Canon EOS 5Ds R

Canon EOS 5Ds R Digital SLR Camera Review (Podcast 478)

Following up on my first impressions, this is my full Canon EOS 5Ds R Digital SLR Camera Review. Since my first review I've spend three more days in the field, shooting a total of 2,300 frames with the camera and completed a bunch of tests in my studio, and I'm ready to share...

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Martin Bailey
Martin Bailey is a nature and wildlife photographer and educator based in Tokyo. He's a pioneering Podcaster and blogger, and an X-Rite Coloratti member.
  • Rick Andrews
    Posted at 00:44h, 01 July Reply

    Hey Martin, great review, I appreciate the effort and detail you put into these reviews so thanks for that. After reviewing the 7D2 you said although it was a great camera you weren’t quite ready to give up your 1DX for it, however you seem to be blown away by the 5DSR (even ordering a second one), so I’m wondering if you’re now ready to retire the 1DX in favor of the 5DSR?

    p.s. glad you made it out to Jigokudani during the summer 🙂

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:06h, 01 July Reply

      Thanks Rick!

      I knew it would happen, but the 1D X will be sold this Friday along with the 5D Mark III to pay for the second 5Ds R. I’m keeping the 7D Mark II as I think there will still be times when 10 fps are necessary, although I know that if it’s a toss up between 10 fps at 20 megapixels or 5 fps at 50 megapixels, I’ll almost certainly reach for the 5Ds R now. I generally have long enough glass with me that I can work around the extra reach that the 7D2 gives me, and when I can get the same images after cropping, it really does just come down to frame rate. I’m also thinking that the 7D2 probably has better autofocus for really fast paced shooting, but I need to confirm that still.

      I was a few weeks late going out to the snow monkeys, but at six weeks old they were adorable. It’s a totally different place in the summer. I sat on a bench next to the pool for a while, and a six week old baby jumped up there next to me, playing with my cloths and touching my hands etc. I also have shots of a month laying on the rocks with the baby on top of her feeding. They are much more relaxed without the cold. I still prefer the winter, but it was nice to see and experience.


  • Ivan Muller
    Posted at 04:21h, 01 July Reply

    First sensible and logical review I’ve read on the 5DSR….it’s been on my wish list for a while now…unfortunately not out yet in my neck of the woods…but after reading your review and seeing the images, well it’s really a no brainier now, isn’t it? Thanks.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:09h, 01 July Reply

      Thanks Ivan! I’m pleased this was useful. In my opinion it is a no brainer. As I mentioned above, I’ve ordered a second 5Ds R, as I can’t imagine shooting with anything else now as my second camera. Although I almost did that with the 1D X, the lower resolution (even compared to the 21 megapixel 5D Mark II) stopped me from doing that. This will be the first time I own two identical bodies, and it couldn’t be for a better reason. This camera is amazing!!

  • George
    Posted at 21:57h, 02 July Reply

    Great review.
    Finally someone who is really straight to the point !
    Great job !

    From my experience 5ds/r are very slow in displaying images (using Lexar 800x CF or 1000x SD cards),
    And it’s very annoying
    Please share your thoughts in regards
    Thank you

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 22:09h, 02 July Reply

      Thanks George!

      The preview does take fractionally longer to show up on the LCD, but it’s not too long, and hasn’t annoyed me at all. It’s to be expected with such large files.

      I’m using a SanDisk Extreme PRO UDMA 7 Speed Up To 160MB/s card.


  • Moulyneau
    Posted at 23:34h, 07 July Reply

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for the very detailed review! BTW, love your photography. The 5Dsr is now in bold letters on my shopping list. And it looks like I’m not the only one as most of the selling sites have it on waiting list while the 5Ds is available. Just need to sort out my gear and decide what to sell to fund this one. The 5DIII is ready to go back in its box… I tried to register to your newsletter but the site fails to load. Will try at a less busy time.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 17:45h, 14 July Reply

      You’re very welcome, for the review. You will love the 5Ds R. It really is an amazing camera.

      Sorry about the trouble with the newsletter subscription. I’m not sure what happened there, but it seems to be OK again now.

