Canon EOS 5Ds Review

When the EOS 5Ds was announced, Canon photographers around the world shouted a collective "Yes!" and "I want it!" You are looking at a pair of world record-holding DSLR cameras, the Canon EOS 5Ds along with its near-identical twin, the 5Ds R:

Canon EOS 5Ds and 5Ds R Together

As of review time, these are the highest resolution 35mm format DSLR cameras ever produced. In the past, we have seen some reasonable upgrades in terms of megapixels, but ... these cameras more than double the pixel count of Canon's next highest resolution models, the announced-at-the-same-time T6i and T6s.

Canon has been long rumored to be interested in entering the medium format market. Most, if not all, of those expectations were for a completely new, larger sensor format camera model with a new line of lenses delivering an image circle that covered the larger sensor. While I doubt that this rumor will completely die, it has certainly been fulfilled to at least a significant extent in the 5Ds. The 5Ds does not deliver the extremely shallow depth of field that a medium format camera produces, but the 5Ds offers medium format resolution in a much smaller footprint with a more-capable feature set and compatibility with an extensive range of lenses and accessories. Did you ever dream of medium format resolution for your sports and wildlife photos? This camera can do that.

Take an EOS 5D Mark III, install an extremely-high resolution sensor, add some newer features found on the 7D II, add a few brand new features and you have an EOS 5Ds (and 5Ds R).

Canon's 5-series lineup has been on a roughly 3-year upgrade cycle. The original Canon EOS 5D DSLR was the first affordable full frame DSLR. It was a highly regarded and very successful model. The Canon EOS 5D Mark II, with its excellent 21.1 MP full frame sensor, launched to instant success 3 years later. The image quality to price ratio of this model was exceptional and the 5D II was the catalyst for the popularity of DSLR video today.

About three and a half years after the 5D II's arrival, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III was announced. While the 5D III brought another image quality upgrade, the improvement, especially in resolution, was minimal relative to the improvement brought by version "II". The 5D III had many great upgraded features, but the standout was its amazing new AF system.

The 5Ds models take us back to the primary upgrade feature being a very significant resolution increase as we last saw with the 5D II.

A pair of 5D Mark III cameras have been my go-to work horses for the last three years. They are amazing cameras and I was not at all disappointed to learn that the 5Ds, the ultra-high resolution camera I have been asking for, shares a very significant number of 5D III features including essentially identical body exteriors. It is especially convenient that all 5D III accessories including batteries, battery grips, L-brackets, etc. remain compatible (though USB-attached products need a replacement cable to accommodate the version 3.0 port). The inherited 7D II features and other new features will be discussed throughout this review.

There are two versions of the 5Ds with the 5Ds R being the other model. The only difference between the 5Ds and the 5Ds R is that the "R" incorporates an optical low pass filter effect cancellation, essentially negating the effects of the low pass filter. Chuck Westfall (Canon USA) explains the difference: "The EOS 5DS uses a conventional low pass filter design in which a single point of image data entering the filter is first separated into two points and ultimately into four points by the time the data reaches the image sensor. By comparison, the EOS 5DS R uses a different low pass filter design in which the single point entering the filter is first separated into two points and then the two points are merged back into a single point by the time the data reaches the image sensor."

Using the optical cancellation technique (vs. complete filter removal) greatly reduces development and implementation costs. The "R" delivers sharper images, but moiré and aliasing are potential side effects, notably in scenes that include patterns repeating at a specific frequency. Fortunately, Chuck expects this phenomenon to seldom occur and indicated that "If it does, it can usually be mitigated during post processing." I directly compare these two cameras in the Canon EOS 5Ds R review.

What do the "s" and "R" stand for? According to Chuck Westfall: "As with sibling models sold by Canon in the past such as "1D/1DS", the "S" was added to indicate a high resolution type. It means Super or Superior. As for "R", the low-pass filter effect is cancelled, and as it refers to an even higher resolution model, the initial for Resolution is used." The 5D Mark III remains in the lineup as of review time and I provide a 5Ds vs. 5D III features comparison near the end of this review.

Canon EOS 5Ds Front with Lens

Let's take a look at some of the significant features found in both EOS 5Ds models:

Summary of Canon EOS 5Ds Features

  • Extreme 50.6 Megapixel Full Frame CMOS Sensor
  • 5 fps continuous shooting and silent shutter mode
  • Dual DIGIC 6 image processors
  • 61-point wide area AF including 41 cross-type AF sensors, with EOS iTR, AI Servo AF III, AF Configuration tool
  • 150,000-pixel RGB+IR, 252 zone metering sensor for improved precision
  • Zone, Spot and AF Point Expansion focusing modes
  • ISO 100-6400 with expansion to 12800, 50
  • 30 fps 1080p video
  • Magnesium alloy body, shutter durability rated up to 150,000 cycles, dust and weather resistance
  • 3.2" (81.1mm) Clear View II LCD monitor (approximately 1,040,000 dots)
  • Flicker Mode adjusts shutter release timing to avoid flickering light issues
  • Dual Memory Card Slots supporting one CF (UDMA Mode 7) and one SD/SDHC/SDXC (UHS-I) memory card
  • Mirror Vibration Control System to reduce mirror vibration blur
  • HDR shooting in-camera
  • Short 59ms shutter lag
  • Upgraded Transparent LCD viewfinder with 100% coverage
  • Dual-Axis Electronic Level with dedicated viewfinder display
  • 1.3x, 1.6x and 1:1 ratio crop modes with masked viewfinder display
  • In-camera Multiple Exposure and HDR modes
  • Customizable Quick Control screen
  • +/- 5 stops of exposure compensation
  • Peripheral Illumination and Chromatic Aberration Lens Correction in-camera
  • EOS Integrated Cleaning System (EICS)
  • Weather resistance
  • Improved custom controls with built-in Intervalometer and bulb timer
  • Time-lapse Movie function
  • Super Speed USB 3.0 for high-speed tethering and image/movie transfer

Sensor and Image Quality

The headline feature for this camera is unquestionably the 50.6 MP full frame CMOS sensor, designed and produced completely by Canon (according to Chuck Westfall). "The sensor uses optimised gap-less microlenses with a reduced distance to the photodiode to improve the light gathering efficiency." [CPN] Here is a chart comparing some current and recent EOS camera models.

ModelFOVCFSensorPixel SizePixels/MegapixelsViewfinderDLA*
Canon EOS Rebel T6i,T6s / 750,760D1.6x22.3 x 14.9mm3.7µm6000 x 400024.2 .82x95%f/5.9
Canon EOS 70D1.6x22.5 x 15.0mm4.1µm5472 x 364820.2 .95x98%f/6.6
Canon EOS 7D Mark II1.6x22.4 x 15.0mm4.1µm5472 x 364820.2 1.0x100%f/6.6
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm4.14µm8688 x 579250.6 .71x100%f/6.7
Canon EOS 5D Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.25µm5760 x 384022.3 .71x100%f/10.1
Canon EOS 5D Mark II1.0x35.8 x 23.9mm6.4µm5616 x 374421.1 .71x98%f/10.2
Canon EOS 1D X1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.9µm5184 x 345618.1 .76x100%f/11.0
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV1.3x27.9 x 18.6mm5.7µm4896 x 326416.1 .76x100%f/9.1
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III1.0x36.0 x 24.0mm6.4µm5616 x 374421.1 .76x100%f/10.2
View the full Canon EOS 5Ds specifications to compare additional cameras.

Nothing comes close to the 5Ds' resolution. Also notable is that, for the first time, a full frame Canon EOS DSLR has a pixel density nearly as high as or higher than the highest resolution APS-C sensors. With a pixel pitch that essentially matches the EOS sensor densities found in the 70D and 7D Mark II, the 5Ds effectively erases the "reach" advantage formerly always held by APS-C DSLRs. Yes, the announced-at-the-same-time Rebel T6i and T6s have slightly higher density sensors (3.7µm vs. 4.14µm), but the density difference is not big and the camera model capability difference is huge.

No longer is the 7D Mark II's pixel density an advantage for reach reasons – or for angle of view reasons. If you want an APS-C camera's 1.6x narrower angle of view, simply use the 5Ds' 1.6x center crop mode with 19.6 megapixel (5424 x 3616) images captured. Prefer the old 1D 1.3x framing? No problem as that crop mode is also available with 30.5 megapixel (6768 x 4512) images captured. Especially nice is the viewfinder-provided crop lines (mask or outline) for these two crop modes. In addition to the 2:3 native aspect ratio, images can be captured in 1:1 (think Instagram), 4:3 and 16:9 ratios (the latter two are not available using viewfinder). Ideally, cropping is done during post processing, and with this extreme resolution, extensive cropping is possible with a still-high resolution image potentially remaining.

I often find myself using the entire image dimensions to frame the final composition I am seeking, attempting to have the most detail for viewing or printing large. While this strategy is usually a good one, sometimes that tight framing gets me in trouble later such as when I need a bleed edge or need to format the image to a non-3:2 ratio such as for an 8x10 print (possibly because someone liked the frame and now needs a print to go into it). With this much resolution available, I am trying to allow myself the freedom to frame slightly looser (at least sometimes) to better accommodate those needs. With this much resolution, it is not hard to make a wide variety of final compositions from a single image. For example, shoot a small group photo and crop individual headshots from it. Or, shoot an environmental portrait of an animal and crop a tighter portrait from that image.

If having ultra-high resolution is a disadvantage for some of your needs, rest assured that the 5Ds has you covered. Raw format capture is available at a still-higher-than-any-other-EOS-camera 28 MP (M-RAW) and at 12.4 MP (S-RAW). A wide variety of JPG sizes and quality levels are also available in-camera. As always, JPG images can be generated at any size desired when converting from a RAW image.

Along with increased resolution come other image quality concerns. A big concern is noise, but I'll defer that one for a few paragraphs.

Magnify the image being captured and problems not visible before become apparent. Flash back to the time when digital DSLRs first became popular. Suddenly, people who rarely printed images larger than 4x6" were looking at 100% views of their images on monitors, the equivalent of viewing huge print sizes at close distances. When enlarged, these images revealed technique and equipment issues not before noticed. Since that time, AF system performance and lens quality have increased significantly, largely eliminating those initial issues when good capture technique is used. The 5Ds resolution takes technique and equipment performance requirements up another notch and similar issues can be raised.

