Canon 5DS R Image Quality


Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Fairly typical saturation levels with excellent hue accuracy.

ISO Sensitivity
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located toward the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center. Mouse over the links above to compare ISOs, and click to load a larger version.

Saturation. The Canon 5DS R produces images with fairly typical saturation levels. Reds, oranges, dark greens and dark blues are pushed a little, while aqua and yellow are slightly muted. The mean saturation of 112.2% (12.2% oversaturated) at base ISO of 100 is close to average, but it gradually increases with ISO (most cameras decrease saturation with ISO), peaking at 114.4% at ISO 12,800, though that's a relatively small boost. Overall colors are pleasing and vibrant, without being too overdone. Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life.

Skin tones. The Canon 5DS R produces nice, natural-looking Caucasian skin tones in our tests when using Manual white balance, though with a bit of an orange push. When using Auto white balance, skin tones were a little too cool. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc.

Hue. As we've come to expect from Canon, the 5DS R's hue accuracy is excellent when manual white balance is used (as it is for these results), and much better than average. There are the usual shifts in cyan toward blue (though actually quite small), red toward orange, orange toward yellow, and yellow toward green, but all are fairly minor. Average "delta-C" color error at base ISO is only 3.9 which is excellent (smaller numbers are better). Delta-C color error increases with ISO, but remains better than average even at the highest ISOs. Hue is "what color" the color is.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images


Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Auto and Incandescent settings both struggled with household incandescent lighting, though Manual white balance worked well. Higher than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance
+1.0 EV
Incandescent White Balance
+1.0 EV
Manual White Balance
+1.0 EV

Indoors, under incandescent lighting, the Canon 5DS R's Auto and Incandescent white balance settings struggled, producing very warm orange/yellow color casts. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon among cameras we've tested, but disappointing nonetheless especially for a pro model. The Canon 5DS R does however have a White Priority option for Auto white balance that should result in more neutral color balance, however we did not test that mode in the lab. The Manual setting produced the most accurate results, though just slightly cool with a small nudge towards green. The Canon 5DS R required +1.0 EV exposure compensation for this shot, which is higher than the +0.3 EV average among the cameras we've tested, though that could be because we use a third-party lens (Sigma 70mm f/2.8 Macro) for these shots. (Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.)

Outdoors, daylight
Good color, though a tendency towards slightly cool color balance with somewhat high contrast under harsh lighting. Average exposure accuracy.

Manual White Balance,
+0.7 EV
Auto White Balance,
0 EV

Outdoors, the Canon 5DS R tended toward a slightly cool color balance with Auto white balance, though overall color is generally very good. We preferred Manual white balance for our "Sunlit" portrait shot above left, and the Canon 5DS R required +0.7 EV exposure compensation to keep the mannequin's face bright, which is about average. The Canon 5DS R's default contrast is a little high, producing some washed-out highlights and dark shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the shot above left, though the camera's Auto Lighting Optimizer and Highlight Tone Priority settings help with high contrast scenes like these. See below for examples of this. The Far-field shot (above right) is also a bit cool, and exposure quite conservative, with the camera underexposing to avoid blowing highlights which resulted in some very dark shadows. Shadow detail is very good, though deep shadows are a bit noisy for a full-frame camera.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Over 4,000 lines of resolution.

Strong detail to
>4,000 lines horizontal
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
>4,000 lines vertical
In-Camera JPEG
Strong detail to
>4,000 lines horizontal
ACR Converted RAW
Strong detail to
>4,000 lines vertical
ACR Converted RAW

Our laboratory resolution chart shows the Canon 5DS R's JPEG images contain sharp, distinct line patterns past the limits of our chart both horizontally and vertically, though some aliasing in the form of luminance moiré can be seen starting at about 3,300 to 3,400 lines per pixel height. Still, the aliasing is fairly minor and all lines in the pattern can be clearly distinguished at the 4,000 line limit of our chart. An Adobe Camera Raw converted .CR2 file shows similar resolution, but with a lot more false colors than the camera produced. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Excellent sharpness and detail with a sharp lens. Minor detail loss due to noise reduction processing even at low ISOs.

