Last Friday I picked up my new Canon EOS 5DS R DSLR camera. Monsoon had just arrived to my home town with incessant rain which made outdoor testing difficult, still I wanted to test out this new beast of a camera. Readers would do well to remember that this is a not an in depth analysis, but rather a first impression review, as I’ve only had one week on my hands between treating my patients and testing my latest acquisition, which was primarily tested against and compared with its cousin, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. This is hands on review done purely in uncontrolled natural environment which is where I am going to use it. I know it is not a standardised test, for which, you can refer to many other sites which will give you their standardised brick wall & studio setting test reports 😉
I took EOS 5DS R to Sammilan Shetty Butterfly Park at Belvai. That afternoon, rain fortunately gave us a brief respite for our test. It was very cloudy and the light was pretty low, due to which, I could not test any of the ISO 100 or 200 settings. My main aim was to check higher ISO performance, focusing speed, sharpness and resolution.
EOS 5D Mark III has been my constant companion for the last three years. I had reviewed it here when it was launched. EOS 5DS R, the ultra-high resolution camera I have, shares a very significant number of EOS 5D Mark III features. It essentially has identical body exteriors. All EOS 5D Mark III accessories including batteries, battery grips, L-brackets, etc. remain compatible. Only USB cable needs to be newer version 3.0 port. It also inherited 7D Mark II features which are very welcome.
Canon introduced two nearly identical cameras together, EOS 5DS & EOS 5DS R, this time, with very small difference between the two. In this article I am using and talking only about EOS 5DS R and all that I mention about EOS 5DS R also applies to EOS 5DS model. Presented below, for your critical analysis, are some of the more notable features, exclusive to both these devices, before delving on the difference between the two.
- Extreme 50.6 Megapixel Full Frame CMOS Sensor
- 5 fps continuous shooting and silent shutter mode
- Dual DIGIC 6 image processors
- 61-point wide area AF including 41 cross-type AF sensors, with EOS iTR, AI Servo AF III, AF Configuration tool
- 150,000-pixel RGB+IR, 252 zone metering sensor for improved precision
- Zone, Spot and AF Point Expansion focusing modes
- ISO 100-6400 with expansion to 12800, 50
- 30 fps 1080p video
- Magnesium alloy body, shutter durability rated up to 150,000 cycles, dust and weather resistance
- 3.2″ (81.1mm) Clear View II LCD monitor (approximately 1,040,000 dots)
- Flicker Mode adjusts shutter release timing to avoid flickering light issues
- Dual Memory Card Slots supporting one CF (UDMA Mode 7) and one SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I) memory card
- Mirror Vibration Control System to reduce mirror vibration blur
- HDR shooting in-camera
- Upgraded Transparent LCD viewfinder with 100% coverage
- Dual-Axis Electronic Level with dedicated viewfinder display
- 1.3x, 1.6x and 1:1 ratio crop modes with masked viewfinder display
- In-camera Multiple Exposure and HDR modes
- Customizable Quick Control screen
- +/- 5 stops of exposure compensation
- Peripheral Illumination and Chromatic Aberration Lens Correction in-camera
- EOS Integrated Cleaning System (EICS)
- Weather resistance
- Improved custom controls with built-in Interval meter and bulb timer
- Time-lapse Movie function
- Super Speed USB 3.0 for high-speed tethering and image/movie transfer
The photos uploaded to this article are reduced in size as each of the original JPEG is around 17MB in size. If you want to experience the full impact of 50 megapixel you should check the image posted above in full resolution JPG. This was captured at ISO 800 and is unprocessed. Download and check it from my Flickr gallery
The only difference between the models is that the EOS 5DS has an optical low-pass filter, while the EOS 5DS R has a self-cancelling filter (the same relationship as Nikon’s D800 and D800E models shared). EOS 5DS R is slightly expensive as compared to EOS 5DS.
Canon EOS Cameras including EOS 5DS use a low-pass filter to prevent against digital artefacts appearing in images, such as moiré and false colour. Such filters work by slightly softening the image so that repeating patterns in the subject do not coincide with the grid-like pixel pattern on the sensor.
Rather than physically removing the low-pass filter from the camera in the EOS 5DS R, a cancellation filter is used to negate its effect. This ensures the distance from the lens mount to the sensor is exactly the same for both the EOS 5DS and the EOS 5DS R, allowing the cameras to share the same AF sensor mechanism and mirror box assembly. Using this optical cancellation technique (vs. complete low-pass filter removal which Nikon followed in its cameras) greatly reduces development and implementation costs. The EOS 5DS R supposed to deliver sharper images, but moiré and aliasing are potential side effects, notably in scenes that include patterns repeating at a specific frequency. Canon says this phenomenon is rare and can usually be mitigated during post processing.
If you are fashion or glamour shooter where chances of moiré are more, it may be better to opt for EOS 5DS. Since I shoot nature, macro & wildlife I chose EOS 5DS R over EOS 5DS.