  • Richard Oleck
    Posted at 04:38h, 10 July Reply

    Martin, just found you on Apple TV. You seem to be the most intelligent reviewer I have ever heard from yet. You cover the exact same information that I am most interested in. I just heard/watched your blog about the 5DSR Canon. I was surprised at your reaction to the camera’s resolution. You sounded to me to be like I was when, several years ago, I began looking into the new Medium Format Dslr’s that were out there. After much deliberation on the Phase 1, the Leaf System and whatever else was available at the time, I settled on the Hasselblad HC system. By the time I bought mine, I was ten thousand dollars lighter in my pocket but happier than a clown. Like you, ’twas the resolution that sold me. This is why I was so surprised by your reaction to the 5DSR’s res. Haven’t you ever looked into medium format?! The first thing that sold me was a photo that I downloaded from someone on the web who had an image of an Alaskan landscape. I was blown away by the detail all over the picture. I had printed it out on my HP 24″ Designate at the time and could not believe the crispness of the whole image. The only thing that came close to this detail in film was an 8×10 large format print, which, by the way, may still have been better, but without all the hassle of large format film plate photography.
    What I need to say is, from the sounds of your intellect, you need to check that world out. Look at Google Earth, for example and see where that world is now. I’m not sure Google Earth has the greatest resolution now, but the highest res. system now is somewhere maybe above 80 megapixels and if the 5DSR’s 50 did that to you, I’m not sure I’d want to be around when you checked out 80 MP! You might scare me.
    In any case, I am still happy with my meager 31MP that I get with my H3Dll even tho it suffers horribly from higher ISO disease. But I have a good noise reducer in my software arsenal and I also have a Nikon 36+MP D800E in case noise gets on my nerves, … but if I want the best looking print I can do on my little 24″ printer…I’ll reach for my Hassie. (I hated Hasselblad in the old B&W days. Way over priced.) But nowadays it’s my goto landscaper.
    Good luck with your 5DSR’s and thank you so much for you blow away reviews.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 18:01h, 14 July Reply

      Thanks Richard!

      You know, I’d love a medium format camera, but for me, it isn’t really an option. I can only really carry one system into many of the locations that I shoot, and often need long lenses as well, that either aren’t available for medium format or are just too big to carry around. The 35mm form factor works for me, and there is a huge range of lenses available.

      I can’t really afford to buy into two different systems. This is also why I don’t yet have a mirror-less system despite their popularity, and reduced weight. Besides, I also knew that it was only a matter of time before Canon did something like this. Of course, medium format is a whole different look, not just about resolution, but I’m happy with my decision to wait, especially now that Canon have delivered the goods.

      Oh, and you should have heard me when I stitched a bunch of 50 megapixel photos together to create a 140 megapixel photo. I scared myself! 🙂

      • Richard Oleck
        Posted at 14:04h, 26 July Reply

        Sorry I took so long to reply but I’m walking around in a daze half the time. I’ve got the large resolution blues, I guess.
        That’s strong, valid point about the whole large format concept. If you move around a lot, larger format is not very forgiving in the muscle department. I am very curious though to see how this new Canon cannon can relate to the larger format quality. Something like that new Pentax 50 MP thing would be neat to compare with it ut it would really be interesting to see how it stands up to the…what is it?…the Leaf 80 mp monster. As far as I’m concerned, I think my Hassie HD3ll is all I need for what I do. I see a difference in The Hassie 31mp and the Nikon D800E when compared very closely like at 100% or even less. There’s a certain quality lacking in the Nikon when looking at both samples at high res. Not a big difference…just a slight lean towards the Hassie. And I’m not one of those old school Hasselblad fanatics that paid way too much money for a square black and white camera that was not only over-priced but infinitely way too heavy for what it did. No, not until Hasselblad went digital is when I became interested in them. And it wasn’t because it was a Hasselblad,… it was because it had Kodak inside……..Ok, now that you’re through laughing, I hold more respect for Kodak than anyone in the US, except maybe George Eastman himself. There are many reasons for this. Before Nikon and Canon and the whole Japanese thing became really popular, who did all of the large companies depend on for their photographic endeavors? Kodak.
        Whose stuff did I use growing up in New York and developing film and prints on? Kodak. And last…but certainly not least,…who invented photography? Well, maybe not Kodak exactly but they certainly were near the first. So, you might see why I put so much weight on their products. Oh, by the way, I think they can be credited with inventing the Digital sensor, though. And I’ve nearly always had a firm belief that most usually the first one to invent something, generally was the best at it. The rest were usually copycats, that may or may not have later improved on the original. In any case, I’m not sure the Japanese and others like them have ever had an original invention. (I know you live in Japan so don’t throw anything at me yet. I mean mainstream generalization). I’d say, for example, that photography may be one of those mainstream industries. But even if I’m wrong about that, you must admit that that phenomena does exist in the invention industry, (first is best).
        Moving ahead, I remember the guys at Kodak saying, when they had brought their digital sensor to fruition, that there was a strange phenomina that happened when too many pixels were squeezed into too small an area. They said that besides the fact that not enough light can be gathered by too small a pixel, a loss of quality of some sort was also lost. I read the articles way back in the 80’s or 90’s and I don’t remember the specifics of that statement but I do believe that they were onto something back then.
        Well, it’s kind of obvious now that the Japanese have obliterated that concept by coming out with these new sensors…and if they managed to overcome all of the real estate problems that did exist, (which I might add they miraculously overcame that obstacle by a landslide), I still have noticed one major thing with super high resolution.
        It’s the fact that the human eye cannot distinguish any more resolution than say a range of 1 pixel to maybe 20-22 megapixels. When looking at screens with high res images, I noticed that I can’t see any more detail in a photo unless I take that mouse and zoom in on it a little more to see that small mouse running way down there at the end of the street. He is well hidden from my eyes. I’m happy with 31 Megapixels. It is really a little too much for my sight…unless of course I’m blowing up that picture to hang on a large wall of 3 feet or more.

