5DS and 5DS R
The ultimate landscape camera: The Canon 5DS and 5DS R. bigger.
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NEW: Canon 5D Mk IV25 August 2016
Pro DSLR Comparison 03 February 2016
Canon 5DSR vs Sony vs Fuji vs iPhone at 12MP and 35mm! 11 November 2015
Canon 5DSR vs. Sony A7 II 17 October 2015
Sony A7R II vs A6000 vs Canon 5DS R Comparison 18 September 2015
Best Canon Lenses 20 June 2015
Sample Images (many more farther down) top of 5DS review
Stately Home. Canon 5DS, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L II at 25mm at f/8 at 1 second at ISO 100 with Aperlite YH-700C flash at full power, shot as normal JPG and processed in Perfectly Clear. Full 50 MP resolution.
Canon 5DS R, same as the 5DS but without the anti-alias filter. bigger.
The Canon 5DS and 5DS R are the world's best DSLRs. They are 99% the same thing, and I'll refer to them interchangeably instead of having to write "5DS and 5DS R" a thousand times below.
You can pay more for the Canon 1D-X if you need a camera that shoots at more than 5 frames per second or need to subject it to severe physical abuse, while the 5DS has superior image quality and is much easier to use and carry.
The Canon EOS 5DS is the world's best digital camera for nature, landscape, portrait, forensic, intelligence gathering, crowd documentation and any other application that requires the very highest image quality, like the creation of original photographic fine art and the reproduction of other works of visual art.
New features are the ability to set sharpening radius and sharpening threshold in-camera, the ability to shoot-through flickering artificial light (the world's first full-frame camera that can), as well as easy crop modes which are handy when shooting with fixed lenses — or when you want to get closer but can't. I set my M-Fn button to select the crop, and the finder blurs-out the cropped parts of the image. Perfect!
Technically, the 50MP works great. It's just as sharp pixel-to-pixel as my 5D Mk II, but now has more than twice as many of them.
The Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R are the world's best digital SLRs, replacing the old 5D Mark III of 2012. The 5D Mk III was the world's best DSLR, and now these new 5DS are the world's best.
The Canon 5DS and 5DS R are also the world's highest-resolution DSLRs.
The 5DS and 5DS R are the same camera, with the slight exception that the "R" version "cancels" the effect of the anti-alias filter used in the normal 5DS and most other DSLRs to get slightly higher sharpness at the risk of moiré on very fine repeating patterns. At this extreme resolution, it is highly unlikely that you'll see any moiré since few lenses can resolve this well, and if the differences between Nikon's D800 and D800e are similar to the difference between the 5DS and 5DS R, there will be almost no difference in the images, but Canon an extra $200 for the R.
I'm referring to both the 5DS and 5DS R throughout this review when I write "5DS;" I'm trying to save ink and your eyeballs by not always having to write "5DS and 5DS R."
As the world's highest-resolution DSLR, the 5DS and 5DS R are also the world's best nature, portrait, casual studio and landscape cameras.
The only way to get higher technical quality is to pay as much as a new Mercedes for a clumsy medium-format camera, and even then it's not clear that it would be any better — while the 5DS and 5DS R are far smaller, lighter, faster and quieter. You can shoot anything, anywhere with the 5DS, while even if I gave you a $50,000 medium format system for free, you still wouldn't want to lug it around or deal with its slow speeds and balky prima-donna handling.
As-Shot, In-Finder Cropping
I set my M-Fn button so that each tap gives me a different crop, and my finder grays-out its edges to let me see my exact crop. (You can change the finder to show just a frameline instead of all-gray edges.)
I crop on the fly without taking my eye from the finder. This is especially useful when shooting with a fixed lens. I LOVE this feature. For instance, with my EF 35mm f/1.4 L, I get my full 35mm f/1.4; the next tap gives me the equivalent of a 45mm f/1.4, then a 55mm f/1.4, and finally a square crop, all as seen through the finder.