Let me start with my pre-test assumptions. EOS 5DS R is 50.6 mega pixel beast and it has similar pixel density of the sensor as 7D mark II or 70D albeit in full frame dimensions. I was every bit ready to see slightly soft images, because 50 megapixels is such a high resolution, at such a pixel density. I also fully expected ISO performance to drop from around ISO 800 and start to absolutely noisy after around 1600 and become unusable. I just couldn’t see how pixels this small could perform well in low light.
I expected this camera to be virtually impossible to shoot hand-held and still get sharp images, because the pixels are so small that even the slightest camera movement will take light that should have been focussed on one pixel, and blur it into the next pixel.
Let me first tackle what I noticed about the sharpness. 90% of the images I had captured were sharp. There was absolutely no motion blur I was expecting. At 100% view I just could not see any such blur. I do have a very steady hand, but I am not superman. So Canon’s claim of newly developed Mirror Vibration Control system really works.
The camera shake that occurs from the impact of an SLR’s mirror can leave blurred details in the recorded image. This effect is magnified when working with a super high-resolution sensor like the one found in the EOS 5DS R camera. To counter the effects of conventional, spring-driven SLR mirrors, the EOS 5DS R features a newly developed Mirror Vibration Control system. The camera’s mirror is not controlled by springs but instead is driven by a small motor and cams. This system suppresses the impact typical of the camera’s mirror, significantly reducing impact and its effects on the image.
It seems to have done the trick, and the shutter action sounds very quiet and smooth. In fact regular shutter sound of EOS 5DS R sounded like the soft shutter mode of EOS 5D Mark III. I shot just 487 raw frames and all handheld. 90% were perfectly clean. Those 487 frames filled my 32GB Lexar 1066x Compact Flash Card. Each of these files ranged from 60MB to 88MB depending on the ISO. What I found was higher the ISO larger the Raw file size 😉
So you must be wondering is it worth for Macro. Definitely yeah!. If you don’t shoot in high ISO (like I did this for the review) details are clean and enormous, they are super fine. Just check the macro captures which are shown this review. All these are captured using Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 1-5x Macro on a Lumiquest soft box. They are cropped roughly to the full size dimensions of EOS 5D Mark III (5760×3840 pixels) to help you to compare each other better. When I crop from 50MP to 21 MP it is almost half the size but details are still perfectly preserved. that itself gives you 2X magnification. All these macro captures are photographed at ISO 800 to see how badly the ISO affects and not at ISO 100 which is the ISO I use most of the time for my macro captures.
Let me now look at ISO performance. Take a look at the composite of various ISO captures in the photo above. These are all unprocessed 100% crops shot at respective ISO arranged together as a single composite. To check the full resolution image of this composite download it from my Flickr Gallery here. For this I compared EOS 5DS R with 5Dmark III. We had both the camera on Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM. Shooting the same scene together. EOS 5DS R with a higher density sensor surely comes with increased noise levels. It was not as bad as I expected. EOS 5DS R noise levels are better than the 5D II and 7D Mark II, but not as good as the EOS 5D Mark III. EOS 5D Mark III scored one stop better when you compare both camera stills at 100% magnification for the respective noise. What ISO 800 gives in EOS 5DS R is similar to ISO 1600 of 5D Mark III. This continued right throughout the ISO range from ISO 400 to ISO 6400. If you have used EOS 6D, the results of ISO performance of EOS 5DS R almost identical.
Since I am looking noise at 100% comparing a 50 MP image to 21 MP image of EOS 5D Mark III is not accurate estimation. If I downsize 50MP image to 21 MP size, noise is not at all noticeable and pictures from EOS 5D Mark III and EOS 5DS R look identical. There is also extra added sharpness while downsizing these images. So the File downsized from EOS 5DS R is much sharper than EOS 5D Mark III. Since EOS 5DS R so much megapixels of data, you can crop quite a lot and still get a decent quality image. For my use up to ISO1600 EOS 5DS R is perfectly fine. ISO 3200 is the maximum usable ISO with a bit of noise. I would not venture to ISO 6400 & 12800 (using H setting) except in emergency situations. So if you are looking for low light performance, EOS 5DS R will loose to EOS 5D Mark III
Let me go through few of the new features which were introduced in EOS 5DS R as compared to EOS 5D Mark III
For JPEG shooters EOS 5DS R has a new Picture Style named “Fine Detail”. The Fine Detail PS provides increased sharpness, offering individual control over Strength, Fineness, and Threshold parameters.
While the EOS 5D Mark III supports the fast UDMA Mode 7 CompactFlash specification, it does not support the fast UHS-I SD/SDHC/SDXC standard. But EOS 5DS R does. This was my main grouse in my review of 5D mark III. Fortunately EOS 5DS R supports both. With my Lexar 1066x CF card, the EOS 5DS clocked a 167 MB per second write rate.
