Canon EOS 5DS R Review

July 22, 2015 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Canon EOS 5DS R is a 35mm full-frame digital SLR camera with a 50.6 megapixel sensor, the highest number of megapixels ever seen in a full frame sensor, and and a low-pass cancellation filter that maximises the sharpness of the camera’s sensor (the only difference between the 5DS R and the slightly cheaper 5DS model). Key features include a 61-point auto focus system with 41 cross-type points, 150k pixel RGB+IR metering sensor with innovative flicker detection mode, dual DIGIC 6 processors, weather sealing, an expanded ISO range of 50-12,800, 100% viewfinder with electronic overlay, 3.2 inch Clear View II LCD screen, customizable Quick Control screen, three in-camera crop shooting modes (1.3x, 1.6x and 1:1), dual CF and SD memory card slots, Mirror Vibration Control System, built-in intervalometer and bulb timer, new Fine Detail picture style, Full HD 1080p video recording at 30fps, and continuous shooting at 5 frames per second. The EOS 5DS R retails for £3199.99/€4249.99/$3899.00 body only.

Ease of Use

The only difference between the 5DS R and the slightly cheaper 5DS model is the inclusion of an optical low pass cancellation filter on the R model, which promises to deliver sharper image quality at the increased risk of producing moiré and false color in some photographic subjects. The regular EOS 5DS continues to use a low pass filter to blur the image very slightly in order to avoid moiré effects, which are mainly caused by man-made patterns. Rather than physically removing the low-pass filter from the EOS 5DS R, Canon have opted to use a cancellation filter instead, so that the 5DS R and 5DS both use exactly the same AF sensor mechanism and mirror box assembly (and presumably reduce Canon's production costs). Other than this single key difference, the two cameras are identical in terms of their specification and design.

The Canon EOS 5DS R is outwardly very similar to its 3-year-old predecessor, the EOS 5D Mk III, measuring exactly the same (152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm) and weighing the same too (950g in total), so if you've used that camera before, you'll be immediately at home with the new 5DS R. Indeed, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the two cameras apart when they're placed side-by-side - "if it ain't broke, don't fix" it seems to be the order of the day. The Canon EOS 5DS R has a magnesium alloy body, which should make it more durable in the longer term, and it also adds a welcome level of weather-proofing for protection against dust and moisture. There's a textured area on both the deep hand-grip and around the thumb-rest on the rear of the camera, and size-wise the 5DS R is perfect for everyone with normal to large-sized hands. On the front of the Canon EOS 5DS R is an infrared port on the grip, depth-of-field preview button, self-timer lamp and a monaural microphone.

Like other semi-pro cameras, the Canon EOS 5DS R offers two control wheels; a small one on the top of the handgrip, and a large, spinning dial on the back of the camera. This rear 'quick control dial' is characteristic of all high-end Canon EOS cameras, used to apply rapid exposure adjustments. It's a bit of an acquired taste compared to more conventional control dials, but you quickly get used to it and it is easy to 'spin'. There's a dedicated Lock switch which toggles this dial on and off.

The quick control dial does take up the space where you'd normally expect to find a four-way controller, which means that for menu navigation Canon has had to incorporate an additional small joystick on the back of the camera. This joystick works well enough, but it's not as positive or as easy to use as a conventional four-way controller. Underneath is the Q(uick) button which opens the Quick Control screen. Depending on which shooting mode you're using, this lets you set various parameters via the LCD screen, using the joystick to move around the various options. The Quick Control screen is particularly well-suited to beginners and tripod work.

On the top-right of the Canon EOS 5DS R, positioned above the large monochrome status LCD display, are three buttons, each of which has two functions. You press a button and then turn either the top dial or the rear dial to change the corresponding setting. It does take a little while to memorise which button does what, and which dial you need to turn. The Canon EOS 5DS R also shows the settings on the main LCD screen as well as the status LCD. There's a smaller fourth button which activates the status LCD display light so that you can use it in the dark.

