2017 Roundup: Semi-Pro Interchangeable Lens Cameras $2000+
Canon EOS 5DS & Canon EOS 5DS R
50.6MP full-frame sensor | 61-point AF with iTR | 1080/30p video
What we like:
- Class-leading resolution
- iTR brings rudimentary face detection and better subject tracking to the line
- Excellent build quality and ergonomics
What we don't:
- iTR not as robust as peers' subject recognition and tracking offerings
- Limited dynamic range compared to the competition
- Limited ISO range
- Limited video specification
The Canon EOS 5DS and its nearly identical counterpart, the 5DS R are the highest resolution DSLRs currently on the market, boasting 50MP stills image capture. With more than double the pixel count of the 5D Mark III, the 5DS has an optical low pass filter, while the 5DS R has a self canceling filter, for (slightly) better detail resolution.
Between the two models, which you choose will be based on your needs. The 5DS will likely appeal to those worried about moiré occurring in fine patterns, like fabrics, which can require an excessive amount of post-production work to correct. The 'R' version will likely appeal to those wanting the absolute maximum amount of detail possible.
The 5DS/R inherit the 7D Mark II's 150,000-pixel RGB metering sensor, which helps analyze the scene and enable more accurate metering. Spot-metering linked to the AF point remains unavailable, though. The metering sensor also brings Canon's Intelligent Tracking and Recognition Autofocus (iTR) to both 5DS and 5DS R, a 5D series first. iTR brings rudimentary, though not entirely reliable, face detection to viewfinder shooting, and boosts subject recognition and tracking by complementing distance information with color recognition. The system is somewhat inaccurate when it comes to tracking features like eyes, working best when objects are well-isolated in depth. This means that subject tracking can be quite effective for birds-in-flight and some sports, but ultimately isn't as reliable or versatile as we'd like. Like the 5D Mark III, 41 cross-type points ensure decisive AF in challenging lighting, or with low contrast subjects. The high precision center AF point is quite effective in shallow depth-of-field applications, as well as in low light, focusing down to -3 EV. You'll often have to microadjust your lenses for perfect focus at these resolutions, though.
To make the most of the incredible resolution of the sensors in these cameras, Canon tweaked the mirror mechanism and added mirror up pre-delays. And while mirror/shutter shock can still be an issue at certain focal lengths and shutter speeds, it's fairly well controlled, particularly in Silent Shutter mode. Live view uses an electronic first curtain and completely removes the potential for shutter shock. At these resolutions, you'll have to pay more attention to shutter speeds to avoid handheld blur, especially as the camera lacks the in-body image stabilization offered by some competitors.
When shots are pixel-sharp, image quality is downright incredible with bags of detail and Canon's pleasant color reproduction. Low light image quality is quite good, but falls behind some of the competition, and ISO sensitivity is somewhat arbitrarily limited to 12,800. Despite some improvement over predecessors, Raw dynamic range continues to be limited, offering less exposure latitude and ability to brighten shadows in post compared to the competition. Landscape photographers, and anyone extensively post-processing files, may find the increased pixel-level noise to be a headache.
Video-wise, the 5DS and 5DS R are not particularly well-suited for any sort of advanced movie capture; neither offer clean HDMI-out or headphone sockets. While both are capable of 1080/30p and all intra-frame video, they lack 1080/60p or 4K capture, and generally offer softer video than the best of the competiton. Built-in intervalometer and time-lapse functions are nice to see.
One could argue the 5DS/R cameras forego an emphasis on pure features and instead focus on core reliability and the consistency of experience we've come to expect of Canon. Ultimately, if you can justify their cost, the 5DS/R cameras do what they do well. When used properly, with careful attention to the nuances of high resolution imaging, these cameras can produce truly compelling, rewarding images.
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