At 5 frames per sec burst speed EOS 5DS R JPG buffer depth with a fast memory card can continue until the card is full. The buffer is much shallower when shooting full-sized RAW images to around 12 to 14 raw files.
EOS 5DS R uses a 61-point autofocus system. To help stabilize the sensor, Canon reinforced the chassis, base plate, and tripod lug, as well as redesigning the mirror vibration control system. There’s also a new Arbitrary Release Time Lag Setting in the Mirror Lock mode that helps to further minimize vibrations, ideal for macro & Landscape photography on tripod (there’s delay before the shutter opens, to allow the mirror to settle). It also offers two cropped shooting modes (30.5MP and 19.6MP) if you don’t want the full 50.6MP. To deal with all that data transfer, the cameras use faster USB 3.0. The EOS 5DS R receives the standard/basic Live View AF functionality from EOS 7D Mark II include Face Tracking and Flexizone – Single. But the Dual Pixel CMOS AF of EOS 7D Mark II is missing.
Camera also inherit Canon EOS 7D Mark II’s awesome new Anti-flicker mode. The auto-exposure system can detect light flickers, and compensate. An Auto White Balance improvement provided with the EOS 5DS R is “White Priority”, now available in addition to the only previous option, “Ambience Priority”. For example, when using Ambience Priority under tungsten lighting, the camera will set a white balance that leaves some of the warm colour in the image. If White Priority is selected, the image will be rendered more neutral in colour. It also gets now enhanced to display information inside the viewfinder similar to the EOS 7D Mark II.
While the EOS 5DS R is designed to be the ultimate still camera, it maintains the EOS 5D Mark III’s video capabilities. Unfortunately no headphone jack is provided. The move to USB 3.0 connectivity eliminated the space needed for this port. Canon has mentioned that both EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R are more prone to moiré and skewing, making them less suitable for high-end video production.
Another feature first implemented on the 7D Mark II and now found in the EOS 5DS R is the built-in intervalometer (interval timer) and bulb timer functionality. Interval settings can range from one second to 99 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds.
Now to the big question everyone is asking.
Which one to choose between EOS 5DS & EOS 5DS R? Both are identical cameras. Downside to the sharper images coming out of the EOS 5DS R will be the potential of moiré and aliasing showing in areas with patterns repeating at a specific frequency. If you don’t have full control and can’t repeat a shot, you may want to opt for the safer non-R option. Landscape & Macro photographers specifically will likely opt for the 5D R.
Is EOS 5DS R better than 5D Mark III? The EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R sit alongside the EOS 5D Mark III in the EOS range. They do not replace EOS 5D Mark III. You probably need to wait for EOS 5D Mark IV for that 😉 To compare with Canon EOS 5D Mark III is more difficult. Even though it is three odd years old, it is an incredible camera. Here is how EOS 5DS R scores over it.
- 50.6 vs. 22.3 Megapixel CMOS Sensor
- Dual DIGIC 6 Processors vs. single DIGIC 5+ processor and a non-specified AF-dedicated processor
- Improved custom controls with built-in intervalometer and bulb timer
- 150,000-pixel, 252-zone RGB+IR metering sensor vs 63-zone iFCL
- Supports faster UHS-I SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card standard
- Anti-Flicker Mode
- Dual-Axis Electronic Level with dedicated viewfinder display
- Upgraded viewfinder information
In my tests I found EOS 5D Mark III scored one stop better in ISO noise. The Canon EOS 5D Mark III advantages is its 3 stops higher ISO setting options (up to 102400 vs 12800). EOS 5D Mark III also has a 1 fps faster max frame rate (6 vs. 5) Files are easier to handle if you have moderate powered computer and it has a lower price, which in fact dropped considerably after introduction of this camera.
While I expect that all genres of photographers will find the EOS 5DS & EOS 5DS R well-suited for their needs, it is the commercial, studio, portrait, still life, landscape, nature and architectural photographers that will be especially interested in this camera’s resolution combined with its pro-grade package of features including rugged build quality.
Do I really need 50 megapixels? Personally, I’ll take every megapixel I can get if it doesn’t result in the sensor out-resolving my lenses, and doesn’t give me really bad ISO performance.
Is EOS 5DS R is a medium format killer? No. I think DSLR & medium format are two very different camera systems with advantages to both. After this camera and the crops of camera which is going to come here onwards, medium format is going to have to step it up or become more accessible. As DSLRs try to be more like medium format, I think it would do the industry no harm if the medium format world tried to be a little more like the DSLR world in ease of use, speed, durability and autofocus.
Of course, my recommendations are based purely on my own experiences, and in no way biased to encourage affiliate purchases. I paid for the EOS 5DS R and lenses used myself, and have received no third party compensation in exchange for or in relation to this review.
I thank my good friend Sibi Ussan for helping me to test this camera and handling the comparative tests on his EOS 5DMark III and Sammilan Shetty for providing his butterfly park for testing our gear.