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.

Conclusion

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: https://mbp.ac/bh5ds

Click here for my original “First Impressions” review

Music by Martin Bailey


Audio

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Canon EOS 5Ds R Review –  First Impressions – OMG!

Canon EOS 5Ds R Review – First Impressions – OMG!

Yesterday I picked up my new Canon EOS 5Ds R 50 megapixels, ultra high resolution DSLR camera, and have since shot around 200 frames, on which I’ve based this first impressions review. I’ll follow up on this with a full review and podcast in a week or so, when I’ve done more shooting, but I am so excited about this camera, I just have to share my initial findings with you.

My Expectations Before Buying

First of all, let me explain the downsides that I was expecting from the Canon EOS 5Ds R before I actually picked up the camera. I was every bit ready to see 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. Basically, I expected it to “out-resolve” many of my lenses. I thought that the new Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L lens would just about hold up to the task, because it was announced at the same time as the 5Ds and 5Ds R cameras, but I thought that even that would be a bit soft.

Canon EOS 5Ds R

So far I have only shot with the 11-24mm and the 24-70mm f/2.8L Mark II lens, so that’s all I can comment on right now, but as you’ll see, I have been pleasantly surprised by the results from both of these lenses.

I also fully expected ISO performance to drop 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 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.

Read on to see how wrong I was on all three points…

My First Field Test

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. As I often do on such occasions, I took the accessories that I need and a few lenses, so that I could start testing the new camera right away. After picking up the camera, I went to the Starbucks 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!) and left my Really Right Stuff L-Bracket on the battery grip, which also fits fine.

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 also at this point found a few nice surprises, which we’ll get to after looking at a few images.

After finishing my coffee, I walked back down the street again and shot the first few images, hand-held. 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 neck stood on end. Here is the image I looked at, the sixth frame that I shot with the camera (below).

Nishi Shinjuku Shops

Nishi Shinjuku Shops

Note that when you click on the images to view them larger, they will automatically start a slideshow, and progress through each frame. To stop that, mouse over the images. You can also click either side of the image or use your keyboard arrow keys to navigate back and forth.

Here now, is the center of the image, at 100%. All of the full images are resized to 1440 pixels wide for the web. The 100% crops are exactly 144o x 960 pixels cropped from the original images. There is nothing done to these, other than the default sharpening that Lightroom applies to all images on import. For some many of the following images I have converted to black and white, so show how I would probably process these images, but all 100% crops are straight out of camera.

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 this to be virtually impossible at this resolution, but it works! I consider myself to have a relatively steady hand when shooting, but not necessarily super-human.

Advanced Mirror Control Mechanism

How can this be? Well, 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, and the shutter action sounds beautiful! I shot just over 200 frames and only a handful using a tripod, and none of them were blurred. I kid you not. I didn’t get a single blurred frame.

I took a walk over to the Cocoon Tower, my favourite building here in Tokyo, and did a few other shots. Here is one looking down into their dark stairs. They have two sets of stairs; one white with black tiles and one black with white tiles. I chose this one to start testing the ISO performance. For this photo, I had to crank up the ISO to 800, with a shutter speed of 1/100 of a second, f/5.6 at 18mm.

Cocoon Tower Dark Stairs

Cocoon Tower Dark Stairs

I’ve also embedded the histogram into this shot, to show you that although I was exposing the whites to be white, the majority of the image information in this image is way down in the shadows. That usually means a LOT of noise, especially on cameras that don’t work well at high ISO. Hell, this shot would have totally freaked my old 1Ds Mark III out at ISO 800, and that was only (phner!) a 21 megapixel camera.

Anyway, here is a 100% crop of the two gentlemen crossing on the stairs. Sure, you can see a tiny little bit of noise creeping in, but to say we are looking at the shadow end of the histogram for much of this image, I am happily surprised to see so little noise.

Cocoon Tower Dark Stairs (100% Crop)

Cocoon Tower Dark Stairs (100% Crop)

I went around the other side of the building, and because it had been raining, shot this fun image of the glass above the elevator door, with little puddles of rain on it. I’m just including this for fun, but I do love the tonal qualities of the images. Again, this one is straight out of camera (below).

Rain on Glass

Rain on Glass

Comparison between the 5Ds R and 5D Mark III

I did one test where I pitched the 5D Mark III against the 5Ds R. I set this shot up on a tripod, and made this first image with the 5Ds R (below).

The Cocoon Tower (5Ds R)

The Cocoon Tower (5Ds R)

I then unscrewed the 5Ds R from the battery grip, which was attached to the tripod with the Really Right Stuff L-Bracket, moved the 11-24mm lens from the 5Ds R to the 5D Mark III, and then screwed the 5D Mark III into the battery grip. It seems to have shifted very slightly, but the below is from the 5D Mark III. The lighting changed slightly in the few minutes it look me to switch the camera out, but these were both shot at 1/100 of a second, f/8, ISO 100, 11mm.

The Cocoon Tower (5D Mark III)

The Cocoon Tower (5D Mark III)

Here now, is the 100% crop from near the centre of both images. This is really to give you an idea of the difference in magnification between the two cameras. These are both in color, straight out of the camera.