With the Canon 5DS R's
Fine Detail Picture Style,
JPEG files show excellent
sharpness with fewer
sharpening artifacts.
Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression blurs
detail in areas of subtle contrast,
as in the darker parts of
the model's hair here.

Sharpness. The Canon 5DS R's 50.6-megapixel sensor captures excellent detail when coupled with a good lens, though as is usually the case with Canons, the 5DS R's default sharpening settings generate obvious sharpening halos around high-contrast edges. But the 5DS R allows much more control over sharpening than previous EOS models, so we've shot most of our lab shots with the new Fine Detail Picture Style preset, which, as you can see above left, produces excellent sharpness with much fewer sharpening artifacts than the default Standard Picture Style. See below for a comparison between the two presets. Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.

Detail. The crop above right shows some minor detail loss due to noise suppression in darker areas and in areas with low contrast, perhaps just a little more than we're accustomed to seeing from a full-frame DSLR at base ISO. Still, a very good performance for a 50.6-megapixel model, with very low chroma noise. Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears.

Canon 5DS R Canon 5DS

Aliasing Artifacts. As mentioned previously the Canon 5DS R captures incredibly sharp, detailed images thanks to its very high resolution and lack of an optical low pass filter, but that means it's also more susceptible to moiré, "jaggies" and other aliasing artifacts than cameras with an appropriate OLPF when used with a sharp lens.

As you can see in our Still Life shots above, far more obvious moiré patterns can be seen in the Samuel Smith bottle label taken with the 5DS R (left) than with the 5DS (right), and you can see more moiré in some other shots as well, such as in the window shades of our Far Field shots. Is the extra sharpness offered by the 5DS R worth the risk of increased aliasing? Only you can decide, as that depends a lot on the subject matter you typically shoot. Most natural subjects won't produce many aliasing artifacts due to their more random or irregular shapes. If on the other hand you shoot a lot of man-made subjects like buildings and clothing, you'll likely appreciate the 5DS' better resistance to aliasing.

With the increasing trend of using either a very weak or no optical low pass filter, quite a few cameras produce similar artifacts these days, though. Techniques than can be used to reduce aliasing include shooting at a smaller aperture so that lens diffraction acts as an anti-alias filter, defocusing slightly, shooting at higher ISOs, and post-processing particularly with RAW files.

In-Camera JPEGs: Standard vs Fine Detail Picture Style setting
As mentioned, the Canon 5DS R and 5DS offer a new Picture Style preset called Fine Detail. Below is a comparison with the Standard, default Picture Style.

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, defaults
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail

In the table above, we compare the Canon 5DS R's default Standard Picture Style setting to its new Fine Detail preset at base ISO. The 5DS R offers users much more flexibility in sharpening than prior EOS models, allowing you to adjust not only the "Strength" (from 0 to 7) but also the "Fineness" (1 to 5) and "Threshold" (1 to 5) operators. We believe these parameters correlate to unsharp mask options for strength, radius and threshold available in photo editing software such as Photoshop, although we don't know what the equivalent units might be.

The Fine Detail Picture Style preset boosts the Sharpness Strength operator one notch (to 4 out of 7) while dialing down the Fineness (1/5) and Threshold (1/5) operators to their minimum compared to Standard which defaults to Sharpness 3/7, Fineness 4/5 and Threshold 4/5. The result is significantly improved rendering of fine detail along with less obvious sharpening halos than the default Standard setting, however noise is more visible as well. There also appear to be minor differences in color and contrast, even though those settings are identical between these two Picture Styles presets.

RAW vs In-Camera JPEGs
As noted above the Canon 5DS R produces sharp JPEG images with phenomenal detail, especially when using the Fine Detail Picture Style preset. Let's see how an Adobe Camera Raw conversion compares:

Base ISO (100)
Camera JPEG, Fine Detail Picture Style
RAW via Adobe Camera Raw

In the table above, we compare a best quality in-camera JPEG taken at base ISO using default noise reduction and the Fine Detail Picture Style preset (on the left) to the matching CR2 file converted with Adobe Camera Raw 9.1 using default noise reduction with some moderate but tight unsharp masking applied in Photoshop (200%, radius of 0.3 pixels, and a threshold of 0).

