


In the middle, as is usual with SLR cameras, is the pentaprism viewfinder.  This is an actual pentaprism – on lower-end EOS models, Canon used a penta-mirror which gives a smaller and darker image in the viewfinder. On top of this is the built-in flashgun. This is a sophisticated flashgun which has a zoom function to allow the best illumination of the subject. On top of the built-in flashgun is a Canon-specific hot shoe. I am not calling it an accessory shoe as I cannot imagine that anyone has ever fitted anything but a flashgun here.
The space to the right of the pentaprism is dominated  by an LCD screen. This displays various pieces of information depending on the set functions and the actions being carried out at the time. In front of this is a button to activate the self-timer which gives a ten second delay between pressing the shutter release and the shutter firing.
On the right, in front of the LCD screen, is the now ubiquitous selector wheel and in front of this is the shutter release. This last is a plain, smooth button – no cable release thread now.
On the back are more controls. On the top right are two buttons. The right-hand one allows you to set just one of the five autofocus points to be active – or all five. The left-hand one has two functions. Normally, it acts as the exposure lock. This allows you to point the camera at the most significant light source in your subject and then recompose without altering the exposure. Useful where too much sky will result in underexposure of the key elements. It is also used to toggle between 0 and 1 when setting the Custom Functions.
Canon EOS 5 (A2, A2e)
Canon EOS 5 – back view


In the centre of the back is a secondary selector wheel – this one has an on/off switch and it is not necessary to ever use it. On the left of the back are four more buttons. These are labelled ‘Drive’ (to select how many photographs are taken with one press of the shutter release), ‘AF’ (to select how the camera attempts to focus), ” (which selects the exposure metering system), and a multi-function button which allows you to override the ISO setting, set exposure bracketing, red-eye prevention, silence the beeper and, finally, allow multiple exposures on one frame. Right to the left is a window to allow you to see the cassette inside the camera. This is very useful to people with poor memory like me (although I prefer a holder for the film box end which allows you to add personal notes like pushed ISO rating).
On the front of the camera is the EF lens mount. As this is a 35mm camera, it is ‘full frame’ and will not accept the modern digital EF-S lenses. As is usual with EOS cameras, the lens release button is on the left of the lens mount.
To the right of the lens mount, towards the top of the camera, is an auxiliary light emitter for the autofocus system. This helps the camera focus in poor light.
On the right-hand end of the camera are three items – a button to rewind the film part way through, a socket for an electrical remote control and the catch for the battery compartment. The remote socket is of an older design – it has three electrical contacts – and is not compatible with the later remote controls with a jack plug.
On the left end is the catch for the back and a PC socket for a flash cable. The last (also known as a German socket) has become obsolete since this camera but its presence here means I can use any of my old flashguns as well as my Canon specific Speedlite.  The base has a connector for a motor drive and a standard (1/4 inch Whitworth) tripod socket.
Control details.
The mode selector has what has become standard (Tv, Av, M & P) but also has four extras. These are DEP, x, CF and CAL.
‘DEP’ is a system to optimise depth of field. It works by then user focusing on the nearest point of interest and pressing teh shutter release, then focusing on the furthest point of interest and pressing teh shutter release. At this point, the camera selects a focus point and aperture that will result in both these points being in focus. The user then presses the shutter release a third time to actually take the picture.
‘x’ allows for flash synchronisation with the PC socket. The user can select between shutter speeds of 1/200, 1/125, 1/90 or 1/60 using the rear selector wheel.
‘CF’ allows the user to set any of the custom functions. The only one of these I use is the custom function to leave the film leader out of the cassette when rewinding.

‘CAL’ is used to calibrate the eye controlled focusing system. I find this both useful and easy to use. The EOS 50e also has this system. I read reports on the Interweb about how poor this eye control focusing is but I suspect those people have not calibrated the system properly – or not at all.

