Canon 5Ds-R Impressions (July 2016 version)

Commercial, Reviews

“Pleasant surprises are the best”

The Canon 5Ds-R came to me in a dream… No, it didn’t but what did happen I got a demo unit from Canon Marketing Malaysia and it just happens that I had an actual shoot planned that I could use it on.

The Ds-R, the return to the mega-pixel race… the beast, the over-priced / over-specced camera that I will never need; I read all that about a year back when Canon announced it and to be honest, I agreed with most of the comments UNTIL I looked at the first RAW image taken with the camera.

Now, lets go through the few negatives about this camera; it IS a 5D-series camera and the body, the accessories are from the 5D Mark.II / III generation of cameras, so it has no built-in GPS, WiFi and it has no ISO 2million (like the 2016 Nikon bodies), no touch-screen or tilting LCD, no 4k video (or does it? I don’t care) and it is NOT a mirrorless camera. So, in short.. this camera has no real “sexy” specifications.

The best way to describe the 5Ds-R that it is a 5D Mark.III on steriods.
“But.. but… the 5D Mark.III is a 2012 camera!”
“It is 4yr OLD and due for replacement!”
“It is SO outdated!”

All the above are valid comments about the 5D Mark.III and by extension, its “steriod-laden” big brother the 5Ds-R. What is also true is that the 5D Mark.III is probably STILL the most widely used high-end professional Canon DSLR used by actual professionals for stills as well as videos. The stills and videos it produces is still widely accepted and used for anything from high-end commercial photography, fashion photography, wedding photography to simple event coverage or anything in-between.

This leads perfectly into positives for this camera, to put it simply, IMHO the Canon EOS 5Ds-R is the perfect tool for all professional stills photography barring those that require a higher frame-rate camera (e.g. professional sports and wildlife photography). How so?

  • Image Quality
  • Viewfinder Quality
  • Autofocus Speed & Accuracy
  • Dual memory cards
  • Weather-sealing
  • Reliabity & Support
  • Ergonomics
Shot with Canon EOS 5Ds-R with 50 1.2L @ f/1.2 ISO100
Shot with Canon EOS 5Ds-R with 50 1.2L @ f/1.2 ISO100

Image quality from the 5Ds-R has to be seen to be believed, the 50MP is actually 50MP that is of great quality; with good lenses and good technique, it is possible to get pixel-sharp images using this camera bodyy. With the 50MP, dynamic range, colors from the RAW files; you can shape and crop the files into anything you or your clients can possibly want.

The 5Ds-R indeed doesn’t perform very well in terms of noise at 50MP resolution, in fact I can see some noise in the shadow areas even at ISO 100. That reminds me about the 1Ds that I used to shoot with, though the 1Ds colors, contrast are much worse and I am just talking about the slight ISO 100 shadow noise.

When I saw the ISO 100 shadow noise, I was honestly really alarmed with it. “This is 2016! This ISN’T SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN!” was exactly what I thought in my mind but when I printed the same ISO 100 images up to A3 size, same file.. no noise reduction done and the shadow noise went MIA.

“How did the noise vanish?” It is simple actually, most of us… “DSLR” users have *never* seen 50MP files, nearly none of us have *printed* 50MP files; at 50MP, even for prints up to A3 size, the single or 2px wide noise simply WILL NOT be noticeable and most likely not even printed by the printers. You see… printers do not make images like computer screens and put it simply, when a printer prints, it tends to smooth out tiny details that is why it is normally recommended that you over-sharpen the images a little before printing. And at 50MP, 1px or 2px wide details are TINY to printers for A3 or smaller prints… so they go *poof* and will never appear.

So.. pixel peepers, you *should* really stop pixel-peeping, especially on cameras with 50MP or maybe even more than 30MP unless you are planning to crop like crazy or print a A2 or larger print to be displayed in a gallery.

Ok, now back to the 5Ds-R image quality. The challenge here is to produce photos that actually DESERVE to be shot and processed at such a high resolution, I honestly think 95% of the photos I shoot really aren’t good enough to be shot at that resolution. Having gear that is actually much better than a photographer deserves is quite often a good thing, with a camera like the 5Ds-R will leave room for growth in photographic skill and technique.

Many are worried about handling 50MP files and to be honest, I use Lightroom CC and it DOES slow-down when I use it to work on the 50MP files but 50MP output files from camera is *optional*, there is mRAW and sRAW for less demanding applications.

Shot with Canon EOS 5Ds-R with 50 1.2L @ f/5.6 ISO100
Shot with Canon EOS 5Ds-R with 50 1.2L @ f/5.6 ISO100

Now, onto viewfinder quality. Viewfinder quality is something that is often taken for granted. Photographers forget that the viewfinder is like our computer’s monitors, it is THE WINDOW for us to the world and you can’t shoot what you can’t see clearly. While I would say the 5Ds-R’s viewfinder is nothing revolutionary but it is plenty good for any application you would want to use it for.

A sidenote here though about viewfinders, the 1Dx Mark.II that I have also had the pleasure of testing had the brightest and sharpest viewfinder that I have *EVER* seen; lets hope that trickles down to other Canon DSLR models soon.

AF speed and accuracy feels exactly like my 1Dx and that is saying a lot, that means it would be be accurate enough and track well-enough even for professional sports photography. Of course, the 5fps on the Canon EOS 5Ds-R compared to the 10+fps on the 1Dx would mean it will be challenging to use for actual professional sports or wildlife photography.

The next 2 items on the “positives” list have to do with “What can go wrong, will go wrong… and especially when you most need it not to go wrong”.

“Flash memory cards are the most reliable storage system in the world!” – Yes, they are BUT they can still go wrong and if you have only one card, some freak accident happens to it when writing a photo to card; you are SCREWED… royally screwed because you lose ALL photos that were taken before the accident too. So Dual memory card slots IS IMPORTANT!!!

“I don’t shoot in rain or snow!” – No, you might not now but weather is weather, having good weather-seals mean that you are more likely to have a working camera after running to cover when a sudden thunderstorm rains on your parade (literally) :p

Final 2 items actually have to do with the fact that the 5Ds-R is older, tried and tested 5D Mark. III design (mostly). Nothing actually beats real world testing by professionals who use the camera without problems for years to inspire confidence in a design.

And YES, I am sold on the Canon EOS 5Ds-R and will likely replace my *still good* 1Dx with it.

p.s. images on this page are all uncropped, shot in RAW, processed in Lightroom CC (2016.5) and finished off in Photoshop CC. Retouched as it would normally be retouched as a fashion / commercial photography shot; slight sharpening only using default photoshop layering, NO noise reduction done


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