Looking closely at the images, we can see the camera's Fine Detail Picture Style comes pretty close to matching the amount of detail offered by Adobe Camera Raw using its default noise reduction, though the Adobe Camera Raw conversion does still manage to eke out slightly better detail, likely due to more sophisticated demosaicing and higher default contrast. The conversion does however show higher noise in the shadows and flat areas, so overall the camera does a more balanced job. All in all, really excellent results, so much so that we're not sure why Canon doesn't make Fine Detail Picture Style the default, other than to remain consistent with other EOS models.

ISO & Noise Performance
Excellent noise versus detail tradeoff up to ISO 1600.

Default High ISO Noise Reduction
ISO 50 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600
ISO 3200 ISO 6400 ISO 12,800

Images are quite clean at ISOs 50 through 200, with just a tiny amount of luminance noise seen in the shadows, and very little chroma noise. Some blurring of fine low-contrast detail is already visible at base ISO, though, as mentioned previously. Noise "grain" is slightly more evident at ISO 400 in the shadows, but detail remains very strong despite some minor blurring due to noise reduction. ISO 800 and 1600 are of course a little noisier, but fine detail is still very good with a noise grain that's quite fine and chroma noise well under control. At ISO 3200 the image becomes noticeably grainier resulting in a more evident drop in image quality, though fine detail is still very good and chroma noise remains well-controlled. ISO 6400 is quite grainy with minor chroma noise, but there is still quite a bit of fine detail left because the noise grain is still quite tight and film-like. Noise and the effects of noise reduction working hard to keep it under control become more apparent at ISO 12,800 with heavier luminance noise, stronger blurring and some obvious chroma blotching. Still, detail is not too bad at this sensitivity.

Overall, high ISO performance is actually not bad considering the resolution. The camera does not however offer ISOs any higher than 12,800 equivalent, which is a stop or more lower than some competing models.

See the Print Quality section below (when available) for our evaluation of maximum print sizes at each ISO setting.

A note about focus for this shot: We used to shoot this image at f/4, however depth of field became so shallow with larger, high-resolution sensors that it was difficult to keep important areas of this shot in focus, so we have since started shooting at f/8, the best compromise between depth of field and sharpness.

Extremes: Sunlit, dynamic range and low light tests
Extremely high resolution with strong overall detail, but somewhat high default contrast and unremarkable dynamic range. HTP and ALO options do a great job of dealing with tough lighting. Very good low-light performance.

+0.3 EV +0.7 EV +1.0 EV

The Canon 5DS R produced moderately high contrast with some washed-out highlights and deep shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of the test above. The mannequin's face was too dim at the default and +0.3 EV settings and too many highlights were blown with +1.0 EV, so we preferred the image with +0.7 EV exposure compensation overall. This resulted in some clipped highlights in the shirt and flowers, a bit more than we're used to seeing from a full-frame sensor lately, indicating mediocre dynamic range compared to the best of recent competitors. Shadow detail was however pretty good, though very deep shadows have moderately high amounts of both chroma and luma noise. Bottom line: while dynamic range isn't bad, the Canon 5DS R didn't do as well with this difficult shot compared to some recent state-of-the-art full-frame cameras, though its higher resolution helps to offset noise in the shadows when producing prints of equal size.

Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here. In actual shooting conditions, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown here; it's better to shoot in open shade whenever possible.)

Highlight Tone Priority
The Canon 5DS R's Highlight Tone Priority (HTP) option did an excellent job of preserving highlight detail, though shadows were also affected, as shown below. (Mouse over the Off and On links to load the corresponding thumbnail, histogram and crops.)

Highlight Tone Priority (+0.3EV)



(Levels boosted
to reveal noise.)

Both shots above were captured at the same exposure, the only difference being that HTP was enabled for the second shot which necessarily increases the ISO to 200; part of how HTP works. The result is evident in the crops, histograms and thumbnails above, clearly showing the superior highlight preservation when HTP is enabled, though shadow brightness is also affected somewhat. If you look closely at shadows (the levels in shadow crops above are heavily boosted to reveal noise that would be difficult to see otherwise), you'll notice an increase in noise is the price you pay when ISO is boosted from 100 to 200. Except in the very deepest shadows, though, overall noise is low enough at ISO 200 that this is really a negligible trade-off for all but the most critical applications.