Magnify the image and any lens flaws become magnified. The 5Ds shows a strong affinity to the best lenses available with pixel-level image sharpness being a primary benefactor from high quality lens use. EOS 5Ds R tests of all of Canon's lenses will be added to the site's image quality tool, making your lens choices easier. These tests will clearly show which lenses can make full use of the 5Ds resolution gain (note that even lesser lenses perform better with the 5Ds behind them).

Magnify the image and camera motion (shake, vibration or other movement) is going to be magnified. Canon has implemented some improvements designed to aid in keeping the 5Ds motionless during the exposure.

The first is an improved mirror mechanism. The 5D III's mirror is spring driven and the mirror impacting the top plate can cause vibration. When you really get to know a camera, you can feel this vibration. While the 5D III's mirror impact is relatively minor (far better than the 1Ds III that I sometimes use for capturing product images in the studio), I like to shoot with the 5D III in Silent mode to gain a slight edge. To its benefit, the 5Ds gets an electronic motor-driven mirror that slows the mirror down at the end of its travel, reducing vibration. The mirror mechanism change is noticeable and results in quieter operation.

A primarily tripod-based vibration-reducing improvement is the ability to program a shutter release delay upon mirror-up condition. In addition to the option of Mirror Lockup being enabled or disabled, a 1/8, 1/4, 1/2, one or two second delay can now be selected. When the shutter release occurs, a selected delay is implemented after the mirror is raised and before the shutter is automatically opened (without a secondary shutter release needed). This delay allows mirror vibrations to settle, very similar to using the 2-second self-timer with mirror lockup enabled. The new feature is especially useful when the self-timer feature is not usable including during intervalometer/time lapse capture.

Because of the huge number of DSLRs I've had experience using, I can usually set my new feature expectations very accurately. I definitely set my expectations too low on this one. I very frequently use the 2-second self-timer with mirror lockup enabled as it is much more convenient than using a remote release and just as fast because mirror lockup is still often needed when a remote release is used. With a mirror lockup delay programmed, no longer is the second step of placing the camera into (and back out of) the 2-second self-timer mode necessary. I do a LOT of repetitive shooting (primarily when testing gear) and often this shooting is done under bright lighting such as full sunlight. In this situation, I just need the camera's framing to settle from any slight motion the shutter release press imparts and 2 seconds is at least twice as long as I need. Using the 1-second option very significantly cuts down my shooting time and the time my arms spend suspended in air waiting for the exposure to happen before making the next adjustment. I love this feature.

Whenever possible, a camera should be used on a tripod as this technique usually delivers the sharpest images by eliminating camera shake. However, not all cameras are created equal in terms of their solidness on a tripod and the difference is not hard to notice. The flex difference between a tripod-mounted 1D series body and a Rebel series body, for example, is very easy to see. The 5D III was very good in this regard, but the 5Ds has a much more rigid base plate and tripod socket for a more-solid tripod lock-down and better durability.

Increase the resolution and autofocus accuracy becomes more critical with Auto Focus MicroAdjustment (AFMA) taking on an elevated importance. Like the 5D III, the 5Ds has this feature available. AFMA works and is very useful.

Because there are more pixels in the same amount of sensor space, camera and subject motion causes subject details to cross over pixels at a faster rate, potentially resulting in blur and a loss of pixel-level sharpness. Because of this, you will find that a faster minimum shutter speed is necessary for handholding this camera (and that image stabilization becomes more important). Similarly, fast-moving subjects may require faster shutter speeds to avoid pixel-level motion blur.

This is the 5Ds change with the biggest learning curve. The old 1/(focal length) rule to determine one's shortest shutter speed for handholding (without the aid of image stabilization) no longer works. Many use the 1/(focal length * 1.6) rule to determine APS-C handholdable speeds. This formula uses the 1.6 factor matching the APS-C sensor angle of view difference, but the higher pixel density of the APS-C imaging sensors is the real reason the faster speed has been needed. The same rule or, better yet, 1/(focal length * 2) is a better base estimate for handholding the 5Ds bodies.

Get the shutter speed wrong and you may have a fallback option available.

Canon EOS 5Ds Bear Sample Picture

The momma black bear showed up and I sprang into action. With the Canon EF 100-400mm L IS II Lens mounted to the 5Ds (the "R" in this case), I quickly estimated the manual exposure needed. Black bears rendered large in the frame tend to be overexposed in autoexposure modes and I was able to dial in the right manual exposure setting just as fast as determining any exposure compensation needed. I made one quick ISO setting change after seeing the first image on the histogram.

Unfortunately, most of my shots from this 2 minute session were throwaways, primarily due to the bear's constant fast movement creating poor head positions. Some of the better-composed images were not as sharp as desired due to motion blur.

Hindsight is usually clear and I know that I should have opted for a higher ISO setting and shorter shutter speed, but I was hoping that the bear would pause occasionally, affording me the opportunity for sharp images at 1/320. When modestly blurred images happen, the fallback option available is to reduce the final image dimensions (downsampling) until the desired sharpness is reached. Reducing the final image dimensions to those of the 5D III (or similar) will give you the about same sharpness results as if the image had been captured on that lower resolution camera. Here is that example:

Reduced Size Sharpness Comparison

In the case of my bear photo, 5D III dimensions result in an acceptably sharp image (the DOF is centered closer to the eyes, leaving the teeth slightly out of focus). While I would rather have the full 50.6 megapixel image be sharp, having this image sharp at 22 megapixels does not leave me with big regrets.

Another issue that becomes more visible at high resolution is diffraction. While not everyone is going to understand diffraction (nor do they need to), everyone should be aware that, as resolution increases and the aperture opening decreases, images become less sharp beyond the approximate aperture we refer to as the Diffraction Limited Aperture ("DLA", included in table above). While you will probably want to use apertures narrower than the DLA, the decision to do so must happen with the understanding that pixel sharpness becomes a compromise being made. Those wanting to retain maximum sharpness in their ultra-high resolution, very deep DOF images may decide that tilt-shift lenses and focus stacking techniques are especially attractive.

Note that, while the 5Ds is going to magnify any flaws in an image and those flaws will be visible when viewed at 100% on a monitor, those flaws will be no more visible than those from a lower resolution camera when output size is matched and that is the ultimate importance. If the flaws can be minimized through good technique and great gear, the higher resolution image has big advantages including the ability to be output at larger sizes.

Included with the 5Ds is a new Picture Style named "Fine Detail". The Fine Detail PS provides increased sharpness, offering individual control over Strength, Fineness, and Threshold parameters. CPN explains this picture style: "The parameters are similar to those found in the Unsharp Mask filter in Adobe Photoshop and Canon’s DPP software: The ‘Strength’ slider adjusts how much sharpening is applied to [subject detail] edges in the image. The ‘Fineness’ slider determines the size of the details that are sharpened. Move it to the left to sharpen smaller details. The ‘Threshold’ slider specifies how much contrast there needs to be in a part of the picture before it is considered an edge and sharpened. At low settings even subtle edges can be sharpened."

The 5Ds has the same dynamic range as 5D III. While some will complain that the closest Nikon-equivalent body has more dynamic range (and more is better), I haven't had an issue with the 5D III's DR. When I can't retain both shadows and highlights in an image, that scene generally needs very significantly more DR and exposure bracketing with HDR handles those instances nicely.

You are going to be impressed by the amount of detail showing in 5Ds and 5Ds R images. The 5Ds and 5Ds R results in the site's image quality tool completely blow away any other EOS camera results included. Using the site's tool, we see that the 5Ds has much higher resolution than the 5D III. I address the differences between the 5Ds R and the 5Ds in the 5Ds R review, but the difference seen here is only slight.

While one might expect an ultra-high resolution DSLR to not work well with all but the highest quality lenses, as hinted before, it still shows better performance than lower resolution DSLRs with the lesser lenses mounted. For example, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM Lens is not a great performer at f/1.8, showing a "dreamy" look to be kind. If we review a comparison between the 5Ds R and 1Ds III with the 50 STM at its f/1.8 aperture, we see that the 5Ds R can extract more resolution from even a poor performing lens. Look at the white being more clearly delineated between the black lines in the top crop to most easily see this. While testing Canon's cheapest lens on their highest resolution camera may seem to be a pairing of opposites, the point to be made here is that your existing lenses of all quality levels will likely perform better when mounted on the 5Ds.

The 5Ds and 5Ds R resolution advantage is especially noticeable in real world images with fine details being resolved. Here are three outdoor comparisons:

Sharpness Comparison

5Ds R | 5Ds | 5D III     5Ds R | 5Ds | 5D III
5Ds R | 5Ds | 5D III     5Ds R S=0 | 5Ds S=2

The examples shown above were captured with a Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens set to 11mm and f/5.6. This aperture is wide enough to show no diffraction effects, but f/5.6 along with the 11mm focal length will show significant depth of field as can be seen in the near and far subjects included in some of these images. The 11mm focal length also allowed the subject details to be made small while keeping the distance relatively close, better avoiding the photographic effects of heat waves. The test lens was removed and mounted on the next camera with carefulness to insure that no adjustments to focal length or focus distance were made, though slight camera-mounting-caused tripod movement can be seen. RAW files were processed in DPP using the Standard Picture Style and sharpness set to "1" (very low).

Like to see needles on your spruce trees? The 50.6 megapixel resolution has no problem with that. While the sky was not quite completely clear for the first two comparisons (those with spruce trees), the sun had no clouds near it during these captures and the identical exposures created the same brightness at a sampled white point in the frame.

The sky was more cloud-filled in the building sample set (bottom row) and the 5Ds R image was brightened in Photoshop by 0.1 stop. While waiting for a clear sky was an option, the weather forecast predicted nothing close to that (mostly rain) for at least a week out. Sorry, I didn't have that much patience. I wanted to see the differences now, so ... I chose to deal with slight cloud effects. The results still have a significant meaning, but avoid comparing shadow contrast in this set.

The primary comparisons are based on a sharpness setting of "1". That doesn't mean that this setting must be used and images can be tuned as desired. Some may prefer to adjust 5Ds R images down to "0".

In the bottom right example links, we see that increasing the 5Ds results to a setting of "2" produces sharpness similar to the 5Ds R at "1" and the 5Ds R images at "0" resemble the 5Ds image at "1". But, the 5Ds cannot make detail from what doesn't exist in the RAW data. For example, look at the vinyl siding on the press box in the 5Ds S=2 result and compare it to the base 5Ds R result. The lines in the siding remain clear even in the 5Ds R S=0 image, but the 5Ds does not clearly delineate these lines even at S=2. That data does not exist in the 5Ds RAW file.

Clearly, both 5Ds models have significantly more resolution than the 5D Mark III.

