High Resolution Comparisons

Canon 5DS R vs the world

By Dave Pardue and Dave Etchells | Posted 03/20/2015; Updated 11/03/2015 with production unit crops

While common knowledge to a lot of our readers it bears noting that for a given size sensor, a higher pixel count means higher resolution, but at the expense of smaller pixels and generally poorer high ISO performance. As stated in the overview, the 5D Mark III has pixels with more than twice the area of those in the 5DS and 5DS R (6.25 microns on a side, vs 4.14 microns, a difference in area of 2.28x). While the 5D MKIII's sensor technology is older, that's a pretty dramatic size difference, which helps explain why Canon chose to limit the native ISO for these new models to ISO 6400. (There is an extended setting of ISO 12,800 as well, though, which we'll take a look at below, plus a very welcome multi-shot noise reduction setting.)

Given that the biggest focus of the new 5DS/S-R is resolution rather than low-light performance, the comparisons below will focus on base ISO performance against the Nikon D810 and medium-format Pentax 645Z. We're also adding a comparison against the special "high res shot" mode on the Olympus E-M5 II which outputs 40MP JPEG files and 64MP (!) RAW files, though only from a tripod while shooting stationary subjects. (That's a significant limitation, yet is precisely how many landscape, architectural and product photographers shoot, so we felt it was a worthwhile comparison to make.) And lastly, we'll show a few comparisons for higher ISO performance against the 5D MK III and the D810 as well as the 7D Mark II, which has essentially the same pixel size.

Taken together, we'll look at cameras both above and below the 5DS R's price point, as well as competing full-frame models and an example of Canon's latest sensor tech in the sub-frame world. The following are 1:1 crops from our lab Still Life target; differences in apparent size is due to the difference in resolution across the models shown.

[Important note: All 5DS R crops were shot with Canon's new Fine Detail Picture Style setting unless otherwise noted, which tightens-up the sharpening kernel quite a bit and does in fact provide much crisper-looking images. To see how it compares to the default Standard Picture Style, click here.]

Nikon D810 at base ISO
Canon 5DS R at base ISO

At base ISO, the 50 megapixel Canon 5DS R's image is larger than that of the 36 megapixel Nikon D810, but it's hard to tell whether there's really more data there or not, given the difference in scale and differences in in-camera sharpening. The D810's image here looks more crisp to the eye, but the D810 also applies more sharpening to its JPEGs by default.


Olympus E-M5 II "high res mode" at base ISO
Canon 5DS R at base ISO

The 40MP JPEG from the Olympus E-M5 II here is the output from their special "high resolution shot" mode, which utilizes pixel shift technology to produce a much larger image than a standard shot from the 16MP chip. This mode can only be used for shooting still subjects with a tripod, but since landscape and architectural photographers often shoot that way we thought it'd be interesting to show this comparison here.
[To see more about this technology, please visit our Olympus E-M5 II High Resolution coverage Part I | Part II]


Pentax 645Z at base ISO
Canon 5DS R at base ISO

They say it's hard to beat the king, and the 51.4MP medium format Pentax 645Z is simply stunning in its ability to bring fine detail to life. Of course, it's more than twice the price and is substantially larger as well, but it serves as a useful reference point.

Moving now to ISO 6400 comparisons, which is the 5DS R's maximum native (non-expanded) ISO. We'll first show comparison crops using the full 1:1 resolution, and then show a side-by-side with the 5DS R downsampled so that noise is compared at the same apparent viewing size.

Canon 5D MK III at ISO 6400
Canon 5DS R at ISO 6400

Even allowing for the obvious discrepancy in size due to resolution differences, the 5D III does indeed handle noise better than the 5DS R, doubtless due in large part to the difference in pixel size mentioned earlier. If good low light performance is more important to you than massive resolution, you may want to explore the differences further in our Comparometer.


Canon 5D MK III at ISO 6400
Canon 5DS R at ISO 6400

These crops show the 5DS R's image downsampled to match the resolution of the 5D III, to help compare noise vs resolution at the same image size. The 5D III still has the edge in the noise department, but wow, the 5DS definitely puts it to shame in the detail department!



Canon 7D MK II at ISO 6400
Canon 5DS R at ISO 6400

As mentioned earlier, the Canon 7D Mark II's pixel pitch is about the same as that of the 5DS R. The roughly similar noise levels seen above are what we'd expect as a result. The performance isn't bad, but it's more in the realm of sub-frame cameras, vs full-frame ones.


Canon 7D MK II at ISO 6400
Canon 5DS R at ISO 6400

Here's the same comparison with the 5DS R downsampled to match the 7D Mark II's pixel dimensions. This comparison basically shows the advantage of the greater sensor area of the 5DS R. Pixel-level noise is roughly similar at 1:1, but when downsampled to the same pixel count, the larger sensor wins handily.



Nikon D810 at ISO 6400
Canon 5DS R at ISO 6400

This is perhaps a more telling comparison, as the Nikon D810 is a full-frame camera with only 30% fewer pixels. The D810 clearly seems to have an edge at high ISO settings.


Nikon D810 at ISO 6400
Canon 5DS R at ISO 6400

Here's the same comparison, with the 5DS R downsampled to match the D810's pixel resolution. Noise levels are a bit closer in lighter areas, but the D810 still wins in the shadows. (This crop also shows more clearly why the D810 images in these comparisons look sharper to the eye. Note the sharpening halos around the type on the bottle label in the D810 crop; the 5DS R's images have much less of that present.)



The 5DS R tops out at ISO 6400 natively, with an extended high setting of 12,800. It does have a multi-shot noise reduction setting, though, that we found interesting. While it's only usable on a tripod with stationary subjects (like the Olympus E-M5 MkII's super-resolution mode), it has a pretty dramatic impact on noise levels Here's a quick look:

Canon 5DS R - Multi-Shot Noise Reduction
Canon 5DS R at ISO 12,800 (single shot)
Canon 5DS R at ISO 12,800 (multi-shot NR)
(Pre-production beta prototype shot. Sorry, we forgot to retake this one so it may not fully represent final image quality.)

Wow! Is that 50 megapixels at ISO 12,800? Can you say "night landscape photography"? While the requirement for stationary camera and subjects is limiting, this certainly strikes us as a great feature to have onboard! (Note that you must disable RAW capture in order to use this setting; it's JPEG-only.)

 



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