The Usability of the Canon EOS R5’s IBIS High Resolution Option

The Usability of the Canon EOS R5’s IBIS High Resolution Option

The firmware update version 1.8.1 offered Canon EOS R5 users the ability to capture a stunning 400-megapixel image. You may ask yourself if this has any real benefit over the standard 45-megapixel resolution, but it’s nice to have. How useful is the option in real life? Let’s find out.

Canon EOS R5’s firmware version 1.8.1 offered only a few minor updates. Except for one. It added the IBIS high-resolution shot to the menu. This new option makes it possible to capture a stunning 400-megapixel image simply by merging a series of nine separate images. It does so by changing the position of the sensor for each image with the IBIS system.

The idea of capturing a high-resolution image this way is nothing new. Sony incorporated this system in their Sony a7R V camera. The Panasonic cameras offer this option for quite some years now, and I’ve seen the high-resolution option on Olympus and Fujifilm cameras as well. I believe the EOS R5 is the first Canon camera that allows the capture of high-resolution images this way.

The IBIS high resolution shot mode activated on the Canon EOS R5

Things to Keep in Mind

There are some issues with this kind of high-resolution image. Since the camera will capture a series of sequential shots, the location of moving objects in the frame will vary between each individual shot. This will result in motion blur after the images are combined into one high-resolution version. On top of that, any movement of the camera during the capture of these shots will also result in motion blur.

When a subject is moving, it's movements will show in the end result of a stack. This is the result of the IBIS high resolution shot mode on the Canon EOS R5 with a moving subject.

The Canon IBIS High-Resolution Shot

I’ve installed the firmware update that offers the IBIS high-resolution shot and tried it several times. Activating the option switches the camera to the electronic shutter mode and single shot. It’s not clear if the camera will capture raw images or not, but the result of the IBIS high-resolution mode is a jpeg image.

When pressing the shutter, nine 45-megapixel images are taken and combined into one 400-megapixel image. This is almost ten times the native resolution, which is incredible. You don’t need any additional software to combine these images, it’s all done in-camera. The high-resolution option of Sony and Panasonic will increase the resolution four times, but Canon manages to double that one more time.

The increase in resolution is amazing. The 45 megapixel is shown in the inset. 

It takes a few seconds before the end result is ready, and viewing the image on screen takes a couple of seconds to load as well. The file size is somewhere between 100 megabytes and 300 megabytes, depending on the number of details.

The first thing you’ll notice is the motion blur when the camera is handheld. Unfortunately, the camera won’t align the images automatically. In other words, without a proper tripod, this function is useless. I wanted to see how the IBIS high resolution would capture moving subjects as well, but this first test already gave a pretty good idea of how the result would be. As expected, any movement from both camera and subject results in motion blur.

The IBIS high resolution shot is nearly impossible to accomplish hand held. There is no alignment option available. 

Despite being able to capture a stunning 400-megapixel image, the usability of this option turns out to be very limited. The only time it will work properly is with stationary objects. On top of that, you need a sturdy tripod. You are also limited to jpeg. Any high dynamic range scenery will be difficult to capture unless you try a manual exposure bracketing series with the high resolution activated.

This is a 100% crop of the 45 megapixel image from a Canon EOS R5

This is a 100% crop of the 400 megapixel IBIS high resolution image from a Canon EOS R5

When a 45 megapixel image is increased in resolution in Photoshop, this is the result. You can compare this one with the previous image.

Taking all of this into account, the IBIS high-resolution shot option of the Canon EOS R5 is not really useful at all. It lacks motion blur compensation and alignment of the separate images. It feels more like a novelty instead of a serious and useful option.

Looking at Other Brands

I haven’t tried the high resolution of the Sony a7R V. For this you need additional software since the camera itself only captures sequential shots. But the Sony software offers motion blur correction to some extent. This should make the high-resolution shot of the Sony a7R V more useful compared to the Canon EOS R5.

High resolution on the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1 offers alignment and motion blur compensation. It is limited to four times the native resolution, but it works much better and much more flexible compared to Canon.

I did use the high-resolution option on several occasions with Panasonic cameras like the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1. Just like Canon, this camera combines sequential images in-camera. But the end result is saved as a raw file instead. On top of that, Panasonic can compensate for motion blur. And it does an amazing job as well.

A test for the motion blur compensation of the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1. At the left the motion blur compensation is switched on, at the right it's switched off.

Do You Need High Resolution?

The high-resolution option that is built into modern cameras is a nice way of capturing the world in extreme detail. You may ask yourself if it is necessary to have that amount of resolution. A 45-megapixel sensor should be more than enough in most situations. So why would you need even more?

