Canon’s EOS 5DS R is the highest-resolution full-frame camera yet made. Andy Westlake investigates

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Canon EOS 5DS R

Features:
Build/Handling:
Metering:
Autofocus:
AWB Colour:
Dynamic Range:
LCD viewfinder:

Pros:

  • + Extraordinary image quality with huge levels of detail
  • + Highly refined control layout and user interface
  • + Excellent, extremely accurate autofocus system
  • + Rugged, professional-level construction

Cons:

  • - Fixed rear screen is inconvenient for tripod work
  • - Relatively limited ISO range
  • - Huge file sizes

Product:

Canon EOS 5DS R review

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£3,200.00 (body only)

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Performance

Canon EOS 5DS R, 100mm f/2 USM at f/13

Canon EOS 5DS R, 100mm f/2 USM at f/13

The key question with the 5DS R is simple: does having all those pixels pay off? The answer is yes, but with some caveats.

A pixel count this high starts seriously pushing the extremes of lens performance, and optical aberrations are described in merciless detail. To make the most of the sensor resolution, you’ll therefore need to use top-quality optics. Canon says that all the lenses it has released since 2010 have been designed with high-resolution sensors in mind, but older lenses can also give fine results – especially primes (including the sub-£100 50mm f/1.8 II). But it’s also crucial to understand that the 5DS R will get better results out of any lens that you use on it than any previous Canon DSLR. Careful image processing is essential to maximise the final image quality, and with most lenses you’ll need to correct chromatic aberration as a matter of course.

100% crop

100% crop from above. Despite the onset of diffraction, the 5DS R has captured a huge amount of detail

Impeccable shooting technique is also necessary to avoid blur from camera or subject movement. This means using either a tripod or high shutter speeds when shooting handheld. Forget the 1/focal length rule for safe handholdable speeds, and shoot a couple of stops faster, for instance 1/200sec with a 50mm lens. You’ll also need to use optimum apertures to get the sharpest results, usually f/5.6-f/8. If you need to boost the ISO to achieve this, that’s just the price that needs to be paid. The sensor behaves very well up to ISO 1,600 at least, so there’s some leeway for pushing things a bit.

The EOS 5DS R’s files are huge, so large fast cards are essential – don’t think you’ll get away with recycling CompactFlash cards bought five years ago. Raw files typically weigh in at 60-70MB, meaning that a 32GB card is good for about 320 shots in raw + JPEG. Processing these files will also place a huge strain on your computer’s resources so major upgrades may be in order.

Canon EOS 5DS R, EF 100mm f/2 USM at f/2.8

Canon EOS 5DS R, EF 100mm f/2 USM at f/2.8

Viewing the 5DS R’s files on the computer, though, is a revelation. At its best, the camera is capable of recording jaw-dropping levels of detail (in context, its 8688×5792-pixel resolution equates to a 29x19in/74x49cm print at a critically sharp 300ppi output resolution). Canon’s new ‘fine detail’ picture style does what it claims, and incorporates pretty much all the detail captured by the sensor into the camera’s JPEGs. This is a huge improvement over the 5D Mark III, which has a bad habit of sacrificing fine detail to over-enthusiastic noise reduction.

I shot almost invariably using evaluative metering, and found that it performed exceptionally well, and generally did an excellent job of avoiding clipping highlights. Naturally spot and partial metering modes are on hand for difficult situations that might confuse the metering.

It's possible to recover plenty of shadow detail at low ISO, but noise creeps into the darkest areas

It’s possible to recover plenty of shadow detail at low ISO, but noise creeps into the darkest areas.

One area where Canon has tended to lag behind other brands is low ISO dynamic range. Fortunately, the 5DS R’s sensor seems to be improved in this respect, allowing perhaps 3 stops of additional shadow detail to be recovered before noise becomes a problem. You can see this in the example above, where I applied extreme exposure and highlight/shadow adjustments to bring out more detail. This isn’t quite a match for the extreme shadow detail recovery that’s possible from the Nikon D810, but it’s still pretty useful in high-contrast conditions.