1.3x crops are 30 megapixels (6,768 x 4,512) and 1.6x (APS-C) crops are 19 megapixels (5,424 x 3,616).
The 5DS also can be set to crop to 4:3 and 16:9 ratios in Live View, but when set, you still get the full frame when shooting with the viewfinder.
As expected, the 5DS is a full-frame camera that adds the new features first seen in the 7D Mark II, namely the ability to shoot through flickering light by synchronizing the actual instant of shutter release to the lighting automatically.
Bulb (Time Exposure) Timer
The 5DS also has the new "Bulb Timer" of the 7D Mk II, which lets us program how long will bulb exposures be, up to 100 hours. This way you can program it to 5 hours, 34 minutes and 43 seconds, press a button and go back to sleep. No longer do you need an external timer that no one can read in the dark while shooting star trails in the dark.
There's an intervalometer — old news — and new is that it can be programmed to save all the exposures as a time lapse movie. Thank goodness; it's been since the 1990s that we've had to drag all the JPGs into various video editing programs to turn a slew of stills into an .MOV.
These MOVs are MOS (silent).
Fine Detail Picture Control
A new Fine Detail Picture Control sets the in-camera sharpening to minimum and lowers contrast.
Doing this lets the finest details show, instead of obscuring them behind the larger details usually emphasized by the other Picture Controls.
In other words, it downplays the moderate spacial frequencies (medium and coarse details) so the higher spatial frequencies (finder details) can show better, without being hidden behind the harshness of an oversharpened image.
LCD Overlays in finder
Also from the 7D Mk II is a viewfinder with many more dark LCD graphic overlays to show shooting mode, exposure level, white balance, drive mode, AF, metering mode, format, a level and more.
As every new SLR has claimed since about the 1930s, the 5DS has a new, lower vibration mirror control system. The 5DS uses a separate dedicated motor that drives the mirror through cams. Maybe the 5DS Mark II will use direct-drive motors. The 5DS also has selectable mirror delay for mirror pre-release so you can have yet one more adjustment between you and a great shot, but honestly for pixel-counter this will let us fine-tune what works best for various lens and tripod combinations.
Stills with Video
The shutter button can be programmed to capture stills while rolling video.
Programmable Quick Control Screen
There's the usual Quick Control screen, and new is that we can program what's on it, where, and how big. Bravo!
The interface is USB 3, meaning that regular USB cables won't work. I only use the USB connection for loading lens profiles.
Canon says you need to use the included cable protector (actually a big strain relief) at all times to protect the camera's circuit board. This means the connector is poorly supported and therefore it's easy to break the internal printed circuit board unless you use this gizmo.
Still not here, in order to give us a reason to buy the 5DS Mark II in 2018, are:
No new thumb-nubbin collar
No big deal. I don't miss it.
No Automatic Distortion Correction
Oddly, the 5DS also lacks the ability to correct lens distortion as you shoot, as some other Canon DSLRs can.
You can shoot raw and then manually create corrected JPG images one-by-one in the camera's playback menu, but the 5DS lacks the processing horsepower to do this on the fly as you shoot. It has more pixels than its processors can process that quickly for these corrections.
No Full-Frame AF
No full-frame SLR does this, either.
There are a lot of autofocus sensors, but they still only all sit in a small region in the center.
We need AF sensors throughout the entire frame for subjects on the top, bottom, sides and corners, or at least throughout most of the image, not just the central region.
No AF-point linked spot metering
Oddly the spot meter reads only from the center sensor, just like the 1970s.
No Mind-Controlled Focus
Canon had this perfected in the Canon EOS 3.
The EOS 3 has an AF system which magically knows where you're thinking, and automatically selects the correct AF sensor based on your thoughts alone.
Subject on the left? Bingo, the EOS 3 already has the AF area selected for you.