Canon EOS 5Ds ISO Noise Comparison

Noise is another factor for image quality and I previously mentioned the high ISO noise level issue. As the rule goes with today's technology, along with a higher density sensor comes increased noise levels. Design a sensor with a pixel density equal to that of current APS-C sensors and ... one should expect noise levels that are similar to those in APS-C DSLRs. Make no mistake, Canon has not marketed this camera for its clean low light/high ISO performance and that is reflected in the 5Ds' max ISO setting that is lower than what is found even in many current APS-C models. Canon initially indicated that the 5Ds' noise levels would be better than the 5D II and 7D II, but not as good as the 5D III.

My personal expectation was that, when compared at the pixel level, the 5Ds noise levels would be close to those of the not-long-prior released high end EOS 7D II APS-C DSLR and when the 50.6 MP image was scaled down to 5D III pixel dimensions, the 5Ds would have an advantage, producing noise levels similar to or better than the 5D Mark III.

As I was very anxious to see the 5Ds noise test results, this test was a near-first order of business when the cameras arrived and these test results can be found in the noise comparison tool. Note that the "Standard" results in these tests include no noise reduction. This is not a default setting, but these results show what the camera itself can do. The color blocks, having areas of solid color, make ISO noise very apparent. If you can't see a difference in noise when comparing the color blocks between cameras, you are not likely to see any difference in your images. If the difference is tiny, there are likely other camera features that will be more influential in your decision making process.

Getting an important comparison out of the way: the noise difference between the 5Ds and 5Ds R is indiscernible. Noise is not a decision factor for choosing between these two cameras.

A large number of photographers looking for the resolution offered by this camera will be capturing commercial, studio, portrait, landscape, still life, architecture and a great many other subjects that are most frequently captured at ISO 100 or 200 and those images will be very clean. A very small amount of noise can be seen at ISO 400. Noise levels basically double as full stop ISO range settings are traversed with noise becoming strong but tolerable at 3200. Though this camera's highest ISO setting is 12800 (H), the noise levels are such that ISO 12800 images can be usable for some purposes. That is something I haven't been able to say about the highest ISO settings of any DSLR in a very long time.

Some may be disappointed that the 5Ds only goes to 12800 while cameras such as the 7D II have much higher ISO settings available, but ... bragging right appears to be the only useful value for the 7D II's ISO 51200 setting (or ISO 25600 for that matter). I can't think of a use I have for an image with that much noise.

If you were one of the few that use APS-C ISO 25600 or ISO 51200, simply dial in another stop or two of brightness while post processing. The 5Ds ISO 12800 images can be brightened during post processing to achieve the same 7D II ISO 51200 equivalent with similar amounts of noise. See the "Simulated High ISO" result set in the noise comparison tool for these examples. Brighten 5Ds ISO 12800 images by three stops to get to the 5D Mark III max ISO 102400 equivalent. Then downsize the 5Ds results to the 5D III pixel dimensions and the results are similar (and equally unusable to me). I applaud Canon for designing a realistic max ISO setting into this camera.

After getting over the striking resolution difference between the 7D II and 5Ds, it is apparent that these two bodies have very similar amounts of noise at the pixel level with the 5Ds having a slight advantage at the highest settings. Downsize the 5Ds results to 7D II dimensions and the 5Ds has at least 1 stop of advantage.

When compared at native resolutions, 5Ds images are noisier than 5D III images. The differences, especially at higher ISO settings, are less than 1 stop. Down-sized to 5D III pixel dimension (using DPP, see "Standard Down-Sized to 5D III" in noise tool), 5Ds noise levels are essentially equal to full frame 5D III noise levels and even slightly better at the highest ISO settings. So, while Canon is not promoting this camera for its low light capabilities, I see it as one of the best options available with output size being comparable.

Additional 5Ds and 5Ds R example sets available in the noise comparison tool include "JPG No NR" (JPG Capture, Standard Picture Style, No Noise Reduction), JPG STD NR (JPG Capture, Standard Picture Style, Standard Noise Reduction), RAW STD NR (RAW Capture, Standard Picture Style, Standard Noise Reduction) and MSNR (Multi-Shot Noise Reduction). All four of these sets utilize Canon's default USM sharpness settings that are too strong for my taste (though the increased default sharpness will make softer lenses appear sharp). Look for the bright borders to the black lines when comparing the noise-reduced images to the "Standard" results – the color blocks should not have halos around them. On the positive side, this sharpening appears better at higher ISO settings, with image details remaining sharp while noise is significantly removed.

I use the Neutral Picture Style in-camera with RAW capture because it applies a lower contrast tone curve to images, providing a better picture of the camera's available dynamic range on the histogram shown on the LCD. Neutral Picture Style results appear somewhat dull. There is a time for the use of the Neutral Picture Style in production, but I usually change my RAW images to the Standard PS immediately after importing them and then adjust sharpness to a lower level.

The three sets of with-noise reduction samples all utilize Canon's default "Standard" reduction level. The 5Ds offers three levels of in-camera noise reduction and unlimited levels are available in the various post processing options. The RAW vs. in-camera JPG noise reduction samples are not identical, but I don't see a compelling reason to use in-camera JPG noise reduction over having the ability to adjust noise reduction during post-processing. Noise reduction can noticeably eliminate noise, but the collateral damage is elimination of some subject details along with the noise. Sharpness can also be decreased. Ideal is to dial in the right amount of noise reduction for your particular image. I seldom use noise reduction in the lower ISO range.

The Multi-shot Noise Reduction (MSNR) is an additional in-camera option available in many of the latest EOS models including the 5Ds. MSNR merges information from multiple (four) exposures taken in a full-frame-rate burst into a reduced noise image. The concept makes a lot of sense. MSNR provides a remarkable one stop or more of noise reduction, but ... I still have not found a compelling use for this feature.

The downsides to Multi-Shot Noise Reduction include: MSNR is currently available only with JPG output (I would like to see this feature added to Canon's Digital Photo Pro software for RAW capture processing – perhaps as another HDR preset). Multi-Shot Noise Reduction is not so useful with moving subjects (or with a moving camera). Long exposure NR, Dust Delete Data, Multiple Exposure and HDR Mode must be set to off to enable MSNR. The 5Ds reverts back to Standard NR in Auto/Basic zone modes, during video recording, in Bulb mode and when the camera is powered off. Flash is not supported in MSNR mode. After the 4 shot burst is captured, the camera remains "busy" for a noticeable period of time while processing the merged image. So, while this feature is a nice idea, its limitations make it less useful in real-world applications. I am far more likely to use a low ISO setting with a longer exposure when shooting stationary subject from a tripod.

EOS 5Ds ISO settings are available in 1/3 stop settings from 100 through 6400 with extended L (50) and H (12800) settings also available.

In summary, the 5Ds and 5Ds R (equally) deliver very clean, smooth results at low ISO settings despite their incredible resolution. While these cameras are more similar to the latest APS-C models in their pixel-level high ISO noise, downsizing the ultra-high resolution images to match any other class-leading full frame, low noise-level camera shows the 5Ds to be at least an equal in performance. While the 5Ds may not take low light performance to a whole new level, low light performance is not sacrificed and this camera competes strongly with the best available in this regard.

File Size and Media

The following table shows comparative RAW file sizes for a photo of a standard in-studio setup with a moderately-high amount of detail taken with the referenced Canon EOS DSLR body. Before I had the 5Ds and 5Ds R in hand, I plugged in estimates based on linearly increasing the file size of the 7D Mark II to the 5Ds megapixel count. Those estimates were nearly right on. Notice that 5Ds R's slightly sharper image produces a slightly larger file size.

Model / File Size in MB @ ISO:(MP)100200400800160032006400128002560051200102400204800
Canon EOS 70D(20.2)25.125.726.527.729.331.133.335.939.5   
Canon EOS 7D Mark II(20.2)25.525.926.727.728.930.632.735.137.941.0  
Canon EOS 6D(20.2)25.325.626.026.727.929.230.933.135.338.642.5 
Canon EOS 5Ds(50.6)64.765.766.969.272.576.681.688.1    
Canon EOS 5Ds R(50.6)65.266.467.669.873.077.281.988.4    
Canon EOS 5D Mark III(22.3)28.629.029.530.331.633.135.337.840.644.749.2 
Canon EOS 5D Mark II(21.1)26.927.127.728.629.731.333.636.741.2   
Canon EOS 1D X(18.1)23.723.924.324.825.726.727.929.731.834.537.441.3
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV(16.1)22.022.222.823.424.325.326.728.530.834.235.9 
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III(21.1)25.626.527.429.031.033.4      
Canon RAW file sizes increase with: 1. Resolution 2. Bit Depth (14-bit is better/larger) 3. Detail (noise adds detail, so high ISO file sizes increase). Memory and disk are cheap – buy more. :)

Just as there has been no Canon DSLR with close to the resolution delivered by this camera, there has also been no camera that produces image file sizes as large as this one. You can estimate the 14-bit RAW files to start around 65MB each (5D III RAW files are about 30MB). You can think of 64GB to be the new 32GB, but that estimate falls a bit short. The 5Ds formats a 32GB memory card to 439 estimated images (vs. 1086 in 5D Mark III) and a 64GB card results in an estimated image count of 870 vs. more than 1999 in the 5D III.

As expected, the time required to upload and process RAW files also increases by a similar relative amount or just slightly over 2x. My very fast laptop creates a 16-bit TIFF image file from a 5Ds RAW file in just-under 31 seconds, while the 5D III file is completed in just-over 14 seconds. Note that 50.6 megapixel 16-bit TIFF files consume 288.08 MB on your hard drive (this is a temporary format for me).

While I find it difficult to buy this camera and then use it at a lower resolution, that option to reduce file size (and speed processing time) is available and can make sense in some situations. MRAW and SRAW are the two reduced size RAW image options, producing 6480x4320 (28mp) and 4320x2880 (12.4mp) images respectively.

I highly recommend shooting in RAW format to get the highest image quality and the most post-processing flexibility, but the JPG format offers significantly reduced file sizes and much greater buffer depth. The JPG format provides 6 optional resolutions (with most having 2 quality levels) in each of 4 aspect ratio options for a huge range of control.

Fortunately, memory and hard drive prices have never been lower and capacities have never been higher. Stock up.

Fast memory cards have the advantage of clearing the buffer faster (allowing more shots to be captured in a burst) and also can upload files to a computer faster. The 5D Mark III has dual memory card slots supporting one each of CompactFlash and SD/SDHC/SDXC memory cards and the 5Ds has the same. Files can be written to both cards simultaneously (for redundancy) or sequentially (for increased capacity).

