Canon 5DS R Field Test Part I

Big sensor, big resolution, big responsibility

by William Brawley | 08/13/2015

Canon's niche-market DSLRs. The Canon 5DS R and 5DS cameras are perhaps two of the most specialized, or niche-market DSLRs that Canon's ever produced (well, perhaps not counting a couple of astrophotography-specific variants of their 20D and 60D). Canon's wide-ranging traditional DSLR models varied along the price scale in terms of size, build and level of features and performance, but were ultimately well-suited for general use and with a variety of subject matter. These two full-frame 50.6-megapixel monsters, on the other hand, with their massive image resolutions as well as limited high ISO performance and video capabilities are focused squarely on a few avenues -- namely, professional-level landscapes, portraiture or other studio-based and/or commercial applications, which all typically demand large print sizes and lots and lots of detail.

As a long-time Canon user, needless to say, I was very excited to try out the new Canon 5DS R camera. If you're familiar with Canon's enthusiast-level and prosumer DSLRs, such as the 7D Mark II or better yet, the 5D Mark III, you'll feel right at home with the 5DS R (and standard "S" model as well) since it looks and feels identical to the Mark III.

Canon 5DS R Field Test Part II

Cranking up the ISO and checking out timelapse video

by William Brawley | 10/02/2015

Big sensor...but small pixels.
With the Canon 5DS R's massive allotment of megapixels, its ability to capture lots and lots of detail is no surprise. However, the flip-side to the ultra-high-resolution 50.6MP full-frame sensor is very tiny individual pixels. In what's basically the polar opposite of the low-resolution Sony A7S II, whose full-frame, 12-megapixel sensor has extremely large individual pixels, the Canon 5DS R has rather limited high ISO capabilities as a result-- at least for a full-frame camera.

In fact, Canon's even explicitly stated that the pixel pitch of the 5DS R's 50.6MP full-frame sensor is more comparable to the Canon 7D Mark II, with its 20.2MP APS-C sensor, than with the earlier 5D Mark III. With this, the high ISO performance should be similar to the 7D Mark II. Bottom line, though, is that I went into this Field Test with the understanding that the Canon 5DS R probably wouldn't have stunning low-light performance, as it's not designed to for that. Its primary focus is on high-resolution images at lower ISOs; similar to many medium format cameras. Nevertheless, the standard, native range of the camera's ISO scale tops out at 6400, which gives it some decent capabilities in lower light situations.