How does the EOS 3 do this? Easy: it has what is called eye-controlled focus, which means it actually has sensors that determine where your eye is pointed, and selects the AF sensor accordingly.
You didn't have to move your eye to select focus points; your eye moves by itself as you concentrate on one part of the image or the other, so you don't even have to think with eye-controlled focus.
Canon pulled this feature from its digital cameras, and we all look forward to its return.
Having an EOS 3 which works by magic, it drives me nuts having to move old-fashioned manual controls to select AF points.
No DSLR does this.
Needs an LED-based focus screen
Canon downgraded the 5DS's focus screen to one which uses subtractive (black) LCD boxes to show the AF area.
Better cameras like the 1D Mark IV and Nikon D4 use individual additive LEDs to show the AF areas. These LEDs magically light red boxes that dim according to the ambient light, so they never obstruct the view of your subject. These LEDs never cover anything, they simply add light over the subject, not block it out in black as does the 5DS.
Only Reasonable ISOs
ISO 6,400 is more than enough for me to shoot under full moonlight handheld without any image stabilization, and the 5DS goes to ISO 12,800.
Other cameras usually go to more foolish ISOs that no one really needs for quality work; if it gets that dim, add more light if you want a good photograph.
More power consumption
Someone has to polish all those pixels, so the same battery in the 5DS is rated for only 700 shots, not 950 like the old 5D Mk III.
Different Video Rates
It does all the video formats I'd ever need, but won't do anything above 29.97 FPS unless you're at 720p.
It does add 25 and 50 options missing in the 7D Mk II.
Still no built-in Wi-Fi file downloading or uploading directly to the internet and email, as my iPod Touch has done for years. Now that would be cool, but no other camera does this, either. All the cameras with WiFi do is talk to an app on a phone.
Use the GPS Receiver GP-E2 ($230) if you want.
No Built-in Flash
Right Side, Canon 5DS.
50 megapixels; 8,688 x 5,792 pixels native.
Ultrasonic cleaner with dust delete data. (No fluorine coating.)
Pixel wells are 4.14µm square.
Crops to 1.3x, 1.6x, and 1:1, 3:4 and 16:9.
24 x 36 mm.
JPG and/or RAW: LARGE (50 MP) 8,688 x 5,792 pixels native.
JPG MEDIUM 1 (39 MP) 7,680 x 5,120 pixels.
JPG MEDIUM 2 (22 MP) 5,760 x 3840 pixels.
JPG SMALL 1 (12 MP) 4,320 x 2,880 pixels.
JPG SMALL 2 (2.5 MP) 1,920 x 1,280 pixels.
JPG SMALL 3 (0.35 MP) 720 x 480 pixels.
M-RAW (28 MP) 6,480 x 4,320 pixels.
S-RAW (12 MP) 4,320 x 2,880 pixels.
19.1 x 28.7 mm.
LARGE (30 MP) 6,768 x 4,512 pixels.
JPG MEDIUM 1 (24 MP) 6016 x 4000 pixels.
JPG MEDIUM 2 (13 MP) 4,512 x 3,008 pixels.
JPG SMALL 1 (7 MP) 3,376 x 2,256 pixels.
JPG SMALL 2 (2.5 MP) 1,920 x 1,280 pixels.
JPG SMALL 3 (0.35 MP) 720 x 480 pixels.
14.8 x 22.2 mm.
LARGE (19 MP ) 5424 x 3616 pixels.
JPG MEDIUM 1 (15 MP) 4,800 x 3,200 pixels.
JPG MEDIUM 2 (9 MP) 3,616 x 2,408 pixels.
JPG SMALL 1 (5 MP) 2,704 x 1,808 pixels.
JPG SMALL 2 (2.5 MP) 1,920 x 1,280 pixels.
JPG SMALL 3 (0.35 MP) 720 x 480 pixels.
ISO 100 - 6,400.
Special modes for ISO 50 and 12,800.
ISO 100 - 3,200 in most modes.
