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Canon EOS 5DS Review

Reviewed: the 50 megapixel Canon EOS 5DS! With a full-frame 50 megapixel sensor, is the Canon EOS 5DS the best digital camera currently available?

| Canon EOS 5DS in Digital SLRs


Canon EOS 5DS Review: Canon EOS 5DS (3)

The new Canon EOS 5DS and 5DS R both feature the same body as the EOS 5D Mark III, but with a drastically higher resolution 50-megapixel full-frame sensor. The cameras are both capable of shooting at 5fps. With the highest resolution sensor available in a Digital SLR sized camera, Canon say that the 5DS and 5DS R are able to produce medium-format quality images, but without the bulk and weight associated with medium-format camera systems. Let's find out how the 5DS performs here.

Canon EOS 5DS Features

Canon EOS 5DS Review: Canon EOS 5DS (5)

The Canon EOS 5DS (and R) shoot 50.6-megapixel images, that are 8788 x 5792 pixels in size, and the sensor has been developed in-house by Canon. The camera features 1:1x, 1.3x and 1.6x crop modes, giving the option to shoot 33-megapixel (5792x5792), 30-megapixel (6768x4512) and 19-megapixel (5424x3616) images respectively. To look at the two cameras side by side, you won't be able to tell any difference, apart from the label on the camera.

The 50-megapixel sensor is a big leap in image resolution compared to the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, which was previously the highest resolution full-frame Canon DSLR, with a 22.3-megapixel sensor. Despite the massive increase in resolution, the Canon EOS 5DS is able to shoot at 5fps, compared to the 6fps continuous shooting of the 5D MKIII.

To make the most out of the 50-megapixel sensor Canon recommend L series lenses, TS-E tilt-shift lenses, along with any lens made since 2012. If you are using older or lower specification lenses then you are unlikely to get the true benefit of the resolution on offer by the camera. 

Canon EOS 5DS Review: Canon EOS 5DS (6)

The ISO range is ISO100 to ISO6400, and this can be extended to ISO50 and ISO12800. There is also an updated bulb timer feature that can be programmed on the camera, allowing exposures up to 4 days! Shooting RAW images results in 60-70MB files, and the camera has an SD memory card slot as well as a Compact Flash memory card slot.

The camera records full HD video, and can create time-lapse movies in-camera. There is also a built-in HDR mode that will automatically combine three shots taken at different exposures for enhanced dynamic range. Due to the high-resolution sensor, Canon are emphasising the importance of correct technique on the Canon Professional Network website. 

A Mirror Vibration Control System is included and is designed to prevent image blur from the mirror mechanism, which is particularly important when shooting such high resolution images, as any image blur or shake will be picked up by the sensor. A video demonstration of this can be found on the CPN website (under the Shutter section). 

Canon EOS 5DS Review: Canon EOS 5DS (13)

Key Features

  • 50.6 megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor
  • 3.2inch screen, 1040k dot resolution
  • 61-point AF system, iTR, -2EV
  • 150K Pixel RGB+IR metering sensor
  • Dual DIGIC 6 processors
  • SD/CF card slots
  • ISO100- ISO6400, expanded to ISO50 to ISO12800
  • Mirror Vibration Control System
  • 1:1, 1.3x, 1.6x crop modes
  • 5fps continuous shooting
  • 150,000 shutter life rating
  • Dual-axis electronic level
  • 700 shot battery life
  • USB3.0 socket
  • Magnesium alloy weather sealed body

Canon EOS 5DS Handling

Canon EOS 5DS Review: Canon EOS 5DS (10)

The buttons and control layout of the 5DS and 5DS R will be familiar to anyone who has used the 5D Mark III, however the 5DS (and R) let you customise the Quick control screen, letting you select the options and controls you want to see featured. There are three custom modes on the mode dial. The optical viewfinder gives 100% coverage, and has a customisable overlay, as well as displaying the 1.1/1.3/1.6 crop areas when using the crop modes. 

With ample weather-sealing and a magnesium alloy construction, the camera feels extremely well built, meaning it should survive the elements, as well as last a very long time. The camera has a thicker chassis and tripod socket than those found on the 5D Mark III. There are people still shooting with the original Canon EOS 5D which is now 10 years old, so there's no reason why this camera shouldn't last as long.

The 5DS and 5DS R uses the same battery grip and battery as the 5D Mark III, and has the same dimensions as the 5D Mark III however, it is now a slightly lighter body weight of 845g. The ports on the side of the camera are updated to include: Mic, HDMI, USB3, flash, remote sockets, along with additional screw holes to attach future accessories.

