A Long-Term Review of the Canon EOS 5DS R

A Long-Term Review of the Canon EOS 5DS R

A few years back I wrote a lifetime review on the Canon EOS 5D II. Since then I upgraded to the Canon EOS 5ds and 5DS R cameras, 5 years down the line I thought it apt to have a detailed look at them.

Since starting out in photography, a lot has changed. When I invested in a few of the Canon Eos 5D II bodies, they were groundbreaking. Both in terms of resolution and the added bonus of video. Which sadly at the time was of no use to me. However, since then I feel that the new mirrorless Canon cameras offer a similar shift in industry expectations that the classic 5dmk2 did, so before I advance on from my Canon 5DS R system, I thought it worth having a long look at how the camera has performed, how relevant it is today, and what I will be purchasing next.

Canon 5dsr detailed image

What Do I Use it For?

I work as a commercial photographer and in more recent years, the majority of my work has been for print. The Canon 5DS/DS R series offered me an affordable solution to high resolution for either when budgets didn’t allow for bigger cameras or if the job came in very last min and the rental houses couldn’t get anything bigger to me. In the same way that my studio is kitted out with older models of Broncolor heads and packs, it all offers me executable performance for pretty much any job, but the ability to rent in bigger toys when needed.

A lot of the commercial work I shoot is made of composites. This is where the resolution really comes in handy. Back in the days of 20 megapixels, we would have to shoot an asset at a time, but now we can shoot several in one got and cut them out later. I run my camera from a mains power source tethered via usb3 to a computer running Capture One. The raw file conversion is pretty good straight off the bat, it also really takes adjustments in clarity and structure well, which is very important in my line of work.

Commercial photographer at work

Camera Settings

I tend to shoot at 100 ISO, f/10, and 125th of a second. I find that going to the max flash sync shutter speed can at times be problematic, however, I haven’t had any issues at 125th. The ISO is as noise-free as one could expect at 100 ISO. I don’t have any need for anything else, but I had tried it at higher ISOs, and I found it started to lose colors and detail past 640 ISO in good light.

The Files

Yes, 50 megapixels means a pretty large file, especially when you have merged several together as tiff files. You quickly move into PSB territory in Photoshop. However, compared to the Phase One systems, it is very manageable. As with all Canon files, they are a bit too red and warm, but it is very easy to correct by either shooting a test card or simply adjusting the colors in post. The files it produces have never had any complaints, and I have shot for some very demanding clients in the past. I have also don’t multiple days shooting for a client where on some we used a Phase system and others the Canon. No one in the room mentioned noticing any difference.

5DS or 5DS R?

The Canon Eos 5DS R version is notably sharper. I haven’t yet had any issues with it in terms of moire which seems to be the fear. Although my style of work is very graphic, so I wouldn’t expect to. I have one of each just in case, but it's the 5DS R version that stays bolted to my studio stand. Paired with a Zeiss Milvus 100mm f2 lens it is a really brilliant combination for capturing details raw files.

Lenses and Auto Focus

At the time of the release of this camera, there were a lot of questions about which lenses from the Canon system would actually resolve the files. Predominantly I use a 100mm Zeiss Milvus which works really well, I also use the Canon TS-E lens line up which are perhaps somewhat lagging, but not to a point where it really matters at print. The other two lenses that I put on this body are the Sigma Art 35mm and 50mm f/1.4 lenses. These both resolve plenty of detail and work really well with the camera.

The autofocus is similar or maybe even the same as the Canon EOS 5D III. I very rarely use autofocus as the lenses I use don’t have it, but the cameras certainly won’t hold up to mirrorless autofocus, though they are fine for any application I can think of where 50 megapixels are required.

Build Quality

I really can’t complain. These two cameras haven’t skipped a beat, granted they mostly get used indoors, but they feel far more robust than my previous cameras from Canon and I would rather drop one of these than a Phase One. The card and battery doors feel strongly built and the body is well weather sealed. Although used indoors, it does get water and drinks thrown over it pretty often.