With flash, Auto ISO is fixed at 400, but will dip to 100 if overexposure would happen. If bouncing the flash, Auto ISO will vary from ISO 400 to 1,600.
In Bulb, Auto ISO is fixed at 400.
±9 levels of blue/amber and ±9 levels of magenta/green bias.
sRGB and Adobe RGB.
61 cross points.
Front, Canon 5DS. bigger.
All Canon EOS EF lenses made since the 1980s work perfectly.
The only Canon lenses that don't work are the old manual focus FD lenses and earlier.
Classic Canon lenses on 5DSR: Yes!
Ryan on his way to school, 01 October 2015. Canon 5DSR, Canon EF 300mm f/2.8 L, f/2.8 at 1/160 at Auto ISO 250, Auto White Balance, Standard Picture Style, +1 Saturation, -2 Contrast, Perfectly Clear V2. bigger or full resolution © file.
As I keep saying, when you get a quality lens, it produces for you for decades. My 300/2.8L was introduced almost 30 years ago with the birth of the EOS system 1987.
This is shot wide-open at f/2.8.
Here's a crop from a 100% image:
Ryan's Eye, cropped from above. full resolution © file.
Not bad, especially when you realize that this is with my 5DSR sent to SMALL 1 resolution, or "only" 12 Megapixels. I shoot my portraits between 6 and 12 MP simply because 6 MP is more than enough for anything, and I can make more pictures faster.
150,000-pixel RGB+IR meter sensor.
EOS iSA System for 252-zone (18 x 14) Evaluative, as well as 6% central and 1.3% spot metering as read from that 150,000 pixel sensor.
Paradoxically, spot metering is only from the center sensor; AF-point linked spot metering isn't there.
Can read light flicker and the camera can be set to offset its shutter delay to optimize color and exposure under flickering sports arena lighting.
Meter range: LV 0~20.
Soft-touch electromagnetic release.
Vertical metal focal plane.
1/8,000 ~ 30 seconds and Bulb.
Durability rating: 150,000 shots (same as 5D Mk III).
2s or 10s self timer.
Bulb timer: A menu lets you set exactly how long will be your Bulb exposure up 99 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds.
1/200 flash sync.
5 FPS or 3 FPS.
Regular and silent modes.
With flash: 86 ms.
Silent mode: 108 ms.
Silent mode with flash: 108 ms.
These are presuming the 5DS is already awake. Camera turn-on time is an additional 127 ms if the camera is asleep.
Flash exposure lock (FEL).
E-TTL II for use with all EX flashes.
Prontor-Compur (PC) terminal for studio and handle-mount flash guns. Works with either polarity.
71% magnification with 50mm lens.
34.1º apparent angle.
-3 ~ +1 diopters.
Canon 5DS Finder.
AF Point Information
On rear LCD: 360º roll and ±10º pitch.
In viewfinder: ±7.5º roll and ±4º pitch.
Still and video.
AF during Live View.
Meter range: LV 0 ~ 20.
MPEG-4 AVC / H.264 video with linear PCM stereo audio.
1,920 x 1,080 at 29.97p, 25p and 23.976p.
1,280 x 720 at 59.94i and 50i.
640 x 480 at 29.976p and 25p.
(I see no mention of recording .MP4 files)
Auto brightness control.
Clear View LCD II, coated glass.
One CF type 1 and one SD card slot.
Works with up to UDMA CF cards.
Not thick enough for microdrives, which went out of style 10 years ago.
SD slot for SD, SDHC, SDXC, and UHS-1 cards.
Can be set to record to both at the same time.
Connectors Canon 5DS.
Prontor-Compur (PC) flash sync.
Remote cord connection.
NTSC or PAL analog video.
Either of the LP-E6N (new, included) or the old LP-E6 batteries work. The new one has more capacity than the older LP-E6 battery, and they are interchangeable and both charge in the usual Canon LC-E6 charger.