While the 5D III supports the fast UDMA Mode 7 CompactFlash specification, it does not support the fast UHS-I SD/SDHC/SDXC standard. The good news is that the 5Ds does. No longer do CF cards need to be chosen just for their speed. My preference, because of size, lack of pin involvement and my laptop's built-in reader, is the SDXC format. I put CF cards into use when I needed to unload the 5D III's buffer AFAP (as fast as possible), but ... I'll likely use CF cards even less going forward.

Using a UDMA 7 CF card, the 5Ds can sustain a 167 MB per second write rate, but ... you will notice the wait time for a full buffer to clear.

Canon EOS 5Ds – Front View without Lens

Frame Rate, Buffer Depth, Shutter Sound

When you dramatically increase resolution, you must move a significantly larger amount of data through the system and onto the memory card. That the 5Ds, capturing files over 2x as large as the 5D III, gives up only 1 fps to that camera is impressive. With dual DIGIC 6 processors under the covers, the 5Ds is a powerhouse.

ModelFPSMax JPGMax RAWShutter LagVF Blackout
Canon EOS Rebel T6i/T6s 760D/750D5.09408  
Canon EOS 70D7.040/6515/1665ms97ms
Canon EOS 7D Mark II10.01303155ms100ms
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R5.031/Full12/1459ms125ms
Canon EOS 5D Mark III6.065/16k13/1859ms125ms
Canon EOS 5D Mark II3.978/31013/1473ms145ms
Canon EOS 1D X12/141803836-55ms60ms
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV10.01212840-55ms80ms
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III5.0561240-55ms80ms
View the full Canon EOS 5Ds specifications to compare additional cameras.

Regardless of how much data is being moved, 5 fps is not a remarkably fast frame rate relative to the other current DSLR cameras. Even some Rebel models can match this performance and, if fast action is your pursuit, the 7D II and 1D X may be better-suited for your needs in this regard. On the other hand, 5 fps is 1 fps faster than the 5D II and the same as the 1Ds Mark III that I used for all of my needs for many years.

"To cope with the vast quantity of data coming from the cameras’ sensor, a 16-channel readout is used to transfer the 14-bit RAW data to four analogue-to-digital converters. These converters pass data to the cameras’ Dual DIGIC 6 processors where it is turned into RAW and JPEG files." [CPN]

The 5Ds' JPG buffer depth with a fast memory card is very impressive: shoot until the card is full. The buffer is much shallower when shooting full-sized RAW images, with 12 images expected when using a standard speed card and 14 when using a UDMA 7 or UHS-I card.

To test the Canon EOS 5Ds' 5 fps drive mode and 14 RAW file buffer specs, I configured the camera to use ISO 100, a 1/8000 shutter speed (no waiting for the shutter operation), a wide open aperture (no time lost due to aperture blades closing) and manual focus (no focus lock delay). The lens cap remained on (insuring a black file and the smallest file size) and a freshly-formatted fast memory card was loaded.

Using a Sony 32GB Class 10 UHS-I SDHC Card (max. read/write speed: 94/45 MB/s), the 5Ds captured 17 frames (with a very brief pause after #15) in 3.4 seconds to match the rated drive speed and exceed the buffer depth rating. After each 2 seconds, two additional frames were captured at roughly rated speed for an indefinite period of time.

Put a Lexar 64GB Professional 1066x UDMA 7 Compact Flash Card (max. read/write speed: 160/155 MB/s) in the slot and the 5Ds performs very slightly better, capturing between 17 and 18 frames in 3.4 or 3.5 seconds to again match the rated speed and exceed the rated buffer depth. With this Lexar card installed, one or two additional frames were captured about 1 second apart for the post-buffer-filled performance.

Perhaps even more beneficial for understanding what can be done with this frame rate is to look at a visual example. Drag your mouse over the labels under the following image for a visual look at the 5 fps rate. Drag your mouse completely across all of the labels in 1 second to get an idea of the speed of the approaching soccer player.

Canon EOS 5Ds 5 fps Burst Example – Sports Sample Picture

These images were captured with a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II Lens. The background blur created by this combination is very impressive as is the image quality and AF performance. After shooting spring sports with a 1D X for the last few months, the 5 fps rate is far less impressive for this use. Many times, the best option is to time the first (or only) shot with the ideal subject position.

Included in the chart above is the shutter lag spec. I was evaluating the Canon EOS Rebel T6i/T6s frame rate simultaneously with the 5Ds and when moving back and forth between these cameras, the shutter lag difference was very noticeable. When the 5Ds shutter is pressed, the picture is taken immediately. This speed is important for timing the shot for ideal subject position, framing, etc.

While the picture is taken very quickly (what matters most), the process does not appear as snappy as, for example, the 1D X's performance. The 5Ds only needs to capture 5 frames per second (vs. 12), so moving the mirror back into place has less urgency and the 125ms viewfinder blackout time is 2x longer the 1D X's VFBO spec (the 5D III has the same 125ms spec).

Let's make some noise with the EOS 5Ds. We already talked about one important noise factor (high ISO noise), but the audible noise a camera makes can be quite important in quiet situations. When the photographer wishes to remain unnoticed, such as at a wedding or when photographing wildlife, a quiet shutter release is greatly appreciated. The good news is that the 5Ds performs at a noticeably lower decibel than its predecessor.

Following are links to MP3 files capturing "The Sounds of the Canon EOS 5Ds". Turn up the volume!

Canon EOS 5Ds One Shot Mode
Canon EOS 5Ds Burst Mode
Canon EOS 5Ds Slow Burst Mode
Canon EOS 5Ds Silent Mode
Canon EOS 5Ds Silent Burst Mode
Burst Comparison: 5D III, 5Ds, 7D II and 1DX (3.5 second clips of each)

It is not hard to figure out which cameras included in the burst comparison will garner the most attention. Notably, you will hear that the 5Ds is quieter than the 5D III with a less-sharp sound response. Here is the visual sound difference:

Canon EOS 5D Mark III vs. 5Ds Sound Comparison

You likely figured out that the 5D Mark III sound is graphed on the left. Designed to reduce vibration, the 5Ds' new mirror mechanism is also responsible for quieter performance. The 5D III's silent mode was very useful and the 5Ds retains the same ability with a similar sound level.

These camera sounds were recorded using a Tascam DR-07mkII Portable Digital Audio Recorder with record levels set to 50% at -12db gain and positioned 1" behind the rear LCD.

Live view shooting can also be used to further minimalize the 5Ds' audibility.

Autofocus

I've said it many times, but it is a very important concept and bears repeating: If the photo is not properly focused, the best camera and lens image quality in the world is not going to save that image. A camera's image quality simply doesn't matter if the subject is out of focus (with exception of intentional artistic blur effects of course). Of critical importance for most photographers, and especially for sports/action and wildlife photographers, is autofocus accuracy. To that end, the Canon EOS 5Ds receives an improved version of the AF system found in the 5D Mark III and this AF system is a very positive 5Ds feature.

Referred to as "... the most sophisticated DSLR AF system Canon has ever released" [Canon], the 5D III's AF system rocks. I've never used an AF system that delivers the percentage of in-focus shots that this system delivers (including the similar systems in the 7D II and 1D X). The 5Ds' inherited AF is a known and well-proven technology and I view it being featured once again as very positive.

The improved part of this system comes from the 5Ds' new 150,000-pixel, 252-zone RGB+IR Metering Sensor. The 5D III has an iFCL (Focus, Color and Luminance) 63-zone (9x7 grid), dual-layer ambient/flash metering sensor with one layer sensitive to red/green only and the other layer being sensitive to blue/green only. As first seen in the 7D II, the 5Ds' 150k-pixel full RGB plus IR-sensitive metering sensor works in conjunction with the AF system to recognize faces and detect colors and shapes for improved AF point auto selection, resulting in greater AF precision.

An impressive AF feature is EOS iTR AF (Intelligent Tracking and Recognition). Using color along with face recognition technology to help track subjects within the selected AF Area while in AI Servo AF mode, iTR definitely makes a very noticeable difference when trying to track specific subjects including people's faces, yellow tennis balls and other subjects. Perhaps the biggest downside to enabling iTR is the potential for a slightly reduced max frame rate. The iTR technology is not available in Live View mode (the raised mirror blocks the iTR sensor in the viewfinder), but Live View has its own face tracking technology that also works very well.

Here is the 5Ds AF point layout [from Canon]:

Canon EOS 5Ds Focus Points

Of the 61 total AF points, up to 41 are cross-type, sensitive to lines of contrast in two directions. Of these 41 points, 21 are in the center bank and 10 are in each of the side banks. With f/2.8 or wider max aperture lenses, the 5 center-most vertical AF points function as dual-cross type AF points (x over + orientation). With f/5.6 or wider max aperture lenses, the 21 center AF points function as cross-type AF points. With f/4 or wider max aperture lenses, the left and right banks of 20 AF points act as cross-type AF points.

This system is especially advantaged at detecting extreme defocus and correcting accordingly. By using the whole AF sensor, where every point is vertical line sensitive at f/5.6 or greater, the lens can be refocused much more quickly than with previous systems and accurate focusing in very low light levels can be achieved. It is hard to find a subject that is too dark or has too little contrast for the 5Ds to focus on. I was able to focus on a subject with decent contrast in light levels that produced a 30 second exposure at f/2.8.

5D III AF Sensor

The 5Ds AF sensor is large, covering 8mm vertically and 19mm horizontally. High AF point counts and densities are great, but it is the overall spread that often has more importance to me. For one example, the large horizontal spread allows placement of an AF point on a person's face at a closer focus distance in vertical orientation than a system with a narrower spread. The more-rectangular-shaped AF point layout found on the 5Ds, 5D III, 7D II and 1D X is unique compared to the diamond and oval layouts found with most other Canon EOS AF systems.

5D III AF Area Selection

The EOS 5Ds' AF Area options are Single-point AF, Spot AF (reduced size single point), AF Point Expansion w/ 4 points (single point plus 4 surrounding points in "+" configuration), AF Point Expansion w/ 8 points (single point plus all 8 surrounding points), Zone AF (one of 9 preconfigured zones) and Auto AF point selection (all 61 AF points active). Most photographers will likely favor using only a small subset of these options, but there is an AF point configuration available for your needs. Autofocus point selection can optionally be camera orientation-specific.