If a high resolution is needed, you’re probably better off with a panorama shot of the scenery. This allows for a bit of planning when capturing moving subjects. On top of that, it gives a lot of flexibility. This makes it possible to get much better results compared to the high-resolution options offered by most cameras, with Canon being the least usable one at this time.

Although Canon offers a much higher increase in resolution, it's quite limited in real world use. This example if from the Panasonic Lumix DC-S1, which works much better.

The downside of the high-resolution panorama is the amount of planning involved. But also the amount of work that is necessary before the end result is ready. A high-resolution system that is offered by shifting a sensor is much more convenient.

My Conclusion

I feel Canon didn't take the high-resolution option for the Canon EOS R5 too seriously. The firmware update should have addressed more useful options like an update for the autofocus and tracking ability; Face recognition, left or right eye preference, and perhaps some other minor changes. If Canon would have taken high resolution seriously, it should have offered additional settings like alignment and motion blur compensation instead of trying to get as much resolution as possible. 

Have you used the Canon EOS R5 IBIS high-resolution function? Please share your experience in the comments below. If you’re a Sony or Olympus user, tell us about the usability of that system.

Nando Harmsen's picture

Nando Harmsen is a Dutch photographer that is specialized in wedding and landscape photography. With his roots in the analog photo age he gained an extensive knowledge about photography techniques and equipment, and shares this through his personal blog and many workshops.

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I think Olympus was the first mainstream digicam with such a mode, and to many, it is still the best implementation, especially in the newest flagship OM-1 body, where improved processing has made the process very fast.

In addition to tripod-based high-resolution (eight 20mpx images produce one 80mpx image, in JPEG and/or RAW), which uses sensor-shifting to get greater resolution, there is a "hand-held" high-resolution mode that produces a 50mpx in JPEG-only, that operates based on the small random motion of the photographer — it will not work on a tripod!

One thing to keep in mind which may have contributed to the "whatever" result with the R5: you need the absolutely best glass to get such high resolution. I've done Olympus HR (on an E-M1 Mark II) with a "kit" lens that produced results that were no better than using Photoshop or other up-rezzing software. But with an Olympus "PRO" lens costing $1,000 more, the results were spectacular, and much better than anything Photoshop could synthesize!

One might think comparing Olympus/OMDS's 80mpx results with the R5's 400mpx is underwhelming, but keep in mind that the Olympus has a sensor that is 1/4th the area — and costs 1/4th as much! So it's results are "equivalent" to 320mpx in full-frame.

Leaf Cantare XY is the first to have a pixel shift. That back came out in 2000.

Fascinating! Edited my answer.

It didn't appear to make much of a splash in the industry, though, and historical information is a bit sketchy. It appears that Leaf didn't continue with their "XY-Weave" sensor-shifting technology beyond this single model.

That's correct, that's about when Leaf lost its glory. It was sold a few times, Creo, the group that owned Mamya, and Kodak if I recall before its final merger. I think technology was going way too fast for the digital back manufacturers. They could barely keep up adapting to camera back screens and all.

As you correctly noted, one MUST use a tripod with a high-res mode shot. My Lumix G9 will produce an 80 mpx shot (10,368 x 7,776), and will generate a RAW file if set up to do so in preference to a JPG file. It will also concurrently generate a normal 20 mpx shot, also RAW or JPG, if desired. The only place I can really use a high-res shot is when I'm doing real estate or architecture shots for print. High-res is useless for real estate to be used on the web due to many MLS services requiring images to be no larger than 2,048 x 1,536. Mode 2 Motion Blur Processing does a great job, even better than Mode 1. I can use high-res in landscape, if the scene is static, the exception being moving water which I choose to let blur. I can see absolutely no valid reason to go for a 400 mpx camera.

A 400mpx shot on a full frame sensor means that you're going to be limited by diffraction at f/2.8.

So, for the full effect, you're probably going to need a 2 dimensional subject, or everything pretty far away.

I never took this into account. Although I'm convinced for normal use diffraction won't be noticed at all, unless you have a side by side comparison with an image that has absolutely no diffraction.

I'm not sure diffraction is going to be an issue with the 400MP output file, since it is made by combining individual 45MP photos and these are taken in sequence. If the sensor itself had 400MP then diffraction would be a problem.

Claude Shannon says the two (combining multiple low-res images or one high-res image) are equivalent, and so should be similarly diffraction-affected.

Consider that each of the 45 megapixel photos have the same-sized circles of confusion. How does one escape this by mushing them together?

