Canon 5DS & 5DSR - Initial Thoughts + Image Samples

This is a fantastic week to be a Canon shooter! Canon has stepped up to the plate and filled a massive gap in their offering with the highest megapixel DSLR on the market to date. This week Canon announced the EOS 5Ds and 5DsR both with 50.6 Megapixels. In my opinion this is a tremendous step forward for Canon and one that their users have been crying out for. Detail is essential for landscape, food, studio, still life, macro, architecture, and many other types of photography. Until now we've been limited to 22 megapixels and Canon has even lost photographers to Nikon and Sony because of this. Although this is an obvious upgrade for Canon shooters seeking greater detail in their work there are still several unanswered questions I'd like to discuss today. 

Canon EOS 5DS 5DSR 50.6 megapixel DSLR

Canon is doing lots of things right here. The 5Ds & 5DsR are built off the famous 5D chastity which means there will be no learning curve for current shooters. This camera will feel right at home to current 5D Mark III owners. You still have that extraordinary 61 point autofocus system and Canon seems to understand that autofocus is more important than ever with 50MP. They have also been proactive in adding a Mirror Vibration Control System along with several other body adjustments for extra "rigidity" as Canon puts it. Along with the large amount of Image Stabilized lenses that Canon offers you shouldn't have any problems getting sharp results. 

Canon has brilliantly added the ability to shoot in two different crop modes of 1.3x and 1.6x.  This is a brilliant feature that is very welcome. Sony and Nikon have been doing this for ages and I appreciate the ability to stretch my focal length when using primes.  True, I don't use this often with professional work, but it never hurts to have options. High megapixel cameras such as these are especially suited to this ability as you'll still have a reasonable amount of resolution when shooting in crop mode (In this case you would be very similar to the 7D MK II when shooting in 1.6x crop).

Canon 5Ds 5DsR Crop mode Shooting 1.3x 1.6x

Canon has also added the Digic 6 processor which should really help keep the camera speedy with those larger files. Canon is boasting 5fps which will be quite amazing with their AF and 50.6MP.  That being said, this camera is far from targeted to sports shooters.

Canon has also added USB3 to these cameras, a wonderful update from the 5D Mark III's USB 2. This again benefits the studio and tripod shooter who tethers often while shooting, I know I do.

Canon 5DS 5DSR Side Ports MIC Drew Steven Photography
Canon 5DS 5DSR front mount Drew Steven Photography

The way I see it, this camera is really aimed at the tripod shooter. The guy who has time to frame up a shot and later push all those pixels around photoshop.  Canon landscape shooters have long had access to incredible lenses and now have the full detail to back them up! I can in some instances see these cameras in the hands of wedding photographers, but I feel that most would dislike the file size. Maybe I'm wrong, we'll have to wait and find out. 

5Ds VS 5DsR

The "R" version simply "cancels" out the optical low pass filter, as Canon puts it. This will give you approx. 20-25% more detail in your images. For this reason the 5DsR is priced at $3900 (about $200 more than its brother).

 

Concerns

A camera is only as good as the optics put in front of it. Canon has some outstanding EF lenses, but are they good enough to resolve well on a 50.6MP camera?  Regardless, you will certainly gain more perceptual megapixels (the actual amount of detail in your image after combining optics with sensors) than shooting on your 22MP sensor. One simply has to realize that 50 MP will draw out and exaggerate any optical aberrations and makes high quality optics that much more important. 

Canon has stated that their new EF lenses since 2010 have been designed to new standards and the most recent updates of their lenses promise to perform quite well on the new sensor. With that said, I don't expect any lenses to be resolving to the full capacity of the 5DsR.

Canon 5DS 5DSR Top View Drew Steven Photography

 

Big Shortcomings 

I've already mentioned what looks like a thousand reasons to upgrade to the 5DsR, but there are a few things driving me nuts that I have to rant about too!

Everyone is comparing these cameras to "medium format quality".  Even Canon has drawn the comparisons in much of its advertising. There are unfortunately several flaws in this thinking. High megapixel count is only one of MANY contributing factors to the medium format look. The larger sensor (much like the jump from crop bodies to full frame) offers the majority of benefits. You gain not only superior depth-of-field but extraordinarily large pixels that soak much more light and give you cleaner images. Most medium format cameras are shooting 16bit RAW images compared to 14bit and it's when you match those excess MP's with a large sensor that magic happens. 

Taking that even further, MP's aren't even the only contribution to image quality in general. Dynamic range is extremely important to architectural photographers such as myself. Landscape photographers also often use HDR to stretch their ability to capture a scene. Canon has long been behind in dynamic range when compared to the Sony sensors in both the Sony & Nikon counterparts. Canon has already publicly stated that the dynamic range of the 5Ds and 5DsR would be best compared to the 5D Mark III, which is unfortunately leaps and bounds worse than either the Sony A7r that I use or the Nikon D810. Mass detail without matching dynamic range isn't as useful to me. 

 

They might be the first but they won't be the last.  Where is the competition?

You can be sure it's right around the corner. Don't go selling your Nikon & Sony equipment quite yet. The higher megapixel Sony A7r Mark II (maybe named A9?) is expected to be announced any day now. The Canon 5Ds probably won't be available until April so who knows, Sony could even beat them to the market. You can also be sure Nikon will use Sony's sensor as usual and come out with their own competitor in the megapixel race as well. I'm sure there will be minor differences between them all but of course the deciding factor will probably be whose glass you prefer. Canon, Nikon and Sony (with Zeiss) all have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to their optical line up.  

 

Videos

For a full technical review including it's predicted performance with existing EF lenses I highly suggest you watch the video by Tony Northrup below.  He has an incredible knowledge of cameras and is a wonderful source of information. View his twitter here

Image Samples

Below are JPG images samples provided by Canon. Click on them to enlarge. For real pixel-peeping you'll have to download them below.


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