Rolleiflex 3.5F TLR Camera and Accessories (Podcast 687)

Rolleiflex 3.5F TLR Camera and Accessories (Podcast 687)

I recently picked up a Rolleiflex 3.5F TLR camera made two years before I was born, and have had a lot of fun researching and acquiring the accessories that I wanted for it, and, of course, actually shooting with this new camera, so today I’m going to share my findings with you.

If you are firmly in the digital camp, then this episode may not be of much interest to you, but keep a mental note of it and come back when the time is right. Unlike the rapid-paced update cycles of our digital camera, the camera I’m going to talk about is at this point 54 years old, making it two years older than me, so the technology isn’t exactly going to be outdated if you come across this post a few years or even a few decades from now.

I’ve actually been hankering after a Rolleiflex camera for many years. Before I bought the Yashica-D twin-lens reflex camera that I showed you in my recent video about developing film with the Lab-Box, I had spent time in Map Camera, my favorite camera store here in Tokyo, dreaming of picking up one of these wonderful pieces of historic German engineering. Well, with the Lab-Box having reignited the fire in my passion for film, and having checked out my friend Brian Wood-Koiwa Rolleiflex during his recent visit, I figured it was time to jump down from the fence I’d been sitting on.

The Rolleiflex 3.5F with Original Box

I had also been periodically checking the Map Camera website for a good condition used Rolleiflex camera, and noticed one recently that I couldn’t resist. For the same price as two other Rolleis the one I bought still had its case, a strap, the original diffuser, and the original box and user manual, whereas the others had just a strap, which is relatively common. Although I wasn’t able to see the actual quality of the camera beforehand, I bought it online, as Map Camera gives you a month to return or exchange the camera if there is anything wrong with it, and when buying from them, even used cameras come with a one year warranty, which is comforting when buying camera gear.

Rolleiflex 3.5F with Original Box
Rolleiflex 3.5F with Original Box

I probably paid more than you might expect to pay for a similar camera in the US, having dropped the equivalent of around $1,880 at the current exchange rate, but with all the accessories and warranty I’m happy enough with the price. I only paid around $200 for my Yashica-D on a flea market mind, so this was a difficult conversation to have with my wife, despite this being essentially a business expense for me, as I’m using this camera in my work.

Leather Case

As you can see, the camera comes with its own protective leather case that is extremely well-made. The front section just clips on to the main case and can be removed when shooting, leaving just the case around the camera, and the strap attaches to the case when it’s on the camera, or directly to the camera when you take the case off. The manufacturers really seem to have left nothing out when it comes to details.

Rolleiflex 3.5F with Leather Case
Rolleiflex 3.5F with Leather Case

You can also see the lens cap in this photo when attaches to the top viewing lens via the same bayonet that you attach filters to, and then as you rotate it into place, it clips into the taking lens at the bottom. When you take it off, it folds into the size of one of the disks, so it can be stored easily.

To focus and compose with the Rollei you flip the top viewfinder enclosure up, to expose the ground glass screen that you can see in this next image. There is a split circle in the middle of the screen that aligns when the subject is in focus and gradually shifts apart as the subject moves away from the focus plane. To enable you to see this there is a magnifier built into the cover which drops down parallel to the screen and I actually find it easier to both focus and compose using that magnifier, but being able to work at a distance as you see in this photo also has its benefits.

The Rolleiflex 3.5F Viewfinder
The Rolleiflex 3.5F Viewfinder

For example, I was able to make this shot in Shinjuku recently by holding the camera out at arm’s length, pointing downwards, and although the slow shutter speed of a 1/15 of a second rendered the moving people blurry, the photo is pretty sharp still. In general though, because of the way you hold the camera a 1/15 of a second shutter speed doesn’t seem to be a problem. I’ve been loading ISO 100 film mostly, so my shutter speed in the shade has been on average only around a 1/30 of a second.

Spiral Staircase
Spiral Staircase

The downside of shooting at arm’s length though, as well as the fact that you are viewing a relatively dark screen, is that it’s difficult to really grasp what’s in the frame, so I missed the person entering the frame at the bottom here. It’d have preferred it if they were not there, but I’m learning to accept the imperfection that film and this kind of photography brings, and I am actually really enjoying that aspect.

54 Year Old Light Meter

I also wanted to show you how the light meter on the Rolleiflex works. If you look at this photo, you’ll see two needles and a red zone. The straight needle, near the red zone in this photo, represents the meter reading of the light in front of the camera. If that falls into the red zone, it means that the available light is too low for accurate metering. To set the camera to an appropriate combination of shutter speed and aperture, you simply need to adjust both settings until the straight needle aligns with the circle in the top needle.

The Rolleiflex 3.5F Light Meter
The Rolleiflex 3.5F Light Meter

The light meter is responsible for moving the straight needle, and changes to both the aperture and shutter speed move the top needle with the circle on the end. Unless you need to compensate for back-lighting or for a snow scene etc. there really isn’t a lot to think about or mess up. The manual states that once the meter reading is so low that the needle is in the red, the meter becomes somewhat unreliable. Relatively little light will get you out of that red zone though, and so far having shot and processed three films almost completely with the built-in meter, I have found it to be very accurate.

Depth of Field Scale

Another ingenious feature of this camera is the depth of field scale. If you look at the above image again, you’ll see a white area to the right of the number 3, just above where it says FEET. That is the amount of the image that will be in focus at that focus distance. As you focus further out, that white area expands to represent the actual depth of the focus at any given distance. Having developed my own Depth of Field calculator for our Photographer’s Friend app I realize that this isn’t difficult to calculate but the fact that they were able to build that mechanically into the focus dial of a camera 54 years ago is astonishing to me.

ISO and Exposure Compensation Settings

Rolleiflex 3.5F ISO Settings with Exposure Compensation
Rolleiflex 3.5F ISO Settings with Exposure Compensation

Of course, the other parameter that affects exposure is the ISO of the film in use, and the Rolleiflex takes that into account when calculating exposure. Here you see the ASA and DIN dial, and ASA is basically the same as our current ISO standard, so you can see here that I have the dial set to 100, as I have an ISO 100 film loaded right now.

You can set the ISO from 12 to 1600, and I actually have some ISO 25 Rollei RPX film that I’m going to be trying next week. Apparently it has beautiful shadow detail, and the low ISO will help me to get some long exposures for some seascapes that I’m planning. I have also found a place here in Japan that makes filters that can be attached to this camera, so I’ve ordered an ND8 and ND400 filter, as well as a polarizer filter.

You may think the polarizer is redundant on black and white film, but it will still quite naturally darken the sky and remove reflections from water and metallic surfaces, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to get one as I was having some made. Unfortunately, they will not arrive in time for my upcoming seascapes trip, so I’ll be taping some NDs to the lens hood for long exposures then.

Also, note the dial above where it says ASA 100 in this photo, that I have set to 1.5. That is essentially the Exposure Compensation dial. If you use a filter, for example, a medium yellow filter to bring out the contrast between clouds and the sky, you have to dial in around 2/3 of a stop compensation. You can also use this to calculate the shutter speeds of up to a 3 stop neutral density filter.

The light meter itself is the line of small lenses that you can see below the large ROLLEIFLEX title on the top of the front panel. The camera came with a white diffuser strip that covers these lenses and enables you to take an incident light meter reading by pointing the camera towards the light source. I haven’t shot like this so far, but I will be trying this in Hokkaido in January for my landscape tour, and I’ll report back if there are any idiosyncrasies to note.

Aperture and Shutter Speed Settings

You change the aperture with the left dial on the front, between the two lenses, and change the shutter speed with the right dial. This position puts the main controls right at your fingertips, or rather I should say thumb tips when holding the camera. The shutter button in the bottom right corner is perfectly positioned below your index finger, and there is a safety switch, to lock the shutter button when you aren’t shooting, to prevent you from accidentally pressing it.

