Canon 5DS Review


Canon 5DS Review

Recently, I got my hands on a pre-production Canon 5DS. YAY, MORE MEGAPIXELS! I hope everyone realizes, its NOT just about megapixels. It’s about the size and quality of those pixels. Medium format will ALWAYS win out over a DSLR in the battle for size and quality. A 50 megapixel medium format camera and a 50megapixel DSLR will not yield the same results and there is a hefty price tag to drive that point home. However, medium format is not without its own set of challenges. These challenges, as a wedding and portrait photographer, are what have led me back to the DSLR platform.


If you have been following my journey, you know I have been dabbling with medium format in search of the latest and greatest in pixel quality and resolution. I have worked with the Phase One IQ250 and IQ260 and then of course, the Hasselblad H5DC. For the record, the H5DC won over the Phase One IQ250 for a multitude of reasons for me. The number one reason, their focusing system was superior to the IQ250. I realize, these companies are constantly releasing updates and new features, so that assessment will probably change over time, but that’s not what this is about.


My testing of equipment is rarely about tech-specs or anything scientific – I will warn you about that up front. Want to geek out on tech specs, etc – google 5Ds review and you will get a plethora of results for features that may or may not be relevant to you. I don’t give a shit what the companies say, how many milli-seconds something takes, etc. For me, that’s all marketing mumbo-jumbo. It’s about what works for me and my business and what doesn’t. Like many of you out there, I am an active working photographer. So, I wonder if this will help my business and my work improve, and if so, how? So, below, are some of the results of my initial testing with the camera.


Detail. Holy crap. The one thing I love about Medium-Format was the level of detail in the images. Well, the 5Ds did not disappoint. As you can see in the image below. This was a senior portrait shot in our studio and the zoomed image is tack sharp and crystal clear. At 3:1 zoom in Lightroom, you can see my reflection with no pixilation. My current Canon 1Dx turns to mush at 3:1.


Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 4.37.40 PMScreen Shot 2015-08-16 at 4.41.14 PM Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 4.38.10 PM

Larger file sizes. Get ready for more and larger memory cards. These images at full RAW are coming off the camera at ~70mb. If you are working on an older laptop, you better be ready to upgrade.

Noise. If you are shooting high ISO – there is going to be noise. When you have that many megapixels, noise gets amplified. This is something that haunts medium-format to this day. Get over about ISO 800 and things get unusable fast. However, the 5Ds performed much better in low light than I expected. Below are some images shot at ISO2000. There is always going to be noise, but I was pleasantly surprised at how useable the images were. Then of course, use the built in noise reduction in Lightroom and the world is good again.


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After noise reduction applied.Screen Shot 2015-08-16 at 4.58.36 PM

Speed. If you are shooting in a studio and controlled environment, medium format is going to perform like a boss. However, this is where I was running into trouble. If you are in the field or a wedding photographer working in diverse and uncontrolled lighting situations – you need speed. Gear should always enhance your ability to create a shot. It’s a tool. The gear should never get in the way or slow you down. Speed is not just how many frames per second you can click off. I am not a sports photographer. Speed, to me, is defined in terms of how quickly I can change settings, adjust focus points, move from dynamic scene to dynamic scene, adjust exposure, etc. If you are used to working with the Canon system – the settings and adjustments are all pretty much the same.

Lens selection. Without a doubt, the 5Ds wins here. With damn near over 70 lenses in its EF lineup – there is a lens for every situation. One of the challenges with some of the medium format systems is the lack of lens selection, not to mention, the high cost of glass because the shutter is in the lens. When something goes wrong, the replacement cost is astronomical.

Focusing system. 61 point focusing system. What else is there to really say? You want a sharp image? An advanced focus and metering system is going to win out every single time. If you find yourself practicing one of the most ridiculous shooting techniques out there – focus recompose – then you are fighting the physics of your optics. Your images will be soft and if you are shooting wide open – 2.8 or 1.2 – images are guaranteed to be soft and damn near unusable. This is where the additional focus points come into play – place that bad-boy on your subjects eye and bam, “Houston, we have sharp images!”


After shooting both a senior session and a wedding this week with the 5Ds, I am now going to add this to my bag. This is a strong primary and/or secondary camera for your business. I have been using the 1D series for about 8 years now and have desperately been waiting for an updated version of the 1Dx camera body, but unless something ground breaking comes out this year, the 5Ds is going to be my new primary camera.

The image quality is incredible and you get all the benefits of the Canon platform.

Now, how long before they come out with those 1tb memory cards?

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