The 5Ds' AF Configuration Menu permits configuration of the AF system's tracking sensitivity, acceleration/deceleration tracking, and AF point auto switching. Found within Canon's excellently laid out tabbed menu system are six AF "cases" (presets) provided for quick setup guidance, with each being customizable for fine-tuned performance.

Like the 7D II, 5D III and 1-Series bodies to date, the 5Ds will autofocus with lens and extender combinations with max apertures as narrow as f/8. In this case, only the center AF point acts as a cross-type point with the four neighboring AF points acting in a support function. Those pursuing bird and wildlife photography, two of the most common uses for extenders, will especially appreciate this feature (along with the extender-like increased sensor density).

Additional 5Ds AF performance contributors include temperature and humidity-change-resistant materials, physically stabilized components, fast processors and lens chromatic aberration accounted for within the AF system.

A properly AF-calibrated camera/lens combination is a requirement for accurate autofocus and as already discussed, the 5Ds has the ability to fine tune AF calibration. Up to 40 lenses can be specially calibration-adjusted to the 5Ds with automatic (or optionally, manual) detection of the serial number of the mounted lens and multiple copies of the same lens can be differentiated. This latter feature is not going to mean much to most individuals, but it can mean a lot to agencies, schools, rental houses and other organizations that have a large pool of cameras and lenses available. Separate AF Microadjustment settings are available for both the wide angle and the telephoto focal lengths of zoom lenses.

Predicting the distance of perfect focus on a fast-moving subject at the precise moment the shutter opens in AI Servo AF mode is one of the biggest challenges for AF technology and AI Servo AF accuracy testing is one of the most-difficult camera tests to perform. Multiply the infinite combination of lighting (amount, size and spectrum), environment (temperature, humidity, air clarity) and subjects (color, contrast, size, shape, speed and direction) possible by the wide range of configurable AF settings and it becomes clear that exhaustive testing of AF performance is simply not a realistic endeavor.

Shooting a challenging scenario that is familiar to me is the best method I've found to at least get a baseline comparison and a well-timed soccer tournament provided one set of data for this analysis. After photographing many consecutive soccer games, I walked away with the results I expected and hoped for.

One shot AF mode accuracy, while less challenging to the camera, remains very important to the photographer. This camera's AF system is among the best I've used.

The 5Ds receives the standard/basic Live View AF functionality with Dual Pixel CMOS AF being notably missing.

Live View AF modes include Face Tracking and Flexizone – Single. Canon's EOS cameras are very effective at locating a subject's face and tracking that person around the frame in Face Tracking mode. FlexiZone-Single allows selection of one AF point – similar to One Shot AF mode. I'm a bit surprised that FlexiZone-Multi (allows one of 9 zones for auto AF to work within – similar to Zone AF mode) and Quick mode (dropping the mirror temporarily to allow conventional phase detection AF to function) are not included in this implementation.

Sensor-based AF includes some benefits over conventional phase-detection AF. First, the AF coverage area encompasses a large portion of the frame with no limit on a "number" of focus points to select from or include in auto AF. Second, no AF Micro Adjustment calibration is needed because the actual imaging sensor is being used for AF. And, AF can function with camera and lens combinations having an f/11 or wider aperture (vs. f/8 with the 5Ds' conventional center AF point) – again, using a large percentage of the frame. A disadvantage is the slower AF speed.

Video

Producing incredible video image quality played a big role in garnering the ground-breaking EOS 5D Mark II its fame and the 5D III took video up to another level. While the 5Ds is designed to be the ultimate still camera, it maintains the 5D III's video capabilities. Here is a rundown of the 5Ds video specs:

Available recording sizes and frame rates are:
1920 x 1080 (30, 25, 24 fps) (actually 29.97, 25, 23.976 fps)
1280 x 720 (60, 50 fps) (actually 59.94, 50 fps)
640 x 480 (30, 25 fps) (actually 29.97, 25 fps)

Why no 4k video? Price/performance, heat and the requirement for a lot more circuitry are some of the reasons given by Chuck Westfall.

The .MOV file format is used with the H.264 codec and new, selectable IPB (Bi-directional compression) or ALL-I (Intra-coded Frame) compression methods. IPB offers a higher compression rate by compressing multiple frames together while ALL-I compresses each frame individually – allowing for more precise editing. ALL-I compressed footage will be about three times larger (but requires less computing power) than IPB compressed footage.

The 5Ds supports the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) timecode standard of Hour:Minute:Second:Frame (0-29 for 30 fps) with four options (and more sub options) for this counter. A drop frame count menu is available to compensate for counts when using frame rates such as 29.97 fps.

With its ability to start new video files during filming, the 4GB /12 min HD Movie clip limit has now been surpassed. "Legal reasons" (to fall below the EU's higher tax rate video camera designation) now limit the maximum total HD clip length to 29 minutes and 59 seconds (generating three files).

Video exposure control is via Program AE or fully Manual exposure. ISO 100 through 6400 are available (extended ISO range is not available in video mode) as well as exposure compensation in 1/3- or 1/2-stop increments.

Audio recording options are the internal microphone capturing 16bit mono sound or the 3.5mm stereo input jack – both recording at 48KHz. Manual audio level control is available (64 levels) and features a live audio level meter displayed on the rear LCD during filming. The audio recording level is now able to be adjusted (along with shutter speed, aperture, ISO and exposure compensation) during filming using the new Silent Control Function located inside the Quick Control Dial – a capacitive touch pad.

Chromatic aberration and peripheral illumination correction are available in-camera during 5Ds video recording.

The 5Ds pre-video recording focusing options are the same as Live View Shooting. Movie Servo AF, made possible by the processing power of the dual DIGIC 6 processors, is provided, but ... probably most will consider the performance of this feature to not be adequate for tracking subjects during video recording.

No headphone jack is provided. The move to USB 3.0 connectivity eliminated the space required for inclusion of this port.

Per Chuck Westfall, HDMI out is not designed for clean external video recording. "... the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R are more prone to moiré and skewing, making them less suitable for high-end video production." [CPN] Lower resolution sensors are advantaged in their video capabilities. The 5Ds' rolling shutter (jello effect) is quite noticeable.

A notable video change from the 5D Mark II to the 5D III was the ability to process data fast enough that a line skipping technique was no longer needed. All data from the sensor is now read and downsized to the selected video format, resulting in less moiré.

World-class, cinema-grade video quality is available from the 5Ds if the necessary time is spent learning how to use it. Those purchasing a camera primarily for video capture will likely choose a different model.

Canon EOS 5Ds – Top View with Lens

Exposure/Metering System

As already noted, the 5Ds receives a new 150,000-pixel, 252-zone RGB+IR Metering Sensor for improved calculations. Color and luminance information gathered from the sensor is algorithmically combined with information from all AF points (selected and otherwise) to determine proper exposure. Chuck Westfall (Canon USA) considers the new system to be much more sophisticated than that of the 5D Mark III. EOS 5Ds results reflect this.

Evaluative, Spot (1.3%), Partial (6.1%) and Center-weighted metering options are available.

A great new 5-series capability inherited from the recently-released 7D Mark II is the Anti-flicker mode. If you have ever photographed under flickering lights, such as the sodium vapor lamps especially common at sporting venues, you know what a problem that type of lighting can cause. One image is bright and the next is significantly underexposed with a completely different color cast. The bigger problem occurs when using fast/short action-stopping shutter speeds under these lights.

In the top half of the following example are 8 consecutive frames captured in 10 fps burst from the 7D II with a 1/1000 second shutter speed. The subject is a white wall and the lights are fluorescent tubes (I had to go all the way to my basement to find these two sets of four 4' fluorescent tube lights). All images were identically custom white balanced from the center of an optimally-timed image. What you see is the frame capture frequency synching with the light flicker's frequency to cause a different result in almost every frame. The 5Ds frame rate will be 1/2 as fast as this example (visually remove every other image), but the effect is the same.

The killer problem for post processing these images is that the entire frame is not evenly affected, making correction a post processing nightmare. The cause of this problem is that, at fast/short shutter speeds, the flicker happens while the shutter curtain is not fully open.

Because the shutter opens and closes only in the up and down directions (with camera horizontally oriented), the area affected runs through the frame in the long direction regardless of the camera's orientation during capture. When the flicker-effected area is fully contained within the frame, the amount of area affected is narrower at faster shutter speeds and wider with longer shutter speeds.

At significantly longer shutter speeds, the effect from the flickering lights is better averaged in the exposures. At 1/25 second, a reference image I captured during the same test looks very nice.

In this light flicker test, I shot at 1/500, 1/1000 (as shown) and 1/2000 seconds. The 1/500 second test showed approximately 2/3 of the frame severely affected at most, but the 10 frames captured around the most-effected frame had various amounts of one frame edge strongly affected. As you would expect, the 1/2000 second test showed an even narrower band of the flicker's effect running through the image (a smaller slit of fast-moving shutter opening being used), but ... I'm guessing that there are not many venues with flickering-type lighting strong enough to allow use of this shutter speed at a reasonable ISO setting. The 1/500 and 1/1000 settings are more real world settings.

Anti-Flicker Mode Example

The bottom set of results show off the Canon EOS 7D Mark II's (and 5Ds') awesome new Anti-flicker mode. The only difference in the capture of the second set of images was that Anti-flicker mode was enabled. These were a random selection of 8 consecutive frames, but the results from all Anti-flicker mode enabled frames were identical regardless of shutter speed tested. I'm not going to say that these results are perfectly-evenly lit, but ... they are dramatically better than the normal captures and you will not see the less-than-perfectly-even lighting in most real world photos without a solid, light-colored background running through the frame. Tests from the 5Ds were similar to the 7D II results.

When enabled (the default is disabled), Flicker Mode adjusts the shutter release timing very slightly so that the dim cycle of the lighting is avoided. In single shot mode, the shutter release lag time is matched to the light flicker cycle's maximum output. In continuous shooting mode, the shutter lag and the frame rate are both altered for peak light output capture. Shutter lag can be affected, making the camera feel slightly less responsive.

The 5Ds is able to work with light flicker occurring at 100Hz and 120Hz frequencies. When such flicker is detected but flicker mode is not enabled, a flashing Flicker! warning shows in the viewfinder. The FLICKER warning shows solid when a flicker is detected and the camera’s setting is enabled. The 5Ds' flicker detection has been working very well for me. I've seen the flashing "Flicker!" warning and enabling the Anti-Flicker mode has resulted in optimal image capture.