Holding the Rolleiflex 3.5F
Holding the Rolleiflex 3.5F

In the bottom left corner, which is the right side of the above photo, there is a flash-sync socket, and this actually works to fire my Profoto studio lights, so I can shoot with strobes if necessary too. The read-out for the aperture and shutter speed settings is in a small window on top of the top lens. The aperture for this model ranges from f/3.5 to f/22, and the shutter speed ranges from 60 seconds to 1/500 of a second. You can only automatically release the shutter down to 1 second though. If you set the camera lower than 1 second you have to use a cable release and time the amount of time the shutter is kept open yourself. The 2 to 60-second scale is really just for metering purposes, but it’s pretty amazing that the camera does that.

The switch with the V and the left-pointing arrow in the top left of this photo is the flash synchronization and self-timer switch. If you pull that lever down before releasing the shutter, you get an approximately 10-second timer before the shutter releases, so you can use this camera for selfies as well!

Close-up Filters

Rolleiflex 3.5F with Rolleinar 3 Close-up Filters
Rolleiflex 3.5F with Rolleinar 3 Close-up Filters

The minimum focus distance of the Rolleiflex 3.5F is relatively long at around 1 meter or just over three feet. To overcome this Rollei made three close-up filters called simply Rolleinar 1, 2 and 3. The number 1 filter gives you a focusing range of 39 1/2 to 17 3/4 inches or 100 to 44 cm. The number 2 filters enable focusing from 19 3/4 to12 1/8 inches, or 50 to 30 cm, and the number 3 filter is from 12 1/2 to 9 1/2 inches or 32 to 24 cm.

A rough guide for the usage of these filters is, if you want to shoot just a head and shoulders shot of a person, the Rolleinar 1 will get you close enough. For just a face or head-shot, the Rolleinar 2 will work, and to just about fill the frame with a single large flower head, you’d need the Rolleinar 3. I have managed to find a good quality copy of each of these close-up lenses and used them now in the field too, but I have not yet developed the two films with shots made with them on, although from what I’ve seen so far, the image quality looks absolutely fine, if not very good with these filters fitted.

As you can see from this photo of the Rollei sporting the Rolleinar 3 filters, the filter itself on the bottom taking lens is not that big. The filter on the top viewing lens is larger and pointing down slightly to help correct the parallax shift that occurs as you focus close to the camera. I’m still not sure how accurate this is, but looking at the line of sight when shooting, I imagine they’re doing a pretty good job. Again, I’ll know more once I’ve developed my recent two rolls of film having done some close-up work over the last few days.

Color Filters

I managed to find an old leather case with the Rolleinar 1 and 2 close-up filters at a local camera store in Ginza, here in Tokyo, as well as a number of colored filters, and I got a Rolleinar 3 online, which was in excellent condition, so I’m pretty much set now. The color filters that were included, as you can see in the photo below, are light green, a light red, a light yellow and orange. The light red filter renders reds lighter and blues and greens darker. The Orange filter does the same but not to quite a large degree. The green filter renders yellows and greens lighter and reds and blues darker so it’s great for darkening skies and lightening grass and foliage in black and white landscape shots. The yellow filter is also good for increasing the contrast between clouds and a blue sky.

Rolleiflex 3.5F with Rolleinar Close-up and Color Filters
Rolleiflex 3.5F with Rolleinar Close-up and Color Filters

You’ll also see the R1 filter in that photo, which is apparently a UV filter, but it doesn’t really do anything on the Planar lens version of this camera which I have, so it’s really nothing more than a protector for me, should I ever need one. I wasn’t able to split up the set though, and the price I paid was reasonable just to get the two close-up filters and the color filters, so that’s no big deal. The set also contained a metal hood, so I wished that I’d found that first, as I bought the first of the two along with the camera and paid a pretty penny for it.

Saving the First Frame

I also wanted to mention that I figured out how to stop losing the first frame when processing my film in the Lab-Box that I shared with you in episode 682. I had been following the instructions by the manufacturers, both in their manual and videos they’ve created, but the amount of film that they pull out of the light-tight chamber with the film in it, to attach the metal clip, will always result in losing a frame.

Loading the Lab-Box
Loading the Lab-Box

I thought I could avoid it by changing how I load the film, to gain some leeway at the end, but that isn’t possible, so I tried simply removing the tape and backing paper from the film without advancing it at all and attached the clip to the short tab of film before closing the Lab-Box lid and winding the film onto the spool, and that worked. If you use a Lab-Box and want to keep all twelve frames of a roll of 120 medium format film, you can’t pull the film out of the chamber any more than you see in the above photo, regardless of what you’ll see in videos, etc, including my own from a few weeks ago.

Tenba Skyline 12 Bag

I’d like to mention one last thing, and that is how difficult it was to find what I consider a good bag for this equipment. I must have spent a total of three hours online and a good hour in each of two separate shops, totaling five hours until I found a bag that I felt worked well for this gear. My goal was to find something simple that I could fit the Rollei in with its case on, and the accessories that I’ve picked up, as well as some additional film and some space, to put in my wallet if necessary.

Most of the bags I found were adequate but had things like space for an iPad at the back, or they were a little too big, or too heavy. Others had really gaudy inner linings or were simply way too expensive. I don’t mind paying for a quality product, but I saw some bags in this class as high as $700 for a camera bag, and that, even to me, is way over the top. It’s a personal decision of course, but I personally cannot warrant that kind of money for a bag, and I actually still didn’t think the ones I saw were a good match.

I finally decided on this Tenba Skyline 12 bag, that cost me around $70 here in Japan, and I see that it’s around $55 on B&H Photo. I can’t say I’m overly in love with the bright blue lining, but I can live with it, and the design is exactly what I wanted otherwise. It’s simple, with just the right amount of space and number of pockets and pouches. When I go out just with this camera this is all I want to carry, and with this bag being as light as it is, even with my Rollei and accessories inside it weighs very little. I can easily carry this around all day without getting tired.

I’ve included a number of photos here to illustrate how I’m using the bag, including dropping in my light meter sometimes to help with exposure. As the Rollei incorporates a light meter, I am referencing that most of the time, but occasionally I’m finding that I need to get a spot meter reading from something like a bright object against a dark background, and it just helps to have the separate meter.

The only thing that I wish was different is that the strap is fixed to the bag and cannot be removed, so I had to buy a rubber attachment for the strap to stop it sliding off my shoulder. Just the nylon strap alone would not stay put, so I had to pay extra for the attachment. I am very happy with this bag and think it’s a great match for the Rollei. If I come across something better I’ll update you later, but I’m happy enough with this combination that I don’t intend to actively look anymore.

Gallery of Images

Here to finish is a selection of images that I’ve shot on November 29 and 30, 2019, to give you a feel for the sort of work I’m doing with this camera. It’s a little different than my digital work, but I would like to think that there is still plenty of Martin in these, and I definitely don’t want to be the sort of photographer that falls in love with the process, and shoots film purely for the experience and totally ignoring the need to actually think about what I’m shooting. Just being recorded on film doesn’t make the image special, and I want to keep that in mind as I do more of this work.

Capture One Pro 20 Released!

Before we finish, I’d actually like to point out that my photo editing software of choice, Capture One Pro, just received a major update and has been released this week as version 20 with some exciting new features. I’ll be creating a video to walk you through the new features soon, but check it out for yourself at and download the trial version if you don’t already use Capture One Pro. Your photography will thank you for it.

OK, so we’ll finish up there for now. Let me know if you are enjoying these film-related episodes, as I do plan to bring you a few more film-related topics from time to time.

Film Related Posts

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Show Notes

Get Capture One Pro 20 here:

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Music by Martin Bailey


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Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera Review Part 1 (Podcast 650)

Canon EOS R Mirrorless Camera Review Part 1 (Podcast 650)

Having just shot my two week Hokkaido Landscape Tour and the first of my two Japan Wildlife Tours with the Canon EOS R, today I’m going to share my thoughts on Canon’s first full-frame sensor mirrorless camera offering.

Let’s get this out there right away, as I know many of you are eager to hear my overall verdict; with a total of four weeks of shooting with the EOS R from dawn till dusk each day, I am happy to tell you that I have fallen absolutely head-over-heels in love with the Canon EOS R camera and RF 24-105mm lens.