The Cocoon Tower (5Ds R 100% Crop)

The Cocoon Tower (5Ds R 100% Crop)

The Cocoon Tower (5D Mark III 100% Crop)

The Cocoon Tower (5D Mark III 100% Crop)

I did one long exposure, using a tripod of course, to see how well the image quality coped. I put a piece of ND10000 gelatine film in the film holder on the back of the 11-24mm lens, for this 2.5 min exposure, f/11, ISO 100 at 11mm, using the new in-camera Bulb timer that we’ll look at later.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (2.5 min exp)

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (2.5 min exp)

Here is a 100% of the top of the buildings, again from the color original (below). Again, what we are looking at here is in the low end of the histogram, as I was exposing to keep the sky from blowing out, so you can probably detect a tiny bit of noise in the dark building, but this is a perfectly acceptable amount in my opinion.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (2.5 min exp - 100% Crop)

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (2.5 min exp – 100% Crop)

I went up to the 45F of that building, and shot some images out of the window. If you know the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building viewing area, you’ll probably also know that tripods are strictly forbidden. These next handful of images were all shot hand-held, either resting on the ledge on the inside of the window, or simply standing with the camera against the glass.

Tokyo from Metropolitan Government Building

Tokyo from Metropolitan Government Building

Here is a 100% crop of the center of this image. You can see that it was a dull and hazy day, but I think you’ll also appreciate the amount of detail being captured here. This was shot at 1/100 of a second, f/8, ISO 200, 11mm.

Tokyo from Metropolitan Government Building (100% Crop)

Tokyo from Metropolitan Government Building (100% Crop)

Here’s another view from the other side of the building, with my favourite Cocoon building down there on the right. 1/100 of a second f/8, ISO 160, 12mm.

The Cocoon from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

The Cocoon from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

And here’s the 100% crop.

The Cocoon from Metropolitan Government Building (100% Crop)

The Cocoon from Metropolitan Government Building (100% Crop)

So far, all of the images we’ve looked at were shot with the new 11-24mm which we can almost assume Canon were confident of the resolving power of, as they announced it at the same time as the 5Ds R. This next photo though was shot with the older 24-70mm f/2.8 Mark II lens, at 1/125 of a second f/8, ISO 320 at 45mm.

The Cocoon from Metropolitan Building (24-70mm)

The Cocoon from Metropolitan Building (24-70mm)

And here is our 100% crop. Again, the weather was a little hazy, but I am blown away by the amount of detail being capture here, even with this older lens. I didn’t even know that you can see Tokyo Dome (top right) from this building, until I looked at this image at 100%.

The Cocoon from Metropolitan Building (24-70mm - 100% Crop)

The Cocoon from Metropolitan Building (24-70mm – 100% Crop)

I’ll be testing my other lenses over the next week or so, to see how they also hold up to this resolution, but honestly, if the 24-70mm is as good as this, I’m not concerned about my other glass. It’s not that the 24-70mm is bad, but I’d say it’s on a par or perhaps a tad softer than all of my other glass, so right now, I’m a happy camper.

ISO 3200 Test

OK, so I’ll do some more scientific tests of the ISO performance soon, but for now, here’s a shot of the incredible Melon Bear, a Japanese “Yurukyara” mascot for the Hokkaido town of Yuubari, where they grow the most amazing melons. I shot this on the 2F of the metropolitan government building, hand-held at ISO 3200, 1/60 of a second, f/5 at 35mm.

The Melon Bear (ISO 3200)

The Melon Bear (ISO 3200)

And here’s the 100% crop. Don’t forget to click on the image and view it at true 100%. Sure, you can now see the grain, but if that’s as nasty as it gets at ISO 3200, I can totally live with this level of ISO performance. Hand-held at 1/60 of  a second didn’t really seem to be posing any problems either.

The Melon Bear (ISO 3200 100% Crop)

The Melon Bear (ISO 3200 100% Crop)

Freedom to Shoot Hand-Held!

Canon EOS 5Ds R

I’ve heard many people complain that you really can’t use the Nikon D800 at 36 megapixels, because camera shake makes the images soft. Basically people say you absolutely must shoot with a tripod the entire time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting with a tripod, but I also love being able to shoot hand-held when I’m running and gunning, and I was expecting to have to give that up with the 5Ds R due to the high resolution. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this simply isn’t the case. Canon have hit the ball right out of the ball park with this camera.

Other Nice Surprise Features

I probably should have already known about these next few features, but I honestly didn’t have much time to read-up on the new features before I picked up my 5Ds R, so these came as a nice surprise to me as I look through the camera menus yesterday.

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 to stop vibrating from your hand movement before starting 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 body now, but now you get to choose what is displayed, how wide, and where on the screen it is displayed. This is how I’ve set my screen up for now.

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 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 going to ask this, so let’s just consider 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, but fortunately, that is not the case. 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. For me, this is future-proofing my images that I work hard to create.

How you want to 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.

Do Files Take Forever to Process?

I was pleasantly surprised by the process speed of the files. The transfer of the files to the computer took a little longer than usual, using a USB3.0 card reader, and the files take a second or so to “res-in” in Lightroom, but it is nowhere near as slow as I was expecting it to be. It’s really not a lot slower than working with my 5D Mark III 22 megapixel files.

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.

Conclusion

As I mentioned, I will follow up on this review with more test results after I’ve shot more, but at this point, based on an afternoon’s shooting, 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.

Although it was a dull rainy season afternoon here in Tokyo, I hope that the images I’ve shown here help you to appreciate just how much detail this camera is capable of capturing, even at moderately hight ISOs.

If you have found this review useful, and intend to pick up your own, you can help to support my efforts buy purchasing 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, my recommendations are based purely 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.

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