Review Canon 5DsR

On the champion’s podium for full-frame cameras with the highest resolution, the highest platform is shared by two cameras: the Canon EOS 5Ds and the Canon EOS 5Ds R. These are actually the same camera with the same 50-megapixel sensor. But between the two cameras there is a small difference, which influences the resolution. The Canon 5Ds, which we reviewed previously, has an anti-alias filter, or “low-pass” as Canon calls it. On the 5Ds R, this filter is disabled. In theory, the Canon 5Ds R should be able to render a bit more detail, at the cost of a slightly greater risk of moiré.
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At the introduction of the Canon 5Ds and 5Ds R, there was talk of the new norm for resolution for an SLR camera. Even so, the number of megapixels on a sensor is not the only factor that determines the resolution. The quality of the lenses used and the image editing applied (contrast, noise suppression, sharpening) have a big influence on the impression of sharpness. It is also not realistic today to only look at SLR cameras for a new norm in resolution. Mirrorless system cameras, like the Sony A7R2, have to be considered if a resolution norm is to be set. That naturally does nothing to detract from the fact that the Canon 5Ds R offers a unique combination of resolution, speed, accuracy, reliability and durability. All lenses with an EF mount that you have now become visibly better if, instead of a Canon EOS 5D Mark 4 or Canon EOS 6D , you combine them with the Canon 5Ds R. The Canon 5Ds R is also ideal for landscape, architecture, fashion or commercial portrait photography. The price of the Canon 5Ds R limits the target audience to professional photographers and capital-heavy ambitious amateur photographers (pros and prosumers). What can they expect from the Canon EOS 5Ds R? Are extra megapixels still useful?

Because both models, the Canon EOS 5DS R and the 5Ds, aside from the low-pass cancellation filter, are identical, many of the parts of this review are the same as those for the Canon EOS 5Ds. Those who have already read that one can skip directly to the comparison of the two models and the influence of removing the anti-alias filter.

The sensor of the Canon 5Ds offers an ISO sensitivity of 100 – 6,400, and that can be expanded to 50 – 12,800. The 150k pixel RGB+IR measurement sensor with Flicker Detection in the EOS 5DS and EOS 5DS R ensures that shots can be taken with consistent and accurate exposure even under fluorescent lighting or the light of a monitor. What is striking is the modest highest ISO setting. For a full-frame SLR camera, a maximum ISO value of a quarter of a million is starting to become the norm; the Canon 5Ds goes no higher than 12,800. Given the high number of pixels on the sensor, I think that it is a good choice by Canon: at higher ISO values, the resolution of a camera drops. And the Canon 5Ds Canon 5Ds R will be chosen, due to its resolution capabilities, for studio and landscape photography, which works from a tripod with the lowest ISO value. The expansion to a lower ISO value is an important plus point, which is relatively unfamiliar to many professional photographers. The combination of high resolution with the good signal-to-noise ratio of at 50 ISO ensures higher-quality, extra-natural images.

High resolution means big files, which places high demands on PC memory and storage space. Depending on the design and ISO value, 14-bit RAW files are (luckily) between 40 and 80 megabytes. Even so, that is not all that big. For comparison: the 14-bit, 36-megapixel files from the Nikon D810 are 35 to 60 megabytes.
Two DIGIC 6 processors in the EOS 5DS ensure that the enormous amount of data from the 50.6-megapixel sensor is processed quickly. That’s why with this camera, even with the big file sizes, you can still photograph at five frames per second (RAW + jpg). Great.
The high resolution of the Canon 5Ds R means that even after cropping, you have sufficient resolution left over for a nice enlargement. New in-camera crop programs, with which the crop settings are visible in the viewfinder, deliver enough resolution for a perfect print at A4. With a crop factor of 1.6x, you still always have 19 megapixels available.


The menu structure of all Canon cameras is clear and well thought-out. With the Custom Quick Control screen on which you can adjust type, dimensions and position of the pictograms yourself, Canon does one better. The configuration of the Custom Quick Control screen is a one-time job, which some photographers will enjoy very much, because you make your own personalized menu screen with it, one with a layout that suits you perfectly. And the more familiar a camera is, the greater the chance that you’ll take great pictures with it. It may be that only a small group of photographers will actually use the Custom Quick Control screen, though, because the standard Quick menu is already very good. Even so, that small group will be extra pleased by this camera, because it suits their way of working perfectly.


EOS 5DS Black Beauty 10

Canon EOS 5DS R is for photographers who want to achieve the highest possible image quality.