Since the viewfinder's metering system is required for flicker detection, this feature is not available in Live View mode (due to the mirror being locked up). The mirror lockup feature is also disabled when Anti-flicker mode is enabled. Note that Flicker mode is not going to work perfectly in all environments.

Canon's Anti-flicker mode really is a game changer – it is going to save the day for some events. This feature alone is going to be worth the price of the camera upgrade for some photographers.

An Auto White Balance improvement provided with the 5Ds is "White Priority", now available in addition to the only previous option, "Ambience Priority". For example, when using Ambience Priority under tungsten lighting, the camera sets a white balance that leaves some of the warm color in the image. If White Priority is selected, the image is rendered more neutral in color.

If the light on my scene is stable/unchanging, my camera is probably in manual mode with the settings I determine to be correct from the camera's histogram. If the light on my subjects is changing, such as under a partly-cloudy sky, I am probably relying on the camera's auto exposure system. As AE systems continue to advance, I am far more comfortable on this reliance and I frequently make use of AE in Manual exposure mode via the Auto ISO feature. I select the aperture and shutter speeds I need while the camera determines the final image brightness by adjusting the ISO setting. A great feature first introduced on the 1D X via a firmware update and now present on the 5Ds is exposure compensation in Manual exposure mode with Auto ISO.

Viewfinder

I love the 5D III's big, bright all-glass pentaprism viewfinder showing a 100% view of your composition and the 5Ds gets the same with upgrades. Dubbed "Intelligent Viewfinder II", the 5Ds viewfinder optionally superimposes a range of shooting information (exposure, white balance, metering, drive, image quality and AF modes) and shooting aids including a dual-mode electronic level display and grid.

The excellent translucent viewfinder LCD is also back, now enhanced to display information similar to the 7D II. The 5Ds viewfinder is demonstrated below.

Canon EOS 5Ds Viewfinder

While the full information view appears a bit overwhelming, not all information shown is displayed at the same time and the information shown is highly configurable with the basic view being an option. My 5Ds viewfinder is configured to show only the active focus point(s)/area, the grid, the level indicator and the bottom right notices. Notice lines illustrating the available 1.3x, 1.6x and 1:1 crop framing.

I have long relied on viewfinder grid lines and have purchased many specialized focusing screens to get this feature in older Canon model DSLRs. Now, Canon's higher end cameras have grid lines optionally available via their translucent viewfinder LCD. The 7D II took this feature one step further with lines that continue completely through the center of the viewfinder and the 5Ds also has this feature.

A Canon DSLR feature that I've grown to rely on (and sorely miss when using a camera without the feature) is the electronic level. I struggle to keep the camera level and adjusting image rotation in post-processing is destructive at the pixel level. Not all images require a level camera and tilting can provide great effect for some compositions, but landscape and architecture are two subjects that most often look best when photographed level. People are going to notice a tilted ocean on the horizon and a centered building will probably look best if shown straight up and down. Aligning a camera in low light or at night is a challenge that the electronic level completely removes.

Like the 7D II, the 5Ds has received the best electronic Level featured to date in an EOS body with the big improvement being the dedicated viewfinder dual-axis level LCD indicator. Canon's early electronic viewfinder implementations relied on AF points or the exposure scale at the bottom of the viewfinder to be used to show levelness. The problem is that these indicators reverted back to their primary purpose when the shutter release was half pressed. I was then required to maintain the camera's levelness as I focus, adjust framing and then shoot. To compensate, I often focused, switched to manual focus mode, framed, turned on the level indicator and then took the shot. I of course needed to remember to turn AF back on before shooting the next scene.

A dedicated viewfinder level indicator resolves this problem and the EOS 70D was the first Canon DSLR to provide this feature. The 7D II took the dedicated viewfinder level indicator feature to another "level" by providing dual-axis indication with a more precise scale and the 5Ds inherits that feature. The 5Ds' electronic level is accurate to approximately +/- 1°, showing approximately a 1-4° range for pitch and a 1-7.5° degree range for roll.

With it's always-on (when metering is live), easy-to-see, dedicated, superimposed viewfinder level indicator, the EOS 5Ds helps keep image level problems to a minimum. This feature is available during AI Servo full frame rate burst shooting, making my results from the soccer tournament unusually straight. Using the level during fast action capture requires another level of brain power, but checking the level prior to capturing a burst is not so hard in many situations.

While the viewfinder level feature seems minor and insignificant, this small improvement makes a big difference in the quality of my images and can save many hours of work after a big shoot. A dual-axis level is also available on the rear LCD.

In dim light, red LEDs light the viewfinder LCD display for easy visibility. These red LEDs can optionally be set to always be on or off using the menu.

The 1, 5 and 7-series EOS DSLRs have a larger-sized, more comfortable eyecup than found on lower end camera models (70D and below). Notable is that, as with the 5D III, the 5Ds viewfinder is designed for harsher environments and better operation in below-freezing temperatures than basic viewfinders.

Tour of the Canon EOS 5Ds

The 5Ds' primary external change from the 5D Mark III is the name badge on the front (and a slight chasis change camera left). Otherwise, these two cameras are identical and that is good in my opinion. With the recently-released 7D Mark II receiving a similar design to the 5D Mark III, the 5Ds and 7D II are now also very similar in function and use. Sharing the same design means that going back and forth between bodies is very easy, requiring no re-thinking of where the functions are located. And, there is little retraining needed to upgrade to the 5Ds from the 5D III or 7D II.

Canon's great ergonomics are just one of the many reasons I use Canon brand cameras in the first place. I can tightly grip EOS bodies for long periods of time without getting painful spots in my hands/fingers. In that regard, that the 5Ds did not depart from other recent body designs is an especially positive feature.

In the following comparison images, you will see that the 5-Series bodies are the largest non-integrated-grip Canon DSLR available, but they only very slightly larger than the 7-Series bodies. Add the optional BG-E11 Battery Grip and the 5Ds becomes similar to Canon's largest current DSLR, the EOS 1D X, in size.

Back of the Camera

Here are some of Canon's most recent DSLR cameras compared from the back.

Canon EOS 5Ds DSLR Camera Back View Comparison

T6s | T6i | 70D | 7D II | 6D | 5Ds/5Ds R | 5D III | 5D II | 1D X |

At this point, it is no surprise to see that the 5Ds looks exactly like the 5D Mark III from the back. Even though the camera was just announced, I feel like I've been using it for three years. This is a good, proven design.

With the Mark III, Canon moved the power switch from just below the rear control dial to the top left. I was not thrilled with this move initially, but have grown used to this placement and now do not even think about it during use. With the power switch moved to the top of the body, the rear power switch became a menu-configurable Main Dial/Multi-controller lock. I do appreciate the power switch and controller lock now being separate switches. Previously, I on occasion did not get the combined power/lock switch far enough to unlock the dial, causing some confusion until I figured out what was wrong.

Moving up from the lock switch, the Rear Control Dial retains the slightly reshaped style from the III and a touchpad remains present within the Quick Control Dial. The touch pad is used for silently changing settings while recording video.

The "Q" button was introduced to the 5-Series with the III, and while it appears identical, new functionality has been introduced on the 5Ds. Pressing the Q button while in shooting mode will bring up the Quick Control Screen where camera settings can be accessed and adjusted quickly and easily without having to use the menu or look at the top LCD panel. Pressing the Q button while in playback mode will present an overlay with applicable options – including RAW processing options. Software exposure compensation, white balance, Picture Style, Auto Lighting Optimizer, High ISO NR, Color Space, Peripheral Illumination Correction, Chromatic Aberration Correction and the output dimensions and quality of the converted JPEG can be selected prior to processing. New with the 5Ds is a Custom Quick Control Screen. Now you can determine what shows on your Quick Control Screen via the menu.

Canon EOS 5Ds Custom Quick Menu

Next up from the "Q" button is the joystick-like Multi-Controller, useful especially for selecting an AF point(s) or area.

The dedicated Live View/Video Start/Stop button, the next button up from the "Q", joined the 5-series with the Mark III. Moving to the right of the Start/Stop button, is the Mark III-introduced thumb rest design that provides a more-sure grip on the camera than previous models.

The left-side set of buttons provide easy access to functions using the left thumb. The Delete, Playback and Magnify button functions are rather obvious. Included once again is the "RATE" button. Each press of the rate button adds a star (up to 5 stars) to the image. This rating is recognized even by non-Canon applications that include Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.

The next button up is the Creative Photo button. Pressing this button displays a menu with Picture Style, Multiple exposure and HDR Mode selections available along with their configuration options. The menu button lands in the top-left position (where it should be) and the Info button is beside it (also a good location).

The 5Ds receives Canon's excellent 3.2" (81.1mm) Clear View II LCD monitor with approximately 1,040,000 dot resolution. Canon's Clear View II LCDs have no gap between the protective glass cover and the LCD unit, eliminating air-glass interface, reducing refraction and reflection. The glass LCD cover has an anti-reflective coating.

Canon Clear View LCD II

Using the light sensor, the LCD can auto adjust to the ideal brightness of the ambient light, or can be manually adjusted to one of seven levels. This excellent LCD has been featured in many of Canon's DSLRs to date with the 7D II being the latest previous model to receive it. That I can clearly see the histogram even in direct sunlight is of critical importance to me and this LCD covers this requirement.

Different from the 5D Mark III is the color calibration of the LCD. The same scene captured on the 5Ds and the 5D III appear the same on a computer, but when compared side-by-side on their LCDs, they appear noticeably different. The image appears cool-toned on the 5D III while the 5Ds displays warmer tones. Positioning both cameras in front of my calibrated monitor shows the 5Ds to be the most accurate. So, this is a positive change.

Why is there no Vari-Angle LCD on the 5Ds? According to my source at Canon, the Vari-Angle display can reduce the ruggedness of the camera's design and has therefore been omitted on the pro-grade models.

Top of the Camera

Again, the top of the 5Ds is the same as the top of the 5D III which is similar to the 5D II. It is also essentially the same as the 7D II.

Canon EOS 5Ds DSLR Camera Top View Comparison

Starting at the left, we find the already-mentioned power switch and the mode dial with its new, more-attractive diamond-shaped engraving. The 5Ds' locking mode dial contains a range of standard/advanced options. CA (Creative Auto) mode was dropped from the 5D III's mode dial and the Basic Zone pre-defined auto modes found on lower-end model DSLRs remain absent.

