The Canon 5Ds - what does it offer?


Above and beyond what a camera like the 5D Mk III provides, the 5DS offers little more than that extra resolution. Though that is a staggering 28MP more resolution. Looking at a file on a computer monitor Canon users will spot very similar files to every other high end Canon DSLR. There's no extra added wow factor here, just quality images, recorded with the usual competent, get the images on the card ASAP efficiency that Canon have always produced. And those images look very similar to files that many other cameras produce as well. Decent sharpness, decent dynamic range, decent colour. In many ways nothing remarkable, until you look at the bottom of the image in Photoshop and notice that the files are a staggering 144 MB in size. 8688 X 5793 pixels. At 300 dpi this is 73.56 x 49.04cm, or 28.96 x 19.31 inches. These files are bigger than those created by the Pentax 645D and Leica S2 medium format cameras.

Now you'll see all sorts of articles on the photographic Internet about the 5Ds regarding pixel size, pixel density and comparisons with other high end, high MP cameras. But at the end of all that there is one inescapable conclusion. In terms of pixel count, affordability, features and options, portability, versatility and lenses available, the Canon 5Ds and 5Ds R are pretty much out there on their own. If you want to spend $25,000 on a Leica S2 camera body, then be my guest. I'm perfectly happy with my ***£2099 5Ds and in terms of the files it produces for reproduction, there are no compromises that need to be made at any image size or for any publishing need. In fact for the vast majority of uses the 5Ds files will be reduced in size, often quite dramatically.  

In my tongue in cheek / or was it serious ? article yesterday I ended with this - 'I absolutely, unequivocally love it.' And the Canon 5Ds is another example of why I still use and benefit from what DSLR's offer. It may sound paradoxical, because the 5Ds certainly has a lot of options, but I like the simplicity of the whole DSLR picture taking process. This simplicity manifests itself as a result of taking for granted what these cameras can do. All of the mirrorless 'will it AF fast enough? will the battery last? is it reliable enough? can I get the lenses I want? debates just don't exist. Nikon and Canon DSLR's just get on with it. Both companies have been making these cameras for a long time and they have pretty much ironed out all the problems and the faults.

Take using manually focus lenses for example. Rather than buy lots of Canon lenses it has always been my plan to use my Nikon lenses. There are plenty of adapters available and it's a simple process to attach them. Now I've often mentioned the excellent dot manual focus confirmation system in my Nikons, but Canon take this further. When I achieve focus on the point I want with one of my Nikon lenses on the Canon, three things happen. Firstly a dot appears in the bottom right corner of the viewfinder, the camera beeps and just to top it off the viewfinder as a whole 'flashes.' It's quick, it's efficient and it's reliable, plus it means I don't have to either magnify the image or have all that peaking colour in the viewfinder. Simple and effective.

Like Nikons, Canon DSLR's glide rather than jump into focus. And the 5Ds sometimes focuses so quickly and silently that I don't think anything has happened and feel the need to check it. This is of course after years of using mirrorless cameras. I would also mention the the 5Ds has a relatively quiet, damped shutter sound. Way quieter than the non-electronic Sony FE's for example. Then there's that optical viewfinder. No matter how good electronic viewfinders get, I still prefer a DSLR viewfinder. Sure it isn't showing me the image I'm capturing which is claimed for with EVF's, but then they aren't doing that either. The colour, contrast and overall look of an image in an EVF (and on a live view screen for that matter) has never corresponded with how that image will look like on my computer monitor with any digital camera I've ever used. So for me, that 'window into reality' suits me just fine. Apart from anything else DSLR's are normally so reliable in terms of exposure that I've pretty much given up checking the image on the screen when using them.

You can see from the landscape images I shot yesterday that the 5Ds produces excellent landscape images. No fuss, no fiddling and with that immediacy and speed that I like so much. See the shot, raise the camera to my eye and press the shutter. All usually achieved within a fraction of a second. And this is what I bought it for. My 2 year 'tourism shoot' with it's requirement for high quality, high resolution images is under way and off to a great start.

OK, so that's what the 5Ds will do, so what won't / doesn't it do / have? Well it won't shoot 4K video, it doesn't have a moveable screen of any kind and it has no wi-fi. It also won't fit in your pocket!! There's no touchscreen, no face recognition and no 'art' filters. There's no electronic shutter, no panorama function and no easy way to take a selfie. (Oh what a shame!!!) It is what it is........ a Canon DSLR.