The LP-E6N is rated for 700 shots. (660 at 0ºC/32ºF; 220 with live view or 210 with live view at 0ºC/32ºF.)
When used with the second battery in the grip, the rated number of shots doubles.
LP-E6N Battery (looks the same as the older LP-E6).
LC-E6 folding plug 100-240V 50-60 cps charger.
Optional AC Adapter Kit ACK-E6.
CR1616 for clock.
5.89 x 4.58 x 3.01 inches WHD.
152.0 x 116.4 x 76.4 millimeters WHD.
32.8 oz. (930 g) with battery and card.
29.8 oz. (845 g) stripped naked.
Bottom, Canon 5DS. bigger.
Made in Japan.
32º ~ 104º F.
0º ~ 40ºC.
Not more than 85% RH.
Thursday, 05 February 2015, 11 PM NYC time.
First shipped from approved dealers on 15 June 2015.
Bottom, Canon 5DS. bigger.
EOS 5DS or 5DS R Body.
Wide Strap EW-EOS5DS or EW-EOS5DSR.
"Cable Protector," actually a strain relief for the camera's sake.
Interface Cable IFC-150U II.
EOS Digital Solution Disc (not shown).
Canon 5DS box. Note gold color.
Canon 5DS & 5DS R Accessories top
Wireless Remote Control RC-6 ($20).
Remote Cable RS-80N3 ($42).
Flash Remotes & Cords
Speedlite Transmitter ST-E3-RT ($265).
LP-E6N Battery (included, $62 as replacement or spare).
LC-E6 Battery Charger (included, $53 replacement).
ACK-E6 Complete AC Adapter Kit ($120). Includes everything from wall plug to dummy battery insert.
It includes the DC Coupler DR-E6 ($50), one end of which plugs into the included AC-DC converter and the other end pops in the battery compartment.
Once you have the complete ACK-E6 kit, you can get different cords ("DC couplers") to plug it in camera that take different batteries.
Car Battery Charger CBC-E6 ($150).
You're better off getting any simple 120V AC car adapter, and using it with your standard LC-E6 charger. Even if you have to buy a second normal charger and a DC->AC inverter, it's still half the price of Canon's dedicated CBC-E6. Hint: the battery charger draws less than 10 watts, so any small 12V inverter will work great.
The CB-570 Car Battery Cable ($40) or CA-570 AC Adapter ($80) plugged into the discontinued CG-570 dual battery charger. They don't do anything by themselves; you use them to power the discontinued dual chargers.
Angle Finder C ($190). It includes Ec-C and Ed-C adapters to work with all Canon DSLRs and has a diopter adjustment.
Anti-fog Eyepiece Eg ($50).
GPS Receiver GP-E2 ($230).
Wireless File Transmitters
AV Cable AVC-DC400ST ($12). Provides analog left, right and NTSC/PAL analog video outputs.
Male HDMI to Mini HDMI Cable HTC-100 ($50). Lets you plug your camera into a digital TV. I'm sure you can find these for less money elsewhere.
The 5DS is the world's state-of-the-art and best DSLR. It has the world's highest resolution, as well as the best ergonomics.
As expected, the 5DS is everything the 5D Mk III has been, adding a few new features and over twice the resolution.
Autofocus now has facial recognition that actually works. When set to Auto AF-Area Select mode, it will find the face and focus on it ad ignore closer distractions. It takes a moment to work, but it's still faster than I can wiggle the AF area around on my own:
Note how the AF system ignored the menu and focussed on Katie on the left. bigger.
The AF system correctly focussed on the nearest eye, ignoring what was in the center of the frame. bigger or full-resolution image from 1.3x crop Small-resolution Normal-quality JPG.
Moon and Clouds and Sky at Night, Friday, 26 June 2015. (Canon 5DS, Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L, f/1.2 at 1/25 at Auto ISO 3,200, Perfectly Clear V2.) bigger or camera-original © Large-size, Normal-quality JPG file.