What I Liked

This camera system has saved me so much money. Not renting big cameras, saving time on shooting, and being able to use all of the Canon glass I have collected over the years. The bodies I have are super reliable and have never let me down, the image quality is unbelievable for the price point, and it is packed with loads of cool features like delayed shutter release.

What I Didn't Like?

As with all Canon or 35mm camera systems, the color science is never as good as what you can get from a medium format system. I am also not too keen on the aspect ratio of 35mm cameras so I often end up cropping to something more flattening, but the resolution certainly helps here.

Who Is This For?

Anyone who really needs low ISO, high resolution, and can’t afford medium format. Different brands have their own high-resolution offerings, I only use Canon as they have the best technical lenses, but if you don’t need those, go for whichever is cheapest.

Who Is This Camera Not For?

If you don’t want to spend a couple of thousand a year on hard drives, if you need any form of fast frames per second or need really top color performance, you probably want a Canon EOS 1D X II or a medium format system.

What Will I Buy Next?

I am starting to think of an upgrade as there are a few things that this camera system can’t do that I often feel I am lacking. So I am now looking into camera systems that allow movements that are considerably more advanced than what I can get from a tilt-shift system

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8 Comments

jai jacob's picture

Love this article. I have a 5ds as my main camera and still plan to use it till a camera comes out that I feel would be a good upgrade for this.

Dan Jefferies's picture

We paired a 5DsR with a 300mm f/4 L +1.4x and shot birds for a long time. My wife just liked it better for the feather detail. Really easy to crop as well. It truly is a full light camera though. Iso past 800 isn't that great even though iso 1250-1600 could occasionally be saved. The higher iso's just didn't deliver the detail. Still, it WAS nice being King Mega Pixel for a while but even these great cameras so shall pass.

Richard Bradbury's picture

Been really happy with the 5DsR myself. It can be slow if you rattle off a number of shots but other than that it's fine and faster than any MF system I have used n the past.

Would like to add another one to the kit at some point so I have duplicate resolution bodies. The 5D4 is fine but in all honestly the camera bores me stills wise.

Just have to decide on a 5Ds or 5DsR for the 2nd body. Will probably just go 5DsR to simplify things. Few ways Moire can be dealt with in camera or in post anyway.

Tammie Lam's picture

My only issue with the 5DsR is its PDAF and a necessity to calibrate lenses from time to time. Other than that it's a perfect camera. I was shooting it along with a 1dx2, and 50mpx reduced to 20mpx produced either the same or lower amount of noise.

Rick Fowler's picture

Love this article. as a professional photographer for over 30 years, I have a 5dsR as my main camera. I find it great for architecture, product photography it's been a great investment.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I had considered the 5DsR when it came out, but I shoot a lot of items with fabric and the moire issue was not something I wanted to deal with. Leaf backs years ago had a software tool to remove/reduce the moire, but the tool was way too time consuming and did affect the colors a little. Otherwise I would definitely have a 5DsR.

peter rath's picture

I pre-ordered the 5Dsr and I've been shooting with it since it first came out. I'm a semi-pro and I have used it often for products, fashion shoots, Real Estate and landscape photography. It's been a fantastic, sturdy camera which has held up in all kinds of weather conditions and even survived a trip and fall unscathed. My sprained wrist took a a month to heal.

I too am now looking into an upgrade. As tempting as it is to buy a new 5dsr at the now much reduced price, the R5 has a better focus system and sensor among other improvements. And there's the rumored R1. Or maybe I can find a way to justify the cost of the medium format Fuji 100 GFX.

Dan Jefferies's picture

I think the R5 would be a fine replacement with the added benefit of better tracking, more focus points, eye detect and low light abilities. For me that's all that's basically better. But by a LOT. Don't buy the ring adapter just use the basic one.