While some of the camera-thinks-for-you modes are absent, even complete beginners are taken care of with the do-everything-for-you Scene Intelligent Auto mode (the green square A+ mode). This mode combines point and shoot simplicity with powerful artificial intelligence to deliver excellent results. "... Scene Intelligent Auto mode analyzes the image, accounting for faces, colors, brightness, moving objects, contrast, even whether the camera is handheld or on a tripod, and then chooses the exposure and enhancements that bring out the best in any scene or situation." [Canon] The 5Ds now also enables the new light flicker avoidance capability in this mode when such is detected.

The following Canon graphic provides a glimpse into the Scene Intelligent Auto mode as implemented on the 7D II. These icons are shown in Live View mode when Auto mode is in use.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II Scene Intelligent Auto mode Icons

The new, more intelligent, "A+" fully automatic mode replaces the former green square fully automatic mode. A+ takes advantage of the new Auto Picture Style, utilizing information collected by the EOS Scene Detection System. In addition to general purpose use, Canon especially recommends the Auto Picture Style for nature and landscape photography.

Three custom shooting modes (C1, C2, and C3) are once again present. The C-Modes allow you to store a set of camera settings for quick recall. Setting changes made while in a "C" mode can be retained or discarded based on a menu setting. I love the "C" modes and use them very frequently. Check out my custom camera mode configuration post for more information.

Continuing rightward across the top of the camera, we next find the viewfinder bulge with the standard hotshoe. There is no pop-up flash housed in this area – the 7D Mark II is currently Canon's highest-end DSLR to feature the built-in flash. Without the flash, the camera can be made more rugged and better-sealed.

The viewfinder diopter adjustment is the next feature to the right. I wear glasses much of the time, but usually leave them behind when photographing. My eyesight is not too bad and the diopter easily adjusts to give me a sharp view.

Following to the right is the top LCD and the now-standard set of buttons that provide quick access to the functions needed most frequently. The ISO button with its slightly different shape is especially easy to find with your eye to the viewfinder or when shooting in the dark. With that button referenced, the others are also easy to find. Two are on ends and the other is next to the ISO button.

The 5Ds also gets the programmable Multi-function (M.Fn) button, located between the shutter release and the top dial. When AF selection is turned on, the M.Fn button changes between AF area modes. Note that many of the 5Ds buttons can be reconfigured via the Custom Controls menu option.

Side of the Camera

Canon EOS 5Ds DSLR Camera Side View Comparison

The ports available on the 5Ds are, clockwise from top right, HDMI mini out (for playback), USB 3.0 Audio/video OUT/digital terminal, remote control terminal (N3 type), PC terminal and 3.5mm external microphone IN terminal. The upgraded USB port (from 2.0 to 3.0) is especially important for moving the large image files produced by this camera, including in computer-tethered Live View. As with the 7D II, the 5Ds comes with a cable protector that prevents this cable from being pulled out. Based on Roger Cicala's teardown, we know that these ports are no longer mounted on the main board, meaning that a broken I/O port repair should be much less costly.

Canon EOS 5Ds – Side View without Lens

Size of the Camera

The Canon EOS 5Ds is a full-sized DSLR. It does not have a battery/pro grip built-in, so it is considerably smaller than the 1-Series bodies, but this is the largest DSLR in Canon's lineup otherwise. Add a battery grip and the 5-Series bodies are practically equal to the 1-Series bodies in size. Though it may be the largest Canon DSLR otherwise, I don't find this size of a camera to seem oversized in use. Having a substantial grip surface to control the camera with is, in many cases, a very positive feature. The size is especially welcomed when using larger lenses including those in Canon's super telephoto line.

There are not many features to talk about on the front of the camera, but I want to make a small complaint about the 5Ds' lens release button. This button, on both the 5Ds and 5Ds R, is not smooth. I'd call it scratchy. Even the brand new Rebel T6s has a smoother release. That Canon built such an amazing camera and gave it an inferior lens release button makes no sense. I suppose that this attribute makes it harder to accidentally release a lens.

ModelBody DimensionsCIPA Weight
Canon EOS Rebel SL1 / 100D4.6 x 3.6 x 2.7"(116.8 x 90.7 x 69.4mm)14.4 oz (407g)
Canon EOS Rebel T6i,T6s / 750D,760D5.2 x 4.0 x 3.1"(131.9 x 100.9 x 77.8mm)19.8 oz (560g)
Canon EOS 70D5.5 x 4.1 x 3.1"(139.0 x 104.3 x 78.5mm)26.7 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 7D Mark II5.9 x 4.4 x 3.1"(148.6 x 112.4 x 78.2mm)32.1 oz (910g)
Canon EOS 6D5.7 x 4.4 x 2.8"(144.5 x 110.5 x 71.2mm)26.6 oz (755g)
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0"(152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm)32.8 oz (930g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark III6.0 x 4.6 x 3.0"(152 x 116.4 x 76.4mm)33.5 oz (950g)
Canon EOS 5D Mark II6.0 x 4.5 x 3.0"(152 x 113.5 x 75mm)31.9 oz (904g)
Canon EOS 1D X6.2 x 6.4 x 3.3"(158 x 163.6 x 82.7mm)54.0 oz (1530g)
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV6.1 x 6.2 x 3.1"(156 x 157 x 80mm)48.5 oz (1374g)
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III6.1 x 6.3 x 3.1"(156 x 159.6 x 79.9mm)49.5 oz (1404g)
View the full Canon EOS 5Ds specifications to compare additional cameras.

If a compact full frame DSLR is desired, the EOS 6D may be a better choice at this time.

5D III Magnesium Frame

Durability

The 5Ds is a very high quality DSLR built for the rigors of professional use. As illustrated above, that build includes a magnesium alloy frame attached to a steel base plate for robust strength while retaining light weight. As mentioned before, the steel base plate has been made more rigid for less flex when shooting from a tripod. The thickness of the chasis and connecting parts have also been increased for improved rigidity. The 5Ds' solidness is noticeable immediately upon grasping the camera (as the 5D III's is).

Weather sealing is part of this camera's package and the level of sealing is the same as the 5D III. The level of weather sealing incorporated into the 5D Mark III was referred to as superior to the 5D II, lesser to the 1D X and equivalent to the EOS 1N film SLR. "The weather protection provided by this design is high enough to endure exposure to rain of up to 10mm of rain per hour for a duration of up to approximately three minutes" according to CPN.

I have used the 5D Mark III in light rain with no problems, but I always try to keep the camera covered as much as possible. I also had a bit of an incident with my 5D III early into a 2+ week Hawaii landscape photography trip. While perched on a high, narrow (and dry) piece of volcanic rock to get a higher angle for shooting waves, I took a major hit from a rogue wave. The wave came completely over me, the 5D III and the Canon 70-300mm L Lens I was using. A large amount of water was running off of the camera, lens and me – like a waterfall.

I fortunately maintained my balance, but I was not pleased to see the significant amount of salt water on my gear. I quickly ran to the car and dried everything with a towel (I often carry these – just in case). I didn't expect to have any problems and was relieved to find that the camera and lens continued to work fine for the duration of the trip and long beyond. I found myself shooting in the rain on a few additional occasions on this particular trip. Weather sealing has definite value.

Interesting is that I was recently cleaning up this 5D III DSLR and was trying to figure out what was causing some small areas of white, salt-appearing residue. While writing this review, I came across my notes from that incident. Years later, that salt water drenching has had no effect on the camera's performance. Note that I don't recommend intentially subjecting a camera to this test.

Another durability factor is the camera's shutter assembly, a mechanical part that moves significantly and moves extremely fast every time a photo is taken. The 5Ds gets the same 150k actuation durability-rated shutter as found in the 5D III and retains the fast 1/8000 sec capability.

ModelShutter Durability Rating
Canon EOS 70D100,000
Canon EOS 7D Mark II200,000
Canon EOS 6D100,000
Canon EOS 5Ds / 5Ds R150,000
Canon EOS 5D Mark III150,000
Canon EOS 5D Mark II150,000
Canon EOS 1D X400,000
Canon EOS 1D Mark IV300,000
Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III300,000
View the full Canon EOS 5Ds specifications to compare additional cameras.

I have had no shutter issues with either of my heavily-used 5D III bodies.

Additional Features

Another feature first implemented on the 7D II and now found in the 5Ds is the built-in intervalometer (interval timer) and bulb timer functionality. Interval settings can range from one second to 99 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds.

Interval Bulb Timer

As with the 7D II, the 5Ds interval timer shooting can be combined with AEB, WB bracketing, multiple exposures and HDR mode, but Live View shooting and bulb exposures are not supported. A great new feature in the 5Ds is that, with the programmable shutter release delay, mirror lockup is now supported.

The 5Ds allows between 2 and 3600 shots to be captured in a time-lapse and new is that time lapse movies up to 2 minutes and 24 seconds in length can be captured in-camera. Simply set number of frames along with the desired interval and a movie is created. "The movies created by the cameras will be either with Full HD (1980x1080) 29.97p ALL-I if the camera is set to NTSC or Full HD (1980x1080) 25.00p ALL-I if set to PAL." [CPN]

I regard "hate" as a very strong word, but I can honestly say that I hate sensor dust in my images and also hate cleaning imaging sensors. The EOS 5D III has been outstanding in its ability to keep the sensor clean – I rarely have to clean these sensors and a blower is usually all that is needed when I do. The 5Ds' fluorine-coating and self-cleaning sensor system takes no step backward and the initial performance of these cameras, even after many lens changes outdoors in the wind, has been excellent. None of the three cameras I am working with have needed even an air blower used on them.

A minor annoyance is a lens that extends during focusing remains extended when the camera is powered off. Consider that annoyance resolved for electronic focusing (focus-by-wire) lenses with the new "Retract lens on power off" menu option. Focus extend a compatible lens (STM models included), turn the power off and watch the lens automatically retract moments later.

Flash

As mentioned, the 5Ds, like all of the 5-Series bodies before it, does not include a built-in flash. It is, however, compatible with all of Canon's accessory flashes including the recently introduced RF wireless models including the Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT Flash and Canon ST-E3-RT Speedlite Transmitter. As with all of Canon's other recent DSLR cameras, flash settings can be controlled from the menu which includes an extensive range of controls for hot-shoe-mounted and remote flashes.

Battery

The 5Ds uses the LP-E6N lithium ion battery pack recently introduced with the 7D Mark II. The LP-E6N's benefit over the LP-E6 is a slight increase in storage capacity – from 1800 mAh to 1865 mAh. The LP-E6N and LP-E6 batteries are backward and forward compatible with a wide number of camera and charger models.

I greatly appreciate the simplicity of being able to share the LP-E6N batteries and chargers across my kit and also appreciate that I can take a single, small, direct-plug charger when traveling. The LP-E6N battery form factor is great (you can easily fit several of these small batteries in most pockets).