I have no problem shooting hand-held under a partially-illuminated moon, even at only ISO 3,200. The white dots above are stars and planets!
High ISO performance is spectacular. No, it can't be set as high as the 5D Mk III, but that's because Canon won't let you set the 5DS so high that the image looks bad, as you can do with the 5D Mk III and 1D X. This is mostly for market segmentation (sales) reasons to get you to buy two cameras instead of just the 5DS; the 5DS's high ISO performance is the same as the 5D Mk III.
At its top ISO of 12,800, the 5DS looks much better than other cameras at their highest ISO settings. Canon doesn't let you set the 5DS so high that it starts looking awful as you can with the 5D Mk III at ISO 104,800. If you have to, you can push the 5DS to higher ISOs with Photoshop for similarly crazy ISOs.
In other words, Canon simply doesn't let you set the 5DS to stupid-high ISOs that look bad. The 5DS looks pretty good at ISO 12,800. Other DSLRs look pretty bad at their highest settings, while the 5DS simply can't be set up there.
Here are frames shot with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II at 50mm at f/8 from ISO 100 through ISO 12,800. Shutter speeds varied from 2 seconds to 1/80. These were shot as NORMAL LARGE JPGs with +4 Saturation and 7/5/5 Sharpening.
First I'll show all the complete images, and then crops at 100% from the center for all of them. The crops have my usual sharpening added for web content as does everything else you see on-page.
Click any image for the © camera-original files for your own perusal.
Yes! What I see is that even ISO 12,800 looks the same as ISO 100; you can use ISO 12,800 no problem. Highlights, shadows, tone and color are unchanged.
Crops at 100%
If these are 6" (15cm) on your screen, then printing complete images at this same high magnification as shown below will result in mammoth 90" x 60" (7 x 5 feet or 2.2 x 1.5 meter) prints!
Click any for the © camera-original files for your own perusal.
Noise is no longer a problem. The 5DS' in-camera noise reduction does a great job of smearing-over the noise while keeping edges sharp — but it also smears-over the subtler textures and detail at the same time. What you'll see is that most of the finer parts of the image are simply erased as the ISOs climb higher! All modern digital cameras do this same thing.
Look at the grain in the wood; it simply goes away as ISOs increase. Camera noise reduction does a great job of keeping the noise from rising and saving sharp edges; what you lose is the subtler textures.
As ISOs climb, the image gets softer but not much noisier. This is the case with almost all digital cameras today.
The difference between ISO 100 and ISO 50 is extremely subtle.
The highlights have slightly more contrast at ISO 50, and clip a little sooner. This is easy to see in histograms.
Very, very subtle detail is sometimes slightly less at ISO 100 due to the noise reduction. The best way to see this is photograph some fine wood furniture and look for the very subtlest differences in wood grain. These differences are so subtle that I'm not going to try to show it here since I doubt it would be visible online, and the results are quite variable and come out differently in each shot when you start trying to see it. It's best you try it with your own 5DS in your own system and judge for yourself. Honestly, I'm seeing differences so subtle in the camera-created JPGs that the camera's algorithms create each image slightly differently. I've seen this in my other Canons, it's just the way they do things.
I'd use ISO 50 when I needed to record the finest and subtlest details for museum curation, and ISO 100 when I needed a little more highlight range.
This is the world's sharpest DSLR short of any medium-format foolishness, and still has more resolution than most medium-format cameras. Ha!
Jewelry, 20 June 2015. Just look at the full-resolution image to see every textured nipple in the stucco and every perforation in the speaker grill. Canon 5DS, Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM, f/7.1 at 1/320 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear V2. Full 50MP resolution.
I'm impressed: fill-flash exposure is superb, even with a $90 off-brand Aperlite YH-700C flash.