Both cameras have a 50-megapixel sensor and seem in appearance and functionality to be twin brothers. But the Canon 5DsR has a low-pass cancellation filter (analogous to the Nikon D800E), while the Canon 5Ds has a traditional low-pass filter (analogous to the Nikon D800). That makes the Canon 5Ds R even more specialized than the 5Ds. A “low-pass cancellation filter” is a filter that nullifies the effect of the “low-pass” filter of the 5DS. That sounds complicated. It is. A low-pass or anti-alias filter softens the image a little bit. That comes at the cost of sharpness, but reduces the chance of moiré. Canon could have omitted this filter entirely. Then the thickness of the glass layer in front of the sensor would have been different on the 5DS R than on the 5DS. This presumably would have caused problems with calibrating the autofocus, or other production problems could have resulted. To prevent this, Canon chose for a bit more complicated solution: adding an extra filter that counters the effect of the low-pass filter. The thickness of the sensor stack thus remains the same. Quality differences between the two cameras can best be seen in unsharpened or very carefully edited RAW shots. You have to edit RAW images very carefully to expose any differences in image quality between the Canon 5Ds R and the Canon 5Ds.


We thoroughly measured the results from both cameras in Imatest and did indeed find a difference in the rendering of detail. The graph clearly shows that the resolution of the 5Ds R is just a bit higher than that of the 5Ds. Whether you will see that in your photos is a completely different matter. With a bit of extra sharpening of the 5Ds files, the two look nearly identical. Nearly, because that extra sharpening makes the image a bit harder and less organic. The files from the 5Ds R are a fraction more beautiful. The question remains of which you should choose, if you are looking for a camera with the highest sharpness and detail rendering. That depends on the risk of moiré. Some subjects have more trouble with it than others. If you often photograph fabrics or other subjects with regular patterns, then you may well be better off with the “regular” EOS 5Ds. Photographers who primarily do landscapes and portraits run little chance of moiré and choose the 5Ds R reasonably safely. If you want to work with a 5Ds R regardless, because it’s the sharpest, and you run a big risk of moiré in the photo, then consider the following:
– Work tethered if that is possible. On a larger screen, you can better see whether you have moiré.
– If you see moiré in the shot, then change the angle of the camera or vary the distance from your subject. The moiré then often disappears.
– If you have moiré, then take a second shot with f/16 or f/22. Due to the diffraction that occurs at these small apertures, you lose some sharpness and the moiré often disappears as well. Put this shot with a layer mask over the normal shot in Photoshop and polish the moiré away.
– Some programs have extra software for removing moiré. Look into this in your own favorite image editing program.

Extreme detail enlargement: The 5DS has a bit lower sharpness, and the 5DS R shows some false colors. That can be caused by the low-pass cancellation filter and the fact that these lines are so close to each other; then calculating what should be black and white becomes very difficult for the sensor.

Even with an anti-alias filter, you have a chance of moiré, only the chance is smaller than with a camera without one. This is a detail from a shot with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with an anti-alias filter. The lines of the fences nicely match the Bayer pattern of the camera, and then you get this.


With the growth of the mirrorless system cameras, it seems obvious to compare the Canon 5Ds R with the Sony A7R (MK2): a full-frame mirrorless system camera with the most pixels on the sensor and the option of using Canon lenses while retaining AF with the help of, for example, a Metabones Speedbooster.

  • The Canon 5Ds R has an optical viewfinder, and the Sony has an electronic viewfinder. Not everyone loves an electronic viewfinder. On the other hand, you can immediately see the effect of over- and under-exposure or the application of a creative filter (WYSIWYG), while with an optical viewfinder you first have to take a picture, and then review it on the screen. In an optical viewfinder, you do not have focus-peaking, and when photographing in the dark, you see more with an electronic viewfinder than with an optical viewfinder.
  • The Canon 5Ds R SLR body is significantly larger, and, at 930 grams, nearly twice as heavy as the mirrorless system camera from Sony. The weight difference is not as large in practice, because the lenses for the two cameras will be about the same weight.
  • The Canon 5Ds R has more megapixels than the Sony A7R, which in theory produces a difference of 9% in resolution when using the same lens. You do not see that with the naked eye.
  • There are many more lenses with the Canon EF mount for sale than with the Sony FE mount.
  • The Sony A7R offers in-camera 4K video. The Canon 5Ds R does not have 4K.
  • For video, you cannot use the viewfinder on the 5DsR, because the mirror is raised, while the Sony A7R still has a viewfinder for video recordings.


The Canon 5Ds R has a heavy, outstandingly durable body made of a high-quality magnesium alloy. The screen is big and bright, but unfortunately cannot tilt or rotate. The camera, according to the specifications, is not extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater. The large viewfinder with 100% coverage makes choosing compositions easy. The large, 8.11 cm (3.2”) Clear View II LCD screen has an anti-reflective layer in order to minimize reflections and flare while viewing pictures. The Canon 5Ds R has a 61-point AF with 41 ‘cross-type’ points for reliable and fast AF performance. Moving subjects stay in focus thanks to EOS Intelligent Tracking and Recognition AF (iTR), which follows both faces and color.