The camera features the same 61 point AF system as the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and the focus points cover a reasonable area of the frame, covering the full width of the APS-C 1.6x crop mode. Focus is possible in low light conditions down to -2 EV and up to 18 EV. The optical viewfinder is large (with 0.71x magnification), and clear with a large rubber surround, as well as dioptre adjustment. The 3.2inch screen is large, clear, and bright with a good resolution of 1040K dots and viewing angles are good. 

Canon EOS 5DS Review: Canon EOS 5DS (8)

Menus – The Canon EOS 5DS has a logical and neatly arranged menu system, letting you change additional settings and options. The large number of buttons and controls on the camera mean you can change settings quickly without entering the menus, and the Q button makes it easy to change settings on the rear screen. The menus are colour coded, although studying the manual is recommended to fully understand all of the options. A new comparative playback function lets you zoom in and view images side-by-side on the rear screen in playback, making it easy to see which image is correctly in focus.

Along with a variety of focus options in the menu system, there are auto focus (AF) scenarios built into the camera so that you can choose the most appropriate for your shooting situation. The choices optimise the following three options: Tracking sensitivity, Acceleration / Deceleration Tracking, AF point auto switching - each can be increased or decreased +/-2. The menus have built-in help that can be accessed by pressing the INFO button.

Canon EOS 5DS Review: Canon EOS 5DS (12)

Battery life - Battery life is rated at 700 shots according to Canon / CIPA test results, which is very good, although not as good as the 950 shots offered by the Canon EOS 5D Mark III. Battery life can be extended with the optional battery grip, and the camera is compatible with the 5D Mark III battery grip.

Speed - We took a number of shots to test the camera's responsiveness, from switch on to first photo, shot to shot, focusing speed etc. We take a number of shots and then use the average to ensure accurate and consistent tests, making it easy to compare with other cameras.

Shutter Response 0.05 - 0.1secs
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response 0.125secs
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response 0.125secs
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo 0.5secs
Shot to Shot without Flash 0.3secs
Shot to Shot with Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - JPEG
(shots before slow down)
5fps (70 shots)
Continuous Shooting - Flash N/A
Continuous Shooting - RAW 5fps (14 shots)

Focus and shutter response are both very quick, and using a high speed SD memory card we were able to shoot 70 shots before there was a slight slowdown in continuous shooting speed. Canon say that when using a UDMA 7 CompactFlash card it is possible to shoot over 500 full-resolution JPEG images or 14 full-resolution RAW files in a single burst.

Canon EOS 5DS Performance

The performance section is where we look at the image quality performance of the camera. Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.

Canon EOS 5DS Sample Photos

Sample Photos - On default settings JPEG images straight from the camera appear quite soft, and better results can be achieved by converting the raw files. However colour and exposure are both reliable and the camera produces pleasing images straight from the camera for those that don't want to spend time processing raw files. The camera has a new “Fine Detail” picture style that is set up to produce sharp detailed JPEG images from the camera, and there are now three sharpening options available when customising camera settings. When viewing images taken with the camera, it’s possible to see the difference in the Standard picture style and Fine Detail, and the level of detail captured is impressive.

Canon EOS 5DS Lens test images

Lens Performance - The camera is capable of taking detailed images, and with the 24-70mm f/4 L lens images are sharp at the wide and telephoto end of the lens. The lens is resistant to flare and distortion is minimal. Built in lens aberration correction will correct for peripheral illumination (vignetting) plus chromatic aberration for Canon lenses where the camera has correction data available. As a result vignetting and chromatic aberration / purple fringing is very low and should not cause any problems. Focus is quick and accurate, and the 24-70mm f/4L lens is capable of taking an impressive macro photo thanks to a switch on the side that activates a close-up macro mode. Image stabilisation helps keep shots sharp in low light or when using slower shutter speeds, and is also active when recording videos making it a useful addition. 

Canon EOS 5DS ISO test images

ISO Noise Performance - For the lowest noise and best detail possible we would recommend using ISO50 to ISO1600, as images have low levels of noise and good levels of detail. For lower light situations ISO3200 still provides good results, although noise increases and detail is reduced. At ISO6400 noise levels become strong and we would recommend avoiding this setting if possible, although results may still be useful if resized and used on the web. ISO12800 is best avoided as noise is high, and detail is low. Shooting using the extended ISO mode of ISO50 results in an image with lower dynamic range making it easier to experience blown / overexposed highlights. 