  1. 1. Canon EOS 5DS R review: Introduction
  2. 2. Features
  3. 3. Screen and viewfinder
  4. 4. Build and handling
  5. 5. Focusing
  6. 6. Performance
  7. 7. Image quality
  8. 8. ISO sensitivity and Noise
  9. 9. Canon EOS 5DS R compared to 5DS
  10. 10. Conclusion
  11. 11. Page 11
Page 6 of 11 - Show Full List
  • Michal Rosa

    Honesty is good.

  • Stefan Stroebele

    Thanks for the good review. the 5DS offeres also 2 modes of reduced resolution. What would the dynamic range be in the reduced resolution mode? If Canon engineers did a good job it should go up by an entire stop. But on my current model (60D) it does not. did anyone already look at this aspect?

  • I’m trolling and clueless both

  • Michal Rosa

    Are you paid for trolling or just clueless?

  • Prob is that you can’t trust Sony too much, what they are saying does not always translate in what is actually true. An acquaintance of mine told me with no doubts whatsoever that Nikon and Canon are getting ready to fight the fight at open arms with Sony and we will be thankful to Sony for the “gifts” as he put it, they we are going to get thanks to them. We will see, but I’m tired of waiting I need to shoot high ISO at fast shutter speeds and so far neither 5D3 or 1DX are giving me that. I cannot go over 16000 ISO which is already pretty noisy. I read that 5DM4 will have a substantial improvement in high ISO, that would make me get one right away and forget Sony for a bit:)

  • John Tharp

    I’m actually thinking the same thing, at some point. I’m shooting a 6D now; the 5Ds is more of what I don’t need and less of what I do (not that it wouldn’t be a suitable replacement, just not really an upgrade).

    It really depends on what happens with the 5D IV. If Canon can make gains in terms of DR at lower ISOs while also making general improvements, a la the newer features in the 7D II and 5Ds, while putting in a bit more 1D X DNA, I could easily be won over for the better handling and better system and support.

  • John Tharp

    I’ve seen that; of course, the issue is that we’ve only seen a few samples with a few lenses in a few situations.

    Are we talking Rebel-level tracking (still better than most mirrorless) at a dog park or are we talking 1D X-level tracking at a sporting event, etc.?

    That’s the question that will hopefully be answered soon!

  • EXACTLY! I’m stuck with Canon sadly, if that AF will actually work fast with Canon lenses I’m in! I’ll get a7r II and a7s II whenever that will be

  • Sigma

    Actually, Sony has been showcasing the a7rII’s ability to AF and track quickly and reliably with Canon adapted lenses. There are a few bloggers/reviewers who have had a chance to test it out, and they reporting that this is indeed the case. There are a few videos starting to trickle down.

    So 42mp A7rII with backlit sensor (greater sensitivity vs the 5DSR which caps out at ISO6400), greater dynamic range, in body image stabilization, native 4K, 399 AF points, and the ability to AF Canon lenses quickly. The only thing Canon has going for it is a modest MP advantage

  • John Tharp

    That A7r II that can be mounted behind the best telephoto lenses made with fast and accurate AF while tracking moving subjects in less than ideal conditions?

    The A7’s may have better shadow-levity at 100-400 ISO, and that’s great and all, but they’re still limited by Sony’s system. A better comparison will be the Nikon D800-series body that is eventually released with that same 42MP sensor.

  • Arkarch

    I got the 5DS a few days ago and love it. Works, feels and uses the same accessories as my old friend the 5D3. The same great Canon User Interface with an optical view finder you can compose and filter with. I might quibble a bit with the 5DS/5DsR choice; the nature impulse is the 5DsR, but I actually am in the 5DS camp for a more pleasing and smooth image – Adding blur to a sampled image is not the same as subtle anti-alias using the actual image. But this is a subjective choice and either choice based on your needs and shooting/post styles will work well. DR does seem to be better. Color is wonderful. Thank-you for the review!

  • lol the camera barely came out and it’s already killed buy the sony A7r II another boring camera from Canon reusing older sensors….whet are they gonna wake up and innovate?!?