Now you may think that I'm being somewhat low-key and matter of fact about those 50MPs. And you would be right. Sure it's a fantastic achievement (and I must admit a somewhat surprising one given Canons previous sensors) to get 50MP on that full-frame sensor. It also achieves pretty good results at higher ISO's as well, not that I intend to use them much. For what it's worth DxO rate this as Canons best ever sensor. However, what I find so impressive about this cameras is that it achieves this high resolution so seamlessly. It's exactly what you would imagine a high-end DSLR to be like. Oh and by the way, it produces these massive high resolution files. Now I went for the 5Ds rather than the the 5Ds R, which has one of these anti-anti aliasing filter-filters. The same arrangement as the Nikon D800 and D800E. It's an extra filter which supposedly counters the AA / low pass filter effects. However, at these file sizes I decided to go with the model that gets rid of the maximum amount of noise. Plus of course with the reduction in size due to the majority of publishing needs the files will sharpen up nicely when downsized.

I have other cameras that are sharper, others that have better colour depth, but both of those things can be improved in Photoshop. However, no matter how good today's interpolation software is, it would be impossible to get these results from upsizing any image from anything other than the Sony and Nikon 36 and 42.5MP sensors. And of course if you can upsize those, you can upsize the 5Ds images as well.

If I wasn't starting me new project, would I have bought this camera? Probably not. But now having used it I'm glad I did. I have to admit that it's now going to be a bit difficult going back to smaller files sizes after seeing this kind of resolution. It certainly won't make me take better pictures and there are lots of situations where I simply won't be taking it, but for my core work, it's a superb tool and one that will hopefully create many images that please me aesthetically and technically.


Some of you in the UK may have been somewhat surprised by the price I paid for the 5Ds, £2099. I did of course buy it via ebay from a seller I've used a lot. These are 'grey imports' imported from abroad, legally but bypassing the Canon distribution network. The company I use has the stock in the UK, unlike some others and I get it the next day after buying it. They also offer a 3 year warranty and they are a company who have been in business a long time, import huge quantities of high end cameras and have managed 1000's of ebay transactions with no negative feedback whatsoever. However, in terms of selling Canon gear, this may be ending. Canon UK have asked ebay to stop companies like this selling Canon gear. And ebay have agreed.

Sure it's a big discount, since my local Jessops and all the other big photo gear retailers are selling the camera for £2999. So a saving of £900 here, almost a third. But then on that £2099, Canon are making a profit selling to a dealer, who are in turn also making a profit selling it to me. The shipping / courier companies are making money and the UK government has taken it's share of duty and tax. I suspect that Canon UK are selling their cameras to the dealers at a higher price than I paid for mine, so that's why they are protecting their profits.

Now this is particularly annoying since here in the UK we get seriously ripped off. B & H in the US are selling the 5Ds for the £ sterling equivalent of just under £2400. So what is the justification for the extra £600 that we charged in the UK? It may be more expensive to ship the cameras here and more duty and tax may be taken by the government, but £600??? So I took my opportunity to get a good deal on the camera. And yes I may have warranty problems if it goes wrong, but then I'm prepared to accept that. Besides the Sony A7s, Sony A7 II and Nikon D750 plus lots of lenses I have bought from this same company have given me no problems and I've saved £1000's in the process. Certainly enough to pay any repair bill I might encounter.

Now I'm not against anyone making a profit, if they don't then we don't get investment and improved products, but I do object to being charged a higher price because of where I live. Plus I also know that in the current economic climate the price of this camera will fall significantly over the next few months. So early adopters who buy gear when it's released are punished for their enthusiasm and the fact that they then usually promote and publicise this gear on the photographic internet.

Wouldn't it be a better idea to offer gear at a discount price right away. 'Buy in the first 2 weeks and get 10% off.' makes more sense to me and would surely result in a spike for early sales. Because with the current situation it seems the more a fanboy you are the more you get charged. And the thought of those price fixing, customer ignoring suits in their Tokyo boardrooms, smugly rubbing their hands with glee at how much they can squeeze from the people who actually pay their salaries, makes me even more determined to get the best deal I can. And to be honest, I think £2099 is a fair price for the 5Ds. It's a good camera, but it's not that good!!