There are lots of reviews out there panning the EOS R, and because of that, this was probably the most cautious gear purchase I’ve made for a while, but I can honestly say that my concerns were pretty much completely unnecessary. I’m not saying that this is the best mirrorless camera on the market right now, but if you are a Canon user, looking for a way to gradually move over to mirrorless, Canon has now put the first stepping stone in place, and it gives us a very firm footing, as I’ll explain.

Not Perfect, But Close…

That said, it has one major issue and a number of other areas that need work, but as Canon’s first full-frame sensor mirrorless camera, it has way surpassed my expectations, to the point that I avoided using my Canon EOS 5Ds R bodies as much as possible during the last two tours. It’s not that the 5Ds is all of a sudden a bad camera, but the EOS R is more fun to use, and the image quality is spectacular, to the point that I didn’t really mind working harder to overcome the problems that I did have, and I’ll share details of these shortly.

Basic Specs

You can see full details on the Canon website, but to touch on the key specs, the EOS R has a 30.3MP Full-Frame CMOS Sensor with a DIGIC 8 Image Processor. It supports 4K video, the first camera I’ve owned that does after my iPhone, and it has Dual Pixel CMOS Autofocus, with an amazing 5655 Autofocus Points!

The EOS R sports a 3.69m-Dot Electronic Viewfinder and 3.15″ 2.1 million-dot swivel touchscreen LCD, which is also a first for me. The ISO can be expanded up to 102400, and in burst mode, it shoots a very respectable 8 frames per second.

Real-World Examples

Before I go on to explain more about the few problems I did have, and provide my wish-list for this and future Canon Mirrorless cameras, let’s jump in and take a look at some real-world examples, and as you’ve probably come to expect, I’m going to blow a few myths out of the water as well.

Winter Landscapes

It won’t come as a surprise that a mirrorless camera works fine for Landscape work, but I’ll share a few images from my Hokkaido Winter Landscape Photography Adventure Tour to make a few points.

The first one is a comparison that I did between the EOS R and the 5Ds R. With my tripod in the same place, I switched out the cameras to make two identical photographs of this scene, which I shot with the EOS R and the RF 24-105mm lens.

Mount Asahi Trees in Snow
Mount Asahi Trees in Snow

EOS R and 5Ds R Image Comparison

Although when comparing a 30-megapixel image with a 50-megapixel image, the 50-megapixel shot obviously has more resolution, but I found the quality of the EOS R images to be very pleasing, with sharper edges and slightly more definition. Here is a screenshot of both shots displayed at 100% in Capture One Pro, and you can hopefully see the qualities that I mention in the bottom of the two images, from the EOS R.

Canon EOS 5Ds R (Top) Compared with EOS R (Bottom)
Canon EOS 5Ds R (Top) Compared with EOS R (Bottom)

If you can’t see the detail on the Web page, click the image to open up the larger version, or consider subscribing to our MBP Pro membership to get access to the eBook with high-resolution images for this post.

Snow is Fine Sometimes

Another image that I wanted to share from the landscape trip is to segue to the first and main issue that I have with the EOS R. Here, is an image that I shot in the snow, with the RF 24-105mm lens.

Frozen Torii Gate
Frozen Torii Gate

And here is a photo of my EOS R with a decent amount of snow on it, as I shot the previous image. The snow melted occasionally on the top around the LCD and buttons, and I wiped it off from time to time because I don’t trust the weather-sealing on any Canon camera that is not 1-series.

EOS R in Snow
EOS R in Snow

It’s actually quite annoying that Canon use marketing terminology that would have you think that the EOS R is weather-sealed. Here is a quote from the Canon USA website:

Dust & Water-resistant Sealing (from Canon’s Website)

The EOS R camera is designed for use in a variety of weather conditions. Sealing materials are used in critical areas like the buttons, terminal covers, the battery compartment and the card slot cover. Precise design and construction help to minimize accidental penetration of dust and moisture in the rest of the camera body. Combined with an RF lens, or any other weather-sealed EF/EF-S lens, the EOS R proves to be a reliable partner in virtually any climate.

Don’t Believe the Marketing Blurb

There is also an image that shows the EOS R’s weather-sealing, and you’d think from this text and looking at the graphic that the EOS R is weather-sealed, but I can assure you that it is not. Why? Because when you use the EOS R with a long lens that makes the camera sit at an angle, with the viewfinder pointing upwards, even a relatively small amount of snow falling on the eyepiece will make it do this.

EOS R Fogged Up First Time
EOS R Fogged Up First Time

This photo was from a few weeks after my Landscape tour, when I was on my first Japan Winter Wildlife tour of this season. I was shooting with the 100-400mm lens and got a little, definitely not a lot of snow, on the back of the camera and the viewfinder, and within minutes, the inside of the viewfinder fogged up like this.

I had decided to take just the EOS R to photograph the Snow Monkeys, and I’ll share some images in a moment, but on the main full day, when it snowed the entire day, the viewfinder fogged shortly after I started shooting, and then in the afternoon, I got the second layer of condensation that you can see in this photograph, which formed over the first. I literally had to shoot the entire day looking through the small gap at the top or bottom of the fogged area of the viewfinder.

It Happened More Than Once

A week later, the next time I used the EOS R in the snow, literally within five minutes, it fogged up again, as you can see in this photograph.

EOS R Fogged Up a Second Time
EOS R Fogged Up a Second Time

Seriously, I had the camera in the snow for around five minutes, to shoot our group photo for the tour, and as soon as the snow hit the back of the camera, it fogged up. The temperature on both occasions was probably around -5°C or 23°F, and granted, Canon only say that their cameras will work between 0-40°C or 32-104°F, but if we really couldn’t use these cameras when it goes below freezing, I for one would stop buying Canon cameras, and I know that I’m not alone on this.

Double Take

And what does that say for the last sentence of the quote I just included from Canon’s marketing blurb? “The EOS R proves to be a reliable partner in virtually any climate.” Is below freezing really not included in such a bold statement?

I would also like to add that the EOS R actually works very well in the cold. On two consecutive mornings on the wildlife trip, I used the camera at -23°C and -25°C, which is -9°F and -13°F respectively, and there were absolutely no problems at all. No fogging, no problem with the battery, nothing. It just worked, so cold is not a problem. It’s snow that is the problem, regardless of the fact that Canon shows a diagram with weather sealing around the viewfinder in their marketing materials.

This, mind you, was the only serious issue I had with the Canon EOS R camera, so rant over. I’ll get off my soap-box now, and we can look at a few more example images, and we can come back to the other few issues after that.

A Walk on the Wild Side

So, landscapes are fine, and I doubt that anyone ever thought they would not be. But how about wildlife? When I first got the EOS R one of the first things I did was have my wife walk around erratically so that I could see how well the autofocus kept up with her. I was pleasantly surprised that it seemed to do a pretty good job.

It has, of course, been the main problem with mirrorless cameras, that the autofocus isn’t quite as snappy as our DSLR cameras, and that was my main reason for holding off buying one, until now. Well, I’m happy to say that the autofocus itself is great, but it takes a lot of getting used to tracking a moving subject in a viewfinder that essentially becomes stroboscopic as soon as you start shooting in burst mode.

Baby Riding on Mother Monkey
Baby Riding on Mother Monkey

I really like to stand in a certain place at the Snow Monkey Park in Nagano, Japan, and wait for the monkeys to come running down the mountain, as we can see in this photograph.

When I first starting shooting this kind of image though, it was really hard to keep the monkey in the frame while tracking them with the AI Servo, because even with the camera’s Display Performance set to Smooth, which is supposed to make “Quick-moving subjects display smoothly”, quoting the note in the menu.

Of course, when just moving the camera with the subject in the viewfinder, they are relatively smooth, but then as soon as you start shooting in burst mode, you have to track the subject by watching a series of still photographs, almost like watching them move around under stroboscopic light.

Note too that I have turned off the preview so that I am not presented with the photo that I just shot, so I’m really just seeing the camera’s best effort to track and display a moving subject while shooting and recording images in burst mode.