The 5Ds gets a battery rating of 700 frames, a reasonable number that is slightly lower than the 7D II's 800 rating and more significantly lower than the 5D III's 950 rating. Actual battery life is always highly variable based on factors such as drive mode, live view/video use and temperature. Shoot in the high frame rate drive mode and you can expect to far exceed the factory rating. Shoot using live view in below-freezing temperatures and the factory rating will appear to be a fantasy. Using solely Live View, the 5Ds battery life rating is 220 frames. In general, I experience higher shutter counts per charge than the camera's battery rating.

The 5Ds provides a 6 level battery indicator on the top LCD and a specific percent remaining value in the Battery Information menu. This menu also provides a shutter count and a recharge performance rating for the installed battery.

My first four batteries resulted in battery info values of 669 at 9%, 540 at 28%, 990 at 6% and 1238 at 7%. Those numbers forecast full rundown lives of 735, 750, 1053 and 1,331 frames. While not amazing numbers, that is a significant number of frames for a small battery.

Dedicated Accessories

As with most Canon EOS DSLR models, a battery grip is available. The battery grip allows two batteries to be used, effectively doubling the battery life in terms of shots per charge (AA batteries can also be optionally used). More important (for me at least) is that the battery grip also provides a vertical/portrait orientation grip, making such shooting far more comfortable. The EOS 5Ds shares the 5D Mark III's Canon BG-E11 Battery Grip, as show below on a 5D III.

5D III with Canon BG-E11 Battery Grip

 
The notable feature on the BG-E11 is the addition of a Multi-Controller for use with the vertical grip. The long reach to the camera's Multi-controller is no longer necessary. Battery grips are great accessories; I have them on most of my DSLRs.

For even longer run times, the 5Ds can be AC-powered using the optional AC Adapter Kit ACK-E6.

Another 5Ds compatible accessory introduced with the 5D Mark III launch is the block/slab-style, rather-pricey Canon WFT-E7 Wireless Transmitter, supporting 802.11a/b/g/n wireless protocols and wired Gigabit Ethernet.

5D III with WFT-E7 Wireless File Transmitter

The WFT-E7 is attached to the camera (or a bracket) via a 1/4-20 socket. Connection to the camera is via USB cable and configuration is performed through the camera's menu. The WFT-E7 features the usual capabilities including FTP Transfer, remote control and triggering (including Linked Shooting of up to 10 cameras) in either EOS Utility or WFT Server modes (control available through web browser) and Multi Camera Time Sync Function.

Also available for the 5Ds, 5D Mark III, 1D X and 7D (with a firmware update) is the Canon GP-E2 GPS Receiver, as shown above the WFT-E7 in the following photo.

5D III Accessories

The single AA battery-powered GP-E2 can be hot-shoe mounted or bracket-mounted and connected via a USB cable – or alternatively carried elsewhere (such as in a pocket) in logging mode for later synchronization. The GP-E2 provides latitude, longitude, altitude, compass direction and UTC time. The receiver can be used to set the camera time with +/- 1 second precision using satellite atomic clock time. New Map Utility software is available to utilize the GPS coordinates – showing where images were captured.

Accessories

I say it in every Canon EOS DSLR review, but the statement remains timeless. When you buy a Canon DSLR, you are buying into an incredible family of lenses, flashes and other accessories. The camera body (or multiple bodies as is more frequently the case today) is the base your system is built on and a lens is the next essential piece of kit.

Canon's Ultimate EOS 5Ds and 5Ds R General Purpose Lenses

A significant percentage of early 5Ds purchasers will be upgrading from another DSLR and most of these DSLR owners already have at least one and often many lenses, so the 5Ds body-only kit is the only option.

The Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens has been one of my favorite general purpose lenses, and the with-lens kits it is often included in always come with a significant discount. The 5D III and 6D are available with the 24-105mm L Lens in a kit, but there is no indication that the 5Ds will follow this tradition.

Two other full frame compatible general purpose lenses I frequently use and recommend are the Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM Lens and the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. Check out the Canon's Ultimate EOS 5Ds and 5Ds R General Purpose Lenses page for help in selecting one of these lenses. The Canon general purpose lens recommendations page is another useful lens selection resource.

There is a huge range of other incredible Canon lenses available to meet the needs of almost any photographer. Minimally, include a telephoto zoom lens and a wide angle zoom lens in your kit.

As mentioned earlier, our plan is to test all of Canon's current lenses on this ultra-high resolution camera. The results of those tests will make the 5Ds lens choices more clear, but know that this camera is going to make full use of the best glass available.

The Canon EOS 5Ds is compatible with the small, inexpensive Canon wireless remotes including the Canon RC-6 Wireless Remote. Want to be part of your own family picture? Or just don't want to deal with a remote release cord? This is the accessory you want. The 5Ds is also compatible with Canon's N3 wired remotes including the Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3, Canon Remote Switch RS-80N3 and a wide variety of 3rd party remote switches (including some controlled by smartphone apps).

Browse the reviews section of the site to find many more compatible accessories including flash systems, tripods & heads, cases, additional batteries and much more.

Price

Price is always the most painful part of camera shopping. The Canon EOS 5Ds, at launch, is priced 20% above the 5D Mark III street price with no rebates factored in. To me, for the increased resolution alone, it is easily worth the higher asking price. If you compare the 5Ds to a digital medium format body, it looks like a great bargain.

Wrap Up

Keeping a review of the incredibly-feature-laden 5Ds concise but complete is a difficult balance to find. This review contains well over 17,000 words (equivalent to a roughly 40 page book without pictures) and is not nearly a complete description of every 5Ds feature available. Canon has published an intimidatingly-huge 532 page owner's manual (a link to the manual is provided with this review) that highlights all of the features found on this camera and explains their use. The manual will tell you all about a huge array of features including Auto Lighting Optimizer, Distortion Correction (RAW processing only), Chromatic Aberration Correction, Peripheral Illumination Correction, remote control via a USB-connected computer, flash setup and control, High ISO Noise Reduction, Long Exposure Noise Reduction, Highlight Tone Priority, HDR, Multiple Exposure ... and many, many other topics. My advice is always to read the manual, use the camera, repeat (until you really understand everything).

Owning a Canon product gives you access to Canon support and the support I have been provided by Canon's USA division is excellent (sorry, I have no experience with the other Canon divisions). When I call for support, I get an intelligent person who sincerely wants to help me with whatever my question or problem is (let's just say I challenge them sometimes). Canon repair service, though I seldom need it, is fast and reliable. Those residing the USA with a 5Ds in their kit along with a nice lens or two will qualify Canon CPS membership and the additional support benefits this membership provides.

The 5Ds models used for completion of this review were purchased online/retail.

Alternatives

Is the EOS 5Ds the right camera for you?

If at this point you think it is, the primary alternative you should be considering is the 5Ds R. The 5Ds R is the same camera with a low pass filter effect cancellation that results in a sharper image out of the camera.

Answering the big question: "Should I get the Canon EOS 5Ds or the Canon EOS 5Ds R?" is the task I undertake in the Canon EOS 5Ds R review. I show side-by-side comparisons illuminating the differences between these cameras, but the downside to the sharper images coming out of the 5Ds R is the potential of moiré and aliasing showing in areas with patterns repeating at a specific frequency. Chuck Westfall suggests that these issues are seldom encountered and the negative effects can often be eliminated if the offending subject can be made slightly larger or smaller in the frame. If you don't have full control and can't repeat a shot, you may want to opt for the safer non-R option. Landscape photographers in particular will find the 5Ds R to be the right model.

The next camera that should be considered as an alternative to the 5Ds is the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. This camera is three years old as I write this, but ... it is still an incredible camera and has a large percentage of the 5Ds' features. Check out the Canon EOS 5Ds vs. EO 5D Mark III specification comparison to fully compare these cameras, but here are some of the 5Ds advantage:

  • 50.6 vs. 22.3 Megapixel CMOS Sensor
  • Dual DIGIC 6 Processors vs. single DIGIC 5+ processor and a non-specified AF-dedicated processor
  • Improved custom controls with built-in intervalometer and bulb timer
  • 150,000-pixel, 252-zone RGB+IR metering sensor vs 63-zone iFCL
  • Supports faster UHS-I SD/SDHC/SDXC memory card standard
  • Anti-Flicker Mode
  • Dual-Axis Electronic Level with dedicated viewfinder display
  • Upgraded viewfinder information

The Canon 5D III advantages include up to 3 stops higher ISO setting options (up to 102400 vs 12800), lower pixel-level noise (also not a real advantage), a 1 fps faster max frame rate (6 vs. 5) and a lower price. While having the higher ISO settings sounds great, the question of which ISO settings you can tolerate the noise levels of needs to be discerned. And, as shown earlier in the review, the 5Ds images can be reduced to 5D III pixel dimensions to at least match the 5D III's pixel-level noise and ISO 12800 images can be brightened to match the 5D III's higher ISO setting. Thus, the 5D III noise advantages are negated, leaving a lower price and 1 fps being the remaining advantages.

Want a faster frame rate DSLR, perhaps for capturing fast action? Check out the Canon EOS 1D X (best available, more expensive) and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II (great performance for the price).

Need to keep the budget down? Consider the Canon EOS 6D, Canon EOS 70D and the Canon EOS 7D Mark II.

Summary

CPN (Canon Professional Network) calls it "A Revolution in Resolution". The Canon EOS 5Ds and 5Ds R show us a level of detail that we've never seen before in a DSLR camera. The announcement of the 5Ds and 5Ds R brought high expectations and the arrival of these cameras offered few surprises. The Canon 5Ds promised to perform amazingly and it has delivered on that promise.

My personal decision has been to replace my two 5D Mark III bodies with a pair of 5Ds R bodies. I am using these cameras for everything except fast action where my 1D X (or 7D Mark II) takes over.

While most photographers will find the 5Ds ideally-suited for their needs, it is the commercial, studio, portrait, still life, landscape, nature and architectural photographers that are especially interested in this camera's resolution combined with its pro-grade package of features including rugged build quality.

I'll leave you with a warning: this camera may make you feel like going back to reshoot some of your favorite images.

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My Recommended Canon EOS 5Ds Retailers

Where you buy your gear matters. You expect to get what you ordered and you want to pay a low price for it. The retailers I recommend below are the ones I trust for my own purchases. Get your Canon EOS 5Ds now from:

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the Canon Store (new or refurbished)
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