If one were shifting by a much larger amount, things would be different, as when the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration used radio-telescopes on opposite edges of the Earth. This, in effect, made a *larger* entrance pupil, thus *reducing* diffraction. But shifting half a pixel won't do that.

I feel like Canon has 1 person responsible for the firmware and this one person was asked to implement this feature. It feels like a marketing stunt to keep the sales going rather than a useful feature. It would've been better if Canon had put more thought into this update and also delivered features of the R6 Mark II like 1/16000 electronic shutter.

Exactly. That are my thoughts also

The Leica SL2 and SL2-S both have this hi-res mode. 187MP in the case of the SL2.

It works well, as long as the camera is truly stationery. If the subject moves you can choose a mode whereby a regular DNG file is recorded as well. E.g. for a seascape with a blurred water effect, you would use the hi-res image for the land and blend in the lower res image for the sea (which does not need the hi-res).

Leica lenses are also frequently sharpest wide open so shooting at, say, f2 is no problem. In my experience it works very well indeed, but in limited circumstances. I use it rarely, but it's nice to know it's there.

I reviewed the SL2 back in 2018, but I can't remember seeing a high resolution setting. I probably wasn't paying attention to these things.

Actually, I did a comparison yesterday at a reproduction photoshoot for a museum. HiRes mode indeed gives more details, not ten times, of course, cause we are limited by lens resolution. And in this mode canon doesn't make raw images, so the color accuracy might be questionable. But if you need to reproduce some detailed b/w graphics, the HiRes mode is very much helpful

I'm waiting for their next cameras to see if this is just a teaser or if they will implement a RAW option for the same reason. There is so much to shoot in copy work and even product photography, I'm kind of surprised by some comments. It's definitely not a toy and can be a great tool if they do make Raw.

We will see how it evolves. Although I do think it's been implemented without a lot of thought.

Gimmicky, useless feature.

Only jpegs.. thats a shame. I like what I've seen from camera Labs test results on Sony's version.

No raw, then.. nah.

This article is innacurate. For 400mp you need a quality lens stopped down, a good tripod, slightest wind gave me bad photos, etc. I did a test and it is tack sharp. On my fast primes unless i stop down i will get bad results as yours.
Can I suggest you redo the test. Try as starters inside on a tripod on concrete floor good modern L lens stopped down. Let us know about your findings.

Well, I used a Gitzo Systematic GT3542LS tripod, standing on a concrete floor. The balhead was a RRS BH-55. The lens was a RF 135mm f/1.8L IS USM at f/11.
Is that tripod sturdy enough, and the lens good enough? Or do you suggest something else?

Still, if it only works with the highest quality of lenses, and that sturdy tripod, without any wind, the option is even less useful. In that case there are too many conditions to meet

You’re absolutely right, I’ve tried with many lenses all L Series. So far my best result was with the RF 50mm F/1.2 (If I’m not wrong, one of the lightest if not the lightest lens of the L series), tried in two different tripods, and achieved decent results on the other lenses when using the Canon Camera Connect to avoid touch the shutter button or the back display. Any slightly breeze or vibration (that still can come from the floor independently of how sturdy is the tripod) affects the result.

Tried in my garage-studio and outside.

It definitely needs a big improvement.

I have been meaning to try this on my Sony FF camera for some time now. In that case, it requires desktop software, which also limits its usefulness somewhat. In any case, I like the idea of this capability. Hopefully Canon takes to heart some of the thoughts expressed here for the next implementation.

I know sony is advertising about it's ghosting correction with pixel shift high resolution of its A7R5. Have you used that specific camera? If so, what are your findings?

Pixel shifting "hi-res" modes made more sense on 5 or 10 megapixel cameras. Starting with a 50mp image you already have enough usable detail for any practical output including printing at full res poster size. As a studio and product shooter these features should be ideal for me but I have never found them useful. The image quality improvement in final output is marginal at best. The image file have never seemed to justify their tremendously increased size. I've gotten equally good final results by upscaling with good interpolation methods.

I totally agree with you. I believe it's just playing with the possibilities, and it doesn't feels like a serious feature. Let alone a useful feature.

Of course. That's why there's no market for MF digital. :-)

There's always gonna be someone chasing the latest and greatest tick-box on the spec sheet.

It needs raw output and flash activation to be useful. With it it can be useful in a studio. Otherwise it's only a whistle.

The Canon hi res IBIS is COMPLETELY worthless. Even with a rock solid heavy duty tripod weighted down with a 20 lb sandbag it's just not usable. I get better results just using the RAW 45mp file.

A SSD space killing novelty. Possibly if it recorded raw files, but the jpg is worthless.