        • Martin Bailey
          Posted at 14:45h, 26 July Reply

          It looks like a sure case of the resolution blues Richard. 🙂

          Kodak certainly were the first to invent digital photography that saves the digital file via a sensor as it still works today. That was back in 1975 apparently, which is why it’s such a shame that Kodak allowed the digital revolution to destroy them. They were the pioneers that became fossils. And believe me, once that one was out in the wild, if the Japanese hadn’t ran with it, someone else would have.

          If I were you, I wouldn’t worry too much about comparing medium format with 35mm. The two systems have different looks, and different applications.

          Of course you can’t tell the difference between a 20 megapixel and a 50 megapixel image on a computer screen. If the computer screen was the only output method, we’d have never needed more than a few megapixels until the iMac 5K screen. That is 14.7 megapixels, although I doubt the difference between a 10 megapixel and a 20 megapixel image is discernible to the human eye. I don’t have one so I can’t test this, but you’re right, our eyesight is the factor here.

          That is totally beside the point though, and I know that you know that. You are desperately trying to be happy with your current gear. I see this all the time. What you have has made you very happy for years though. Your camera hasn’t just become crap, just because the 35mm crew now have higher resolution.

          What I would like to see is people just be happy with their gear, and stop trying to justify staying with it. If that isn’t possible, upgrade, jump ship, or do whatever it takes to be happy with your gear! If that isn’t possible, for any reason, let it slide. No amount of fretting or tearing the new gear to bits is going to make it go away.

          I received mail asking about my thoughts about the D800 when it came out, and my answer was always, it looks like a great camera, but takes the wrong lenses for me. It didn’t bother me in the least that it existed. Why? Because I’m happy with what I have, and I was also confident that Canon would come up with the goods at some point. There was no point in getting all bent out of shape.

          I’ve seen people jump ship from Canon to Nikon for the D800, selling and replacing 10s of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. That was because of a 14 megapixel jump in resolution. We’ve just seen another 14 megapixel jump with the 5Ds. Are they all going to switch back? I hope not, but I know that some will. It’s a waste of money and mental energy even thinking about this stuff.

          Don’t worry, be happy. 😀

  • CP
    Posted at 16:50h, 14 July Reply

    Thanks for this great real life review.
    There are so many laboratory based tests out there, which show some apparent technical deficiencies of the 5DSR , in particular comparing all these figures to competitive products.
    However at the end only the performance of the complete system is meaningful.
    For this reason a real life review by a full time photographer is so much more valuable than any laboratory gauging.
    And I also liked your negative initial expectations regarding soft and blurred images or bad ISO performance as a starting basis for the test.
    Very impressive how the camera manages these problems in real life.
    Thank you very much.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 18:02h, 14 July Reply

      That’s great to know CP, thank you! I’m pleased you found this useful and enjoyed the format.

  • Philip Richard
    Posted at 01:37h, 04 August Reply

    Hi Martin,
    First of all tanks a lot for your podcasts that I am enjoying almost every week.
    And thank-you too for your review of the 5DsR.

    Since I am a landscape panoramic photographer printing in very large sizes, I had been waiting for years for such a Canon camera, but was not patient enough, and thus decided 2 years ago to acquire a Sony A7R (36 Mp) together with a Zeiss OTUS 55 mm/ f 1.4 to cope with the resolution of the A7R sensor. A combination which is providing stunning results.

    I did some comparisons with my former 5D Mk II as well as with Canon lenses and did see a true difference in results, in particular a limitation of the resolution of images due to the lenses. I did not have the MkII versions of the lenses which you used, but based on the DXo ratings of these lenses you should see some sort of degradation too on a 50 Mp sensor, which you don’t seem to see ?
    Results of my tests are here:
    All the best for your photographic endeavors

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 09:16h, 09 September Reply

      Hi Philip,

      Sorry for the delay in replying here. Things have been a bit hectic.