In addition to these ‘creative zone’ settings (Canon’s term) there are also ‘image zone’ settings. For anyone who understands the basics of photography these settings are unnecessary. Their big disadvantage is that they disable user control over shutter speed, aperture, focusing system, metering mode and flash. The only advantage to using image zone settings is that you can use the camera as a point-and-shoot camera with interchangeable lenses.  This also applies to modern Canon digital SLRs. The five image zone settings are full auto, portrait, landscape, close up and sport.

The button to release the built-in flashgun has two functions – it releases the flashgun and, when pressed a twice, it allows you to set flash exposure compensation. If an external flash is fitted to the hot shoe (rather than by way of the PC connector), the flash release button will not release the built-in flashgun but pressing it just the once will allow you to set the flash exposure compensation.

The built-in flashgun is rather sophisticated – at least when compared to the built-in flashguns on the EOS 650, EOS 50e, EOS 350D and EOS 650D. This flashgun has a zoom function and changes focus according to the focal length signal from the lens. This is supposed to optimise illumination for differing angles of view. You can hear this focusing of the flashgun taking place as you rotate the zoom control on the lens. I have not tried this out so I cannot comment on how well the flash illumination optimisation works.

This built-in flashgun also has a separate red-eye reduction lamp. The way this works, when set, is the subjects of a portrait are asked to look directly at teh flashgun and just before the shutter opens and the main flash fires, this small red-eye reduction lamp fires several times. Red-eye in flash portraits is caused by the pupil in the eye being dilated due to the low light level allowing the flash to enter the eye, bounce of the red coloured back of the eye and then going back to the camera. This red-eye reduction lamp causes the subjects’ pupils to contract, allowing less light into the eye and even less reflected light to bounce out of the eye. So no more excuses for zombie-eyed portraits.

I like having the flash PC (Prontor-Compur) connector for using off-camera flashguns. For modern photographers this is obsolete as neither cameras nor flashguns have PC connectors, but I am not really a modern photographer.

I am not going to go over all the options available on this camera. As a computer-controlled camera, the options are legion, but there are a few things worth mentioning.

Film rewind is automatic at the end of the roll of film. This rewinds fairly slowly and retracts all the film into the cassette. This can be altered in two ways. Firstly, the rewind speed can be increased – useful at social functions where dead-time spent reloading the camera with film is not a good thing. Normally, slow rewind is better for the film (less scratches and less build-up of static to attract dust) but this is not always the most important thing. Secondly, you can set the camera to leave the film leader out of the cassette. This is what I was always taught to do as the presence of film between the velvet light seals of the cassette improves the blocking of light. It also makes it much easier to load the film into the spirals for developing.  It is also possible to force film rewind part-way through the roll of film. For an amateur, we are always going to finish all the film in the camera, but a professional is very likely to have a number of unexposed frames left at the end of an assignment.

Film speed is set automatically by the DX coding on the film cassette. If you are using Adox films (for example) with no DX coding or loading your own bulk film into reusable cassettes, you need to set the film speed manually. This is entirely as ISO (which I still think of as ASA) with no provision for DIN settings. Not a problem, really. If you are using DX encoded cassettes, you can still set the film speed manually – useful if you want to push the film speed.

This camera takes a single lithium 2CR5 battery. This is common with all my EOS film cameras – I have three currently and have previously owned three others. In normal use, this should last for about forty rolls of 24 exposure film. This battery life can be extended by not excessively refocusing the camera, not keeping your finger on the shutter release button too long, not using the eye-controlled focusing and turning the camera off if you are not actually using it. You can also seriously reduce battery life by doing the opposite of all those things.


test photographs:

Canon EOS 5 (A2, A2e)
Ivy flowers
Canon EOS 5 (A2, A2e)
 Field, Lincolnshire Wolds
Canon EOS 5 (A2, A2e)
Rockabilly Buskers, Lincoln.
Canon EOS 5 (A2, A2e)
Rockabilly Busker, Lincoln



Author: John Margetts

I am a keen photographer who also collects cameras. I am retired with about 50 years photography experience.

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