Canon EOS 5DS White-balance test images

White Balance Performance - Auto White Balance (AWB) gives a warm result under tungsten lighting, with the tungsten preset also giving a warm results, and for better auto white balance performance there is an option to switch on "White priority" which gives a much whiter image. AWB performs quite well under fluorescent lights with a slightly warm results, and the AWB with white priority gives a much better result. The fluorescent preset gives a slight magenta colour cast.

Auto white balance with white priority gives very good results, but for more accurate results manual white balance and / or processing the raw files is recommended, particularly to get the maximum detail out of the camera. The level of detail possible is very similar to the medium format Pentax 645Z, however the 645Z has a narrower DOF when using the same settings.  

Canon EOS 5DS Outdoor images

Canon EOS 5DS Digital filters

Digital Filters - There are a number of preset picture styles available, along with three custom picture styles that can be setup with your own preferences. The options available include Sharpness (strength, fineness, threshold), contrast, saturation, and colour tone. Auto lighting optimiser boosts shadow detail, and there is a "Highlight Tone Priority" option to avoid blown highlights. A built in HDR shooting mode is available that combines a number of shots for enhance dynamic range, and there are several options available for a more natural effect, or alternatively for a more artistic result. 

Video - Movie Servo AF allows the tracking of subjects when filming, and watching this in action is impressive. The highest ISO available in video mode is ISO6400. For professional video recording, you may be better off with the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, as this has a headphone socket as well as clean HDMI out. Canon explain that clean HDMI  wasn't included with the 5DS and R due to an increased chance of moire and skewing.  

Value For Money

The Canon EOS 5DS is available for £2999 body only, alternatively the 5DS R is available for £3199 body only. Which makes it excellent value for money as the cheapest 50 megapixel camera available. Alternatives to consider include the following: 

Nikon D810, 36mp, 5fps continuous shooting, £2349 body only
Sony Alpha A7R-II, 42.4mp, 5fps continuous shooting, £2599 body only
Pentax 645Z, 50mp, 3fps continuous shooting, £6799 body only

Another potential alternative is the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II (at £899 body only) which is capable of taking 40 megapixel images when mounted on a tripod, however this shoots at 16 megapixels the rest of the time, so this may not be a suitable alternative depending on your shooting requirements. 

You'll also need to buy a memory card and a case or bag to keep your camera safe and protected - have a look at our complete guide to camera bags.

Canon EOS 5DS Verdict

For years Canon DSLR users have had to watch other manufacturers produce cameras with higher megapixel counts than what Canon could offer. Now Canon has taken the leap to produce a camera beyond what is available in any other full-frame camera, with a generous 50.6 megapixel full-frame sensor in the 5DS. However, this does put additional strain on your photo storage system, with the requirement for high capacity, high speed memory cards, a computer with a USB3 connection for the fastest image transfer, plus ample storage for all those photos you will be taking with the camera.

In terms of getting the best image quality out of the camera, you'll also need to spend some time investing in the best lenses available to you, along with improving your shooting technique as well as your image processing workflow. Otherwise you won't be seeing the full benefit of having a 50 megapixel camera. Once you do spend the time to master your technique then you will reap the benefits of the 50.6 megapixel full-frame sensor, which is capable of producing extremely high resolution shots that are full of detail. Noise is well controlled, and images taken at ISO3200 and even ISO6400 produce good results. 

The Canon EOS 5DS is the cheapest 50 megapixel Digital SLR available, with the nearest 50 megapixel competitor available at least double the price. For those that love getting the most out of an image the Canon EOS 5DS is an excellent camera, capable of producing excellent high quality images. The only question yet to be answered is whether you should buy the 5DS or the 5DS R. Something we'll be answering when we review the R version. 

Canon EOS 5DS Pros

50.6 megapixel full-frame sensor
5fps continuous shooting
Rapid focus and shutter response
High quality 3.2inch screen
AWB with white priority gives good results
Mirror Vibration Control System
USB3 - useful for transferring large files
Customisable picture style options for better results
Excellent build quality and weather sealing

Canon EOS 5DS Cons

Soft JPEG images on default settings 
Limited ISO range
Wi-Fi not built in


Canon EOS 5DS Review:

The Canon EOS 5DS is capable of producing excellent high-quality images thanks to an impressive 50.6-megapixel sensor.