My Tracking Settings

I did find it necessary to tweak my Autofocus Tracking settings, for the first time in many years, to get the most out of the EOS R for wildlife photography, including birds in flight. Here are the settings that I settled on.

EOS R Tracking Settings
EOS R Tracking Settings

I reduced the Tracking Sensitivity to -2 to help keep the camera locked on to a moving subject. I increased the Acceleration/Deceleration Tracking to +1, to stay with an erratically moving subject, and I generally tend to leave the AF Point Auto-Switching at zero, because increasing this can make the autofocus jump to the background or things that cross in front of your intended subject a little too easily.

You Get Used to it!

The cool thing is though, although it was difficult to track a moving subject with the EOS R at first, as I tweaked my settings I did also find you do get used not being able to see the subjects every move, and after my first hour or so struggling, before too long I was nailing shot after shot where I had to focus relatively quickly on a moving subject, and then rely on the camera to accurately track it.

Occasionally the camera simply will not focus, and it stays out of focus until you stop focusing and try again, quite often taking so long to gain focus again that you miss the shot completely. I’d say that after two weeks of shooting wildlife like this every day, that happens maybe once with every 20 or 30 bursts. If you have just one chance to photograph something, honestly the EOS R is not for you, but if you will have multiple chances, and don’t mind losing a few opportunities, it’s totally workable.

Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

To mount EF lenses to the RF mount, Canon has released a number of adapters, and I bought the Control Ring Mount Adapter which, as the name suggests, has a built-in Control Ring, and it comes in a nice little case, to protect it when you aren’t using it.

Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R
Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter EF-EOS R

You can program the Control Ring to do a variety of things, and I have set mine to enable me to change the ISO by rotating the Control Ring, and that applies not only to the Control Ring on the Mount Adapter but also the one that is built into all RF lenses.

100-400mm Lens with Mount Adapter

I shot most of the wildlife during my two-week tour using the 100-400mm lens attached to the EOS R with the Mount Adapter. I also used it with the 200-400mm with the built-in 1.4X Extender, and during the landscape workshop with the 11-24mm EF lens. It works great with all the lenses.

Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter with 100-400mm Lens
Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter with 100-400mm Lens

Sharp Sea Eagles

I went on to Hokkaido and had no problems photographing birds in flight with the EOS R, but right until we actually started photographing the Sea Eagles at Rausu, I honestly thought that the EOS R would not be able to cope with how I photograph the eagles.

Basically, so that I can wait until I see the actual eagle that is going to try and snatch the fish out of the water, I don’t track with the birds before the catch. I literally wait until one eagle is almost on the fish, then frame it up, and snap the focus in at the last minute before releasing the shutter.

I had thought that the EF 100-400mm Mark II with the Control Ring Mount Adapter was going to be too slow to focus, despite me now having had a week of practicing shooting wildlife with the EOS R. Well, I am happy to say that I was completely wrong! The camera and lens performed admirably, and I was able to bag hundreds of eagle shots that were perfectly in focus and sharp as tacks.

Here is a shot of a Steller’s Sea Eagle as he reaches out with his talons shortly before pulling the fish out of the sea. This is literally a moment after I framed the bird up and focussed on it.

Steller's Sea Eagle on the Approach
Steller’s Sea Eagle on the Approach

This photo is not cropped and has a little bit of Clarity applied in Capture One Pro, but that’s all. I’ve done nothing else to it.

Steller’s Sea Eagle Pulling Fish from Sea

Although the EOS R is supposed to have a frame rate of 8 frames per second, I set it up to give preference to achieving focus, rather than just firing away regardless, and this slows the camera down slightly, but generally, for these bursts, I get two to three images. The frame after the previous image is this one, as the eagle pulls the fish from the sea.

Steller's Sea Eagle Pulling Fish from Sea
Steller’s Sea Eagle Pulling Fish from Sea

Again, this is not cropped and has just had a little bit of Clarity applied. My settings were 1/1600 of a second at f/9, with the ISO set to 1600, and I had my 100-400mm lens zoomed all the way in to 400mm.

I really was incredibly happy to find that I could shoot the eagles just as I have been with my 5Ds R, because to me, this is my ultimate test of the robustness of the autofocus system on a camera.

Happy to Go Completely Mirrorless with Canon

If I couldn’t get shots like this, I’d need to own different types of camera bodies for different purposes, and when you travel overseas to do lots of different types of photography, it makes life so much easier if you can just take two identical bodies. More importantly, if I can shoot images like this, I know that I would now be happy to go completely mirrorless with Canon as they release future bodies.

Steller's Sea Eagle Snatches Fish from Sea
Steller’s Sea Eagle Snatches Fish from Sea

Here is a 100% crop to show just how sharp the image is, and again, this is with the EF 100-400mm Mark II lens attached to the EOS R with the RF Mount Adapter.

Steller's Sea Eagle Snatches Fish from Sea - 100% Crop
Steller’s Sea Eagle Snatches Fish from Sea – 100% Crop

Actually, the version embedded in the blog post is slightly smaller than the 100% crop. To see it pixel for pixel, click on it to open the lightbox viewer.

It Works, But it isn’t Easy!

So, to summarize my experience with the EOS R for fast-paced wildlife shooting, it works, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this is not going to apply to everybody. I know this will sound conceited, but I am an experienced photographer and I’ve been shooting this sort of wildlife work with the 50-megapixel Canon EOS 5Ds R for the last three years.

Many people say that you can’t shoot wildlife with the 5Ds R and it’s given me great pleasure to prove those people wrong, but at the same time, I do appreciate that a lot of it is down to my skill and experience. I would say that if you want to shoot wildlife with the EOS R, don’t make it your first camera. You’ll want to own and be proficient at shooting wildlife with a DSLR before you consider using this camera. I’d say the same would go for sports photography. It works, but it isn’t easy.

Wrap-up for Now

OK, so we’ll wrap up this review for now, and continue next week with the second part. Before we close I’d like to mention that I was not enabled by Canon or any other third party in the making of this review. I paid full price for all of the Canon gear mentioned, and my comments are not influenced by any external forces.

As part of my business, I rely on affiliate payments when visitors click on links in posts, and this helps us with the upkeep of the website and to pay for my time, while costing you nothing. If you found what I’ve provided here useful, I’d really appreciate it if you use the links provided, assuming of course that you will be buying from our friends at B&H Photo.

Part two will be released tomorrow, so please check for a link to the second part below if you are visiting after February 17, 2019.

Show Notes

See the EOS R on B&H Photo:

Here too is the RF 24-105mm Lens:

And you can buy both together as a kit here:

Canon BR-E1 Wireless Remote Control:

Canon Control Ring Mount Adapter:

Music by Martin Bailey


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Martin’s Canon EOS 5Ds R Camera Settings

Martin’s Canon EOS 5Ds R Camera Settings

I’ve been asked to share my Canon EOS 5Ds R camera settings a number of times, so this is just a quick post to share a list of the main changes I make. There are other changes, but I feel these are the ones that are important to my shooting as a mainly landscape and wildlife photographer.

I’ve used the menu name from the camera for reference. For example, the first item is SHOOT2 which is the second of the menus with the Camera icon, on the far left.

I’ve also added my reason for selecting this setting in parenthesis after each setting.

Color space = Adobe RGB

(This gives the JPEG preview created a wider color space, and affects the histogram slightly, but because I shoot raw, it doesn’t make a difference for my final image)

Grid display = 3×3+diag

(I like to have these lines visible to help me with composition and to keep horizons straight when I’m hand-holding the camera.)

Case 2, but set Tracking sensitivity to -2, Accel./decel. tracking to 1 and AF pt auto switching to 0.

(I’ve found these to be the best settings to track wildlife and birds in flight, even against a contrasty background. If you don’t shoot these subjects, you’ll need to find your own best settings.)

AI Servo 1st image priority = Focus (far right)
AI Servo 2nd image priority = Focus (far right)

(Setting both of these to Focus can slow focusing down slightly, but I don’t want a photo that isn’t in focus anyway, so I’d rather take a frame-rate hit than get a bunch of out of focus images.)

