Canon EOS 5DS/5DSR: Testing, Thoughts and Sample Images

The Boatshed Wellington
Canon 5DS with the Canon 24mm TS-E F/3.5 II Lens
ISO200, F/13, Shutterspeed: 4.0 Sec


Ask any number of photographers what camera they use and I am sure at least half of them will glaze over and tell you that the camera itself is irrelevant. This may be true to a point - most pro photographers will be able to capture a good image regardless of the camera they use.

However, there is a reason why these same photographers still spend upwards of 20k on a decent kit. Being able to meet the demands of a client brief, having the best possible image quality and a camera that can take a knock or two is not cheap.

Ask me what makes up my photographic kit and I will happily tell you. Everything has been carefully selected for architectural photography. The Canon 5DS is a much welcomed addition. It and its near identical brother, the 5DSR were recently added to Canons pro line-up.

These cameras are not for everyone but certainly, for me, they're a game changer. Keeping up with technology is important - it is unlikely that it will make you a better photographer but it may open up new opportunities or simply make your life a little easier.

Architecture photography is a very considered genre. Nothing happens fast and every photograph is carefully crafted. This is where the Canon 5DS and 5DSR excel. Strap it to a tripod, dial down the ISO, and ramp up the f-stop. Make sure to double and triple check your settings as the 50 megapixel images it produces are very unforgiving. Also be sure to only use high quality lenses on this body as every little imperfection is magnified - Canon has a list of lens they recommend. 

Difference between the Canon 5DS and the 5DSR?

The canon 5DS and 5DSR are almost identical cameras. The only difference between the two is that the 5DSR cancels out the effect of the anti-alias filter used in the 5DS (and almost every other DSLR). This produces a sharper image but increases the risk of moiré appearing in fine textured patterns. To be honest after reviewing the test images from the shoot below I could not tell the difference between the files. 

Hype, Test Cameras and Review Websites

Prior to purchasing the 5DS I was fortunate enough to be loaned both the the 5DS and 5DSR by Canon for testing. If you are a Canon CPS member then I would highly recommend taking advantage of this service. There was an incredible amount of hype surrounding these cameras prior to their release and I had been patiently waiting for them to hit the market ever since I first heard the rumours well over a year ago.

I should say that before I had even picked up one of these cameras I was already opening my wallet because the technical reviews have been fantastic.  There are plenty of review websites around but my favourites are:

The above sites are great at going into the specs, doing in-depth analysis and giving you a good overview of what you to expect. All have good comprehensive information on the 5DS and the 5DSR and I suggest you look at their reviews if you are interested in the technical nitty-gritty information.

Rather than repeating that information,  I am going to provide you with an overview of how I am finding each camera to work with and show you some test images. 

Test Shoot - Wellington Waterfront

Late last month, I set out to put both cameras (5DS & 5DSR) through their paces myself. I selected a typical scenario for my work, dawn/sunrise at the Wellington Waterfront, one of my favourite locations.

I had a specific shot in mind heading into it featuring The Boatshed building. Most days of the week, before sunrise, you will find a number of rowers getting ready for their morning training. On a perfect day (as it was the day of the shoot) it is a really beautiful scene. I had been meaning to shoot this for about a year and this was the perfect opportunity. 

After getting this shot I spent the next hour or so walking around photographing anything that took my fancy. No real criteria in mind from a testing point of view, I just wanted to use both cameras as I usually would. Below are the final images from this shoot.  

All of these photographs were shot with either the 5DS or 5DSR with either the Canon 24mm Shift Lens MKII or the Canon 17mm Shift Lens. Click into an image and hover over it to see the camera/lens choice and camera settings. 

Why I love this camera for Architectural Photography

One of these cameras biggest advantages for me and the way I work is the high megapixel count  - 50MP, over twice that of my previous camera, the Canon 5D Mark III. More often than not I photograph architecture in a landscape orientation. Most of the time this is fine, but as a format it does not always work well for publications. Both the Canon 5DS and 5DSR allow me to pull out a portrait photograph from a landscape image and still have a file that is big enough to deliver to a client or a magazine. This gives me, the client and publications so much more to work with.

I was well impressed with both these cameras. The added functionality with the selectable mirror delay, crop modes and high megapixel count make my job that much easier. This camera is not for everyone but for me as an architectural photographer it is near perfect.

The hard decision to make was which camera to buy. The photography geek in me wanted to go with the 5DSR however I knew, deep down, that the sensible option was the 5DS, because if moiré was going to appear anywhere it would be in an architectural photograph.

All my architecture work here on out will be shot with the Canon 5DS. If you wish to see more examples of what this camera is capable of sign up to my newsletter and keep an eye on my blog.