There are two LCD displays on the Canon EOS 5DS R; the 3.2-inch colour LCD on the rear and the smaller status panel on the top. On cheaper DSLR cameras, the LCD on the rear usually has to do both jobs, but on this model all of the camera's main settings are visible from above on the smaller panel. This makes the Canon EOS 5DS R quicker to use and also helps to extend the battery life. The main LCD screen offers a fantastic VGA resolution with 1,040K dots, so you may find yourself using it more often than you thought. Importantly it also allows you to judge the critical sharpness of your photos using the LCD screen. The viewfinder offers 100% coverage, with a magnification of 0.71x and dioptre correction, and a transparent LCD screen overlays vital focus shooting information plus a dual-axis electronic level (the overlay information can also be customised to suit your needs).

Canon EOS 5DS R
Front of the Canon EOS 5DS R

Like most DSLRs aimed at prosumers, the Canon EOS 5DS R offers all the usual serious manual and semi-automatic shooting modes for users who want more advanced exposure control, via a chunky and positive dial on the top-left of the camera body, complete with a central lock button to prevent the dial from inadvertently moving. Canon refers to these advanced operations as the 'creative zone' and provides all the normal settings including Program, Aperture and Shutter Priority and the full Manual mode. There is still an auto shooting mode aimed at beginners called Scene Intelligent Auto, which allows you to change just a few key settings using the LCD screen, setting both the aperture and shutter speed for you, although we doubt if many of the Canon EOS 5DS R target audience will ever use it.

The Canon EOS 5DS R's power switch is located underneath the shooting mode dial. Over on the right is a Multi-Function button, positioned next to the shutter release button. This M-Fn button toggles through the five different AF area choices after pressing the AF Point select button The AF areas are Manual Spot AF, Manual 1-Point AF, Expand AF Area, Expand AF Area: Surround, Manual Zone AF, Manual Large Zone AF and Auto Selection, and they can also be selected via the Quick Control Screen menu.

Once the Canon EOS 5DS R is in one of the 'creative zones', users can adjust the ISO setting into one of 10 positions from 50 to 12,800 (you need to to enable the ISO 50 and 12,800 modes via the "ISO expansion" custom function option). This ISO range allows you to shoot in most lighting conditions without having to resort to using flash, which is good news as the 5DS R doesn't actually have a built-in pop-up flash (you'll need to budget for an external flashgun). The Canon EOS 5DS R offers a range of three Auto focus modes (One Shot, AI Focus and AI Servo), and there are six preset, auto, kelvin and custom white balance options.

The viewfinder displays all key exposure information including the ISO speed, and there are four metering modes including a tight 1.5% Spot metering mode, useful in tricky lighting conditions as an alternative to the excellent and consistent Evaluative metering system. The 5DS R is the latest EOS camera to include infra-red and flickering light sensitivity, with the flicker detection mode automatically compensates for tricky indoor lighting by only taking the shot when the light levels are at their brightest level.

The Canon EOS 5DS R uses the same 61-point auto-focus system as its predecessor, with 41 of them cross-type points and five being the extra sensitive double-cross type, helping to ensure that moving objects remain in focus. There's also a whole AF menu dedicated to fine-tuning the Canon EOS 5DS R's autofocus system, with a range of customisable AF pre-sets helping you to deal with different subjects.

Canon EOS 5DS R
Rear of the Canon EOS 5DS R

The menu system is the same as on most EOS cameras, utilising a simplified tab structure that does away completely with scrolling. There are 6 main menu options, each containing up to 5 individual tabs of options. You can even setup your own customised menu page for instant access to frequently used settings via the My Menu setting. Only the complex Custom Functions and AF menus detract a little from the overall usability. Thankfully the documentation that comes with the Canon EOS 5DS R is clear enough, as it is with all Canon cameras, if a little light on detail. You do get a the manual in English throughout and you'll find most things that you need to know about the camera's operation in here, without the need to search through the supplied CDs for an 'electronic' manual.