One-Shot AF release priority = Focus

(Same reason as above.)

VF display illumination = Auto
While in the screen where you select Auto, hit the Q button and select Illuminated

(This makes the focus points display when focus is achieved.)

Highlight alert = Enable

(Displaying blown out highlights helps you to prevent, well, er, blown out highlights.)

Histogram dis = RGB

(I use a technique called Expose to the Right or ETTR, so I look at the histogram to check that the image information is almost touching the right side of the histogram, but the single Brightness histogram can be misleading, because it’s an average of all three colors. I turn on the RGB histogram and ensure that the right-most color is almost touching the right shoulder.)

Viewfinder display = Electronic level = Show, Grid display = Show, Show/hide in viewfinder = Everything on

The main thing here is having the Electronic level always displaying in the viewfinder. I just like to get my images level. Everything else is optional, but I turn it all on.)

Safety shit = OFF

(I don’t want the camera doing anything automatic. I just don’t.)

Multi function lock = Everything on

(I use this so that I can flick the Lock switch on the back of the camera, and it will lock my dials, so I can’t accidentally change my shutter speed or aperture, especially when I’m using a Black Rapid strap, with the camera dangling upside down. You have to disengage the Lock switch to make any changes, but I find this less annoying than finding I’m accidentally changed my shutter speed from 1/1000 to 1/15 and all of my images are supernova.)

Custom Controls = I set these up as in the following image…

(Again, this is totally up to you, but I like these settings. One of the main ones is setting the SET button to magnifying the image. Canon cameras used to have Zoom buttons easily accessible with your thumb, but since they removed these buttons, I use the SET button as you see below. Note too that I set the shutter button to only meter, and not activate the autofocus. I focus only with the back focus button. If you don’t use this technique, and don’t want to try it, I don’t recommend changing this.)

Canon EOS 5Ds R Custom Controls

Canon EOS 5Ds R Custom Controls

My Menu

I also add the following items to My Menu. The main takeaway here is adding the Tracking sensitivity, Accel./decel. tracking and AF pt auto switching settings to this menu. This gives me easy access to these settings to tweak them as necessary for fast paces AI Servo shooting.

Canon EOS 5Ds R My Menu

Canon EOS 5Ds R My Menu

Note that many of these settings are available on earlier 5D cameras and many other Canon cameras.

I hope this helps. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below.

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

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 my findings!

About this Review

I am in no way supported by or affiliated with Canon, and have paid for my 5Ds R and all of my lenses just like you. I do these reviews to first and foremost to inform myself and you, the readers and listeners, about new gear that is released to the market that I personally am interested in, and that I believe you may be interested in too. Some of the links in this review are affiliate links. I am a full time photographer, and this is partly how I make my living, but this does not affect my views expressed in my reviews in any way. I tell it like it is, good, bad or indifferent.

I’m lucky enough to own some of Canon’s best lenses, and that’s what I’m basing my tests on, so I can’t comment on their older lenses, but so far, I have shot with the EF 11-24mm f/4L, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L II, EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L II and the 200-400mm f/4L EXT lenses. We’ll look at example images from each including 100% crops as we progress.

To view the images at the largest size available here, click on them. If the image is almost filling your browser window, open up the browser window until the images have a larger border around them, then you’ll know you’re viewing the images pixel for pixel at 100%. The image will also automatically advance every six seconds, but if you’d like to stop that, just place your mouse over the image. You can also move back and forth with your mouse or keyboard arrow keys or tapping the left or right side of the image on a mobile device.

Also note that I’ll be comparing features with the 5D Mark III and in some areas the 7D Mark II, and discussing some new features that I think are useful. I am not going to go through every feature of the camera, just those that interest me and hopefully you too. There are plenty of other sites that simply drone through the feature list, so please reference them or visit Canon’s web site, if that’s what you’re looking for.

Initial Expectations

Canon EOS 5Ds R

Canon EOS 5Ds R

There are a few preconceptions going around, which I had also believed would hold back a camera of this resolution, so first, let’s take a brief look at my initial exceptions.

Before I bought my Canon EOS 5Ds R I expected the camera to record slightly soft images, because 50 megapixels is such a high resolution. I was expecting that many of my lenses would not be able to resolve light down to a fine enough point to create a sharp image. I was wrong on this. I’m using top-end lenses, but so far every one of them is performing outstandingly.

I also expected ISO performance to drop dramatically from around ISO 800 and start to absolutely suck from around 1600. I just couldn’t see how pixels this small could perform well in low light. I was wrong on this too, as we’ll see.

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. I was wrong on this too.

OK, so let’s take a look at some of my example images from the last week or so, to show you how capable this camera is before moving on to some of the tests I’ve run and technical information etc. If you’d like to also see all of the images from my first afternoon with this camera, take a look at my first impressions review as well.

Exceptionally Sharp Images, Even Hand-Held

I picked up my Canon EOS 5Ds R here in Tokyo on the morning of it’s release here in Japan, on June 18, 2015. I took a few lenses with me and the accessories that I needed so that I could start testing the new camera right away. After picking up the camera, I went to the coffee shop around the corner from the camera store, put on the strap, then my old battery grip from the 5D Mark III, that works with the 5Ds R as well, and I left my Really Right Stuff L-Bracket on the battery grip, which also fits fine. This is great as it makes upgrading from the 5D Mark III much more painless financially than it could have been.

I then went through the menus, and changed things like the Histogram from Brightness to RGB, changed the color space of the images from sRGB to Adobe RGB, and stopped the camera from being able to shoot images without a CF card. I could never understand why Canon makes their cameras default to being able to shoot without memory. That makes no sense to me.

I walked back down the street again and shot the first few images, hand-held. Here is the first image that I looked at; the sixth frame that I shot with the camera (below).

Nishi Shinjuku Shops

Nishi Shinjuku Shops

As I said, I fully expected that this would give me blurry images at this resolution, but when I hit the Magnify button and zoomed in to a 1:1 view of the image, I almost dropped the camera. I am not kidding you, the hair on the back of my head stood on end. Here is what I saw. The center of the image at 100% (below).

Nishi Shinjuku Shops (100% Crop)

Nishi Shinjuku Shops (100% Crop)

Keep in mind that this image was shot hand-held, at 1/125 of a second, f/8, ISO 160, 16mm with the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L lens. As I said, I was expecting hand-holding to be virtually impossible at this resolution, but it works! I consider myself to have a relatively steady hand when shooting, but I’m not super-human, so this should be within reach for anyone that is comfortable shooting with a DSLR camera.

Note that all of the full sized images we’ll look at are resized to 1440 pixels wide for the web. The 100% crops are exactly 144o x 960 pixels cropped from the original images, without any resizing. They’re pixel for pixel. There is nothing done to these, other than the default sharpening that Lightroom applies to all images on import unless you change it.

Advanced Mirror Control Mechanism

How can we hand-hold at this resolution? At this point, I’m assuming it’s down to Canon incorporating a new Mirror Vibration Control System. This is from the Canon web site.

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, as I didn’t get a single blurred frame out of 200 hand-held images during my first afternoon with the 5Ds R. As I have shot more, especially with long focal lengths, I can’t claim 100% sharpness any more, but I’ve found that it is possible to hand-hold even when using the EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L II lens.

Although it’s not fast-paced wildlife work, for part of my field tests, I decided to visit the Snow Monkeys, as this year’s babies are around six weeks old at this point, and promised to be as cute as can be. Here is a shot of a six week old Snow Monkey looking at his older brother, made at 220mm with the 100-400mm at f/8, ISO 800 for 1/500 of a second (below).

Six Week Old Snow Monkey

Six Week Old Snow Monkey

Here now is a 100% pixel for pixel crop of the baby monkey’s face, which is where I had focussed (below).

Six Week Old Snow Monkey (100% Crop)

Six Week Old Snow Monkey (100% Crop)

Keep in mind that this is ISO 800 as well. Their isn’t enough noise to concern me, although I do expose to the right (ETTR) which helps to keep noise down in light areas.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. That’s only 220mm! So here’s an image shot at 400mm, hand-held. This is a white baby Snow Monkey, again shot at f/8, ISO 800 for a 1/400 of a second (below).