Ryan and Katie at the park with dad, 18 June 2015. Canon 5DS, Aperlite YH-700C flash, Canon 50mm f/1.8 STM, f/20 at 1/200 at Auto ISO 400, Perfectly Clear V2. Perfect fill-flash in broad daylight from 20 feet away! bigger.
Perfect fill-flash in mixed daylight and shadow.
Perfect fill-flash to light Ryan's face that was in almost total shadow.
Perfect fill-flash in broad daylight; without the shadows on their faces would be completely black.
The system works great, even shot into itself in a mirror with an off-brand $90 flash.
It's easy to program the M-Fn button by the shutter to swap among the full, 1.3x, 1.6x and Square crops. I tap my M-Fn button, and my finder dims the edges so it's clear what I'm shooting, and the camera saves the cropped image.
The Square crop is handy, and now very easy to get. I tap M-Fn until I set the crop I want, and I'm good.
La Paz Village, 11 November 2015. Canon 5DSR, square crop, Canon 35mm f/1.4 L, f/9 at 1/320 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear V2. bigger, or full-resolution or camera-original files to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files at full resolution.)
For less than half the price, the Canon 7D Mk II is much better for sports because it runs twice as fast, but I have no problem using my 5DS here, either.
I shoot in the 5DS' S1 (12 MP) JPG file size for sanity's sake, and then these are cropped from larger horizontal images — and there is still far more resolution than needed for print or web:
Just like Canon's first DSLRs of 15 years ago, scrolling around the image will be soft for a moment, and then become sharp a moment later after the camera reads all the data for that section of the picture. This effect is most obvious with large images, and less with small images because there is less data to read.
My battery arrived with 15% charge.
It charges quickly in the same excellent charger my 5D Mk III and other Canon cameras use.
No news here.
Cards are titled EOS_DIGITAL.
Vertical images are flagged for rotation so they look appropriate in most software, but the actual image data itself is not rotated.
EXIF is smart enough to record if the flash actually fired or not. If the flash was turned on but misfired, it won't flag it as fired.
Compared top of 5DS review
NEW: Canon 5DSR vs. Sony A7 II 17 October 2015
Sony A7R II vs A6000 vs Canon 5DS R Comparison 18 September 2015
The old 5D Mk III of 2012 is almost the same camera, just with less resolution and slightly faster handing and longer battery life due to the fewer pixels that need processing. Also lacking in the 5D Mk III are the new options for cropped images along with a cropped finder, and the ability to shoot-through flickering light.
Both have more than enough pixels for any reasonable use and can make files and prints that will look stunning even 8 feet across.
The 5DS has even more pixels, but few people need them unless they are professional photographers, in which case even a slight quality advantage over the next guy can mean making the sale and eating that week.
Here's a resolution comparison at very high magnification. These are crops from inside much larger prints. If these are 6" (15 cm) wide on your screen, then the complete prints would be 90" x 60" (7 x 5 feet or 2.2 x 1.5 meters)!
Canon 5DS vs. 5D Mk III. Roll mouse over to compare, or look below.
Canon 5D Mk III image for our mobile readers without mice.
Obviously these are at the same magnification. The 5DS pixels are displayed here at 1:1. Since the 5D Mk III has fewer pixels, its pixels have are shown somewhat larger to give the same magnification or print size as from the 5DS.
Which is better at ISO 12,800, the new 5DS at its maximum of ISO 12,800 ("H"), or old 5D Mk III that can be set all the way to ISO 102,800?
These are full-frame images. Each was shot with a Canon EF 35mm f/1.4 L on a tripod with a manual exposure of 1/30 at f/8 at ISO 12,800.
Click any image for its original file. I'll show on-screen crops after these full-frame images.
Crops at 100%
If these are 6" (15cm) on your screen, then printing complete images at this same high magnification as shown below will result in 40 x 60" (3 x 5 feet or 1 x 1.5 meter) prints! Click any image for its original file.
I shot with the same manual exposure to catch if either camera was cheating. No, both have the same actual speed when set to ISO 12,800.