The Canon EOS 5DS R features not one, but two of the latest DIGIC 6 image processors, which produces noticeably fast image processing, start-up and image review times. Dual DIGIC 6 also allows the 5DS R to shoot at a speed of 5fps for up to an incredible number of 510 JPEGs or 14 RAW images with a UDMA 7 card. 14-bit A/D conversion, in-camera HDR processing, multiple exposure function and in-camera RAW processing are also enabled by the Digic 6 processors. The Canon EOS 5DS R boasts a 150,000-cycle shutter-life, and battery life is rated to CIPA standards at a very respectable 700 shots.

The Canon EOS 5DS R has an identical Live View system to its predecessor. If you're new to DSLRs and don't understand the terminology, basically Live View allows you to view the scene in front of you live on the LCD screen, rather than through the traditional optical viewfinder. This is an obvious attraction for compact camera users, who are familiar with holding the camera at arm's length and composing via the LCD screen. It's also appealing to macro shooters, for example, as it's often easier to view the screen than look through the viewfinder when the camera is mounted on a tripod at an awkward angle.

Live View is easy to turn on, via a dedicated switch on the back of the camera which toggles between Live View and Movie recording and a self-explanatory Start/Stop button. A grid line display, dual-axis electronic level and very useful live histogram can be enabled to help with composition and exposure, and you can zoom in by up to 10x magnification of the image displayed on the LCD screen. Focusing is achieved via the AF-On button, or you can half-press the shutter-button. Live View can also be controlled remotely using the supplied EOS utility software, which allows you to adjust settings and capture the image from a PC.

Canon EOS 5DS R
Top of the Canon EOS 5DS R

Three types of focusing system on offer in the Canon EOS 5DS R's Live View mode. The first, Quick AF, works by physically flipping the camera mirror to engage the auto-focus sensor, which then momentarily blanks the LCD screen and causes a physical sound, before the image is displayed after about 1 second. The other methods, Live AF and Live AF with Face Detection, use an image contrast auto-focus system, much like that used by point-and shoot compacts, the main benefits being the complete lack of noise during operation, and no LCD blackout. Unfortunately these are much slower than the Quick AF mode, taking over 3 seconds to focus on a clearly-defined subject in bright light, which will put off most users that are attracted by the promised point-and-shoot experience. On a more positive note, you can move the AF point around the screen, and the Canon EOS 5DS R successfully detected faces in most situations.

Live View is also used for the Canon EOS 5DS R's 1080p movie mode. The new 5DS R records high-definition 1080p video in 1920x1080 pixel resolution at a frame rate of 30, 25 or 24 fps in MOV format. There is also 720p 1280x720 pixel mode recording at 50/60 fps. High bit-rate video compression options include intraframe (ALL-I) and interframe (IPB). The maximum size of a single video clip is either 4 gigabytes or one second below 30 minutes. You can also take either single or continuous stills during recording, with video capture continuing after the final still frame has been taken. Audio is recorded in linear PCM format without any compression. There's a built-in microphone on the front of the Canon EOS 5DS R for mono recording, a socket on the side for connecting an external stereo microphone, although sadly the headphone socket has been replaced by the new USB 3.0 port. It also has an HDMI port for playing back 1920x1080 still images on a HD TV. It uses the industry-standard HDMI mini-out connection, but note that you'll need to purchase a suitable cable separately. You can also still connect the 5DS R to a standard TV set via NTSC/PAL.

Although you can autofocus during movie recording, the Canon EOS 5DS R uses the painfully slow contrast-AF mode. Focusing manually is a much better idea, although most AF lenses have MF rings with very little 'travel' between their close-focus point and infinity, and in a quiet environment it's also possible to hear the sound of the focusing ring. You can set the aperture and shutter speed from the camera in movie mode, and exposure compensation and AE-Lock can also be used. You can take a single/sequence of still shots whilst shooting video, but this causes a 1 second delay which you'll need to edit out later. Handholding the EOS 5DS R and shooting video is very difficult, with the DSLR form factor not lending itself well to controlled shooting at arm's length. It's a much better idea to mount the camera on a dedicated video tripod or rig.