White Baby Snow Monkey

White Baby Snow Monkey

And here is the 100% crop of the baby’s face. Although I did have maybe a 5% fail rate shooting with longer focal lengths, this was mostly due to the subject moving quickly during the exposure or a focusing error on my part, rather than difficulty hand-holding.

White Baby Snow Monkey (100% Crop)

White Baby Snow Monkey (100% Crop)

While we’re looking at long focal length examples, here’s one last Snow Monkey shot (below), made with the EF 200-400mm f/4L EXT lens, with the built-in 1.4X Extender engaged, at a focal length of 540mm; almost the full extent of this lens. This was however NOT hand-held. Although that lens can be hand-held if absolutely necessary, it’s generally better to use a tripod, regardless of the camera being used. 🙂

Two Baby Snow Monkeys

Two Baby Snow Monkeys

As you can see from this 100% crop (below), the 200-400mm has no problem keeping up with the resolution of the 5Ds R, which is a huge relief as it costs more than a small car. I would have been devastated if this lens was out-resolved by the 5Ds R.

Baby Snow Monkey (100% crop)

Baby Snow Monkey (100% crop)

Moving away from snow monkeys now to a bit of landscape work. Here’s another example photo from the 100-400mm at 148mm, f/10, ISO 100 for 0.8 seconds, and the 100% crop to the right. The detail here simply blows me away.

Ichinuma Trees

Ichinuma Trees

Ichinuma Trees (100% crop)

Ichinuma Trees (100% crop)

To continue with examples from various lenses, here is a shot made with the 24-70mm f/2.8L II lens at f/11, ISO 100 for 1/100 of a second exposure (below).

Birch and Rhododendron

Birch and Rhododendron

And here is the 100% crop from the same image (below).

Birch and Rhododendron (100% crop)

Birch and Rhododendron (100% crop)

The other lens that I’ve used is the 70-200mm f/2.8L II, which I used for the tests that we’ll look at next, so you’ll see the image quality of that lens as well.

ISO Performance

Let’s move on now to some image quality and ISO performance test results. We already know that the increase in resolution is going to hit the ISO performance to a degree, but let’s see just how much noise becomes apparent in our images as we increase stop for stop, from ISO 50 to 12800 on the 5Ds R. First, here is a series of images resized for Web, so that you can see the realistic affect of increasing the ISO for Web images.

Note that once you’ve clicked on a thumbnail, if you don’t see much space around the image, widen your browser window until the image displayed stops growing. Then you’ll be looking at the pixels 1:1 on your display.

It’s almost a waste of bandwidth showing you all 9 of these images, because I’m sure you’ll agree that even up to ISO 12800, if you are going to downsize for the Web, you can crank the ISO up to the maximum expanded ISO of 12800 without any concern.

That doesn’t mean that there is no grain though. Here is a 100% crop of the Shisa from each of these images, because that’s where I focused. Also look at the green patches and black bands in the background to see how the grain affects the out of focus areas of each image.

Your own tolerance for grain may well be different from mine, but personally, based on what I’m seeing here, I’ll be setting my soft-ceiling at ISO 3200, as I’ve been using in the field already, but also using up to ISO 6400 if necessary, and 12800 at a push.

Note though, that I have exposed these images so that the white eyes of the Shisa and the white patches on the ColorChecker chart are on the far right side of the histogram. This is a technique called Exposing to the Right (ETTR) and if you don’t do this, you may find that your images are darker with the data in the middle of the histogram, and that will almost certainly see more grain that I am seeing here. So it really depends how you expose your images as well, but do note that this image was basically zero exposure compensation, so if you set up the same test, with the same variety of tones and colors, even without exposing to the right, this is what you’d see.

Click Here to Visit Download Page

Click Here to Visit Download Page

Download Our Test Photo in Raw Format

I have set up a page for you to download the ISO 100 test photo from the above set. This is a 62MP raw file, so will bring our server to it’s knees if I simply embed a link for everyone to download. Instead, I’m putting the link behind a newsletter subscription form. If you would like a copy of the raw file to explore all of the glorious detail, visit our download page here.

I’ve also included the XMP sidecar file, but all that this does is set the White Balance, so you don’t necessarily need that. Just ensure that you use the White Balance picker in Lightroom or Adobe Camera Raw and set the white balance from one of the white or grey patches on the ColorChecker card.

5Ds R and 5D Mark III ISO Comparison

Let’s also take a look at how the 5Ds R compares to the 5D Mark III, which will probably be of interest for many current 5D Mark III owners. Here is all of the 100% crop images that we just looked at, but now with the 5D Mark III images at the same ISO inserted after each 5Ds R image. I’ve also included the last few higher ISO images from the 5D Mark III for reference, but these are not available on the 5Ds R.

Note that you see more of the image from the 5D Mark III, because I’m cropping 1440 x 960 pixels at 100% without any resizing. To show you the same section of the photograph I’d have to resize the 5D Mark III images, and that would nullify the test.

So, looking at these results, I’m actually thinking that there is very little difference in the amount of noise that you can see in these image pairs right up to 12800, the maximum ISO on the 5Ds R. The 5D Mark III goes higher, but in practice, I have hardly ever used my 5D Mark III or 1D X for that matter, above 12800. I checked my images in Lightroom and see a handful of images at higher ISOs, but from 12800, I have over 600 images from the field, so this tells me that if I can go as high as 12800, that’s going to cover most of my low-light shooting needs as well, so I’m happy.

I also think it was a gutsy move on Canon’s part to not just include higher ISOs probably just to please the marketing team, because as we can see from the 5D Mark III high ISO images, they really aren’t much use anyway.

5Ds R Dynamic Range

I don’t have the software to perform scientific dynamic range tests, but one other thing that we can glean from the test photos I’ve shot, and from my experience in the field, is that the 5Ds R does have very slightly reduced dynamic range compared to the 5D Mark III. We can tell this from comparing the readings from the white and black patches in the ColorChecker chart in our test photos.

The top left patch on the card is pure white, and using the white balance picker in Lightroom I checked that this has a luminosity of 93.5% in the images from the 5Ds R, and 94% in the 5D Mark III image. The black patch above the L on the bottom row has a reading of 1.5% in the 5Ds R image and 4% in the 5D Mark III image. From this we can tell that the darkest black is 2% lighter in the 5D Mark III image than it is in the 5Ds image.

5Ds R and 5D Mark III Dynamic Range Comparison

5Ds R and 5D Mark III Dynamic Range Comparison

This isn’t a very scientific test, but it does show us a slightly reduced dynamic range in the 5Ds R, as the blacks are darker in relation to the whites. Of course, we’ll need to see what the dynamic range is reported as from DxO Mark when they’ve completed their tests, but I’d say we’re talking maybe a 1/3 of a stop less dynamic range than the 5D Mark III, or perhaps not even that much.

The pixels on the 5Ds R sensor are 4.14µm square compared to 6.25 µm square on the 5D Mark III, that means the 5D Mark III’s pixels are 2.28X larger than those on the 5Ds R sensor. With this in mind, I’d say it’s quite amazing that the dynamic range only drops by such a small amount.

Also keep in mind that in practice, the images do have plenty of dynamic range, as long as you expose your images well for the highlight areas. Here’s an image from my field tests where there was a very bright sky to the right, and at first glance you’d think that the foreground was too underexposed to do anything with.

Yokoteyama Stormy Skies (original)

Yokoteyama Stormy Skies (original)

Here though is the same image after a little bit of work in Lightroom, namely some Blacks and Shadows slider tweaks, a little Clarity and a Graduated Filter across the sky to bring back that dramatic stormy feel (below). This was shot at 15mm, f/14, ISO 100 for 1/60 of a second.

Yokoteyama Stormy Skies (with Lightroom changes)

Yokoteyama Stormy Skies (with Lightroom changes)

And if you’re thinking, yeah, but I’ll bet that foreground is all grainy having brought out that much detail, here’s a 100% crop (below).