The high resolution of the sensor means that every focus error is made visible. Canon’s Mirror Vibration Control System reduces blur by achieving a precise up and down motion of the camera mirror with a cam drive in order to avoid sudden stops and to dampen the noise. Focusing with LiveView delivered sharper pictures than focusing with phase-detection AF in our tests. Motion blur, caused by the photographer, is made visible by this camera like no other. When taking pictures without using a tripod, you are certain to lose sharpness if you choose a shutter time of 1/(focal length or longer). In order to be sure that you do not introduce motion blur with these kinds of pixel monsters, you are better off starting with 1/3*(focal length): With a 50 mm lens, choose a shutter time of 1/150 sec or faster.


The highest center sharpness that we measured for a Canon 5DsR with a Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8 USM L Macro is 3800 lines per image height (unsharpened RAW files). The highest center sharpness that we have measured for the Nikon D810 (with a Nikon 105mm f/1.4G @ f/4) is, despite the smaller number of megapixels, about the same: 3850 LW/PH. The Sony A7R mk2 with a Zeiss Batis 85 mm f/1.8 even achieves 4070 LW/BH.
In theory, a resolution difference of about 10% in favor of the Canon 5DsR should be possible if you compare shots that are made with a Nikon D810 or a Canon 5DsR. Possible quality differences between the lenses used probably nullify the theoretical resolution differences between these cameras if you compare unedited files with each other.

But that is of course not the whole story. A shot made with a sensor + low-pass filter has to be sharpened more than a shot made with a sensor without a low-pass filter. A new Fine Detail Picture Style maximizes, according to Canon, the detail level in jpg shots made with the Canon 5DsR sensor, so that advanced adjustment of the focus is possible without having to use editing software. If we compare the sharpened shots (RAW or jpg) with each other (jpg directly from the camera, or RAW files that have been edited in the same way by Adobe Lightroom), then the Canon 5DsR does indeed do a bit better than the Nikon D810. It depends strongly on the subject, since for many shots, the difference cannot be seen.


The color reproduction in daylight is good, as we are accustomed to from Canon. Both RAW files developed in Lightroom and the standard image style jpg files give a bit too saturated red colors, which many photographers prefer in skin tones and holiday photos. The Faithful image style produces jpg files with a more neutral color reproduction. The automatic white balance is usually sufficient, but in artificial light you can benefit by adjusting the white balance yourself instead of using the automatic white balance, which produces an orange color wash in artificial light. That does not only apply for the Canon 5Ds R, but for practically all other cameras that we have reviewed to date.
As far as dynamic range is concerned, the glass is half-full and half-empty. Despite a larger number of pixels on the sensor, the dynamic range of the Canon 5Ds is no worse than that of earlier Canon cameras that we have reviewed. When we made the dark shots lighter, we did not encounter any banding, as with earlier Canon cameras. The usable dynamic range with a poor signal-to-noise ratio (1: Low) is 10.6 stops and with a good signal-to-noise ratio (10: High) at 50 ISO was 10.6 stops. At higher ISOs, we did not measure a higher dynamic range, but a bit lower signal-to-noise ratio.
However, if you compare the dynamic range of the Canon 5Ds R with the dynamic range of the top models from other brands, then the Canon 5Ds R loses out to full-frame cameras like the Nikon D810, Sony A7R or cameras with an APS-C sensor like the Nikon D7200 or Samsung NX1. At 100 ISO, even the cameras with a relatively small sensor, like the Olympus OM-D E-M1, Panasonic GH4 or Nikon J5, were able to pretty well match the dynamic range of the Canon 5Ds R. The 5DsR has a 4x larger sensor surface and 3x as many pixels as a 16-megapixel micro-43 sensor. 


Thanks to the Canon 5D mk2, there are many professionals today who use their camera for both photos and video recordings. For them, it’s great to have just one camera with which you can take both advanced photos and video recordings, depending on the subject and the situation in which you find yourself. It also saves a lot of hassle if you do not have to take along an extra video camera. My expectation at the time was that all professional cameras would become hybrid cameras, like the Panasonic GH4 and the Sony A7r MK2. Professional video cameras also have an electronic viewfinder.
Canon chose another path: the Canon 5Ds R is a camera that is designed for photographers. Naturally, you can make 60p Full-HD recordings with it, and there is an extra connection on this camera for a microphone, but you are at the wrong place if you are looking for 4K or expanded video options.



  • High image quality
  • Good buffer: even with RAW + jpg, you can still take five 50-megapixel shots per second
  • Beautiful viewfinder image
  • User friendly (both camera and menu) and fits well in the hand
  • Rock-solid construction
  • Custom Quick Control screen that can be adjusted to the preferences of any photographer


  • Large files due to high resolution
  • Screen does not tilt or rotate
  • Dynamic range lags behind the competition

If you want to get the maximum resolution from a 50-megapixel sensor, then you will have to use exceptionally good lenses, like the Canon 24-70 f/2.8L mk2 (shown here) or the Canon 70-200mm f/2.8 IS mk2. We tested the Canon 5DsR with these two lenses. Together with the Canon 5Ds R, these two lenses offer a high quality, but also big, heavy and expensive camera set up from which you can get a great deal of enjoyment.


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