The Canon EOS 5DS R implements the same dust-removal technology as its predecessor, where the sensor is shaken briefly at high frequency to dislodge any dust particles from its surface. This could delay the need for manual sensor cleaning, perhaps indefinitely, but it won't be able to remove 'sticky' deposits like salt spray, pollen or the smears left behind by careless sensor cleaning or the wrong kind of solvent. The 5DS R also inherits the internal Dust Delete Data system from the 5D Mark II, which can map the position of visible dust on the sensor. This can then be deleted automatically after the shoot with the supplied Digital Photo Professional software.

Canon EOS 5DS R
The Canon EOS 5DS R In-hand

Peripheral Illumination Correction is a feature that's actually a lot simpler that it initially sounds. Basically it corrects the unwanted effects of vignetting, typically seen in wide-angle photos in the corners of the frame. The 5DS R contains a database of correction data for various Canon lenses and, if Peripheral Illumination Correction is enabled, automatically applies it to JPEG images. For RAW images the correction is applied later in the Digital Photo Professional software. Up to 40 lenses can be programmed into the Canon EOS 5DS R, with over 90 currently available to choose from. Peripheral Illumination Correction is a useful and effective addition, particularly for JPEG shooters, and can safely be left turned on all of the time.

Even more useful, especially if you have a number of older lenses, is the AF Microadjustment feature that has trickled down from the pro DSLRs. This allows you to alter the focus of each lens, then use a focusing target to test if the lens focuses correctly, and if it doesn't, alter it slightly using the AF Adjustment option, then test again until perfect focus is achieved. With most other DSLR systems you'd have to send the camera and lens off for calibration (and maybe even have to pay for it), but with the Canon EOS 5DS R, you can calibrate all of your lenses in the comfort of your own home (up to 20 lenses can be stored in the camera). The Canon EOS 5DS R features a silent shooting mode that reduces the sound of both the shutter and mirror, perfect for situations where you don't want to draw unwanted attention to yourself. A continuous silent mode is also available, although its at a slower rate of 3fps than the headline 5fps mode.

Once you have captured a photo, the Canon EOS 5DS R has an average range of options for playing, reviewing and managing your images. More information about a captured image can be seen on the LCD by pressing the Info button, which brings up a brightness image histogram and all the shooting Exif data, including shutter speed and the time and date it was captured, with a second press displaying an additional RGB histogram. Highlight Alert and AF Point Display can also be turned on via the Playback menu. It is simple to get a closer look at an image as you can zoom in up to 15 times, and it is also possible to view pictures in a set of nine contact sheet. Pressing the Creative Photo button displays two images side-by-side to allow you to compare the quality of different exposures on the camera. You can also delete an image, rotate an image, view a slideshow, protect images so that they cannot be deleted, and set various printing options. Unlike some competitors, there are no digital styles or effects that can be applied to an image after it has been taken - the more subtle Picture Styles are the only way of tweaking your JPEGs in-camera, before they are captured. In-camera image rating via a dedicated button on the rear makes it easy to organise your images ahead of post-production, with the rating maintained in IPTC-friendly software.

The Canon EOS 5DS R's software suite is very good. Admittedly, photographers who've graduated to a camera like this one will almost certainly have chosen image browsing and editing software already, so they won't need the basic image browsing program included here, but there's more than that. You also get Canon's simple but effective PhotoStitch application for making panoramic shots, a utility for using the 5DS R remotely (while tethered to a PC) and Canon's Digital Photo Professional application for converting RAW files. This is a big bonus, because other makers don't always include such good RAW conversion software. Digital Photo Professional certainly isn't the best RAW converter on the market, but importantly does mimic the camera's Picture Styles 'retrospectively'. In addition the supplied Picture Style Editor software can be used to create custom Picture Styles on your computer instead of in-camera.

Tracker Pixel for Entry