Automatic Lighting Optimization
Like previous Canon EOS models, the 5DS R offers three selectable levels of Automatic Lighting Optimization (ALO), plus Off. In fully automatic mode (Scene Intelligent Auto) ALO is automatically enabled and it's available in P, Tv, Av, M and B exposure modes. Mouse over the links below to load the associated thumbnail and histogram, and click on the links to load full resolution images.

Automatic Lighting Optimization (+0.3 EV)

As you can see above, ALO has the effect of shifting shadows and mid-tones in the histograms to the right, brightening shadows and indeed most of the image without shifting the highlights as much. ISO is not boosted for ALO so increased noise is not an issue, though it may be slightly more visible in shadows that have been boosted significantly.

High Dynamic Range
The Canon 5DS R's HDR feature takes three continuous shots at different exposures and merges them together to create an image with wider tonal range than would be possible with a single exposure. There are three strength settings available (+/-1EV, +/-2EV,+/-3EV), plus Auto. And there are 5 possible Effect settings: Natural (default), Art Standard, Art Vivid, Art Bold and Art Embossed. The source images captured are not saved, and RAW mode is not supported. (Mouse over the links below to load the corresponding thumbnail.)

Far-field High Dynamic Range

As you can see, the HDR shots above (Natural effect) have improved dynamic range with preserved highlights and shadows that have been opened up with lower noise, with the Auto setting producing results very similar to +/2 EV. Do however note that a significant part of the image has been cropped away in the alignment process, and that the resulting images aren't quite as detailed overall, because the cropped image is resampled to full 50-megapixel image size. Also be aware that ghosting can occur when elements of the scene move during the sequence capture, as can be seen with the moving people and greenery in some of these shots.

Dynamic Range Analysis (RAW mode)
While we once performed our own dynamic range measurements based on in-camera JPEGs as well as converted RAW images (when the camera was supported by Adobe Camera Raw), we've switched to using DxO Labs' results from their DxOMark website. As technology advanced, the dynamic range of modern high-end cameras in some cases exceeded the range of the Stouffer T4110 density scale that we used for our own measurements. DxO's approach based on RAW data before demosaicing is also more revealing, because it measures the fundamental dynamic range of the sensor, irrespective of whatever processing is applied to JPEGs, or to RAW data by off-the-shelf conversion software.

In the following, we use DxO's "Print" dynamic range results, which are scaled based on camera resolution. As the name suggests, this scaling corresponds to the situation in which you print at a given size, regardless of how many megapixels the camera might have. (In other words, if you've decided to make a 13x19 inch print, that's the size you're printing, whether the camera's resolution is 16 or 300 megapixels.) For the technically-minded, you can find a discussion of the reasoning behind this here on the DxOMark website. Also note that DxO Labs uses a signal-to-noise (SNR) threshold of 1 when defining the lower boundary of acceptable luminance noise in their dynamic range measurements, which corresponds to the "Low Quality" threshold of the Imatest software we used to use for this measurement.

Here, we decided to compare the Canon 5DS R's dynamic range to the venerable 5D Mark III, and also to Nikon's top DSLR at time of writing, the D810. Note that the 5DS R and 5DS have identical dynamic range results. You can always compare other models on

As you can see from the above graph (click for a larger version), the Canon 5DS R's normalized dynamic range is improved over the 5D Mark III at low ISOs, with a peak range of about 12.4 EV versus 11.7 EV at base ISO. But that improvement can be attributed to the 5DS R's higher resolution, which has the advantage of reduced noise when normalized. Unnormalized screen results (at 100%) show that dynamic range at base ISO remains unchanged, and the 5D Mark III's dynamic range is actually higher at ISO 800 and above, thanks to its larger pixels.

The Nikon D810 does significantly better at lower ISOs even though it has lower resolution, producing a peak dynamic range of about 14.8 stops at base ISO, a whopping 2.4 EV better. However at ISO 800 and above, all three cameras perform very similarly when normalized. Click here to visit the DxOMark page for the Canon 5DS R for more of their test results and additional comparisons.