Yokoteyama Stormy Skies (100% crop)

Yokoteyama Stormy Skies (100% crop)

Crop/Aspect Ratio Settings

Let’s move on now to a few of the other features of the 5Ds R, and work in some comparisons that I know people are interested in hearing about. One thing that has come up a lot, is the ability to use a full frame camera and crop the images down to the equivalent of a 1.6X crop factor camera like the 7D Mark II. Of course, the 5Ds R has a much slower frame rate at 5 fps compared to 10 fps of the 7D Mark II, but the question is, if you can live with the slower frame rate, is using the 5Ds R in crop mode a viable alternative to save you buying or traveling with both cameras.

Well, to help with this Canon have added some interesting Crop/Aspect Ratio settings. Basically if you know that you are going to crop down to say a 1.6X crop factor, as though you were shooting with a crop factor camera like the 7D Mark II, you can go ahead and set the camera up to shoot in 1.6X crop factor mode. You can also select 1.3X, which is the same as the old 1D series cameras up to the 1D X which is now full frame. There are also a 1:1, 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios to choose from, but I have done my tests with the 1.6X crop factor to emulate and compare with my 7D Mark II.

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, but adds the crop information to the image file. What’s more, Canon made the surprisingly intelligent decision to make this information understandable by Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw, so when you import your images, they are automatically cropped down to the chosen ratio. That means, if you go into the crop tool, you can change that crop, all the way up to the original full sized image if you need to.

When shooting in a crop mode, you can choose to either mask out or just add an outline frame in the Intelligent Viewfinder, so that you can see which part of the image in inside your crop. If you are shooting in Live View, only the cropped area is visible.

The results of my tests with the 5Ds R in 1.6X crop mode, doing a direct comparison to the 7D Mark II turned out quite interesting. Let’s first look at basically the same image from both cameras. These are straight out of the camera except that I have adjusted the White Balance by selecting the top centre white patch on the ColorChecker card. Here first is the image from the 5Ds R (below).

5Ds R in 1.6X Crop Mode

5Ds R in 1.6X Crop Mode

And here is the 7D Mark II image (below), shot with the same lens mounted to the tripod with a lens collar. I just switched out the cameras. Click on the images to see them larger, but you’ll notice that there is a clear drop in the image quality of the 7D Mark II images and the 5Ds R images have better color. This isn’t anything to do with the crop factor, just something to bear in mind.

7D Mark II (1.6X Crop Factor Camera)

7D Mark II (1.6X Crop Factor Camera)

Here is a 100% crop of the Shisa on which I focused, so that you can check the image quality. Don’t forget to click on the images to open them up larger, and move back and forth with your mouse or keyboard arrow keys to get a feel for the actual differences.

5Ds R in 1.6X Crop Mode (100% crop)

5Ds R in 1.6X Crop Mode (100% crop)

Here is the 7D Mark II 100% crop. Notice that the 7D Mark II has a very slightly larger image. The 5Ds R images are 5430 x 3620 pixels compared to the fractionally larger 5472 x 3648 images from the 7D Mark II. These photos were shot at f/11, ISO 100 for 0.5 sec.

7D Mark II (1.6X Crop Factor Camera - 100% crop)

7D Mark II (1.6X Crop Factor Camera – 100% crop)

What this means is, if you are going to buy one camera you could now go for the 5Ds R and crop in so far that you will get almost identical resolution images in 1.6X crop mode than you would get from the 7D Mark II, but as you see, the image quality from the 5Ds R is better.

As I said, the 7D Mark II shoots at 10 frames per second compared to the 5 fps of the 5Ds R, and the AF points cover a larger area of the screen on the 7D Mark II, so for birds in flight or sports, the 7D Mark II probably still has the edge, especially if you know you are going to crop and don’t need 50 megapixels, but you will need to give your images a little more of a boost in post to bring the image quality back.

Indeed, I’ve found myself adding more Clarity to my 7D Mark II wildlife images and when necessary, the saturation is also tweaked more than I usually would for wildlife work too. This is not to say that the 7D Mark II is a bad camera. It’s great! But now you are armed with the information you need to make your own buying decisions based on these examples.

5Ds R vs. 7D Mark II ISO Performance Comparison

While I was shooting with the 7D Mark II, I also did a comparison between the ISO performance of the 5Ds R and 7D Mark II. This is actually slightly difficult to compare because of the slightly reduced image quality of the 7D Mark II, but my tests have shown that the two cameras have very similar ISO performance.

On the 5Ds R, the highest ISO you can select with the expanded ISO setting turned on is 12800 and as we saw, this is really quite acceptable in terms of noise. The 7D Mark II goes up to 51200 in expanded ISO settings, but this is really quite rough. You can see my full 7D Mark II ISO test results in my 7D Mark II Review if you are interested, so we won’t go through all of these again today.

Here though, is a comparison between the highest 5Ds R ISO, 12800 and the 7D Mark II at the same ISO. The 7D Mark II perhaps looks very slightly better, because the image is paler, and the grain seems courser in the 5Ds R image, but if you look at places like the black dot of the Shisa’s eye, you can probably tell that the amount of grain is actually about the same.

Canon EOS 5Ds R and 7D Mark II ISO 12800 Comparison

Canon EOS 5Ds R and 7D Mark II ISO 12800 Comparison

Comparison of the 5D s R and the 5D Mark III

Before we move on to look at some of the nice new features that I’m enjoying on the 5Ds R, let’s take a brief look at the physical differences between the 5Ds R and the 5D Mark III.

At 152.0 x 116.4 x 76.4mm (5.98 x 4.58 x 3.01 in.) both the 5Ds R and the 5D Mark III are exactly the same size. The 5Ds R though weighs in at 930g (32.80 oz.) based on CIPA standards, which I believe includes the battery, and 845g (29.80 oz.) for the body only, and the 5D Mark III weighs in at 950g (33.5 oz.) based on CIPA standards, or 860g (30.3 oz.) for the body alone, which means that the 5Ds R is slightly lighter, which is always a nice development.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 5Ds R Comparison (front)

Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 5Ds R Comparison (front)

As you can see, their are a few subtle differences in the design but they are very similar. From the back (below) the only visible difference is the exclusion of the direct print icon below the Info button. The 5Ds R is on the right in all of these photos.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 5Ds R Comparison (back)

Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 5Ds R Comparison (back)

On top of the camera, the only visible difference is that we’ve lost the silver ring around the mode dial, but I think I prefer the new design here too.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 5Ds R Comparison (top)

Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 5Ds R Comparison (top)

OK, so enough comparing; let’s take a look at some of the nice new features of the 5Ds R. I probably should have already known about these features beforehand, but I honestly didn’t have much time to read-up on the camera before I picked mine up, so these came as a nice surprise to me as I looked through the camera menus at that coffee shop on the first day.

Intelligent Viewfinder II

I was relieved when I saw that the Intelligent Viewfinder II had also been used in the 5Ds R. I first started using this in the 7D Mark II, and instantly fell in love with the ability to display so much information right there in the viewfinder. I also like that we can now display the digital level permanently in the viewfinder. I used to set up my last generation cameras so that the M.fn button would enable the level for a few seconds, but it was not ideal. Now, it’s just there, whenever I half press the shutter button, which is great!

In-Camera Bulb Timer

I was pleasantly surprised to see a new built in Bulb timer for long exposures. Traditionally 30 seconds was the longest in-camera exposure we could achieve, before it was necessary to attach a cable release or remote timer and go to Bulb mode, then either time your shots while depressing the cable release, or set your shutter speed on the remote timer.

We still have to go to Bulb mode, which is fine, but now there is a timer built right into the camera, so it is no longer necessary to use a cable release. If you also start your exposure with a two second timer, you can get your hand away from the camera and give it time for any movement from touching the camera to die down before it starts the actual exposure. Great stuff!

Canon EOS 5Ds R - Bulb Timer

Canon EOS 5Ds R – Bulb Timer

Built-in Intervalometer

I was also happy to see that the 5Ds R has a built-in intervalometer, so that we can now do time-lapse photography without a remote timer/intervalometer. Another nice touch!