      I’m pleased you’ve found a combination that you are happy with. That’s a good place to be. I’m generally so happy with my Canon gear, that I have been able to resist jumping ship while I waiting for the 5Ds R (whatever it was to be called.) There were times when I looked at cameras like the Sony A7R, believe me, but as my wildlife work required me to keep my long glass and Canon bodies, and the fact that I couldn’t really afford to run two systems in parallel, kept me with Canon.

      I started to feel fully happy with my decision as the 100-400mm Mark II and 11-24mm f/4 lenses were released, and the 5Ds announced. The 5Ds release has made me totally happy to still be a Canon user.

      I do not see any degradation of the lenses that I own on the 5Ds R. In fact, I feel that the 5Ds R is bringing more out of lenses like my 70-200mm f/2.8 II than my 5D Mark III was. I had started to feel a little deflated about my old workhorse lens, especially as the 100-400mm II was sharper, yet when I used the 70-200mm for the tests above, I found it to be as sharp as ever.

      I’ve now shot a lot with the 11-24mm f/4, 24-70mm f/2.8 II, 70-200mm f/2.8 II and 100-400mm II, and the results are incredible. I did find the 100-400mm was a little more susceptible to high winds one day in Namibia, where I found a few blurred shots, despite using a tripod, but I think that was from the loose foot, which I will be fixing by cutting some strips of steel can and putting into the foot. Otherwise, I’ve still been successfully hand holding still, even with the 100-400mm at the long end, and I’m totally happy with the results.

      I intend to do a follow up review of the 5Ds R based on my experiences in Namibia and probably Iceland too, and I’ll put some 100% crops in as well, so please keep your eye out for that, probably towards the end of October, after I’ve finished my Iceland travelogue episodes (though it may be before.)


  • Missy Mandel
    Posted at 20:40h, 25 September Reply

    Hi Martin. I follow your Podcasts and love them! I know you use the 5DSr with the new 100-400 and wondered if you have your own threshold for the lowest shutter speed you would use regardless of light for sharp hand held shots? Thanks in advance

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:46h, 07 October Reply

      Sorry for the late reply Missy, I’ve been traveling.

      I am pretty much using the focal length as shutter speed rule of thumb, so if I’m shooting at 100mm, I want a shutter speed of at least 1/100 and at 400mm, at least 1/400. I’ve successfully pushed it a little further than this, relying on IS, but this rule consistently gives good results for me.

      I hope this helps!

  • Paul Chilton
    Posted at 02:47h, 28 September Reply

    “The cool thing about how these crop modes work is if you are shooting in raw, the camera actually still shoots full frame raw files”. In my opinion this is not cool at all. One of the advantages I was expecting from the crop sensor mode was being able to get more pictures onto a memory card. My experience is that because the camera doesn’t delete the unused pixels the raw files are actually bigger than full frame because they contain the cropping data too. You would be better served simply shooting in full frame and cropping the image to the exact size and shape you require.

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 11:50h, 07 October Reply

      If you don’t have much card space, that is a factor, but I always use large cards, so me for, I’d prefer to keep the part of the image that isn’t actually cropped away. Besides, in reality, I personally will never use this feature. I’ll just keep in mind that I can crop more than before when necessary. I also don’t want to limit my shooting to a small part of the sensor, in case the subject comes closer than expected.

  • Dudley Warner
    Posted at 22:05h, 29 August Reply

    Martin –

    I recently sold my Canon 5DIII to purchase a 5DS R. I am amazed at the level of detail and image quality I am getting that I never saw with another camera. I just read that the new Canon 5D IV will probably be able to make better prints than the 5DS R since the 5DS R has such “densely packed pixels”. I am interested in what your experience has been in terms of printing quality using the 5DS R, and if this argument is one your agree with.

    Thanks –

    Dudley Warner

    • Martin Bailey
      Posted at 18:15h, 20 September Reply

      Hi Dudley,

      That’s a crock, period. The people that say stuff like that are nearly trying to defend their ego or decision not to buy. There is no way on this earth that having 30 megapixels as opposed to 50 will give you better prints. If the 5Ds R had 50 megapixels on a smart phone sized sensor and really crap image quality, that statement would be true, but the pixels are good quality. You’ve seen this for yourself.

      I do wish people would get over the fact that the 5Ds is out there, and either buy it, or shut up about it. Sheesh!

      Please just enjoy your 5Ds R Dudley, If you ever want to print your images from it, you will get amazing prints, and if you are printing very large, they’ll be better quality than the 5D Mark IV images.


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