Canon EOS 5DS Specifications

Effective Magnification1x
Image Sensor
Pixels50.6Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)8688
Pixels (H)5792
Sensor TypeCMOS
Sensor SizeFull Frame
Sensor Size (width)36mm
Sensor Size (height)24mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 3:2
  • 1:1
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3.2in
Screen resolution1040k dots
Touch ScreenNo
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Manual
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • Multi
  • Centre
  • AF Fine Tuning (Micro Adjustment)
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/8000sec
Shutter speeds longest30sec
Bulb modeYes
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Aperture-Priority
  • Shutter-Priority
  • Manual
  • Scene modes
  • Multi Pattern
  • Partial
  • Spot
  • Centre-weighted - Average
ISO sensitivity50 - 12800
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Bracket
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
  • Shade
  • Flash
Exposure Comp+/-5
MagnificationNo Data
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting5fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1920x1080 FullHD
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
Video FPS29.97, 25, 23.976 fps
Stereo SoundYes
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationNo
Card Type
  • CF1
  • CF2
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • RAW
  • JPG
  • RAW + JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeRechargeable Li-ion Battery LP-E6
Battery Life (CIPA rating)700shots
Box Contents
Box ContentsDigital Camera EOS 5DS, Wide strap, Battery Charger LC-E6E, Battery Pack LP-E6N, USB3 Interface cable, Software (CD-ROM)

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Photographs taken using the Canon EOS 5DS

488 SpiderBasking LizardScottish HighlandsSydney Opera HouseVulcanKarenAtomAriel AtomExultantWilliams Building HoustonFatbobLooking for GodJuvenile bald eagleCobra side profilePilgrim Cobra

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josa 11 25 Czech Republic
17 Jul 2015 1:35PM
No thanks, expensive, large files and miserable DR...let rich people buy it...
sasan 9 36 England
17 Jul 2015 3:29PM
No 4k movies or tilting lcd? I think this one is good for landscape photography for more details. For night photography low Mp is a better choice
Niknut Plus
13 3.6k 82 United Kingdom
18 Jul 2015 8:18PM
Mmmmmm !!....I'm not convinced about the image quality, certainly the outdoor shots are no better than my beloved 5D, & show
fall-off in definition at the sides & corners, with lots of CA, though this could be down to the lens qualities ??

I hate to think what the file sizes are........& for £3000 it simply doesn't 'do-it' for me !!......& that amount of cash would buy me a
rather more useful outfit or two to suit my type of photography !!

Ah well, back to sanity......I'll be sticking with my old faithful 5D (mk I) !!.Smile
pablophotographer 11 2.2k 444
18 Jul 2015 10:19PM
It would be interesting to compare it towards the Pentax 645Z....
dannyr 13 47 United Kingdom
20 Jul 2015 10:04AM
Maybe Canon need to change their advertising slogan to,

'Canon, the camera your dad uses'

Even their most up to date camera has a whiff of old fart about it........ I don't know why, I just feel there's a spark missing from the recent cameras from Canon.

I am not in any way anti Canon (Its Sony I hate!) but they seem to be sitting on their backsides while the likes of Fuji and Sony are becoming the 'Trendy brands'.

RJPhoto 10 16 1 United Kingdom
21 Jul 2015 12:38PM
I use a Canon 5D MKII for most of my work, but have just done some landscapes on my old 5D MKI, and love the colour rendition of that camera - I've always thought it superior to the MKII for DR due to its lower noise (you can sharpen it up without fear too!). Although I need to update my kit to cover all of the work types I do, I don't see this 5DS model being the answer. I didn't get the MKIII as although it solved the MKII's out of date focusing, it didn't add enough elsewhere to warrant the outlay of cash. I think I'm going to wait out for the rumoured MKIV, said to be about 28mp. Keeping fingers crossed this turns out to be reality!
17 Aug 2015 6:23AM
This camera is high on my wish list....but also waiting to see what the next 5d4 and 6D mk2 will far the 6d has just been superb, but I would like more mp for large prints....if the DR is the same or better than 6D I will be more than happy, I don't like the HDR look anyway...only question is which one to get, R or S?
GFJ 12 4 Northern Ireland
2 Apr 2017 2:11AM
I have used the 5Ds for a year now, I brought the camera mainly for portraiture, which the camera was primarily designed for. Guess what, I have used it for other types of photography as well, I am left scratching my head at some of the ridiculous comments people make, if for example I did alot of sports photography I would be looking to buy a D7 MK2 or a 1DX if I was rich. But it wouldn't be stopping me from doing portraiture or landscapes if I only owned these cameras. They might not be the what the camera's were primarily designed for, but you can do other types photography. maybe not as efficiently!

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