Canon EOS 5Ds R - Intervalometer

Canon EOS 5Ds R – Intervalometer

Custom Quick Control Screen

And something else that I absolutely love, is the Custom Quick Control Screen. This is similar to the Quick Control Screen that we’ve had for a few generations of Canon camera bodies now, but now we get to choose what is displayed, how wide, and where on the screen it is displayed. This is how I’ve set my Custom Quick Control screen.

Canon EOS 5Ds R - Custom Quick Control Screen

Canon EOS 5Ds R – Custom Quick Control Screen

Because I’ve now disabled the standard Quick Control Screen, when shooting, if I hit the Q button that we can see on the right of this photo (above) I am brought straight to my custom screen. Another great new feature! By the way, I did not shoot this image at 04/01 23:59. That’s just what get’s displayed when you start to customise the screen. I had to wait for my 5Ds R just like most everybody else. 🙂

Do We Really Need 50 Megapixels?

I know that some people are wondering about this this, so let’s just consider too, if we 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. I could have lived with having to use a tripod for more of my shooting, but fortunately, that is not the case, as hand-held shooting is just not a problem.

I took a gamble when I reserved my own 5Ds R back in February, while on the bus on the last day of my Winter Wonderland Tour, but I’m glad I didn’t sit on the fence and miss out on getting mine of the day of the launch, because none of these three possible issues affect this camera.

If you only shoot for the web, or never print your work, and you don’t sell images commercially, then you perhaps don’t need this many megapixels. I have almost lost commercial image sales in the past because my 12 megapixel files weren’t large enough. I was able to provide alternative shots at 21 megapixels and still close the deal, but it was a close call. For that same job, if I’d have had 50 megapixel images, it would have been a no-brainer for the client as they wanted to print the images 5 meters wide. For me, using a 50 megapixel camera make my images more saleable. I’m basically future-proofing my images that I work hard to create. It also gives me the ability to print larger without upsizing, and I can crop more if necessary.

How you proceed is for you to decide, based on your own situation and requirements.

5Ds or 5Ds R?

The other thing to consider, is whether to go for the 5Ds or the 5Ds R, which is what I went for. The 5Ds R is pretty much the same camera, but the R has the low-pass filter effect cancelled. Here’s how Canon describe it:

Canon EOS 5Ds R

With all the features and capabilities of the EOS 5DS, the EOS 5DS R camera offers the potential for even greater sharpness and fine detail for specialized situations. It features the same Canon designed and manufactured 50.6 Megapixel sensor, with the low-pass filter* (LPF) effect cancelled to provide even more fine edge sharpness and detail for critical subjects such as detailed landscapes, and other situations where getting the sharpest subject detail is a priority.

*The possibility of moiré and color artifacts is greater due to the LPF cancellation function.

I have not shot with the 5Ds, so I have no idea how much sharper the 5Ds R is by comparison, but unless you think moiré would be a big problem for you, I’d recommend going for the 5Ds R. I’ve so far seen no ill-effects of cancelling that low-pass filter in the sort of shooting I do.

Do Files Take Forever to Process?

I was pleasantly surprised by the processing speed of the files. Sure, the transfer of the files to the computer takes longer than usual. I’m using a USB3.0 card reader, and I’m now finding that after a full day of shooting, it can take about twice as long to transfer my files to my computer, but when I’ve shot a lot, I just let that run in the background as I do something else.

The files also take a couple of seconds longer to “res-in” in Lightroom. With my 5D Mark III 22 megapixel files I used to have to wait about half a second or so, and now it can take up to two or three seconds, which is nowhere near as slow as I was expecting it to be. I can live with this.

At the time of this review I’m using Lightroom 6 (2015.1) on a Mid-2013 27″ iMac (32GB RAM/Fusion Drive) and a Late-2012 MacBook Pro Retina (16GB RAM/SSD). My Lightroom catalog and images are transferred directly to a Drobo Mini connected via Thunderbolt, which is slightly slower than working directly from the internal hard drive, but still runs fine, and enables me to move the drive between both computers without copying the catalog or images around.

What’s Missing from the 5Ds R?

At this point, the only thing that I am disappointed about with the 5Ds R is that it does not have GPS built in. I thought when my 7D Mark II came with this, all future Canon bodies would have GPS built in by default, but I was wrong. I understand that Canon were following the design of the 5D Mark III which also does not have GPS, but they were able to do so much elsewhere, this is a bit of a let down. I now have to continue to use my GP-E2 GPS unit to geotag my images.

BUT, this is the only thing that I can find at this point that I would have like to have seen in this camera. Sure, there is other stuff, like built-in bluetooth to pair this with my other cameras and have the ability to synchronize key settings like shutter speed, aperture and ISO etc as I change settings, but that’s been on my wish list for so long now that I have almost given up on it.


You could probably sense this from my review, but I am literally blown away by the 5Ds R. Even if my expected limitations had been true, I would have loved this camera, but with none of them affecting it, I truly believe that the Canon EOS 5Ds R is an engineering marvel.

I honestly don’t think I’m going to be able to use another camera after experiencing the image quality and resolution of the 5Ds R. My original plan was to keep my 5D Mark III as a backup body, but with my Namibia Tour and Iceland Tours coming up, the thought of going back to 22 megapixels was so scary, I’ve actually ordered a second 5Ds R. That’s how much I love this new camera.

As I said, I’ve shot some 2300 images so far, and will be sharing more photos that we didn’t look at today in the coming weeks. Of course, as this is now my main camera, most of what I publish from now on will be from the 5Ds R, so I urge you to subscribe to our newsletters if you don’t already to keep up with my antics.

If you have found this review useful, and intend to pick up your own 5Ds R or 5Ds, you can help to support my efforts buy purchasing from our friends at B&H with the below links. Note that if you already have a 5D Mark III battery grip BG-E11, you do not need to buy this again. They are the same.

Of course, this review and my recommendations are based entirely on my own experiences, and in no way biassed to encourage affiliate purchases. I paid for the 5Ds R and lenses used myself, and have received no third party compensation in exchange for or in relation to this review.

Show Notes

View the Canon EOS 5Ds R on B&H here:

Click here for my original “First Impressions” review

Music by Martin Bailey


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Developing a Roll of ILFORD 120 Black and White Film (Podcast 477)

Developing a Roll of ILFORD 120 Black and White Film (Podcast 477)

We continue our mini-series of Film Fun videos, and today is the big day! In this week’s video, we develop a roll of black and white ILFORD 120 medium format film.

The podcast released for this episode is just an iPhone optimized low-resolution version of the full-sized video, which will enable you to view during your commute etc. but to see any detail, it’s best to view the full-sized video below.

Here’s a rundown of the entire Film Fun series.

  • Part #1 – Loading and Unloading a Yashica-D TLR Camera with 120 Medium Format Film (see here)
  • Part #2 – Feeding 120 Film into a Paterson Reel for Developing (see here)
  • Part #2b – Feeding 120 Film into a Paterson Reel inside the Changing Bag (see here)
  • Part #3 – Developing a Roll of ILFORD 120 Black and White Film (video below)
  • Part #4 – Scanning Medium Format 120 Film (see here)

Although I shot film for around 20 years until around 2000, I never had the chance to develop my own, so this whole experience has been very new to me and a LOT of fun. I won’t spill the beans on what happens in part three just yet, but as I mention a few times in the videos, I am sharing this first time experience with you, blow-by-blow, warts and all.

Below the video, you’ll also find links to everything that you need to develop your own film on B&H. Figuring this out was one of the largest hurdles, so I hope that will be useful for you too.

Here’s the main video for Part #3!

Here are the links to all of the products required for this process on B&H Photo. You can help to support the podcast by using these links. Use this link if you don’t see the products below:

Film Related Posts

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Show Notes

See this video on our Vimeo channel here:

See our Recommended Film Developing Products page on B&H:

Music by Martin Bailey


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Download the low-res Podcast in MP4 Video Format.