Canon 5DS & 5DS R Preview: 50 not out for Canon’s latest DSLR


Featuring a similar design and build to the EOS 5D Mark III the new Canon 5DS and 5DS R feature an incredible 50.6Mp full frame CMOS sensor in an ‘affordable’ semi-pro body

Canon 5DS & 5DS R Specification: With and without an optical low-pass filter

It’s been nearly 3 years since Nikon threw a metaphorical hand grenade into the ‘prosumer’ DSLR market launching the 36Mp D800 series. Not only setting new boundaries for DSLR resolution, the Nikon D800E was also the first consumer camera without an optical low-pass filter. With Sony joining the super resolution party in 2013 with their 36Mp Sony A7R, Canon were looking well off the pace in the megapixel race with the 23Mp 5D Mark III being their high resolution offering. Well that’s history now as Canon has seriously upped the stakes, packing a phenomenal 50.6Mp resolution on to the full frame CMOS sensor inside the new EOS 5DS series. Now, it’s fair to say not many photographers need 50 megapixels, or 36 for that matter, but for those shooting for large scale prints, billboards, magazine covers and the like, the possibility of medium format quality digital images from a relatively affordable and convenient DSLR style camera is mouth wateringly attractive. 


The build and specification of the new Canon 5DS and 5DS R are almost identical, with the single exception that the 5DS R includes a low-pass cancellation filter on its sensor. A low-pass, or anti-aliasing, filter is commonly used on many digital camera sensors to eliminate the unwanted coloured patterns that can be recorded in areas of very fine detail – an effect known as moiré. As the low-pass filter applies a very subtle blur to the whole image however, as well as eliminating any undesired moiré effects it also reduces the overall image sharpness. So by cancelling the filter on the new 5DS R Canon offer the possibility of sharper and more detailed images compared to those from the standard 5DS version.


To handle the huge amounts of data from the 50.6Mp sensor the new Canon 5DS series come equipped with dual DIGIC 6 image processing engines. Canon claim their latest DIGIC 6 engine ensures accurate colour rendering and noise reduction whilst still delivering 5fps continuous shooting. The ISO range extends between ISO 100-6400, which, although expandable to 50-12,800, doesn’t offer as much sensitivity at the top of the scale as either the Nikon D810 or Sony A7R, which is perhaps understandable given the extra resolution on offer. Canon has stated the 5DS offers a similar pixel pitch to the 20.2Mp Canon 7D Mark II however, which features a smaller APS-C sized sensor, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Low-light ISO scores between these two sensors compares when the lab tests are in. For autofocus the same 61-point AF system from Canon’s flagship professional DSLR the EOS 1Dx has filtered down to the 5DS and offers 41 cross-type AF sensors and Canon’s iTR (Intelligent Tracking & Recognition) system for more accurate autofocus of moving subjects. There’s also Canon’s 150k-pixel RGB+IR metering sensor with flicker detection for constant and more accurate exposures under varying lighting conditions such as fluorescent tubes.


If you don’t want to shoot 50 megapixels on every frame there are two sensor crop modes, including the APS-H 1.3x crop mode or APS-C 1.6x crop mode, with the latter still capturing images with a 19Mp resolution. The optical viewfinder offers 100% frame coverage and the fixed position 3.2in LCD boasts a 1040k-dot resolution with anti-reflective coatings to minimize glare and improve viewing in bright conditions. No doubt aware of the ‘camera shake’ issues associated with the high resolution Nikon D800 series the new Canon 5DS series includes a Mirror Vibration Control system to reduce image blur. The system is designed to drive the mirror up and down in a more controlled fashion to avoid ‘mirror slap’, which can lead to image blur on high resolution sensors. For video the new Canon 5DS R offers full HD capture at 30/25/24fps and 720p capture at 60/50fps, but designed primarily as a stills camera, a couple of video features have actually been removed. These include both clean HDMI output, as well as a built-in socket for connecting headphones, meaning serious videographers will probably want to stick with the 5D Mark III for now.


The Canon 5DS and 5DS R will be available from June 2015 with body only RSP of ¢4,000 & ¢4,250 respectively.

Canon 5DS Specification: Will the new 50Mp sensor bolster Canon’s DxOMark rankings?

With the current crop of Canon sensors lagging well behind competition in terms of the DxOMark rankings will the new 5DS 50Mp sensor put them back at the top of the table? For a definitive answer we’ll need to wait for the published test results in due course, but Canon has got a lot of ground to make up against the best sensors from Nikon and Sony. Currently the highest scoring Canon DSLRs are the full frame EOS 1Dx and EOS 6D both with 82 points, which is a long way off the table topping Nikon D810 with 97 points, or Sony’s leading sensor in the A7R with 95 points. 

That 15-point difference between the Nikon D810 with 97 points and Canon 6D with 82 points equates to a whole stop better image quality from the Nikon camera overall, but in fact the D810 performs even better than that in the sub scores of Color Depth and Dynamic Range. For Color Depth a score of 25.7 bits for the D810 compared to 23.8 bits for the 6D indicates that at base ISO the Nikon sensors offers over a stop better colour compared to the Canon. The difference is even more pronounced for Dynamic Range, where again at base ISO the best result from the Nikon at 14.8 Evs is over 2 and a half stops superior to the 12.1 Evs achieved by the Canon 6D. The overall Nikon score is tempered somewhat by the Low-light ISO scores, where the Canon does fare a little better and with a score of 2340 ISO for the 6D against 2853 ISO for the D810. This means the Nikon D810 only offers slightly better Signal to Noise performance than the Canon 6D, but bearing in mind it does so with almost twice as many pixels, 36.4Mp compared to 20.6Mp, that’s a notable achievement. Bringing all this back to Canon’s latest DSLR it’s been reported that Canon has stated the new 50.6Mp sensor on the 5DS features a similar pixel pitch to the sensor in the 20Mp APS-C 7D Mark II and will offer similar levels of Dynamic Range to the current 5D Mark III sensor. If that is borne out in our upcoming testing of the 5DS and 5DS R then based on test results for the 7D Mark II and 5D Mark III Canon’s latest 50Mp sensor will still be behind the current DxOMark leaders. Keep your eyes peeled for a full test and review soon – it’s going to be interesting! 

The new sensor in the 5DS features a similar pixel pitch to the APS-C sensor in the 7D Mark II which doesn’t boast as good Signal to Noise ratios as either the Nikon D810 or Sony A7R.

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