It turns out that they perform the same at ISO 12,800, exactly as I expected. While different cameras will have different trade-offs between noise and texture (some cameras use more noise reduction to show less noise but also show less detail), most cameras of similar brand and vintage show the same high ISO performance at the same optical magnification.
I expected that both would be the same, and that Canon simply locked-out higher ISOs in the 5DS to encourage people to buy the other Canon cameras as well for low-light work. I was right: they look the same at ISO 12,800; you can't set the 5DS above 12,800, but you can set the 5D Mk III above 12,800, at which point it looks worse and worse and worse.
If you look for subtleties, the 5DS shot set down to 22MP isn't quite as sharp as the 5D Mark III when shot at ISO 12,800.
Curious, I shot the 5DS at its maximum resolution and downconverted the 50MP images back to the same 22MP size in Photoshop CS6's Image Resize command.
Lo and behold, shooting the 5DS at 50MP and converting later to the same resolution as the 5D Mk III gives a slightly sharper and better image. The 5DS image has a bit more noise, and a lot more subtle texture than the 5D Mk III image.
Don't fret these minor differences; what I've shown is that the 5DS has the same low-light ability as other Canon full-frame cameras — and that you don't need to buy another camera for use at high ISO. If you want to see how bad the 5D Mk III looks at higher ISOs, look at its review for samples (obviously shot at a different time).
You can push the 5DS to above ISO 12,800 using Photoshop. I haven't tried it; ISO 6,400 is good enough for me to shoot hand-held in moonlight.
The 5DS and 5DS R are the same, with a slight difference in anti-alias filtering.
The difference between them is as slight as it was between Nikon's D800 and D800e: nearly invisible.
The 5DS R is for those who demand the very best regardless of price, and the 5DS is for those for whom $200 actually means something, since the visible differences are nearly invisible.
The 5DS and 5DS R are ultra-high-pixel cameras for people exhibiting large-format prints in galleries, museums and very large spaces.
The 1D X is a professional camera designed to shoot at well over 10 frames per second and withstand constant physical and environmental abuse.
My professional journalist friends shoot only the 1D X because they can shoot all day and all night even if it's pouring rain, and never have to worry about their camera. Pros worry about their subjects and pictures, never about their cameras.
The 5DS will withstand drizzle, dust and rain at least as well as your or I do. I'm not going to stand in the rain all day, I'm going to use an umbrella or go back inside.
On the other hand, if you're a pro who shoots sports or news all day standing out in the rain or blowing sand, you are both crazy and need a 1D X. Pros are crazy; they have to be out in awful weather and never worry about babying their camera.
The 1D X has nothing on the 5DS at high ISOs; see my 1D X high ISO and resolution comparison vs. the 5D Mk III. By association I've shown the 5DS to have the same high ISO performance, and thus the same as the 1D X. The 1D X simply lies more about its high ISO settings, and allows you to set it stupid-high that looks much crummier than the 5DS can be set. This might matter if you're shooting in total darkness and have no computer to push the 5DS' ISO in Photoshop, but for making high-quality images, there is no better DSLR.
Medium format cameras are bought by pros who charge over $10,000 for a day's work and need to have something tangible to show the art directors who hire them that they're worth $10,000 a day.
Medium format cameras are huge, heavy, slow and klunky. I wouldn't shoot one if you gave it to me.
If I worked in a studio all day and never left I might use one, but for use in the field, you don't want a medium format camera.
The 5DS and 5DS R are the new high-resolution kings for nature and landscape photography. You need the best to stay competitive, or you may as well go home.
The 5DS has no built-in flash. I use the 320EX.
As always, only you can answer Is It Worth It — to you. If you earn your living with it, it is. If not, it's a toy, so it's a question of how much your pictures are worth to you.
If you really want to take advantage of all 50 megapixels, you need great lenses as well as great technique. See Canon's Best Lenses.
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05 February 2015