  1 fc
11 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
1/16 fc

2s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

30s, f2.8

1/15s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1s, f2.8

1/64s, f2.8

1/4s, f2.8

1/4s, f2.8

Low Light. The Canon 5DS R performed well in our low-light tests, capturing bright images at the lowest light level (1/16 foot-candle), even at base ISO (100). As expected, noise increases as ISO goes up and light levels go down, but noise is very fine-grained at ISO 3200. As you'd expect, noise is a little high at the maximum ISO of 12,800, particularly when noise reduction is minimized (extreme right column in the table above), however it's still quite fine-grained with a low chroma component (with default noise reduction enabled), leaving good detail for the sensitivity.

We noticed a few hot pixels here and there, but nothing out of the ordinary. We didn't see any signs of heat blooming though some minor horizontal banding (fixed pattern noise) appears in very deep shadows.

Color balance was once again a bit cool with the Canon's 5DS R's Auto white balance setting, though white balance warmed up at lower light levels.

When using the optical viewfinder and phase-detect AF, the Canon 5DS R's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to below our 1/16 foot-candle limit unassisted with an f/2.8 lens, which is excellent. And it was able to focus in complete darkness with AF assist enabled. In Live View mode, the Canon 5DS R was able to focus down to just above the 1/16 foot-candle light level, which is also excellent for a DSLR in Live View mode.

As always, keep in mind that the longer shutter speeds here demand the use of a tripod to prevent any blurring from camera movement. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

How bright is this? The one foot-candle light level that this test begins at roughly corresponds to the brightness of typical city street-lighting at night. Cameras performing well at that level should be able to snap good-looking photos of street-lit scenes.

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) Digital SLRs like the Canon 5DS R do much better than point & shoots, but you still shouldn't expect a quick autofocus lock with moving subjects.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Fantastic, highly-detailed prints up to 30 x 40 inches all the way up to ISO 800; Very good 20 x 30 at ISO 3200; Impressive 8 x 10 inch print at ISO 12,800.

ISO 50 through 800 prints, shockingly, all look fantastic up to 30 x 40 inches, or larger depending on how far you want to push the sensor's resolution -- at 50 megapixels, the camera should have little trouble with even larger prints. Beginning at expanded ISO 50, images are strikingly crisp with sharp fine detail. Even as the sensitivity rises to ISO 800, noise is practically nonexistent. Upon very close inspection, there is a very minimal hint of noise-related softness in certain areas of our test target print, but nothing nearly significant enough to warrant a decrease in print size.

ISO 1600 images still display lots of fine detail, but there is, at last, some visible, finely-grained noise in shadow areas, yet impressively large 24 x 36 inch prints are the top size for this ISO. Larger 30 x 40 inch prints would be acceptable for less critical applications or wall display.

ISO 3200 prints top out at 20 x 30 inches. Shadow noise is slightly more apparent, and troublesome lower contrast areas like the red-leaf fabric swatch in our test target, for example, appear soft with smudged detail.

ISO 6400 images look great up to 13 x 19 inches. As expected, noise is more visible now, but it otherwise remains very finely-grained and not all that detrimental to the overall print. Prints are still impressively detailed at this ISO sensitivity.

ISO 12,800 prints reach the limit at a very respectable 8 x 10 inches. Detail is still very good, especially in higher contrast areas, and colors are vibrant.

Wow. Color us impressed. We expected the Canon 5DS R and its OLPF-less 50-megapixel sensor to have a good showing at base ISO, but we weren't expecting the camera to maintain 30 x 40 prints -- the maximum print size we test -- all the way up to ISO 800. Detail is fantastic and noise is practically nowhere to be seen. There's a hint of it in the shadows at ISO 800, but nothing objectionable. Print sizes start to decrease at ISOs beyond 800, but not by much. ISO 1600 tops out at 24 x 36 inches, and ISO 6400 manages a fine 13 x 19 inch print. Even the camera's maximum expanded ISO of 12,800 offers a very usable 8 x 10 inch print. Impressive indeed.


The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Canon EOS 5DS R Photo Gallery .

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Canon EOS 5DS R with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

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